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Worcestershire UK Cheers BDUK and BT Fibre Broadband Uptake Surge

Monday, January 26th, 2015 (8:03 am) - Score 780

The £20m Superfast Worcestershire scheme in England, which is using state aid to help BT deploy “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 90% of local premises by June 2016, appears to have seen take-up of related services skyrocket since its seemingly dismal showing of 3.2% in September 2014.

Readers might recall that Worcestershire’s project came in for some arguably premature criticism from local politicians last month (here). The Labour Councillor, Paul Denham, even questioned whether it was worthwhile spending millions of pounds to improve broadband connectivity “when people are homeless, struggling on benefits and relying on food banks … the rate of sign-up is very low and that rather questions whether there is demand in the first place“.

In fairness we often caution readers not to use take-up, particularly within the first year, as a tool of singular judgement because there are often other more complicated factors at work (See the Full BDUK Uptake Figures for All Areas). The fact that Worcestershire’s scheme only got started last year is also a key consideration.

General wide-area deployments often take a bit longer before consumers a) become aware of the new service, b) see a need for it (especially if they live in areas that can already benefit from good ADSL2+ speeds) and c) are willing or able (e.g. locked into existing contracts) to spend the extra £5-£15 per month premium in order to receive it.

Worcestershire’s scheme had only managed to reach an additional 6,833 homes and businesses by the end up September 2014, when it scored the take-up figure of 3.2% (note: this reflects take-up in BDUK upgraded areas only and does not include commercial deployments), but happily the project appears to have ramped up.

The latest data states that, in the three months from September to December 2014, Worcestershire ended up massively exceeding its original year-end target of 10,000 premises upgraded and achieved a total of 15,014 with take-up jumping to 10% (note: as of last week the project had reached 16,110 premises passed).

Simon Geraghty, Deputy Leader of Worcestershire County Council, said:

While the Superfast Worcestershire programme deployment is still in the very early stages, we are pleased with the rise in take up levels from three per cent in September. Take-up of the new infrastructure is steady and reflects where we are with the roll-out. The nature of the roll-out programme means we’re connecting communities in phases and the take-up figures are a reflection of this.

In the meantime our project teams are working hard to raise awareness of the benefits and stimulate demand in communities where we are rolling out faster fibre broadband and reminding local people they have to choose to upgrade – it’s not something that happens automatically. We are looking to focus on stimulating demand over the coming months and throughout the programme.”

The project is currently well on its way towards achieving the goal of helping to upgrade an additional 55,000 premises by the completion date and it’s likely that a second contract in the near future will see “fibre broadband” coverage pushed even further (the government wants 95% to be within reach of fixed line superfast broadband by 2017). Take note that BT’s separate commercial investment has already helped the same service to reach 176,000 premises in the county.

Since the end of last year the Government has also invested around £8 million into a big advertising drive for its Broadband Delivery UK scheme, which aims to raise awareness of the new connectivity options and encourage take-up.

Crucially many BDUK schemes may be able to “claw-back” some of the public investment in order to expand coverage once take-up passes the 20% market, although it’s still too early to assess this.

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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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19 Responses
  1. Avatar DanielM

    would not really get excited with super slow 80Mb copper broadband anyway.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      I’m sure if your choice were that or sub-2Mb you would be somewhat more interested. For many it’s the fastest service they can get and allows them to do more online.

      I’m not enthralled by it, I had a faster downstream service in 2011, however it made a big difference over the 1.3Mb I was enjoying when I moved home.

    • Avatar DanielM

      i would never put money in BT’s pocket (directly)

      and i would vote for 3G if i was in a case like that

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      Your call if you want to choose dogma over practicality.

    • Avatar gerarda

      thats assuming you can get 3G – a big assumption

    • Avatar CliveRutford

      What a waste of money

  2. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove

    But that means that 90% haven’t taken it up – hardly a success story. Still, as you say, Mark, we have to wait a little longer.

    • Hmm well you don’t need 90% take-up for success. BT ideally needs to reach 20% on FTTC in order to make a service economically viable over a period of years. Similarly I think Gigaclear, which uses a demand based commercial model, tends to need about 30% for its rural FTTP deployments to hold water.

      I think at the end of 2015 we’ll be able to look back at all of the projects and hopefully see what uptake has been for those areas which have been live for 12 months+ and judge that.

      Lest we not forget that Virgin’s cable platform is available to around 12.4m homes and yet just 4.4m take the service, albeit largely due to competition from rivals on BTOpenreach’s infrastructure. By contrast of course the BDUK deployments should benefit from having very little NGA infrastructure competition.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Indeed, but if the increase of 2% every month continues, it will look very different in a year or two. The commercial programme was also predicated on a steady, not sudden increase in take up.

      Also, as the linked item mentions, many customers are on fixed term contracts and it will take time before they migrate to different packages.

      In any event, if the take-up doesn’t hit the threshold, then Openreach will lose money. The BDUK stated intention is that the service will eventually be self-sustaining.

      I’d also say from personal experience there is a lack of awareness. My stepbrother lives in a fairly rural part of Lincolnshire, and he was complaining about his (ADSL) speed – about 2mbps. They had FTTC available, but had no idea what the difference would be (from where the cabinet is, it looks like it has the potential to go over 30 times faster).

  3. Avatar GNewton

    10% takeup rate is nothing, and illustrates how wrong the BDUK approach really is!

    What we need, is a completely different regulation environment, and different laws, to do a 100% takeup rate, yes, 100%, by REPLACING copper with fibre.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      And fibre would assure a 100% take up rate?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      I suppose the argument would be that it would be 100% if it is compulsory (as intended in Jersey, albeit that looks to be delayed now). Of course such a thing would require huge regulatory and legislative changes.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Please, please provide a link to full details about how the UK would move to full fibre. Would this replace the VM network?

    • Avatar CliveRutford

      “Would this replace the VM network?”

      Why would you want to replace a decent TV network with BT fibre?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Why would you change your name, again?

    • Avatar No Clue

      LMAO anyone that has anything of sense to say you just love attacking like a complete moronic lunatic don’t you.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @No Clue: As regards the “Why would you change your name, again?”:

      As regards FibreFred/GMA99: We are dealing here with a troll who has nothing better to do than to defend his beloved BT (bit strange when you consider e.g. http://www.ispreview.co.uk/review/products/7.html), and to attack other users who dare to disagree with him. It’s a pity that this forum is without a moderator because then his attacks on other posters would stop. BTW: He sometimes does the same as GMAN99 on thinkbroadband, too!

    • Avatar No Clue

      The McRAgE twit goes by many names and will attack randomly accusing people of all types of imaginary lunatic nonsense. I actually admire his efforts to try to show BT are not the sack of poop most review it to be.

  4. Avatar Superslow Broadband

    So I’m Worcestershire based and just 20 minutes away from central Birmingham (with an 0121 phone code) yet still no idea of when we’re getting a fibre connection down our road.

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