Housing developers must prepare for new-build connectivity mandate

Insight Image Shaun Piece Oct

The digital landscape is changing. 5G is already here, bringing with it a new era of mobile connectivity and the overwhelming possibility of connecting everyone and everything together. Full fibre broadband is also here, although availability and usage in the UK trails that of many other countries around the world. To catch up, the government plans to introduce legislation requiring new-build homes to be able to support gigabit-speed internet, also known as full fibre. Housing developers need to be prepared for the enactment of this legislation.

The impact of Covid-19 has reinforced the importance of broadband internet access. For millions of workers and students across the UK, the internet has become their connection to employment and education. Full fibre internet allows for easier working-from-home, and provides faster, more reliable connections for video calls and streaming video on several devices simultaneously.

Average broadband speed in the UK ranks 47th in the world, dropping 13 places in the span of just one year. This places the UK 22nd out of 29 Western European countries. In 2019, just 7% of households in the UK were connected to full fibre. Meanwhile countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Portugal are closing in on 100%. Even now in 2020, roughly 20% of new homes in the UK are being built without connectivity to gigabit-speed internet.

The planned legislation will change this. Developers will need to ensure that all new builds have the necessary infrastructure for gigabit-capable connection, and that each home is connected by a provider to a gigabit-capable network. These requirements will need to be satisfied unless the cost for such provisions exceeds £2,000, or no providers agree to service the development. In the event that one of these exceptions is met, the developer must provide at least a superfast connection (30Mbps or more), again within the same cost cap and unless no provider agrees to make the connection. These rules apply to new residential buildings, including conversions and self-built homes. However, renovated buildings, schools, hotels, and prisons are excluded.

It should be noted that the modifications to the Building Regulations 2010 will only apply to England, as building regulations are a devolved matter. However, the government has indicated the intention to work with appropriate agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for consistency throughout the UK.

To help allay costs to the developer, the government has worked to establish financial commitments from operators towards the cost of providing gigabit-capable connections. Virgin Media will contribute between £500 and £1,000 per home, depending on site size. Openreach will share part of the total cost up to £3,400 with developers, with the developer share not to exceed £2,000. And in rural settings Gigaclear will contribute up to £1,000 per property.

Legislation timing is unclear. “As soon as parliamentary time allows” is the forecast given by the government. Meanwhile, developers should be planning for its enactment. Ultimately, it’s a matter of consumer choice. Having full fibre connections and service available doesn’t mean every residence will actually be connected, that’s up to individual choice. However, consumer demands for connectivity, data and speed are likely to continue to grow. Developers should be thinking about this demand and consider providing consumers with their full range of choice, regardless of the timing of legal accountability.

At ClearFibre, part of the Telcom Group, we are uniquely placed to help new-build developers close the 20% gap and ensure developments across the UK, regardless of location, have access to full fibre infrastructure from day one, meeting their upcoming mandate obligations. We have an in-house team of specialists and experts who can very quickly build networks anywhere in the UK. We do this tactically and strategically both by using the Openreach network, which requires special approval, and by building our own national network.

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