Julie James, Leader of the House and Chief Whip
As Members will be aware, the deployment phase of the Superfast Cymru project came to an end on 28 February this year. I am now pleased to confirm that the project has enabled access to fast fibre based broadband to almost 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.
Of these, over 717,000 premises are able to achieve speeds of at least 30Mbps with the remained achieving speeds of over 24 Mbps.
Wales has also been at the forefront of deploying fibre to the premises solutions with nearly 48,700 of the total number of premises given access by the scheme now capable of receiving speeds of over 100Mbps as a result of this technology.
This means that over half of the homes and businesses across Wales that can now access fast fibre based broadband simply would not have been able to without our intervention. When combined with commercially driven deployments the vast majority of premises in Wales can now access the technology.
Deploying broadband at this scale and pace in the Welsh landscape, particularly rural areas, proved extremely challenging. At times innovative solutions were required, for example the use of drones, and Openreach’s development of connectorised blocks to accelerate fibre to the premises deployment.
While we must all acknowledge that there is more to be done and that there are premises currently still awaiting access to high-speed fibre broadband, we should not underestimate the scale of what has been achieved over the past five years through Superfast Cymru. Members are welcome to join the Welsh Government in celebrating the fact that so many premises in their constituencies and in some of the most rural parts of Wales have been connected through this project.
While Superfast Cymru has undoubtedly been successful in delivering the underlying broadband infrastructure to so many homes and businesses, the ultimate key to success is that people and businesses adopt it, use it and benefit from it socially and economically.
We know that having access to superfast broadband can help boost business productivity. Recent research by Cardiff University has found that broadband-enabled services could improve turnover for around 111,000 SMEs in Wales. It is estimated that total sales for SMEs in Wales attributable to broadband adoption could be almost £229m, of which £124m (54%) is derived from superfast broadband-enabled services alone.
Our communications and marketing programme to encourage the take-up of the superfast broadband is continuing and our Superfast Business Wales programme continues to support businesses to make the most of their superfast broadband connections.
As I have stated on a number of occasions, although the majority can access fast fibre based broadband, there are still homes and businesses that are unable to access superfast speeds and I have set out previously the suite of measures to address these.
Key among the interventions will be the successor programme to Superfast Cymru. This is a complex tender process and is well advanced but I am unable to share details at this stage, I will make a further statement once the tender process has been completed.
In my oral statement in May I undertook to provide an update on our work to review the Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher scheme in light of the announcement by the UK Government of their national Gigabit Voucher scheme. Officials are working with their counterparts in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to explore how the schemes can be used to best effect to improve broadband connectivity for homes and businesses in Wales. This work is not yet complete but I will provide you with a further update as soon as I am able.
Similarly work to develop a novel scheme for demand led broadband interventions at a community level is ongoing. The conclusion of this work is dependent on the outcome of the tender exercise for the successor project to Superfast Cymru and as outlined above the review of the voucher schemes
However, whatever the outcome of these discussions we will continue to support community led projects that deliver superfast broadband such as the successful project in Michealston y Fedw, which would not have been viable without our voucher schemes.
I aim to provide Members with a further update in October.