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construction opportunities

The government’s renewed push to roll out faster and more reliable full-fibre broadband is generating tender opportunities for utilities contractors as well as some significant construction opportunities.

Philip Hammond’s Budget last month showed spending on the digital infrastructure (through fibre and 5G investment) is set to rise to from £150 million in this financial year to £275 million in 2019/20 and £290 million the following year. It includes £200 million to pilot new approaches to full fibre internet in rural locations, starting with primary schools and with a voucher scheme for homes and businesses nearby. The first wave will include the Borderlands, Cornwall, and the Welsh Valleys.

The government has a target for 15 million households to benefit from full fibre broadband by 2025 and its recent Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review proposes access to 5G and full fibre broadband coverage across the UK by 2033. A new universal service obligation for fast and affordable broadband should apply by 2020.

Telecoms tender opportunities

The upshot has been more telecoms-related tender opportunities. Kier Group recently pointed to a buoyant market in telecoms as the number of new alternative fibre providers emerge - encouraged by government incentives - and the firm expects its workload in the sector to grow.

Kier has recently won a three-year £100m contract with Gigaclear to build high-speed fibre networks in Devon and Somerset. Kier is also the largest single supplier to Virgin Media for consumer and business connections and for building and maintenance on its network.

Another infrastructure provider, CityFibre, unveiled plans in October to invest £2.5 billion to connect around 5 million homes to full-fibre, adding 27 towns to its existing network of ten. The group estimates its programme will create 5,000 construction jobs and help generate growth in regional towns and cities worth £85 billion.

City-wide contracts

Indeed, CityFibre says the scale of its plan means it will be awarding city and town-wide construction contracts across the country for several years to come. Its fibre-to-home building programmes are underway in Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Aberdeen and construction is due to start in Edinburgh, Stirling, Coventry and Huddersfield before the end of this year. Cambridge, Leeds and Southend are set to follow.

Glenigan Construction data highlights the £2.5 billion cabling and digital infrastructure framework which CityFibre plans across 50 towns over a seven year contract period. Bidders are reported to be being sought on the work which involves the installation of 50,000 km of cable and the construction of 150 buildings to house network equipment (Glenigan Project ID:).

Meanwhile, CityFibre projects in the pipeline also feature in Glenigan Construction Data. In Leeds, for example, detailed plans have recently been granted for a £1.5 million data centre in Shannon Street which is at the pre-tender stage and where work is set to start next summer (Glenigan Project ID: 18340335).

As well as the new market entrants, the largest provider in the sector, BT’s Openreach broadband division, is also increasing the scale of its investment in improved services. This summer it unveiled a list of 59 new towns and cities where it is rolling out so-called ultrafast broadband, connecting more than 370,000 homes and businesses.

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