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Superfast Wales Reaches Half-Way Point with “Fibre Broadband” Rollout

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 (10:08 am) - Score 979

The UK Government’s Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, has revealed that the Superfast Cymru project has now helped an additional 345,000 homes and businesses in Wales to receive BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network, which is roughly half-way to the current completion target of 690,000+ by the end of spring 2016 (96% coverage).

The new figure is up sharply from the 299,876 recorded at the end of 2014 (here) and comes less than a month after BT announced that the total coverage of their FTTC/P network in Wales had reached 1 million homes and businesses (this includes BT’s separate commercial deployment). Some 130,000 of that 1 million total are in Cardiff, with Swansea seeing 90,000.

The Superfast Cymru scheme, which among other investment is supported by £56,930,000 from the central Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, tends to focus on areas where the private sector operators, such as BT and Virgin Media, have struggled to upgrade due to issues of commercial unviability (i.e. too expensive).

Ed Vaizey said (here):

Superfast broadband coverage in Wales has now reached over 1 million premises, over two-thirds of the total in Wales. 345,000 premises have gained coverage as a result of the Superfast Cymru broadband programme which has funding from the UK government, Welsh Government and European funds.”

As we recall the next near-term target for Superfast Cymru is to reach around 480,000 households by Spring 2015. Meanwhile BDUK has already allocated an additional £12.11m for future work beyond spring 2016, which must be matched by the local government and will inevitably extend the network into even more rural areas.

Meanwhile there’s still a big question mark over precisely what proportion of that 96% will actually receive the government’s stated “superfast broadband” speeds of 24Mbps+ (Megabits per second), which is something that we focused on in last year’s article – Let’s Stop Having Different UK Definitions for “Superfast Broadband”.

Officially the Welsh Government will only say that “the majority of homes and businesses will be able to access broadband download speeds in excess of 30Mbps by 2016, with at least 40% of all the premises in the intervention area also benefitting from access to services in excess of 100Mbps“.

Leave a Comment
38 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    BDUK has just denied me speed ranges for the whole country. What are they trying to hide?

    https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/percentage_speed_ranges_of_fibre

    1. Avatar James Harrison says:

      Section 21 exempts information from a FOIA response if it is already accessible. They’ve then linked you to what appears to be what you’ve asked for…

    2. Avatar gerarda says:

      @james so all Patrick has to do to get at this “accessible information” is to work out all the postcodes funded by BDUK and then check each one individually as suggested by DCMS?

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      A script that is the work of mere minutes. I have something similar working here.

    4. Avatar AndyH says:

      Speed ranges are 2Mbps – 80Mbps.

    5. Avatar gerarda says:

      no they are 0Mbps to 80Mbps

    6. Avatar AndyH says:

      Openreach will not provision below 2Mbps, so 0Mbps is not relevant.

    7. Avatar gerarda says:

      Not irrelevent if your are connected to a BDUK funded cab and cannot get a service

    8. Avatar AndyH says:

      Fine – then they should also include 100Mbps.

      The % of people that can receive a service is not the same as the speed range.

    9. Avatar Henry says:

      The first three links seem to work. The fourth and fifth look broken, but together probably aim at the story here http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/02/gov-helps-put-2-million-extra-uk-premises-reach-superfast-broadband.html

    10. Avatar hallelujah says:

      I thought 2Mbps was considered a fault level not a provision level.

    11. Avatar AndyH says:

      Your assumption is incorrect. 2Mbps is the lowest provision level, it’s up to ISPs though whether they are willing to provide that low (most have a minimum of 10Mbps).

    12. Avatar hallelujah says:

      You stated earlier Openreach will not provision below 2Mb. Regardless my aunts so called “fibre” Infinity BT service runs at around 5Mb upload and only 1.8Mb download, she was told it was a fault when installed which would be rectified. 2 Years later and 7 engineer visits no improvement.

      The only reason she has not kicked up more fuss is prior to that she could have no broadband at all (too far from the exchange at over 8km) she has now got so called fibre infinity and is around 6km from the cabinet ive not had chance to measure exactly, but that is no doubt the reason for the lousy speeds. Clearly she should not had even been provisioned if what you say is correct, or if she should had been provisioned then she is not getting the 2Mb minimum.

    13. Avatar AndyH says:

      Provision means ordering the service – if the estimates fall below 2Mbps, you cannot order with Openreach.

      Your story doesn’t make much sense as you would never have been able to order FTTC on a line 6km from the DSLAM. Also two years ago, Openreach were not provisioning on lines below 10Mbps.

    14. Avatar hallelujah says:

      Whether you think it makes sense or not that is what has occurred.

      What is the maximum line length you can order FTTC on then?

      As to the claim about “Openreach were not provisioning on lines below 10Mbps.”
      Clearly you are mistaken on that also.
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/03/why-fibre-based-broadband-is-not-always-superfast.html

  2. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    James, two of the links they gave me didn’t work. Unless I’m reading it incorrectly, the third gave me a range of speeds per local authority irrespective of whether lines were upgraded commercially, upgraded by a BDUK-funded programme, or not upgraded at all. I asked for the ranges of speeds per BDUK-funded area, which is quite different. But I’m happy to stand corrected. Kind regards, Patrick

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      The data DCMS were referring is national data, if you can count only having data for three quarters of the country as being national and does not break it down into funded and non-funded.

