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Written Statement - Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher

Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology

Today sees the introduction of a new scheme to help businesses in Enterprise and Local Growth Zones meet the costs of ultrafast Internet connectivity.

There can be no question that first class Internet connectivity is paramount for all businesses from the smallest micro-business to the largest multinational. Of course the needs of each business are unique depending on the amount and type of data involved. A micro-business may only require the ability to send email, update their website and browse, other small businesses may require much greater bandwidth to send and receive larger files or access the cloud. Larger businesses may have very large data requirements that necessitate dedicated connections with symmetrical up and download speeds.

Our Superfast Cymru project provides download speeds of up to 330Mbps depending on the technology used. Most premises will be capable of receiving speeds of at least 30Mbps (on average 61Mbps under Superfast Cymru).  For most SMEs this will provide more than enough bandwidth.  However, some larger businesses and those with large data requirements will require greater capacity.

There are commercial products available that will provide this greater capacity, for example via a fibre to the premises type solution or a high capacity wireless connection. At present though these are not available across all of Wales, although there are plans to expand coverage.  It is hoped that by stimulating demand for these products via the Ultrafast Voucher, they will become more widely available.

Another option is an Ethernet solution which provides dedicated and uncontested ultrafast connections, those in excess of 100Mbps. These types of connections provide medium and larger businesses with the guaranteed bandwidth and the greater resilience they require, for example, businesses with greater numbers of computer using staff that use a large amounts of data or where guaranteed speeds offered by an uncontested line are essential.

Fibre based Ethernet connections are considerably more costly than other options, and the upfront capital costs can be considerable. The costs of connectivity and the excess construction costs of laying a dedicated fibre connection to the premises does run into thousands of pounds.  Unsurprisingly these initial costs can be a real barrier for some businesses.

The Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher scheme will help businesses to cover the capital costs associated with providing an ultrafast data connection – defined as at least 100Mbps download, at least 30Mbps upload and uncontended (ie the advertised capacity is consistently available). In line with our economic priorities the voucher scheme will initially be available in most Enterprise Zones and Local Growth Zones.  The scheme will provide funding of up to £10,000. It will provide 100 per cent funding for the first £3,000 and 50 per cent between £3,000 and £17,000. The business will be expected to match fund the remaining 50% and any further costs over £17,000.

This represents another piece in the jigsaw in making Wales one of the most connected countries in the world.

More information about the scheme including details of how to apply and the eligibility criteria are available online.