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Superfast Essex UK Project Begins Vague BT Fibre Broadband Rollout

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 (8:09 am) - Score 1,410

The Superfast Essex scheme, which is worth £24.62 million and aims to make BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network available to 87% of local homes and businesses by the end of summer 2016 (with plans to reach 95% through additional funding), has finally started Phase One of its deployment, albeit without telling locals which communities will benefit next or offering a clear timescale.

According to EADT24, which is frustratingly one of the few sources of information here because there’s very little about the latest progress update mentioned on either the council or the projects own website, BTOpenreach has switched-on the first ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable FTTC street cabinets at Colchester Business Park, Rivenhall and Harlow (covering approx. 300+ local premises).

BT is currently contributing £11.7m towards the cost of deployment in “non-commercial” areas (their commercial deployment has already reached 500,000+ local premises), while the council has committed £6.46m and another £6.46m will be coming from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office. Overall about 900km of new fibre optic cable will be installed in the area alongside 400 new street cabinets.

Kevin Bentley, Essex Council’s Deputy Leader, said:

Not everyone will have the same speed, but wherever you are you should see an improvement. It is important for businesses, but also residents who contribute by shopping online, working from home, and so on. The way we operate is very different now.”

However, aside from another crayon style deployment map on the projects official website (here), the scheme in Essex hasn’t done a good job of keeping locals informed about its roll-out plan. Most BDUK projects have been publishing frequent lists of planned telephone exchange and community upgrades, often alongside an expected timetable for each phase of delivery, but Essex has so far struggled to achieve the same. We get little bits here and there but it’s frustrating to not see a more cohesive approach.

ISPreview.co.uk has been able to gleam that the initial areas (phase one), excluding the above few that have now started to go live, will probably also include some parts of Boxted, Myland and St Andrews but we can’t be sure due to the lack of firm updates. Come on Essex.. you can do better.

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26 Responses
  1. GNewton says:

    The Essex Superfast website not only has a severe lack of information, but it is also highly misleading. For example, running a few random postcodes through the availability checker reveals something as vague like this:

    “This area is due to be fibre enabled under the Superfast Essex programme. Under current plans, rollout works commence in this area in xxxx. Please note this is subject to change following detail survey and planning”

    Also, the website gives the impression as if they were rolling out fibre broadband, they ARE NOT! They are mostly re-using existing twisted pair copper wires going into the premises, with just a different DSL service (probably VDSL2), mostly from some newly to be installed cabinets.

    Needless to say, they do not provide postcode data with planned services (fibre broadband, VDSL, wireless, other). So far, they have ignored Freedom of Information Act requests for the detailed postcode data which by now surely must exist, thus preventing with the aid of taxpayer’s money other telecom providers to extend their services (there are already few of them in Essex).

    In summary, a waste of taxpayer’s money, and a farce.

    1. Sledgehammer says:

      The mushroom system in full swing!!!

  2. NGA for all says:

    Is Colchester Busines Park getting a subsidised FTTC Cabinet or they preparing for FTTP? Please not the former! As a new business park would it not already have fibre access?

    1. GNewton says:

      This news item in the EADT24 also has this to say:

      “Two other cabinets, in Rivenhall and Harlow, will be officially opened tomorrow and the three cabinets will benefit approximately 300 homes and businesses.”

      Isn’t this quite an expensive exercise, 2 cabinets, only to serve a potential 300 permises? Suppose, to be generous, 100 homes take up on this offer, the subsidy per line will reach a level where fibre instead of VDSL might have made more sense.

    2. NGA for all says:

      @Gnewton Cabinets make sense for giving most homes a good uplift ins service, and the fibres are then there to extend further, or rather it makes sense if the subsidy is related to the incremental cost, rather than something which is inflated by take-up risk, premiums for USC, change control costs, pm costs. as MikeW was pointing to us.
      However, I cannot see any technical design authority (Openreach or IEEE or NICC) signing off cabinets outside business parks where there are pre-existing duct to the premise. There is likely to be EAD already on site, and I assume Voda/C&W may be present given Natwest are on site. Perhaps BT does not have the confidence to step forward with FTTP in these cases and are defaulting to FTTC because no one is challenging them. This looks like a BT Group subsidy collection exercise as opposed to an efficient design decision.

    3. fastman2 says:

      NGA those cast were determied by ECC as a priority – built as FTTC — your rationaal is exactly why most business parks have not been covered under commercial or majority of the BDUK projects

    4. NGA for all says:

      @Fastman2 – Thanks. Could a similar planning rule emege for housing estates with duct where the first cabinet is nearly full?

  3. GNewton says:

    @NGA for All: If your estimate of an average cabinet cost of £80,278 (see http://www.thebitcommons.com/cgi-bin/ebb/blog2/index.php?action=viewcomments&pid=5) is correct, and the EADT24 news item refers to 3 cabinets serving at most 300 premises, that would amount in the best case scenario to an average cost of at least £800 per VDSL line. A more realistic assumption is an average takeup rate of 25%, in which case it’d be £2400 per VDSL line.

