£10m Broadband Innovation Fund winners announced

Broadband speed

Eight potential beneficiaries of a 10 million fund have been selected as part of the government's ongoing bid to offer superfast network connectivity to rural areas.

The Broadband Innovation Fund was first announced by the government in December 2013 to explore how superfast broadband services can be delivered to remote areas of the UK.

The scheme is aimed at, specifically, connecting up the "final five per cent" of the UK to superfast broadband services, as many of the government's efforts in this area to date have centred on delivering this kind of connectivity to 95 per cent of the UK by 2017.

The government has now announced details of eight projects that have been selected to take part in a feasibility study before being deployed later this year.

The eight projects pioneer the use of fixed wireless and satellite technologies to provide internet connectivity, as well as new financing and operating models to deliver web access, in different parts of the UK.

Fast and reliable broadband revolutionises everything from how we work and how our children learn, to how we spend our leisure time and engage with public services.

Several firms, respectively covering Wales, North Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, are touting wireless technology as the answer to these regions' connectivity woes.

Devon and Somerset, along with Northern Ireland and Scotland, have been seized on by two companies as potential candidates for satellite connectivity.

Hampshire has also been flagged as an area that could benefit from taking a mixed approach that covers fibre, fixed wireless and sub-loop unbundling.

In Northumberland, it has been proposed that superfast broadband access could be achieved by using a social investment-type model to fund fibre-to-the-premises and wireless-based connections.

Meanwhile, in Kent, the prospect of aggregating small wireless networks to deliver internet access has also been touted.

Dan Rogerson, the government's rural affairs minister, shed some light on why delivering superfast broadband to rural areas is an important issue to tackle.

"Fast and reliable broadband revolutionises everything from how we work and how our children learn, to how we spend our leisure time and engage with public services," he said.

"It is critical that we explore how to get superfast broadband out to these hard to reach areas to allow business to be more productive, innovative and competitive, which is crucial for building a stronger rural economy and fairer society."

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of the Independent Networks Co-Operative Association (INCA), welcomed news of the pilots.

"This is a very useful initiative and we are keen to help local authorities and INCA members learn from the trials," he said.

"There is a huge amount of experience, professionalism and entrepreneurial enthusiasm in the independent sector that can play a big role in creating Britain's future digital infrastructure."

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.