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Rural broadband trial fund offers £10m for fibre, 4G and wireless

The government has announced plans to set up a £10 million trial fund for improved rural broadband coverage in 2014. 

The money will be used to test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to remote and hard to reach areas. The fund will support rollout of a number of technologies across rural areas, including fixed-line solutions like fibre broadband as well as mobile and wireless broadband. 

Since the launch of 4G, we’ve seen EE launch a 4G home broadband product providing double digit speeds in parts of Cumbria that would not normally expect such a service from a fixed-line connection. 

New rural broadband fund announced: £10m for fibre 4G and wireless
The Essex village of Dedham, which could benefit from a local wireless broadband project

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Rural BroadbandSimilarly, Three has committed to delivering mobile broadband to remote parts of Scotland. 

Commenting on the announcement a spokesperson for Vodafone said: “The government’s decision is a real step in the right direction and signals a willingness to be pragmatic when it comes to rural broadband. 

Wireless 4G is better value for money and is the best technology to help close the digital divide between urban and rural Britain. We welcome the news and look forward to continuing our dialogue with Government about the opportunity 4G can deliver irrespective of where you live.”

Mobile network operators are already benefitting from £150 million of public investment, the Mobile Infrastructure Plan, which aims to plug signal not spots across the UK. 

Independent tests of 4G services have shown that on average, speeds enjoyed by customers are slightly above the national average speeds of domestic broadband services. 

That’s not to say that providers of wireless broadband, which is ideally suited to areas with flat terrain, as the WiSpire project has demonstrated, can’t get a look in. The Essex village of Dedham, pictured above, is one of the many places which could benefit from wireless broadband should a local plan see the light of day. 

Similarly, Gigaclear, B4RN and FibreGarDen are soldiering on with building rural pure fibre networks despite reticence for big commercial ISPs to invest in such areas. 

Given the population dispersal of the UK’s rural communities it becomes more expensive to deploy large scale terrestrial broadband projects, as guaranteeing a substantial return on investment is tricky. For this reason it’s been suggested that satellite broadband is the best hope for the seriously remote parts of the UK. 

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