    Surely there must be more economic and technically superior options, compared to this expansive Cabinet/VDSL scenario. E.g. in our small town a wireless setup, with similar speeds, only costs a fraction of this VDSL setup, and could be provided without a public subsidy. The same is true for many parts of Essex.

    1. FibreFred says:

      “could be provided without a public subsidy. The same is true for many parts of Essex.”

      So why hasn’t it be done already? Before BDUK?

    2. NGA for all says:

      @Gnewton – The NAO report shows BT has permission to bill up to an average £47k subsidy per cab, (the £80k+ includes Bt operational costs and their capital contribution) if BT can generate the invoices. So yes, at these budgets per premise passed you would most certainly plan to do more FTTP. You would not spend so much on power creating operational costs for cabs when serving <100 customers per cab.
      They must at this stage have proven this to themselves in Cornwall, but there are no reports about Cornwall, no white papers, no peer review, ZIP.

    3. dragoneast says:

      “so why aren’t [fixed wireless] set ups done already (without public subsidy)”? Consumer lethargy? I was stuck like most of my village on a sub 3mbps service (often 2Mbps or less), but I was the only one to pay for the fixed wireless installation. Most people don’t do research, won’t pay, and stick with the name they know – BT. The rest are a small minority. And it’s a big problem for both the politicians and the commercial competitors. You can’t teach anyone who doesn’t want to know. Most of us would rather complain than do anything about it.

    4. NGA for all says:

      @fibrefred Cost recovery on PSTN only, proposals to Ofcom for 2014-2017 Fixed line access review, suggesting regime to support cost recovery and investment for fibre, particularly long lines were rejected because Ofcom see no market failure -FTTC is enough, and insufficient people asking for it. Fibre access now positioned as a premium service (see recent FOB pricing) by BT and accepted by Ofcom – which is wrong in my opinion. Also BT Group capital forecasts a switch away from fibre to football rights.
      Like the 4G coverage obligation, it will take Parliament to make a clear signal to get something different from that which BT is willing to do. Too complex for them so this is unlikely.

    5. GNewton says:

      “So why hasn’t it be done already? Before BDUK?”

      It has, in many areas. Some were even supported by the same Essex county council which is now so keen on remvoving infrastructure market competition with the aid of taxpayer’s money.

      The lack of transparancy, e.g. virtually no public postcode/cabinet rollout data available, makes it a lot harder for altnets to properly plan and extend their mostly fibre-optic or wireless networks. It is now also much harder for consumers to organise village campaigns and sign people up to get a network provider cover their areas with nextgen services, because hardly any network company wants to compete with a taxpayer funded monopoly company, especially not with the severe lack of public information.

    6. FibreFred says:

      Sounds like an excuse to me, hiding behind the farce that is BDUK.

      BDUK is only 4 years old, but it fits nicely as an excuse now for the altnets

    7. No Clue says:

      NO NO NO its going to be 87% of local homes, because they say so.

      Government and BT refuse to publish any evidence to prove their claims though. I am sure its not because if they did then every non-sceptic would then see what a colossal waste of time and money it has been.

  4. finaldest says:

    This is the result for a CO2 postcode in colchester about 1 mile from town center.

    This area is covered under the Superfast Essex Programme. The programme will ensure that by summer 2016 available download speeds in this area will be at least 2Mbps. However, for technical and financial reasons there are currently no plans to deploy fibre or alternative technologies to achieve higher speeds. Please see our FAQ for further information.

    So no commercial FTTC or VM or even BDUK. The incompetent ESSEX council wasting taxpayers money as usual and syphoning money in their private account.

    1. GNewton says:

      “The incompetent ESSEX council wasting taxpayers money as usual and syphoning money in their private account.”

      This is a common issue. They often take taxpayer’s money to finance someone else’s broadband while the taxpayer itself won’t get the same service. This is one of the many flaws of the BDUK process.

      Another flaw of the BDUK is that, with the aid of taxpayer’s money, infractructure competition and the deployment of innovative nextgen broadband technologies is actually PREVENTED from happening. There are quite a few areas in Essex which are now worse off BECAUSE of the BDUK.

      So as a damage control, let’s hope that the Essex County will at least respond to Freedom of Information Act requests and make postcode rollout data and detailed network infrastructure costing publicly available now!

