By: MarkJ - 19 July, 2011 (6:34 AM)
yorkshire uk broadband internet mapdigital region ukThe £100 Million EU funded Digital Region open access wholesale ISP project, which aims to deliver average FTTC based broadband speeds of 25Mbps to 97% of businesses and homes in the South Yorkshire UK region, could be stalled due to a low take-up by local people and growing competition from BT's comparable 40Mbps capable superfast broadband services in some of the county's most profitable areas.

In June 2011 Digital Region claimed that its rollout was already "well underway", with more than 50% of the final network now complete. Apparently 30 telephone exchanges have been upgraded, which is out of an initial 36 planned for phase one and a total of 54 for the complete network in 2012.

Crucially the project always intended to cover the "final fifth" (17-20%) of its network development through profits, although the low uptake (some customers claim that their service prices are simply too high) has meant that such income is now falling well below expectations. On top of that the company is publicly owned and must also pay back millions of pounds in loans to local councils, which has lead to some serious questions over its long-term viability and a "material uncertainty" with its accounts.

Digital Region's CEO, David Carr, commented (Yorkshire Post):

"It was always the plan to have the final 17-20 per cent built from our revenue. The revenue forecasts were over-emphasised when the plan was first put together. In the original plan the last 17 per cent was done more quickly, and we’ve had to revise that.

We’ve got funding for the first 80 per cent of the population, and that will be complete by the early part of next year. But this is still absolutely a 97 per cent project. It’s in our plan to roll out to the final 17 per cent (of properties) - it’s just a question of timing."

One significant part of the problem is that the Digital Region project, which is acting as an open access wholesale network, has failed to attract interest from enough of the country's major broadband ISPs (e.g. TalkTalk, Sky Broadband etc.). The troubles have been repeatedly blamed on BTOpenreach and a series of related disputes.

BT owns the existing telephone network but is also Digital Region's main competitor. The situation has even led Barnsley Council's CEO, Phil Coppard, to claim that BT was trying to "kill" the project by limiting access to vital data and over-charging for access to its telephone lines. BT claims that its prices are fair.


A related report in the Yorkshire Post suggests that an investigation by Ofcom could force BT to drop some of its rental prices to the Digital Region project, albeit by no more than 10%. Apparently this will not be anywhere near enough to resolve the problem.
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Comments: 10

asa logoTom
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 8:23 AM
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I live in South Yorkshire and have a good knowledge of the Digital Region project including the current ISPs offering it. In my eyes this is purely due to poor marketing and advertising. There was a mail campaign about a year ago which delivered one letter to all residents most of whos areas hadn't gone live at the time and will now have been long forgotten about.
asa logoAgrajag
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 12:14 PM
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Including the 90 set up fee, the 25 p/m subscription and line rental (you still need to pay BT) it works out to around 530 for the first year, which for broadband alone is far too expensive.

I pay far less than that for Broadband with unlimited local/national phone calls.
asa logoMarkJ
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 12:31 PM
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What are the package details? That price point, on the surface, doesn't sound like it's a million miles from BT's FTTC service.
asa logoboggits
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 1:07 PM
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Of the 4 active ISPs they are all small business focused and aren't targeting the consumer market. If you look at their sign up processes (links from then you can see that its not the smooth process you would get from Talk Talk, BT, Virgin, Zen or many of the other providers who understand how a signup process should work.

That said BT hasn't helped especially with the pricing that they've managed to stich anyone doing SLU
asa logoBob
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 6:22 PM
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With the significant market power BT have they can crush any real competition.

This happens every time an extensive alternativve network is set up. Areas that BT ignored suddenly get rolled out when competition arrives

The other problemis the piecemeal adhoc networks that get setup iunder these government subsidised schemes are not viable as they are far to expensive and will not attract the big ISP's.

As far as infructructure is concerned there should be one alternative network in addition to BT. You get the economies of scales and will attract the big ISP's they will not want to deal with hundreds of small local schemes. There is just to much sdministration and costs in doing so
asa logoAgrajag
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 6:31 PM
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No, not a million miles from BT MarkJ:

BT Unlimited 40mb/10mb, unlimited calls, line rental: ~42 p/m

Ripwire 40mb/10mb, no calls, line rental: ~39 p/m

But bare in mind that BT offer 3 months for free, and that no phone service is included with Ripwire, also Ripwire have a 90 set up fee, which is more than enough to put many people off.
asa logoMartin
Posted: 19 July, 2011 - 8:51 PM
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This neatly illustrates the stupidity of the politicians.
Yes, they want universal, fast, BB access, NO, they will not sanction independent nationwide network. This piecemeal approach will eventually prove just as, if not more, expensive as a proper job.
Meanwhile the LLU operators are sitting on their hands, pondering how they can get on the 'fibre bandwagon' in face of BT obstinance and without loosing a bundle of money.

What chance of of the 22% users on Market 1 or 2 ever getting better service at a competitive price ?
Answers on a post card to Ofcom and your MP !
asa logoPhil
Posted: 20 July, 2011 - 8:33 AM
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I live in the digital region area,and my exchange(Attercliffe) is showing no signs of being upgraded.I have contacted my MP about this but all he did was mention the digital region initiative and couldn't tell me when/if my exchange will be upgraded.At present i am with O2 LLU and only get around 2.5mb due to being at the end of a long line.There is no way I could afford the kind of money that is being quoted by Ripewire
asa logoBob
Posted: 23 July, 2011 - 9:31 AM
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Politicians never learn. Cable had the UK divided up into dozens of regions and that did not work.

Now the government are splitting the UK up into even smaller regions and uses multiple different technologies as well

We need a UK wide alternative network across the UK. The Fujitsu Open Network Consortium offers the best hope but there is little sign of government support for it.

In the meantime outside the Cabled areas BT can effectively kill off any competition at will
asa logoMike
Posted: 25 July, 2011 - 12:11 PM
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I've been on the digital region since oct 2010 @ 40mb, before that it was bt at 1.5mb, because BT refused to install infinity, but now they have decided to in december because of digital region - yes there are usual problems, but for 25 the service is far better than BT, yes the initial setup fee is off-putting but this is lower than what BT charge Digital Region for linking into their network, and i was willing to pay this to get a decent speed.

Overall they need to advertise strongly and also get on the broadband checkers that people use.

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