Wildanet awarded new £41 million contract to deliver gigabit-capable broadband in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, as part of the UK government’s £5billion Project Gigabit roll-out.

  • New £41 million contract awarded to local provider Wildanet will deliver gigabit-capable broadband for up to 16,800 homes and businesses in East Cornwall, West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
  • It’s the third major investment in Cornwall as part of the UK Government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit rollout to hard-to-reach homes and businesses
  • The announcement takes total Project Gigabit investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to £77 million, with the aim of connecting more than 37,000 premises
  • The investment will drive significant employment and training benefits for Cornwall

Thousands of homes and businesses in rural Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will get access to gigabit-capable broadband after a third major investment in the county by the government through its £5 billion Project Gigabit programme.

Wildanet was today awarded a £41 million contract to roll out new connections to over 16,800 homes and businesses in East Cornwall, West Cornwall and the island of St Mary’s located within the Isles of Scilly. It follows an investment of £36 million by the government in 2023 which saw Wildanet awarded two contracts to connect up to 19,250 homes and businesses in South West and Mid Cornwall.

Today’s announcement joins up the areas already being delivered by Wildanet and takes total Project Gigabit investment in Cornwall to £74 million - targeting more than 37,000 premises - and brings access to gigabit-capable internet for people living and working in all areas of the county a step closer.

Towns and villages to benefit from the latest funding stretch from Bude to Looe in the east of the county, and from Portreath to the Helford River in the west. Initial work on network planning and surveys will start soon and installation works are expected to get under way from Autumn 2024.

Gigabit-capable broadband is capable of delivering speeds of up to 1,000 megabits (or one gigabit) per second - up to 30 times faster than superfast connections which rely on traditional copper cables. Gigabit speeds mean households can download a high-definition film in under one minute, stream and download entertainment and shop online across several different devices at once.

Project Gigabit is the UK Government’s flagship programme to enable hard-to-reach communities to access lightning-fast gigabit-capable broadband. It targets homes and businesses that are not included in broadband suppliers’ commercial plans, reaching parts of the UK that might otherwise miss out on getting the digital connectivity they need and supports small and medium-sized enterprises, which play a pivotal role in driving progress within their regions.

The fast, reliable connections delivered by Project Gigabit will benefit mostly rural and remote communities across the UK. Project Gigabit will help grow the economy, with new digital infrastructure delivering better-paid jobs and creating opportunity right across the country.

The investment in the region reflects the government’s commitment to roll out gigabit broadband nationally and will help to create a level playing field for hard-to-reach communities and businesses around the county, bringing with it economic, environmental and social benefits for local people.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:

“Government-backed gigabit broadband for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly promises lightning-fast connectivity for remote communities, making tasks like uploading files and streaming content quicker and more reliable, while also boosting local businesses and sparking new job opportunities.

“This is the third multi-million investment we have awarded to Wildanet to deliver better broadband for the region, demonstrating our commitment to give rural communities the digital infrastructure they need to thrive in today’s digital world.”

Helen Wylde-Archibald, Wildanet Chief Executive Officer, said:

The latest investment through Project Gigabit and the awarding of this contract is excellent news for Cornwall and for its many remote and hard-to-reach communities. It will help to bridge the digital divide, rectifying the historic imbalance in rural broadband provision whilst furthering the Government’s ambition to grow the economy by rolling out first-class digital infrastructure.

“People living and working in Cornwall will also benefit from all the social and financial benefits that digital inclusion brings, such as digital health, internet of things, remote schooling and further job creation through remote working.

“Wildanet is incredibly proud to be playing a pivotal role in such an important initiative and we are committed to delivering the best possible result for the people of Cornwall and South West England and repaying the trust that been put in us by the Government.”

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for economy, Cllr Louis Gardner, said:

“This is tremendous news for Cornwall. Thousands of rural properties are set to gain from better and faster internet speeds. Our residents can benefit from greater connectivity that will in turn open up a wider range of education and employment opportunities. This new digital infrastructure will help communities to connect with each other and thrive.” 

Following the initial £36 million Project Gigabit investment in Cornwall announced last year, work is already well under way by Wildanet to connect hard-to-reach rural communities in South West and Mid Cornwall. Householders in Mullion (South West Cornwall) and Lanivet (in mid Cornwall) were among the first 1,000 homes to see the new service go live, instantly transforming their internet connectivity after years of putting up with slow speeds.

Ellen Morris, who lives in the village of Lanivet, in Mid Cornwall, with her partner Michael and their two-and-a-half-year-old son, said the new broadband service had been transformational for the family.

“We were getting a 30 to 40Mbps service previously over copper wires but with fibre we’re now getting speeds of about 200Mbps. More than that, the new service is more reliable and also offers complete coverage within our home, whereas previously we were pretty much limited to the front room for good internet.

 “It means we can use laptops, smart TV and streaming services in all parts of the house; we don’t have to worry about how many devices are connected either, it copes with it all brilliantly. And we are looking forward to being able to get coverage out into the garden in the summer.

“My partner is self-employed and has to file regular returns with HMRC, including uploading documents and receipts to the HMRC website. Uploads could take up to 15 minutes with our old service but are now completed in seconds and the stability of the service makes completing online forms and filing this information much easier.

 “It’s made a huge difference for us. My father and uncle live in the same village and have also signed up for the service and a number of our friends and neighbours are also making the switch.”

Wildanet, which has been backed by specialist alternative asset manager Gresham House’s sustainable infrastructure strategy with close to £100mn invested since 2020, has grown to become a major regional employer, more than doubling its workforce in the last 18 months to over 220 staff as well as driving significant economic activity and employment through its commitment to using local businesses in its supply chain.

Simon Adcock, Head of Portfolio & Co-Fund Manager, Sustainable Infrastructure at Gresham House, said: “This latest Project Gigabit contract is fantastic news for communities across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Wildanet has been delivering hugely positive social impact for communities in the South West in recent years. Gigabit capable broadband is vastly improving the digital connectivity of the region, bringing communities closer together and supporting local economies to thrive. 

"Digital connectivity is vital to the long-term prosperity and sustainability of UK regions, and gigabit-capable broadband is a critical enabler of this future. That is why Gresham House is delighted to be supporting Wildanet and working with the management team of the company to transform Devon, Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly's digital future.”

In 2023, Wildanet launched a new centre of excellence in Cornwall – the Wildanet Technical Training Academy – providing industry-leading training for the next generation of telecommunication engineers and supporting the roll-out of high-speed broadband to thousands of people living and working in the region. The initiative, together with a ground-breaking new apprenticeship programme with Truro and Penwith College is a key commitment to delivering the Project Gigabit contracts as well as Wildanet’s wider commercial build taking place across Cornwall and Devon.

In January, Wildanet became the first UK AltNet (Alternative Network Provider) to become a Certified B Corporation, recognising its commitment to operating as a force for good, prioritising sustainability, ethical practices and social responsibility as part of its successful ‘profit with purpose’ approach to business.

Wildanet is also investing more than £100 million of private equity investment in rolling out its own gigabit capable broadband network across Cornwall and Devon - bringing fast, reliable internet to homes, businesses and communities.

Wildanet is the largest AltNet (Alternative Network Provider) in Cornwall. As well as being based in the county, Wildanet also employs 94% of its colleagues from Devon and Cornwall. Wildanet has plans to continue its expansion across the South West, serving rural and coastal communities that are deemed hard to reach with gigabit-capable broadband, and to do their part in helping reduce digital exclusion across the region.

For more information about this project, please visit www.wildanet.com/projectgigabit

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