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UK Fibre ISP Gigaclear Calls for More Predictable and Useful BDUK Contract

Posted Monday, November 4th, 2013 (1:50 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 2,230)
fibre optic and ethernet network cables

Gigaclear, which specialises in deploying ultrafast 1Gbps capable fibre optic (FTTP) networks into rural areas around the United Kingdom, has told ISPreview.co.uk as part of our exclusive interview that the Government needs to create a more “predictable and usefulBroadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme that allows more than just BT to bid for contracts.

The ISP also criticised BT and local authorities for failing to publish useful details about expected service speeds and coverage under the BDUK roll-out, which it claims has left communities to “pretty much guess what the impact will be” and whether or not “they get an FTTC enabled cabinet” from BT.

The culture secretary, Maria Miller, recently threatened to withhold £250m of extra rural superfast broadband funding from local authorities unless they published the data, which would help smaller ISPs (altnets) to access £20m of RCBF funding (here). But so far most have only published vague information that often lacks the necessary detail or is too ambiguous to be of much use.

Never the less Gigaclear, which is also the parent company of Rutland Telecom (here), believes that its alternative model of a privately funded rural fibre optic broadband deployment is working and claims that 400 communities have now requested its service; though they acknowledge that this figure could fall once BDUK/BT’s roll-out plan becomes clearer.

Naturally ISPreview.co.uk wanted to know more about how Gigaclear has been able to deploy its FTTP network into sparse rural areas and their wider viewpoint on the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme. Luckily we’ve been able to extract a few answers from the providers Sales and Marketing Director, Joe Frost.

The Interview

Q1. Gigaclear is one of the very few ISPs (altnets) to be rolling out a true ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) style fibre optic broadband network into rural areas. How has Gigaclear been able to achieve this, especially when many others appear to struggle with the economics and technical challenges?

ANSWER:

Gigaclear has created a business model that works for us, our investors and our customers. We have now proven with the networks already in place that it’s possible to install a new ultrafast fibre to the premises network in rural communities and make that network deliver a positive return on investment after just 5 years.

Our network being pure fibre is extremely reliable, its performance does not vary with distance or the weather. It does not touching or rely on any of the existing copper infrastructure, but has direct connectivity to the national fibre backbone provided by other major UK carriers.

The fibres we install underground are designed to last for 50 years and are capable of almost unlimited bandwidth by just changing the equipment in our cabinet and at the customer premises delivering a future proofed network to the community. Gigaclear works directly with its contractors who have significant experience at performing these installations and so we minimise our overheads in building these networks.

Q2. The government’s Broadband Delivery UK office recently confirmed that its original target, which aimed to make fixed line superfast broadband (25-30Mbps+) services available to 90% of the country by the end of 2015, would be missed; albeit only by a couple of percentage points.

General administrative slowness, legal challenges from BT/Virgin Media and complex competition delays with EU approval are often listed as being among the key reasons for this hold-up. What are your thoughts on these delays and how significant are they for the overall project?

ANSWER:

The key issue for residents and businesses based in rural locations are that they know they need better broadband that is faster and more reliable, yet they still do not know what they may receive or when. The lack of knowledge is holding up investment, customer recruitment and progress in rural communities.

The Government’s goal of improving broadband is of course commendable and essential, but the BDUK program appears to have fundamental challenges: there is only one provider (BT) that is able to ‘win’ the contracts and the contract itself has some challenges in that here we are near the end of 2013 and almost no one is aware of what they will get or when. When county councils are asked, almost all of them are unable to provide any answers that have any detail in terms of coverage and speed.

The actual deliverable from this massive investment is also currently unquantifiable, with communities left to pretty much guess what the impact will be, when and if they get an FTTC enabled cabinet in their community. With BT still in the process of evaluating its infrastructure in each county before it can tell the county councils what it can do, where, and how much money they will need to perform the upgrade, then the delays appear likely to be set to increase.

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19 Responses
  1. New_Londoner

    Interesting questions and responses.

    No real answer to question 6 “can somebody order Sky Broadband’s £10 a month unlimited ADSL2+ service or the same sort of product from TalkTalk and if so then how does that work over your fibre infrastructure?”, so presumably the real answer there was no? This is important if you want a choice of service providers, including at least some of the well known national providers.

    • gerarda

      @New Londoner – what choice of service provider is there when Openreach decide not to install a cabinet?

    • FibreFred

      gerarda that is a totally different question, how is that relevant at all? New Londoners question is a valid one, lets stick with that?

    • Gerarda

      @fibrefred
      Its as valid as New Londoner’s. Alternatives to BT in the BDUK process were ruled out on spurious open access grounds but that has simply led to a situation where BT have a state subsidy but can still decide whether or not to offer a service in that area. No service =no sky broadband.

    • TheFacts

      The alternatives to BT in the BDUK process – would they have offered Sky broadband?

    • FibreFred

      Gerarda Hmm I get what you are saying but I still see it as different. We are talking about someone physically providing a service to a customer and having the ability to offer it out wholesale to others. You are talking about something a bit different.

    • Gerarda

      @the facts The BDUK process was designed to ensure that this question remained hypothetical.

      @fibrefred The end result to the user is still the same.

    • FibreFred

      No it’s quite simply not.

      I’m not sure why you keep making comparisons that are not relevant to anything , simply to get the boot into BT?

    • gerarda

      @ fibre fred – so how does the end result differ?

    • FibreFred

      Why because one of the options gives a user “something”

      New_Londonder (and Mark) asked if Gigaclear could provide a cheap service to wholesale to Sky, the answer looks like a no

      So basically the customer would end up with a choice of one for their service provider, i.e. Gigaclear.

      You come along and compare it to getting nothing at all from BT as they wouldn’t supply a cabinet at all.

      So the first example gives the end customer a service but a choice of one, the second gives them no service at all.

      But you some how think they are both the same???

  2. @New Londoner actually I thought the answer given was pretty clear.

    • New_Londoner

      It was, but it didn’t answer the question that was asked.

    • Yes it was a bit of an evasive answer as we wanted to gain a real idea of what people could actually receive but it’s still not clear.

    • Gerarda

      @ new londoner

      Its a lot less evasive than BT’s response to how they are going to complete their BDUK contracts for premises beyond the reach of their FTTC roll out and what choice of services these are going to receive.

    • New_Londoner

      @Gerarda
      Interesting point but not relevant to this story, which is an interview with Gigaclear. I think it is reasonable to have clarity on which ISPs offer service over its network, note that both I and Mark J concluded this question went unanswered. I make no comment other than to note this is the case and that it presumably means neither of the two named ISPs do in fact use the network.

      Perhaps an actual Gigaclear customer could confirm what the actual situation is as I find hard facts generally inform the debate.

  3. Diplodicus

    The lack of access to these two major ISPs is due to the costs to these large organisations of amending their software-based order fulfilment systems to accommodate what is likely to remain for the foreseeable a “small” network operator with a highly-dispersed customer base.

  4. Diplodicus

    The two being Sky and Virgin.

  5. fastman

    Gerarda

    assuming your exchange is enabled and not covered under BDUK then why not look at gap funding the cabinet in the same was as other villages and business parks have so it is enabled

  6. Thanks for the interview, its interesting to read how companies like Gigaclear work.

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