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BT Signs GBP22.4m Superfast Broadband Rollout for South Yorkshire

Friday, September 19th, 2014 (7:36 am) - Score 1,799
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As expected BT has now officially signed a new Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) contract that will aim to roll-out FTTC/P based “fibre broadband” services to 98% of South Yorkshire (i.e. Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield) by the end of 2017.

The new programme was first proposed by the coalition Government in January 2014 (here), which followed shortly after the alternative £150m Digital Region Ltd. (DRL) network ended up suffocating under the weight of its own public debt (here).

But the closure of DRL, which by its end last month had made VDSL2 based superfast broadband services available to some 80% of South Yorkshire, meant that many people in the region were once again left without access to a next gen broadband service. In some areas existing DRL users were even forced back to a significantly slower ADSL service on BT’s platform.

The Government’s proposed solution to this situation was for its BDUK programme to pledge an additional £10.4 million to the region, which would need to be matched by the local authorities and a chosen supplier. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given July’s report, BT ended up winning the contract.

Bill Murphy, MD of BT’s NGA Division, said:

Superfast broadband is a key part of the present and future success of the whole of South Yorkshire. The technology is vital to modern life whether you are a high-tech start-up or an established family firm in a traditional industry such as manufacturing. It will become even more essential in the increasingly ‘connected world’ of the future.

Fibre broadband is now becoming essential for consumers too. Existing broadband is struggling to support the growing number of web based devices in the home. All these devices will be competing for the same limited bandwidth, and basic broadband services with slow speeds will increasingly become a major bottleneck.”

The irony of this situation will surely not be lost on the local authorities, which originally setup DRL following frustration at BT’s seeming reluctance to upgrade the local infrastructure. At one point last year there was even the prospect that BT might win a tender to takeover DRLs network (here), but instead the councils chose a foreign operator and DRL ultimately closed before that deal could even be completed.

Meanwhile BT’s commercial roll-out of “fibre broadband” technology has already made related services available to more than 242,500 homes and businesses across South Yorkshire.

Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council, said:

We’ll increase fibre broadband coverage across South Yorkshire, taking it from the current 80% to around 98% by the end of 2017. Private sector investment from BT is helping us to make this £22 million project happen. This is a major achievement for the city region, and a huge step forwards for South Yorkshire.

We’ve committed to providing superfast broadband in the Sheffield City Region Strategic Economic Plan, as it’s fundamental to our vision for growth. This will keep us in the digital infrastructure fast lane, making us competitive when it comes to attracting inward investment.”

As usual BT’s deployment, which is anticipated to start connecting the first communities and businesses from summer 2015, will be dominated by their up to 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) connectivity (there’s also a small possibility of some FTTP). The FTTC (VDSL2) service is based off the same sort of approach as DRL’s largely independent network took, except that it’ll be many times cheaper to help BT upgrade what they already have than to build a separate network like DRL.

But the new Superfast South Yorkshire project probably won’t do much to benefit the centre of Sheffield city because city centres tend to be off-limits to BDUK schemes due to EU competition concerns.

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Mark Jackson
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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2 Responses
  1. Matthew Williams

    In fairness BT should really be able afford do a city centre themselves at least most of it. Nice to know such a high percentage will recieve 24Mbps+ speeds though.

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