    2. fastman2 says:

      Finaldest are you a new Build or recent new build as if you are you are probavly not in either programme

    3. fastman2 says:


      not sure how you work out areas are worse off becuase of BDUK as the copper is the copper and openreach cannot worsen the broadband when it does a cab enablement

    4. No Clue says:

      “Finaldest are you a new Build or recent new build as if you are you are probavly not in either programme”

      Did you use special powers to decide that or are you the only one that knows who is and is not in this “87%”

    5. fastman2 says:

      no cloe

      if the post code did not exist whem the martk test adn you are a new build where the devloper only asked for vouice services there is a pretty high change you weill be neither the commerucal or BDUK programme (not specific to essex and affecting a number of new recently completed new builds across the UK

    6. No Clue says:

      Or the short non-gobbly gook, destruction of English version. You do not know what homes, no matter their age which are connected to a “fibre” cabinet and which are not. In the fairy tale 87%.

    7. fastman2 says:

      Its worse than that New Build often does not get a postcode untill late stage of developement so if no postcode available then no view of development – depending on whether that developer has engaged with the infrastructure provider around fibre and not as BAU – voice Provisions — then either the devlopement will end on a copper cab a substantial distance from developemt it is serving or it will either get a brand new Copper cab – in bosts cases its is hightly lilkley that in both of these situation there will beno visibility to the local authority or infrastructure provider that these are new developments – and so you find new developments not covered by either commercial or BDUK deployment – or coveeed and no uplift due to distance (this is nothing to do with essex -affetcs all counties – however essex have prioritised business which means you would expect to get less premieses covered than a county that did not prioritise businesss

      a typically business park is normally circa 40 – 70 premises at max (majority problably at the lower end of that

  5. TomD says:

    I think there are several particular considerations why altnets aren’t filling the gaps left by BDUK (and those gaps are pretty big – Uttlesford district manages to get only to 64% NGA coverage by the end of the project, leaving 36% without superfast)
    (1) the sparceness of the mast network in north-west Essex means fixed wireless operators need to invest more
    (2) “alternative technologies” from BDUK: large areas on Essex on their map are coloured yellow indicating alternative technologies are to be rolled out there – but what those technologies are is secret/undecided. Possibly wireless, so fixed wireless altnets would be competing directly against BT.
    (3) Superfast Extension Programme. On 8th July Essex will decide how much of the £10mio on offer they will match; that will put all the calculations of postcode coverage by BDUK back to square one.

  6. Andrew Thomson says:

    As a home based Graphic Design business, I have already complained to Essex CC, my MP and various others about the Superfast Essex project. As mentioned in the article there is a complete lack of information available and only a Mickey Mouse map (called – vision-good-practice – Jeez, these people are kind to themselves!) to show rough areas getting improvements.

    BT/Openreach have pretty much cleaned up on all the role out contracts despite the fact that housing density in some more rural parts of Essex mean running cable or fibre optics is not the most appropriate method. I know of at least three other wireless or satellite based companies that could make better use of the funding and reach more people at a cheaper cost than BT. To make matters worse there are huge holes in the roll out where it appears nothing will change and 2Mbps is regarded as adequate.

    Added to this is the fact that the BT copper wire infrastructure in many areas is in such poor condition that it is hardly fit for standard telephones let alone any sort of broadband. My local exchange has not even been unbundled yet so how long will we actually have to wait for ANY sort of broadband let alone a superfast version?

    When BT have made it clear that they are not interested in upgrading the local cables and we still have DAX boxes on most poles, are they really the most suitable supplier to roll out the superfast project? I don’t think so.

    As it currently stands the superfast project will simply increase what I call Rural Apartheid with the more rural areas increasingly left behind and effectively discriminated against. This leaves rural businesses at a massive disadvantage when trying to compete. For example, my current broadband fees for a fast satellite based system are 4 times what I could get a “normal” copper based service for and it is data limited, which means I have to think about everything I do. No mean feat when I am trying to download photographs and upload artwork to printers etc.

    I know of many businesses nearby who are all experiencing the same problems. There are farms, pubs, shops and other businesses based in farm locations that are all crying out for a decent and economic service. I should also point out that any business that employs staff is now required by law to have an internet connection as HMRC and VAT require returns and real time information to be supplied on-line.

    Some years ago Essex CC pioneered a wireless internet system in Maldon so they have the experience of alternative technologies, yet they have not exploited that technology to compete with BT and make a real difference and seem to have simply caved in to BT rather than look at the actual needs and requirements of the county. With point to point wireless, distributed networks, satellite systems and now white space technologies all looking like they are a better solution to rural broadband why are we still waiting for BT, who may or may not finally get round to our village at some point in the dim and distant future.

    No Essex CC it is not good enough and in May I will be looking for a councilor who will do something about it.

    1. TDD says:

      Uttlesford have recently put out a tender to get wireless broadband coverage of the final 7% (c.5000 premises) that SuperfastEssex Phase2 won’t cover. The council requires that the provider is able to reach all areas in the District. So I guess that shows that SuperfastEssex have admitted they can’t do it all, and Uttlesford has taken up the challenge to look after their own.

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