18 villages getting Hyperfast full-fibre broadband in South Norfolk as construction begins

Work to build next-generation full-fibre broadband is due to start in 18 villages across south Norfolk this month, as thousands of residents and businesses prepare to receive some of the UK’s fastest speeds, it can be revealed.

County Broadband, a specialist rural full-fibre network and broadband provider, has announced 6,500 rural premises across 33 villages in total in the Breckland and south Norfolk areas have been earmarked to receive the new Hyperfast digital infrastructure anticipated to be built by spring 2021. Speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps will be available – nearly 20 times faster than the UK average.

The East Anglia-based provider, backed by a £46 million private investment by Aviva Investors, has confirmed 18 villages have met the sign-up target required to give the green light to start construction, due to start in mid-to-late October. They are: Aslacton, Banham, Bressingham, Bunwell, Carleton Rode, Forncett, Great Moulton, Kenninghall, Needham, North Lopham, Old Buckenham, Pulham Market, Pulham St. Mary, Shelfanger, Starston, Tibenham, Wacton, and Winfarthing.

Engineers have been granted key worker status and are following health and safety rules.

Meanwhile, a further 15 villages are expected to reach by Christmas or early 2021 the required number of sign-ups to approve the plans to build the Hyperfast full-fibre networks. They are: Blo' Norton, Bridgham, Carbrooke, Caston, Great Hockham, Harling, New Buckenham, Quidenham, Roudham & Larling, South Lopham, Tacolneston, Shropham, Stow Bedes, Snetterton and Wretham.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is relying on local providers like County Broadband to achieve his flagship target of UK-wide gigabit-speed connectivity by 2025. It forms part of his “infrastructure revolution” to catch up with the rest of the world and support the Covid-19 economic recovery. The news also follows his fresh advice to work from home during winter.

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of our creaking copper infrastructure that is stifling productivity and holding back innovation at such a critical time. Boris Johnson has told the nation to remote work but some of us, like in rural south Norfolk, can’t even have a Zoom call. We need future-ready networks now more than ever.

“That’s why we’re driving our plans to build Hyperfast full-fibre networks in these initial 33 villages with great gusto. We want to help restart the economic engine and give Norfolk, renowned for its technical innovation, a huge investment in its infrastructure to support residents and businesses.”

Full-fibre broadband uses fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure in which fibre optic cables are installed directly into the premises, offering download and uploads speeds of 1,000Mbps. It replaces fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) Victorian copper-based infrastructure on which ‘superfast’ is based.

Nicki Thurgar, a wedding photographer from Kenninghall, one of the villages to have signed up, said the new Hyperfast network will have an “amazing” impact on her work and family life. Ms Thurgar has signed-up to receive 600 Mbps speeds when the network goes live – a 4,000% jump from her current 15 Mbps connection.

The mum-of-two said: “We’re often left incredibly frustrated by our slow speeds due to the village’s old copper network. It can take an entire day to upload a wedding photo gallery because our upload speeds are just 2 Mbps, and if it cuts out, you have to start over again. I don’t even bother in the evening. My son Alex (22) and daughter Charlotte (18) also struggle to work, study and stream things like Netflix.

“With the Covid-19 pandemic and variable restrictions on weddings, it has been a challenge and I’ve had to adapt, so from a business perspective, the full-fibre network can’t be built quick enough. It’ll transform the productivity and efficiency for so many sole traders and remote workers in the village. We’re expecting the network to be like ‘wow, that’s amazing’ when it goes live. We can’t wait.”

The deployment of full-fibre broadband could be worth £5.38bn to the East of England economy over the next five years, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

The UK fell 13 places in global rankings for internet speeds and is now among the slowest in Europe in 47th place, new research by Cable.co.uk found last month. The nation’s 54.2 Mbps average speeds are due to only 12% of premises having access to full-fibre infrastructure – meaning 88% residents and businesses currently rely on Victorian ‘superfast’ copper-based infrastructure.

Visit www.countybroadband.co.uk to see if the service is available in your area and for more details.

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