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Just 15 Superfast Broadband Delivery UK Contracts Left for BT to Sign

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 (9:05 am) - Score 873

The government’s Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, has confirmed that two thirds of the projects that were initially designed to help deliver superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services to 90% of the United Kingdom by 2015 are now underway and the remaining 15 contracts should be “agreed shortly“.

So far 29 of the 44 Local Broadband Plan (LBP) contracts for different regions around the United Kingdom have been signed and every single one has been awarded to BT, which hasn’t had any real competition in the process and thus currently stands to pick-up whatever remains the of initial £530m budget (after BDUK’s admin costs) by the end of 2015.

The vast majority of the state aid supported BDUK contracts were signed during the first half of 2013 and it then usually takes several months for BTOpenreach engineers to complete their initial survey work before commencing roll-out.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport also claims that “almost60,000 additional premises have already gained access to BT’s fibre optic based (FTTC/P) broadband technology thanks to BDUK, which is mostly due to work starting in North Yorkshire, Norfolk, Surrey, Wales and Lancashire. The first cabinets in Hereford & Gloucestershire, Rutland, and Devon & Somerset are apparently also “due to go live later this month“.

Ed Vaizey, Communications Minister, said:

We are witnessing a historic transformation in the nation’s broadband, and we are already well ahead of other major European countries in many respects. The work we are now doing will reinforce the UK’s position as a leading digital economy, be a major driver of local jobs and national growth, and help us win the global race.

But that’s not enough. We are now exploring with industry how to expand coverage further, using more innovative fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions. We aim to reach at least 99 per cent of premises in the UK by 2018.”

However Vaizey’s remarks are perhaps somewhat intended to gloss over last week’s damning report from the National Audit Office (here), which accused the whole scheme of being underfunded (mostly due to a perceived lack of full match-funding from BT), not competitive enough, poorly run and in need of a serious shake-up.

Indeed until two weeks ago the project still expected to roll-out related superfast broadband services to 90% of people by the end of 2015, although the DCMS now expects to reach 88% by the same date (here). An extra £250m has also been set aside to push the target out to 95% by 2017. But unless the proposed changes to BDUK produce any real shift in approach then BT will probably gobble that up too.

In fairness, missing the first target by just 2% is actually quite good; so far as government run schemes go. Arguably the bigger problems continue to be with the projects limited competition and funding concerns. Lest we not forget that there’s a general election just around the corner and Europe still expects 100% of homes to have access to speeds of 30Mbps+ by 2020.

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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.
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7 Responses
  1. art says:

    I hope alerdale council are among the mix here in cumbria we seem to get left behind

  2. DTMark says:

    “Europe still expects 100% of homes to have access to speeds of 30Mbps+ by 2020”

    Is the money advanced so far in any way conditional upon this?

    I can’t see how reaching literally 100% of homes at any given speed is ever going to be viable anyway. There will always be people in, say, mansions in the middle of nowhere (like the suggestion of the guy in the Sky Fibre ad, oddly enough) who probably won’t see much if any benefit to what has been done so far nor what is planned unless they have a BT cabinet on their own grounds somewhere close-by serving them. Wi-Fi was ruled out. Are we really going to run FTTP to every individual isolated property?

    But leaving that aside and aiming for “nearly 100% to get 30Mbps+” is what has been planned so far meant to be a stepping stone towards this; that after the FTTC rollout individual properties will be addressed on a line by line basis and FTTP supplied where the delivered speed isn’t 30Meg? A blanket FTTP solution? Thousands more new FTTC cabinets?

    Where will that money come from? What has been agreed with BT in advance in terms of costs to accomplish this? How will this be monitored and checked? It has all been agreed, hasn’t it, there is a plan…? 😉

    Thus you could pay for “Fibre on demand” now, or just sit and wait, because everyone will be getting what by then will be basic broadband speeds anyway (30Meg+) as part of the State rollout…

    What, in this context, does “have access to…” mean, since every single property in the country already “has access” to those speeds anyway if they pay ridiculous sums of money for it whether they live in said mansion in the middle of nowhere or, say, the non-cabled highly urbanised parts of Welwyn Garden City.

    1. FibreFred says:

      “Expects” isn’t a very strong word , it doesn’t have much weight so I expect it won’t be met and I expect they’ll do nothing about it. Like you say leaving speeds to one side getting 100% to every home in every country isn’t realistic , do we have 100% water , gas, electric coverage to these homes ?

    2. Clive says:

      “do we have 100% water , gas, electric coverage to these homes ?”

      In the remotest parts of the UK people buy gas in bottles or have generators as just 2 solutions. Basically a portable gas/electric supply. Personally i would had thought the equivalent or closest to that in the world of broadband would be some kind of wireless service. No doubt many would have liked to have a stab at providing something like that but due to our ignorant government handing money out to BT for rural areas like its magic beans and BT spending its ‘rural funding’ slower than a drunk snail no one will get the chance or ever know if it would have worked.

      As for water… Nah those that live up a mountain do not have access to that stuff they die of dehydration daily :rolls eyes:

    3. MikeW says:

      “Is the money advanced so far in any way conditional upon this?”

      I don’t think it is conditional, but both the EU state-aid-approval document and many of the BDUK local broadband plans make very good reference to the EU 2020 targets.

      “is what has been planned so far meant to be a stepping stone towards this?”

      Some of the councils are seeing it that way (probably most, but some are saying it out loud).

      For example, the Warwickshire plans make heavy reference to the fact that the BDUK plans are indeed a stepping-stone on the way to the EU 2020 targets. In fact, they state that they don’t want to spend money on anything that doesn’t help towards those targets, and that is why they aren’t looking to spend much on dead-end solutions for the interim 2Mbps+ target.

      Corollary: If the EU wants 50% to take 100Mbps services, and Warwickshire will only spend BDUK money on solutions that help meet that target, you have to assume that the FTTC solution they are buying/funding will indeed help that.

      “since every single property in the country already “has access” to those speeds anyway if they pay ridiculous sums of money for it ”

      The two targets are that there is universal coverage of affordable SFBB at 30Mbps, and that there is 50% take-up of 100Mbps+. The affordable part is key, but many people miss it out in discussing the BDUK rollout.

      BDUK defines SFBB to be affordable if it costs less than £200 to install and less than £30-£50 per month. It isn’t really clear when they would choose a £30 threshold and when they’d choose a £50 threshold.

      BDUK also defines the basic broadband to be affordable if it costs less than £100 to install and less than £25 per month, which makes satellite solutions very borderline.

      “Are we really going to run FTTP to every individual isolated property?”

      I’m sure the strategy goes like this (in decreasing order of density):
      – Extend reach of existing cabinets through vectoring
      – Extend reach further, for a few houses, by adding bonding to the vectoring
      – Convert some of the small exchanges into FTTP (ala FOX, trialled at Deddington)
      – Use smaller cabinets (or FTTdp) for fibre-to-the-hamlet
      – Umbrella 4G or wireless
      – Satellite (possibly subsidised)

  3. Slow Somerset says:

    So the first areas In Devon & Somerset go live at the end of this month when the first areas were only announced at the end of last Month I will believe it when I see it. So they should be announcing the next areas soon then.

  4. Phil says:

    Telford & Wrekin Council better be agree to sign it! They better be!

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