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Government Puts UK Superfast Broadband Projects on AMBER RED ALERT

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 (7:59 am) - Score 2,725

The government’s Major Projects Authority (MPA), which was setup in 2010 to help improve the “delivery success rate” of major publicly funded projects through collaboration between various departments (Cabinet Office, HM Treasury etc.), has put the effort to roll-out superfast broadband to 90% of the UK on Amber/Red Alert.

The MPA uses a traffic light style Red-Amber-Green Rating (RAG) system, which is described as a Delivery Confidence Assessment, to gauge the progress of projects and how likely they are to reach their goals. A status of Amber/Red means that “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible.”

mpa rag ratings

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is the home for most of the government’s broadband / mobile ambitions and each project has been given one of the above classifications.

Firstly the £150m Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), which is helping “at least” 98% of UK people gain access to a mobile broadband connection by the end of 2015 (originally 2017), is placed on a tame Amber Alert. But for all intents and purposes the MIP, which recently awarded a new mobile mast building contract to Arqiva (here), appears to be making reasonable progress.

Sadly the £150m Urban Broadband Fund (UBF), which aims to help expand the coverage of “ultra-fast” broadband (80-100Mbps+) and “high speed” public wifi services into neglected areas, has been placed on Amber/Red. This is hardly surprising given the EU’s apparent rejection of its state aid component for broadband development (here). Interestingly the report appears to confirm that a voucher solution will be pursued, “the Government is working with the EU Commission and suppliers to agree the state aid strategy for infrastructure build and a connection voucher scheme“.

But the primary concern appears to be with the wider £530m Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework, which aims to make superfast broadband (25Mbps+) available to 90% of people in the UK by the end of 2015 (it used to be “March 2015“) and is also Amber/Red. But some recent contract awards have suggested that the completion date could slip into 2016.

The BDUK scheme has faced a mountain of administrative and funding delays, such as last year’s 6 month stall over EU state aid approval (here) and on-going local squabbles over BT’s coverage commitments. Out of the 43 projects some 26 have assigned contracts but only a few are actually installing the new infrastructure (e.g. Wales). “As of 25/03/2013 the whole life cost is approximately £1.8 bn. Cost figure is an estimate based on expected public and private sector contributions,” said the MPA.

However the MPA notes that big government projects often operate “with an extremely high degree of risk and complexity, against ambitious timeframes and are frequently delivering initiatives that have no global precedent“. As a result such projects, especially in their earliest stages, are often classified as Amber or Amber/Red.

In fact even Ofcom’s project to release the 800MHz and 2.6GHz radio spectrum for use by new 4G based mobile broadband services, which has already completed, is still marked as Amber. On the other hand such projects are also supposed to be moving more towards Amber and Amber/Green as they get older, remove risks and finalise design.

Major Projects Authority (MPA)
https://www.gov.uk/government/policy-teams/major-projects-authority

Leave a Comment
16 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast says:

    As usual with the UK only half (less than half?) of them are actually doing anything; with the other half supervising and commenting on what the productive half are doing (disregarding of course that half of the productive half who spend their time managing or refuting what the other half are saying). So no-one actually knows what’s going on.

  2. Avatar Tom Brook says:

    I have serious doubts over the Surrey project meeting their first “round” of exchanges.. 21cn in the exchanges – yes.. FTTC (which people are expecting) … not much chance before their supposed September deadline. No work has even begun in some of the “September villages”.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Only expect cabinets in the last 3-6 months of a planned rollout – the time before this is all used up in planning, getting those plans agreed and approved, and getting equipment lined up and delivered. Work done within an exchange building tends to be invisible too.

      North Yorkshire’s BDUK contract was signed in July. Their exchanges were marked in the “where and when” plans in December, but only truly announced in February. Some exchanges are already live, and plenty of work is going on.

  3. Avatar telecom engineer says:

    Quick take it to commitee!
    The reason for the delays are not in their implementation but all thd beaurocratic holdups along the way.

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    The BDUK schemes are likely to go the same way. Very little is happening with most of them

    There is no overall scheme for England just a hotch potch of disjointed schemes. For the total amount being spent they could have got FTTP to the urban areas of the UK

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      More than half are underway. ‘Urban’, do you mean ‘rural’, and to how many?

    2. Avatar Tom Brook says:

      I presume the Surrey scheme is classed as “underway” when I’d be amazed if they meet their initial target activation dates for the first set of exchanges. Time will tell though.

  5. Avatar telecom engineer says:

    The rollout of commercial cabs has been the fastest in the world. If this does slip by six or twelve months is it really a red alert? Surely if things are on budget thats the most important factor. We just wastez 100mill on bbc digital editing suite that doesnt work which has been a known failyre since 2011! Surely we should let the project commence before declaring it a failure.. i personally put the delay at the door of the government, the six month delay in europe and the debacle of only one provider mean a lot of paperwork and local accounting has gone into what essentially should have been a decision to hand the cash to bt.
    Perhaps the money could be put to better use? State aid to a foriegn country with space programmes or perhaps capitalising another poor helpless bank?

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      This is nothing to do with the commercial programme.

  6. Avatar Frank Fry says:

    The substantive reason for the delay seems to me the Govt getting the clearence to spend funds. That was always going to have an impact on delivery end dates. If you waste a year in procurement administration its hardly goin to be easy to catch it up in delivery by the physical supplier

  7. Avatar MikeW says:

    At least once the BDUK contracts are awarded, the work is handed over to a group that have been deploying SFBB at the rate of 1.5 million lines every quarter. They might not catch up the government delays, but they shouldn’t make it worse.

    It is going to be the 2Mb areas that are least likely to hit the deadlines – because no-one really wants to address this side until the FTTX rollout is nearer completion.

    1. Avatar chris says:

      Dream on MikeW, they are ‘passing’ homes with SFBB, not connecting them, and they aren’t doing anything to help those on the 2meg connections at all. Only FOD could help them as bringing fibre from exchange to cab doesn’t shorten their line lengths by enough to make a difference. Its been a con from start to finish. When the fat lady sings she won’t half cause some red faces.

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      What’s the experience in Cornwall on long lines?

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Those on 2M or less on a cabinet will see the cabinet get FTTC.

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      Oh Chris “only fibre will do whatever the cost”. What’s to dream about on SFBB? I’m pretty sure that my 4Mbps ADSL2+ line became an 80Mbps FTTC line, and is a reality, not a dream. I’m pretty sure that only an extra £5 per month is leaving my bank account to pay for it. I’m pretty sure that I don’t really need it to be that fast, but I’m happy that it is.

      SFBB adds near 2% of the UK to its “passed” total every month, and of those passed, it adds about 0.5% connected every month. And it continues to add connections at that rate, even in areas that have been rolled out for 3 years.

      2Mbps- lines are long exchange lines, but they’re not all long D-side lines. Some of them will certainly be helped – but most of those will still be within BDUK projects.

      For example, the very first cabinet planted for a BDUK project – Ainderby Steeple in North Yorkshire – converted the village from 2Mbps- to 80Mbps. It certainly isn’t a con to those residents.

      But I agree, it won’t help *all* of those on 2Mbps lines. We need to work on a much better solution, while remaining affordable, for the final 10-15%. Blanket dismissal of FTTC, blanket rejection of anything that isn’t FTTH, is not going to help those people.

  8. Avatar four_eyes says:

    government what government ???? they mean the tax hike government because all this friggin government thinks of no wonder people emigrate because of the the uk greedy b@stard government the worst place to live is the UK

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