Wales

Superfast Cymru: How has Wales' broadband upgrade fared?

A person typing on a laptop Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Superfast Cymru was launched in 2013 and connected the last homes in February this year

Superfast broadband has reached 733,000 homes and businesses in five years, but the scheme behind the rollout has not been without its detractors.

Now, it is set to be replaced with a new one after finishing its phase of the rollout.

So, five years and many buffering online videos later, what do people on both sides of the argument think?

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Media captionProf Christopher Spry is a self-confessed technology enthusiast

'Over ambitious'

When Christopher Spry got fed up with slow broadband, he looked to the skies for an answer.

He paid £620 then £50 a month to get his internet from a satellite over the Democratic Republic of the Congo, via Luxembourg.

Now, Prof Spry has bid farewell to his satellite after the Welsh Government paid to install a dish on his home that gets a broadband signal via microwave.

He and his neighbours can get download speeds of up to 32Mbps, depending on how many people are using it, and pay £35 a month.

He said: "It's a fantastic improvement so I got rid of my satellite a week ago. I'm rather disappointed I'm not in touch with the Congo anymore!

"I think the problem was it [Superfast Cymru] was over ambitious and didn't have enough trained technicians.

"They haven't explained how they would prioritise it and I think that's been a fault - they should have had a pecking order up. Openreach weren't very open."

Image copyright Daioni Organic
Image caption Laurence Harris founded Daioni Organic

'We've not looked back'

One of the businesses that has benefitted is Daioni Organic in Abercych, Pembrokeshire.

The company sells its dairy products in the UK as well as China, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

Founder and director Laurence Harris said: "We took up a fibre broadband connection to our premises as soon as we could and have not looked back.

"Increased speed means that we are in a better position to shop around for supplies and compare prices online."

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Media captionVillagers decided to take matters into their own hands

'We built our own broadband network'

Villagers of Michaelston-y-Fedw, between Newport and Cardiff, grew tired of waiting for decent broadband so took it upon themselves to install it.

Carina Dunk, who handles the fibre splicing, said: "The biggest mistake they made was paying BT before they finished the job.

"They should be connecting everybody, it doesn't matter where you are - we're now in a situation where internet is considered an essential service, not a luxury.

"They're never going to put villages as a priority because that's not where they make their money. The scheme as a whole never did us any good."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Openreach are only paid for premises that have received access to superfast broadband under the conditions set out in our Superfast Cymru grant agreement."

Image copyright Eric Jones/Geograph/John Lloyd

'Free wi-fi was a no-go'

John Lloyd, managing director of Inigo Jones Slate Works near Caernarfon, Gwynedd, said before his firm was connected via the scheme "we simply could not provide" free wi-fi to customers.

He said Superfast Cymru meant the business could now use a cloud-based storage system which made "the day-to-day running of the company so much more effective".

Image copyright Getty Images

What does Openreach say?

Managing director Kim Mears said: "Superfast Cymru was an enormous engineering project with a complex set of challenges, but our engineers have risen to the task, delivering one of the outstanding digital network roll-outs in Europe.

"Wales can confidently claim to having better superfast broadband coverage than Germany, France, Spain and Italy, but we're also mindful that some communities are still waiting to gain access to better connections.

"We're more determined than any other business to reach these remaining areas and we'll continue to offer a solution through our community fibre partnership programme.

"We're also committed to exploring the alternatives with Welsh Government to make decent broadband a reality for all."

Image copyright Thinkstock

What next?

The Welsh Government said 717,000 of the homes and businesses connected via Superfast Cymru had speeds of at least 30Mbps.

But Superfast Cymru came to an end in February and its successor is set to be announced later in the year.

Contracts to connect 100,000 homes have been put out to tender with the aim of connecting 88,000 properties not reached by this scheme, with Powys and Ceredigion named as priorities.

Chief whip in the Senedd Julie James said: "Whole local authority areas would have been untouched by superfast broadband rollout without Superfast Cymru - now there is not one local authority area without access.

"While the programme has successfully changed the digital landscape in Wales, I am very aware that there remain premises without access and we are now working on how to reach these."

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