Updated 28th July 2023
Rural areas of Wales have a poorer service than built up towns and cities when it comes to broadband and mobile connection. The pandemic shined a light on how much we regularly rely on good connectivity to work, connect with family & friends and for leisure. Strong and reliable connectivity is now a necessity and is no longer a ‘luxury’.
Throughout my time as a Senedd member, I have campaigned for better broadband and mobile connectivity for Montgomeryshire. Although good progress has been made, there is more work to do.
The Home Office has updated me on the progress of the Emergency Services Network (ESN), the new 4G critical communications system for Britain’s emergency services being delivered by the department. Key infrastructure is being delivered by EE through upgrades to its existing network of around 19,000 masts and building approximately 700 more 4G masts. In addition, the Home Office is supplementing this by building 292 masts to give the emergency services 4G mobile network coverage in some of the most rural and remote parts of Britain. There are 16 masts being delivered in Montgomeryshire. This will mean significantly improved mobile connectivity for us in mid Wales.
The UK Government recognises the need to improve everyone’s mobile connection and Extended Area Services (EAS) masts will be shared with the Shared Rural Network (SRN) which is being delivered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). The Government is funding upgrades to EAS sites to enable mobile network operators to provide commercial mobile coverage as part of the SRN programme.
The infrastructure is part of the world-first Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme between the UK Government and the UK’s four mobile network operators (MNOs), which will see 4G coverage boosted to 95% across Wales. The programme will also allow us in mid Wales to access competing mobile contracts, with coverage boosted for all major network providers.
I am pleased to report progress on the 16 masts planned for Montgomeryshire is moving forward at base.
- Esgair Maen Y-Fan Llandidloes SY18 6NT planning has been completed, build is in progress and this site should be live towards the end of this year (2023).
- Penyglog Farm, Aberhosan, Machynleth SY20 8SG is currently going through planning and it is hoped approval will be given by the end of 2023 and it is hoped that it will be built and live by the end of 2024.
- Bron Felin Old Hall Llanidloes has gone through planning, build is in progress, and is set to be live at the end of this year (2023).
- Land at Llwyn y Gog Farm Staylittle Llanbrynmair SY19 7DB has also gone through planning, build is in progress and is set to be live at the end of this year (2023).
- Land at Ffinnant (Nr to Pen-y-bryn), Manafon, Welshpool, Powys SY21 8BD has gone through planning and the passive build has been complete, this site should be live at the end of 2024.
- T’yn-y-fedw, Layby off B4396, Hirnant, Abertrdwr, Powys, SY10 0HS hasn’t gone through planning yet but plans are in place with a schedule to be fully operational in the middle of 2024.
- Land SE of Rhiwargor, SY10 0NE, this site has been approved and built with a switch on date planned in late 2024.
- Revolution Bike Park, Llangynog, SY10 0HE has had planning approval, build is in progress, and this site is set to go live later this year (2023).
- Maes Farm, Maengwynedd, Oswestry, SY10 0DE is but complete and the switch on is hoped for the start of 2024.
- Tyn Y Celyn, Rhiw Fawr, Llanfyllin, SY22 5JQ should be live at the end of 2023.
- Pwllan Farm Tregynon, Powys, SY16 3ER has a switch on date estimated for Autumn of this year (2023).
- Hafren Forest, Llanidloes , SY18 6PT should be live in the Autumn of 2024.
- Lake Vyrnwy Hotel, Llanwddyn, Wales SY10 0LY should be built towards the end of 2023 and has an estimated switch on date in the Autumn of 2024.
- Tyn-y-Wern Commins, Llanrhaedr ym Mochnant, SY10 0BZ has gone through planning and build is in progress. This means that this site should be live in the Autumn of this year (2023).
- Bettws Cedewain, Newtown, Powys SY16 3DX should be live in the Autumn of 2024.
- Ty'n-y-ffynon Lake, Vyrnwy Oswestry SY10 0NH is set to be available for use in the Autumn of 2024.
Once the sites are live, all mobile network operators will have the opportunity to provide a commercial service via this infrastructure through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme.
The dates in this update are provisional but along with Craig Williams MP, I will be keeping in close contact with the Home Office and will provide updates on the progress of these sites on this campaign page. I also regularly speak with Mobile providers to emphasise the importance of providing commercial service through these masts as Montgomeryshire residents have suffered poor connection for too long.
