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Durham Extend BT Superfast Broadband Coverage to 96% with RCBF Money

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 (7:26 am) - Score 595

The Digital Durham and Tees Valley project in North East England has confirmed new funding with BT and the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) that will push their existing superfast broadband (25Mbps+) coverage target up from 94% to 96% by September 2016.

At present the councils joint investment of £24m with BT and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office should make superfast speeds available to 94% by the same date, but today’s expansion sees more than £1m being added to the pot via the struggling Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF). On top of that an additional investment of £300k will be made by project partner BT.

Some 3,500 more homes and businesses are now expected to benefit from the new investment, which equates to a total of around 72,000 premises across the project as a whole. It’s also worth pointing out that while 96% will get “superfast” speeds (congratulations to Durham for being one of the few councils to clarify this) some 98% will still be brought within reach of BT’s “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network (i.e. the 2% different will receive sub-24Mbps).

Jane Brown, Durham Councillor for Corporate Services, said:

We know that access to fast broadband speeds is still a problem in some parts of the County, particularly more rural areas, so it is fantastic news that this funding bid has been approved.

Effective broadband is key in modern communication and bringing economic growth to County Durham. Benefits to residents and businesses are enormous and SMEs in particular will be able to take advantage of new opportunities leading to regeneration and job creation.”

It’s little surprise to see BT winning another RCBF bid, especially while smaller altnet ISPs continue to struggle with the issue of identifying whether or not their own projects conflict with the BT/BDUK scheme. Getting access to the BT/BDUK coverage data remains a problem area for many altnets but it’s also necessary to satisfy the state aid rules.

However it’s interesting to see that Durham appears to have conflated their BDUK project so directly with the RCBF scheme and without revealing many details about precisely where, when and what the RCBF bid is being used to fund. After a little digging though we did at least discover that the RCBF bid was focused on the Teesdale and Weardale areas and more FTTC deployments would be a safe bet to make.

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7 Responses
  1. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    This probably sounds like a stupid question but could vectoring increase the national superfast speeds percentage to 96/97%. I know a lot of people will be on FTTC lines but to far away to get superfast speeds just curious if it would push the percentage up a bit or not.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      Just my take: It’s very hard to know…

      You can plot the expected speeds of a copper based line at a certain gauge and how they deteriorate with distance. What you might call “lab results”. The “maximum data rate”.

      In the real world, with varying copper gauges and mixed metals in use (some lines are aluminium) and the age of the line plant this means you can’t predict with any precise accuracy what speed any given pair will run at. The speed estimate however in the first instance is a “raw” estimate but the actual performance is then dragged down by things like crosstalk which is not precisely predictable in terms of its effect on any given pair.

      That’s why VDSL is an experiment in actual usage. If you were to provide VDSL from every single cabinet in the country there is no way to predict the maximum data rate (e.g. lines over a certain speed) with accuracy nor any way to predict the effect of crosstalk with accuracy.

      You can say for certain that vectoring will improve the potential maximum data rates on (and in the case of, especially) short lines.

      You can’t really predict the non vectored result with accuracy, vectoring should bring more certainty (e.g. “more like the best possible lab results”) but the line plant age and quality or lack thereof makes any precise estimate of “percentage to get” impossible.

    2. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

      Ah thanks for that so basically it’s possibly could happen but vectoring is going have more of an impact on short lines. I was just curious I’m likely moving to BT from Virgin to there 40/10 package could get 80/20 as close to the cabinet. But on the 40/10 they offering me 6 months free broadband after the 6 months I might upgrade to the 80/20. Plus getting BT Sports is good not sure why I would need 80/20.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      @DTMark is right that longer lines can have more complexity about their noise picture, but it isn’t really a given that every long line is in poor condition.

      Most of the graphs show that range of superfast speeds is indeed likely to be extended, perhaps by 200 to 300 metres. That’s likely to add coverage of an extra 3-5%.

      That kind of ballpark, anyway.

    4. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

      Thanks for your response Mike appreciate it figured it should have some effect on speeds. Heard in the news today that ericom has just started there commercial rollout of vectoring imagine someone will come along soon and say that BT is behind again. For me honestly I don’t care if it has taken longer least it is happening. I’m 75-80 metres from my cabinet if that so should never really have a problem with it and vectoring might push my line speed up but not sure at moment I would need anything faster than 80/20.

  2. Avatar James Harrison says:

    I’m not sure how this works. RCBF is a match funding grant. If they’re committing £1m, BT must match it with £1m to receive the matched funding.

  3. Avatar buyer beware says:

    Not necessarily James, if you read the RCBF bid from Noke in Oxfordshire it was for £83,000 government funding and the match funding was from villagers who had raised £67,000.

    Since Gigaclear has included Noke in its privately funded fibre network the RCBF grant won’t go ahead. A subsidy can only be used to correct a market failure.

    It looks like a much better solution as residents do not have to put up their £67,000 although the service they have might be more expensive.

    It is alos better for the taxpayer as the £83,000 hopefully will go somewhere that does not have superfast broadband – to be matched locally.

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