Better Broadband & Mobile
Updated: January 2024
Rural areas of Wales have a poorer service than built up towns and cities when it comes to broadband and mobile connection. The advancement of technology and the regular need for good connectivity for work and leisure, means that reliable mobile signal and broadband are no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
Throughout my time as your local representative in the Senedd, I have campaigned for better broadband and mobile connectivity for Montgomeryshire. Although good progress has been made, there is more work to do.
Craig Williams MP and I have been supporting plans for 16 new mobile masts across Montgomeryshire. These Emergency Services Network (ESN) masts are the new 4G critical communications system for Britain’s emergency services.
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. 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 UK 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.
Progress on all the new masts is going well, with all due to be activated by the end of 2024 at the latest, and five have already been brought online.
Five masts have come online in 2023:
1. Y Fan, Llanidloes
2. Old Hall (SY18), Llanidloes
Eleven masts will be built at sites in:
1. Hafren Forest, Llanidloes - Late 2024
2. Manafon, Welshpool - Late 2024
3. Rhiwargor - Mid 2024
4. Lake Vyrnwy, Llanwddyn - Late 2024
5. Ty'n-y-ffynon, Lake Vyrnwy - Late 2024
6. Maengwynedd, Oswestry - Early 2024
7. Llanfyllin - Early 2024
8. Tregynon - Early 2024
9. Bettws Cedewain - Early 2024
10. Aberhosan, Machynleth - Late 2024
11. Hirnant, Abertrdwr - Mid 2024
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 still suffer from poor connection. Within the constituency, 89% of premises can now access superfast broadband speeds, with 52% having access to gigabit-capable broadband.
I regularly meet with industry representatives and 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 met with Openreach several times during 2023 who emphasised their commitment to bringing 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.
I am also in regularly in contact with Building Digital UK (BDUK), which is the UK Government department 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.
Residents and businesses in Kerry, Llanbrynmair and Tregynon were the first areas in Montgomeryshire to be able to apply for free Gigabit vouchers worth £4,500, which will be used by Openreach towards building an Ultrafast Full Fibre network within these areas. More can be found here: Ultrafast broadband chance for people living in Tregynon, Llanbrynmair & Kerry in Powys (openreach.com).
The scheme has now opened to residents in Berriew and will be rolled out in other areas next year, potentially connecting over 47,000 properties across Mid Wales to Ultrafast broadband speeds
Accessing funding does not cost anything for individual properties but does mean a minimum term of 12 months with a chosen supplier. Over 1,100 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.
What options are available in Mid Wales:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.