JUST under 4,000 properties across Carmarthenshire and Neath Port Talbot have benefitted from improved connectivity.

The Welsh Government has revealed that more than 44,000 homes and businesses across Wales have been given fast full fibre broadband as part of the Welsh Government’s partnership with Openreach.

Over a four-year period, the partnership has allowed 44,053 properties across the nation – including 3,179 in Carmarthenshire and 780 in Neath Port Talbot – to have access to full fibre broadband. Initially, 38,011 premises were included in the plan, but a further 6,042 premises were added as a direct consequence of the public funded roll out which leads to a total of 44,053 premises.

This includes Pembrokeshire’s Grade I listed Picton Castle which was given full fibre broadband from the nearby exchange in Haverfordwest. This will allow the historic and popular tourist attraction to benefit from modern, digital enhancements. At present, it will make life easier for those that work at the castle through enhanced connectivity and security, with a future aim to improve the visitor experience through digital means.

Dr Rhiannon Talbot-English, director at Picton Castle, said: “The rollout of full fibre has been a significant enhancement for our business.

“Prior to this connection the slow internet upload and download speeds we had meant that the range of options for improving our efficiency, cyber-security and basic business were limited.

“Our internet-based payment devices, website and email would often be overwhelmed due to the poor connectivity. This new connection has been a significant leap forward for us.”

The programme had a budget of £57m from Welsh Government and WU funding as well as investment from Openreach and support from the UK Government. When the programme was completed, it came in under the budget but has delivered gigabit capable speeds for faster downloads and smoother streaming. 33 apprentices were recruited to support the build and delivery.

Vaughan Gething, Welsh Government’s economy minister, said: “Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work, travel and socialise which means a fast and reliable broadband connection is more important than ever – regardless of where in the country you’re based.

“While broadband isn’t devolved, we wanted to support communities where commercial companies had no plans to install full fibre broadband infrastructure and improve connectivity across all parts of Wales.

“When we started this journey in 2019, under seven per cent of properties in Wales could access full fibre broadband. Now I’m delighted that thanks to a combination of public and commercially funded rollouts, more than half of all homes and businesses can live, work or study with gigabit capable speeds.”

Kim Mears, Openreach Wales’ board chairperson, said: “Nobody is building full fibre broadband across Wales faster or wider than Openreach.

“Both in terms of our commercial investment and the work we’ve done in partnership with the Welsh Government.

“Our ultrafast full fibre network is helping bridge the digital divide, open new markets to businesses, bring significant economic boost to local economies and help families live, work and play.

“We’re extremely proud of the work our local engineers are doing up and down the country in both urban and rural parts of Wales and our partnership with Welsh Government is a great example of how business and government can successfully work together for the benefit of Wales.”