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South Yorkshire UK Digital Region Network Sets August 2014 Closure Date

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 (9:45 am) - Score 1,511

The controversial tax payer fuelled £100m+ Digital Region superfast broadband network in South Yorkshire (England), which surprised nobody when it finally collapsed last year under a pile of its own debt and a lack of political support (here), has finally set a closure date of 15th August 2014.

The network was originally setup as an alternative to BT’s slower local ADSL infrastructure but it suffered due to poor advertising, an inability to attract any big name (mainstream) ISPs and the fact that BT later added faster / similar broadband connectivity into some of the same areas.

In the end Digital Region’s network managed to reach 80% of premises in the region but it only attracted 3,000 subscribers, which fell well below the 100,000 needed in order to make the project sustainable. As a result the projects backers (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield councils) all agreed that the only solution was a “managed closedown of the network“ and to migrate existing customers over to an alternative platform.

Today one of the networks ISPs, Chess Telecom (aka – LittleBigOne), has issued a new statement to confirm that their official Termination Date has been set for 15th May 2014. The good news is that it will continue to provide a service for a period of three months after this date until the full closure.

Chess Telecom Statement

As you will no doubt be aware, following the announcement made on 15th August 2013 the decision has been made to close the Digital Region Network. The closure date is set as 15th May 2014 and the DRL will continue to provide your services for a period of three months following the Termination Date.

As a Chess customer you’re in great hands, and can take advantage of our unparalleled product set at the very best possible prices, all backed by award winning customer service and our never beaten on price guarantee.

Our broadband experts will be calling shortly to make sure you’re on the best possible package and to make sure your business is not impacted by the network closure.

Given that Network operations are due to cease, no new connections, changes or reconnections can be accepted during the notice period.

If you have any immediate questions please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Service Team on 0844 770 6060

One extra bit of good news is that the Government are currently proposing a new £10 million scheme under their Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme (here), which would work to help deploy superfast broadband (FTTC/P) services across 90% of South Yorkshire (most likely with BT’s help). But the local authorities remain reluctant to sign off on that plan until they can sell what remains of DRL (GEO Networks and a few others are believed to have been sniffing around).

In the meantime DRL’s remaining customers have been left to battle over the complex issue of migration between DRL’s Sub-Loop Unbundled (SLU) network and that of either BT’s platform, Virgin Media’s cable network or one of the other fully/shared unbundled (LLU) ISPs like Sky Broadband or TalkTalk.

Sadly each path has a different process and some, such as a move to Virgin’s cable network, require the customer to effectively setup a new line. Meanwhile it’s not currently possible to use a MAC when going from DRL’s VDSL/FTTC service to an FTTC ISP on Openreach’s network, which means that an easier path might be to downgrade on to an ADSL2+ ISP (ideally one with a short contract term) and then upgrade to FTTC later.

Alternatively you could just cancel the old service and ask for a new line to be installed, which can be a bit tedious. Sadly in areas that don’t have an alternative FTTC or cable provider then the only option remains a slower ADSL based connection.

Last month Ask4 hinted that they were communicating with DRL and supplier Thales in the hope of expanding the situations where a seamless Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) switch could work. Ask4 advised that customers could already use this when switching to the BTInfinity (FTTC) package but it’s not clear whether that process has now been expanded to include other situations and we are waiting to hear back on that.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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6 Responses
  1. Alex Atkin UK

    This article is in fact incorrect, that date is actually only when Chess decided to get everyone migrated off DRL. Origin Broadband however state:

    “The official Digital Region closure date is the 14th of August 2014 – by which time we will have migrated all of our customers to our new network. Every customer will receive a personal e-mail and letter in the post which will provide more detail on how their migration will be carried out.”

    • Alex Atkin UK

      I notice it DOES mention providing services for 3 months AFTER the termination date. But I still stand by what Origin said that it clearly means its NOT terminated until August.

      How can a service be terminated but continue to provide service? It can’t.

  2. I’ll adjust the wording so it’s clearer.

  3. FibreFred

    So what happens to the network anyone know , asset stripping ?

  4. Hippojay

    I’m not sure where ASK4 have said that migration between them and BT was possible, but there have been some attempts and all have been rejected by BT. It seems cease and provide is the only way.

  5. Richard

    There should not really be an issue moving off Digital Region as their biggest problem was they rolled out services to areas that already head Virgin media and also later had FTTC. So they may of reached 80% of areas but they concentrated on the easy deployment which already had high speed connections available. Then left areas with slow connections.

    80% coverage to add an additional fast connection option which is more expensive than the competition is commercial suicide and no wonder it all failed.

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