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European Commission Stalls UK Superfast Broadband Rollout Plans

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 (9:19 am) - Score 1,100

The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) plan to roll-out superfast broadband (24Mbps+) services to 90% of the UK by 2015, which after spending £3m on consultants has left itself with a choice of just two firms (BT or Fujitsu), appears to have stalled after the European Commission (EC) expressed concern over the allocation of state aid.

Technically this is nothing new to ISPreview.co.uk readers, we’ve been reporting on it for the past few weeks, although The Guardian now appears to have gained some confirmation. It’s widely known that BDUK’s framework set the bar too high for smaller ISPs (altnets) to get involved. At the same time other operators, such as Cable & Wireless and Geo Networks (GEO), eventually pulled out highlighting economic and competitive concerns (here).

Crucially the EC recently launched a new consultation on EU state aid rules for the public funding of broadband networks, which switched its focus more towards facilitating the roll-out of “ultra-fast” networks (100Mbps+) “under certain conditions” (here).

It’s understood that Europe wants BT to offer improved and more competitive access to its superfast fibre-based infrastructure, such as the ability to rent Dark Fibre (ofcom has just rejected that idea), offer cheaper access to their cable ducts (PIA) and or a better unbundling (LLU) equivalent than VULA for fibre based lines.

A BTGroup Spokesperson said:

Discussions between the UK government and the commission continue on the issue of state aid. This is an EU issue as the commission is developing rules that need to work across Europe as well as taking the different conditions in the UK into consideration.

We are working with the UK authorities for an outcome that both incentivises further investment in fibre broadband and delivers vibrant competition in broadband services.

We believe there needs to be consistency with the wider regulatory framework which has given the UK the most competitive broadband environment in the world.”

Another issue, which may or may not sway into Europe’s decision making process, is that of speed. BDUK initially envisaged superfast broadband as being able to deliver download speeds of greater than 24Mbps (Megabits) but the EC wants this to be brought into line with their Digital Agenda target of 30Mbps for 2020. The UK has already started to make that change but this has naturally caused some confusion (here).

But at the same time the EC are clearly still assessing each of the UK’s Local Broadband Plan’s (LBP) on merit, otherwise they wouldn’t have cleared Birmingham’s proposal in June 2012 (here). Birmingham impressed by promising open access for alternative operators and the ability to rent Dark Fibre lines. Few, if any, other projects have been able to make such a promise.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
36 Responses
  1. FibreFred says:

    So they spent years and £3m of the funds on deciding two companies are viable? You couldn’t make it up

  2. What? says:

    As if we need more delays

  3. DTMark says:

    “European Commission Stalls UK Superfast Broadband Rollout Plans”

    What superfast broadband rollout plans?

    1. Bob says:

      Typo I suspect I think they meant “SUPERSLOW HS BROADBAND ROLLOUT” They have spent about 18 month just on Invitations to tender. Who know how long they will spend considering the tenders.

  4. Deduction says:

    ^^^ LOL oh i see what you did there DTMark, very good 🙂

  5. nicknick says:

    Translation of the BT words for those who aren’t used to BT statements.

    “We are working with the UK authorities for an outcome that both incentivises further investment in fibre broadband and delivers vibrant competition in broadband services.”

    We are working with our very good friends (Jeremy Hunt is a good buddy of all monopolies) in Govt to try and find a weasely way to protect our monopoly and get lots of Govt cash (Cash for Broadband anyone)

    “We believe there needs to be consistency with the wider regulatory framework which has given the UK the most competitive broadband environment in the world”

    We believe that Ofcom needs to remain ‘sans cojones’ to keep the UK as a Broadband Backwater, and allow us to keep making loads of money off the infrastructure gifted to us decades ago.

    1. DTMark says:

      It’s not what you know…. 😉

      “Cameron Unveils Group Of Business Advisors”


      “They will be joined by … Sir Michael Rake of BT”

    2. FibreFred says:

      “It’s not what you know…. 😉

      “Cameron Unveils Group Of Business Advisors”


      “They will be joined by … Sir Michael Rake of BT””

      Bosses of major businesses head up government think tank?

      I’m shocked to say the least.

  6. Bob says:

    Other than Cable & a some ADSL LLU we have the grand total of almost Zero competition. Most of the so called competion is just reselling the BT product

    1. Gadget says:

      I don’t think that this coverage of ADSL LLU constitutes zero competition

    2. Delete all comments? says:

      VM cover 505 of the population. Facts please.

    3. Delete all comments? says:

      VM cover 50% of the population. Facts please.

    4. Deduction says:

      Indeed bob…

      That unless my eyes are mistaken says 48% UK coverage ie less than half so NOT really competition. I spose it will claim next any company that has MINORITY coverage is “competition”.

    5. Gadget says:

      @Deduction – good read for a 2010 view but your point is made concerning Virgin probably still being below mathematical majority. What’s your answer to a 24m households covered by TalkTalk from the Samknows site?

    6. Delete all comments? says:

      ‘NOT really competition’ So why is VM not competition to BT?

    7. nicknick says:

      ADSL LLU = competition??????????? – 100% delivered over BT copper – doesn’t sound like competition to me, seems like a MONOPOLY. VM is the only real competition at the access level (and, the soon to be BT, Digital Region) and as pointed out has limited availability and zero availability in rural areas

    8. Deduction says:

      @Gadget and any multi ID troll reading

      Its a 2011 and most upto date report actually from ofcom, unlike the 2008 cack you supply.

