4G and satellite tech flagged as potential investment areas for £10m broadband fund

Broadband speed

The Treasury should consider investing in satellite, 4G and fixed wireless technologies as part of its bid to deliver superfast broadband services to remote areas.

The Government announced plans to invest millions of pounds in testing "innovative" technologies that will bring superfast services to rural areas earlier this week.

The 10 million competitive fund will open in early 2014, but at the time of writing few details about the eligibility criteria and how potential bidders apply for funding had been released.

The broadband fund was one of a number of new initiatives announced by the Treasury as part of its 375 billion overhaul of the UK's public and private infrastructure.

The areas covered by the scheme include energy, transport, flood defence, waste, water and communications infrastructure, and work on them is expected to run up to 2030 and beyond.

On the broadband front, the Treasury said the fund will be used to invest in "innovative solutions" that can deliver superfast broadband services to "difficult to reach" parts of the UK.

"Options may include enhanced mobile services, new fixed technologies and alternative approaches to structuring financial support, working closely with the communications industry," the statement reads.

Andrew Ferguson, site editor at networking news site Thinkbroadband, said he welcomed the investment, but has misgivings about where the money for it came from.

"The new 10 million investment to test new solutions is certainly welcome on paper. However, it seems this might be more about helping the civil service understand existing solutions rather than finding new ones," he said.

"We also suspect the 10 million is probably what the Government expects to be left from the old Rural Community Broadband Fund, which has largely failed."

The latter claim was contested by Simon Towler, a minister for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in an article by our sister site PC Pro yesterday.

Ferguson also made a series of suggestions about the types of technology his organisation would like to see the Government invest in.

They include satellite broadband services, which could deliver up to 20Mbps, 4G and Fibre-to-the-Premises, although this was flagged as a very expensive way of doing things.

Fixed wireless and Fibre-to-the Cabinet were also put forward as examples, as was G.Fast.

"One can only wonder what rural broadband projects could achieve if funding of up to 3,000 per connection was available in the same way as the voucher scheme trial for super-connected cities worked," Ferguson added.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said in a speech at the Institute of Civil Engineers on Wednesday the aim of the broadband competitive fund was to make the internet accessible to all.

"We believe everyone should have access to the opportunities the internet offers. Especially with more and more of our lives and our jobs perhaps even our democracy moving online," said Alexander.

"That's why we've decided to open as part of this update a new 10 million competitive fund...which will market-test the kind of bold and inventive solutions that could deliver broadband to the most difficult to reach parts of the UK.

"No area no matter how remote should be left behind," he added.

IT Pro understands the funding will be used to bankroll the deployment of superfast broadband services in areas not covered by the Government's controversial Broadband Delivery UK Scheme (BDUK).

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.