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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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