      Though i didnt expect you to get that right even though my pdf link has “2011” in huge print on the very first page.

      I trust being you thinking competition already exists though that the news Sky may buy Talk Talk and become the largest in the UK you wont have any complaints with if you think competition is a good thing and its ok for BT to have it.


  7. zemadeiran says:

    Lets just bring in Berty of Barclays to sort this shit out!…

  8. Bob says:

    The VM 48% is very misleading. It counts evey home that is broadly in a VM Cabled area and as everyone knows there are huge gaps in coverage within the VM areas. Actuall availabilty is nears 37% and of course CAble is concentrated on the major urban areas. Geographic coverage is quite low

    1. DTMark says:

      I’d heard a figure of 52% before – “passes” 52% of homes.

      In some cases quite literally e.g. we checked Welwyn Garden City was cabled before we moved there, but as it turned out the part we lived in could get neither cable nor ADSL.

      I’ll bet that area is in the 52% though.

      Thanks for clarifying, 37% availability sounds closer to what I’d thought.

    2. Deduction says:

      Homes it passes is meaningless though DTMark, its actually availability in those homes. If the troll had bothered to read they would had noted also that 48% is very generous as its based on postcodes and we all know a postcode area when it comes to any broadband service one house may get it, another literally only a couple of doors away in the same postal code area can not.

      This obviously means the 48% as Bob points out is being generous and actual coverage is likely even lower than that.

      Homes passed means nothing, and if trolls that visit here wish to claim it does in that case BT still have a monopoly as they claimed their FTTC service passes 10 million homes.

      Either way the BT fan (singular cos thats what it is) looks an idiot again.

    3. DTMark says:

      It “passes” the office I wanted to lease..

      On one side of the road a cabinet with “Fibre broadband is here” and 200m up the road on both sides, a business park and offices – and it’s certainly not there 😉

      “Exchanges enabled” is certainly meaningless. It’s like Virgin Media saying that Welwyn Garden City is cabled. Well, some of it is…

    4. Deduction says:

      Exactly 🙂

  9. SlowSomerset says:

    Well best Broadband by 2015 then what a laugh more goverment spin surely no one fell for that one did they or did they.
    Looks like the Govermeny wanted BT to get all the money and like I said before most County Councils will just waste it on red tape.

  10. Bob says:

    So far since the 18 June BT have enable no more exchanges for FTTC/H. Not exactly working fast. THey have a 114 exchanges that they are supposed to be enabling by the 30th September

  11. Somerset says:

    So none in the past 2 weeks, what would you define as working fast?!

    1. Deduction says:

      Certainly not what is currently happening. Based on their latest list and the exchanges which were promised to be enabled in the last round but have fell behind (at least 2 examples of that on this sites very forum) they will have to on average and to be approximate, enable 1 exchange per day between end of this month and September to get them all done to their target date. Chances of that happening are probably worse than odds to win the lottery. My exchange had delays for over a year. When an exchange or postal area fails its enablement date it gets put back 3 months at a time (again various examples of that just in these forums). I spose you could argue the roll out is fast or slow, what can not be argued is BT keep putting dates back for areas, they also seem to have a nasty habit of including coverage figures on areas they said they would enabled but still have not. Then theres the whole argument all their figures are utterly meaningless anyway as its all exchange based rather than on who has a cabinet.

  12. SlowSomerset says:

    BT were 3 Months behind in the town nearest to me which is Bridgwater in Somerset & also as far as I know are behind in the next nearest town Which is Taunton also in Somerset so theres 2 examples in the same County and what a laugh they are the only ones to start being done in Somerset yet.
    Also Nether Stowey was also late in getting its Exchange updated to 21CN, what chance do we have here will be even worse with Somerset County Council Involved.

    1. Deduction says:

      Its called BT maths, blub a load of impressive figures to the press… Then practically meet none of them.

  13. Bob says:

    Still no progress. THe BT list for September is a 144 exchanges to date ZERO have been ebabled, Given BT are generally only working Monday to Friday that means they have no more than 60 days to do a 114 exchanges and I think we know that will not happen at very best 50% of them will be enabled and the remainder will be pushed out to DEcember and the current December exchanges will get pushed out to March 2013

    What the true current FTTC coverage is , is difficult to establish but as a ballpark figure take it as 50% of the number of lines at exchanges of each enabled exchange. It will xcertainly be way below the figure BT claim

    BT claim to have enabled about 1100 exchanges as a rough estimate lets assume 10,000 lines per exchange so 50% is 5,000 per exchange which gives a figure of about 6,000,000 lines which is about 25% of households can get it. A long way off from the 90% figure

    1. FibreFred says:

      Are you going to give us daily updates on the rollout Bob? You must have other things to do surely? 🙂

    2. Deduction says:

      Nothing wrong with him being factual… I always thought you liked facts and figures on things.

    3. FibreFred says:

      I do but this is obsessive, he’ll be following OR vans around soon, if not already

    4. Gadget says:

      I think your 50% figure is for cabinets not for lines – the BT claim is 85% of lines here http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/02/21/bt-faces-growing-fury-over-incomplete-uk-superfast-fttc-broadband-upgrades.html

    5. Somerset says:

      They did 73 in May, 56 in June.

    6. Deduction says:

      How many were “promised” for June?

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