Significant progress is being made, with many more homes now able to access good broadband speeds, but many homes in Powys suffer from extremely slow broadband speeds.
I regularly meet with industry representatives, when I met up with industry regulator, Ofcom, we discussed the legal right that homes and businesses in Montgomeryshire have to request a decent and affordable broadband service of at least 10 mb/s, under the Universal Service Obligation for Broadband.
I have kept in contact with Building Digital UK (BDUK) is a department set up by the UK Government who are responsible for the roll out of gigabit-capable broadband and the expansion of 4G mobile coverage in hard-to-reach areas of the UK. They work with suppliers and communities to ensure that people can access fast and reliable digital connectivity that can transform their lives. BDUK have updated me on the rollout of ‘Project gigabit’ across Montgomeryshire and on the recent news of Broadway Group entering administration. I have been assured that areas which have already been identified as having voucher priority status, and which have not yet been connected, will remain eligible for UK Government funding. Project Gigabit is a £5 billion UK government infrastructure project aimed at delivering fast and reliable gigabit-capable broadband to homes and businesses in the hardest-to-reach parts of the UK. This replaces the Welsh Governments Superfast Cymru scheme.
I have been working to put the case forward of much needed improvements to broadband speeds for Montgomeryshire residents and the need for our area to be included in ‘Project Gigabit’. I was pleased in June 2023 that an announcement opened up funding for residents and businesses in Kerry, Llanbrynmair and Tregynon to apply for UK Government Gigabit vouchers. More can be found here: Ultrafast broadband chance for people living in Tregynon, Llanbrynmair & Kerry in Powys (openreach.com). Accessing funding does not cost anything for individual properties but does mean a minimum term of 12 months with a chosen supplier. Over 1100 properties could have access improved as a result of this great scheme. Applications for vouchers can be made at https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk/. You can read more about the UK Governments Gigabit voucher scheme here: Connect my community | Openreach.
I met with Openreach in July (2023) who emphasised their commitment to brining ultrafast broadband to communities across mid Wales. Openreach outlined to me their commitment to the full fibre broadband expansion in Powys. They also introduced me to the new Subtended Headend Exchange (SHE) technology, which extends the Full Fibre network to isolated areas and is being deployed by Openreach.
In the Montgomeryshire constituency, 89% of premises can access superfast broadband speeds and 51.7% have access to gigabit-capable broadband.
I am continuing to meet with and lobby the relevant organisations for fast improvements to connectivity in Montgomeryshire. With some exciting work in this area happening across Powys, I will keep you updated as work progresses.
Mobile/4G Broadband solution:
A broadband router can be installed to connect your property to broadband via a 4G mobile network. It doesn’t mean using a mobile phone and you don’t need cables or a phone line. An external antenna can be attached to the side of your property in areas where a 4G signal might not be strong indoors. There are now also unlimited data packages available with a number of providers.
A satellite transfers data to and from a dish attached to your property to bring you broadband. This provides superfast download speeds and should be available everywhere. A satellite connection usually charges include a one-off fee to install broadcast equipment and a fixed term contract paid by a monthly subscription. More information is available at: > ISP Review - Satellite Broadband ISPs
Community Broadband solution:
This enables properties to fund a superfast broadband solution as part of a group project. Information about setting up a community broadband project can be found on the Powys County Council community led broadband page.
Access to Broadband scheme:
This scheme provides grants to fund (or part-fund) the installation costs of new broadband connections for homes and businesses in Wales. It does not include monthly rental costs. New connections through this scheme must deliver a significant change in speed. The new connection must at least double your current download speeds. The amount of funding which you can receive depends on the speed of the new connection: £400 for 10 Mb/s and above. £800 for 30 Mb/s and above. Before applying to this scheme, you should check your eligibility with Ofcom and Openreach to see if you can already access a fast broadband service via the following links:
You should also consider what speed connection your home or business requires today and over the next 12 months. Finally, you should choose an internet service provider (ISP) which can meet the needs which you have identified and get a written quotation from them. You will need to submit evidence of these steps with your application.
Using this application form: https://gov.wales/access-broadband-cymru-application-form. Once the form has been completed, you should send this to email@example.com.