      I think you would be better off ringing the guy at BDUK who compiles the superfast coverage stats

      Henry Bottomley
      [admin note: private details removed]

    2. Avatar DTMark says:

      Perhaps the clue is in the article title – this is only about the “fibre rollout” which is somewhat meaningless.

      When might we get some news about the BDUK superfast broadband programme? Is that a concurrent project? Is someone else doing that? Or, was it scrapped altogether but nobody has yet been told?

      😉

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The links work.

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      @patrick
      I guess it depends how you interpret a “BDUK-funded project area”.

      Almost every county could be considered as a “project area”, as almost each county has its own project covering the county.

      IMHO your request doesn’t clearly specify that you mean BDUK-funded cabinets and no commercial cabinets. You want to specify clearly that you want to see the impact on the intervention area only.

      @gerarda
      Do you expect national data to hold much more? Isn’t there only around 82% of the country taking broadband?

    5. Avatar gerarda says:

      @mikew if its that easy why is DCMS not prepared to release the data?

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      @gerarda

      Why don’t they release the data? In general…

      I guess acting on a FoI request takes time and effort for a government employee – spending UK taxpayer money gathering and presenting information in a way that the requester asks for, rather than the way in which the government department has ordered it.

      Rightly, there has to be a judgement about whether that data is already available to the requester, even if it isn’t presented in the way he wants: this is, after all, a freedom service, not a “reorganise the stats for me” service.

      I see nothing wrong, in general, with rejecting a FoI request if the data is publicly available, even if it means the requester has to go to a lot of effort to put the numbers together in the way he specifically wants.

      This particular FoI request…

      … seems fairly vague to me, and can certainly be interpreted in a way where, yes, the data is already public. And, for the following reasons, I can understand their haste in rejecting the request.

      A lot of the vagueness comes from the fact that Patrick spent 80% of the DCMS request making more of a political statement about BT than in carefully detailing the statistics he wants access to. In particular his insistence that “he knows” that BT keeps the statistics makes it feel badly targetted: DCMS can, of course, only release information that they hold; a FoI request on government can’t get information out of a company.

      It does not come over as a well-thought-through request; it has the appearance of someone wanting to rant at the government and BT. Someone who wanted to fire off this rant as soon as he read the DEFRA transcript, but without thinking through his actual request. Someone who was well-seasoned at firing off FoI requests as a way of achieving their rants, even if it appeared that the government was not the place that held the information he requested.

      When a FoI agent comes across a request that appears 80% rant and 20% vague, misdirected, request, I’d not be surprised if it were treated as something to be swept aside as fast as possible. Their job isn’t to come back with critique asking for a better request, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of their job is in dealing with tenuous, frivolous requests. The more a requester can distinguish his request from those frivolous ones, the more chance he has of it being acted upon seriously.

      Asking for the information that I think Patrick sought is fine by me, and it’d be interesting to know. But I’d expect a request from someone who signs on behalf of a broadband campaign to be able to construct a request in a more professional way, without vagueness, without rant nor rancour, and without wriggle room to let a FoI agent easily reject it.

      In short, DCMS rejected it because Patrick, IMO, made it easier to reject than to fulfil.

      “If it is so easy”…

      By “so easy”, are you asking about my comment on the earlier thread?

      If so, the script may well be easy. Getting the volume of data you want out of it is a labour of many months.

    7. Avatar DTMark says:

      But all the work has already been done, necessarily so.

      To suggest that the information simply isn’t available in any compiled form would almost be to imply that the purchaser left it to the supplier to determine what was being purchased.

    8. Avatar TheFacts says:

      So what, exactly, does PC want, and how will he use it?

    9. Avatar hallelujah says:

      Maybe he as a tax payer just wants to know if his taxes are being spent to give people “superfast” over 24Mb broadband. Do you have an issue with people knowing that?

    10. Avatar GNewton says:

      @hallelujah: “Do you have an issue with people knowing that?” Yes, TheFacts clearly has issues with this. He repeated avoids doing his own research, and yet posts his strange questions on ISPReview.

  3. Avatar Jonny says:

    Cwmaman still not done. End of July I’m told now, this July I hope they mean.

  4. Avatar Lynd says:

    Well i have been trying to get info out of them for a number of months regarding cab data, but i am being told its commercial information, even when the village i live in is being upgraded wholly using the “superfast cymru” ticket…additionally i am seeing more and more reports of them upgrading a exchange area with 1-2 cabs then moving on and taking 6-12 months or more to upgrade the remaining cabs in a area..

    It could be suggested that BT are doing the work that gives them the best cost advantage (upgrading the exchange) then moving on quickly….basically meaning minimal coverage within a area that is upgraded…

  5. Avatar NGA for all says:

    So that’s circa 1500 cabinets. The engineering effort must be saluted.

    Are Wales in the £23k (before BT contribution) average miletsones to cash process, or are they paying some specially prepared unit costs.

    If £23k before BT contribution – then total actual bill will be – £34.5m for 50% coverage from a total subsidy pot of £200m so what is the FTTP target?

    To spend the money, BT needs more engineers on FTTP.

    1. Avatar fw says:

      Also consider issues with rolling out FTTP, human resources required and delays it may cause in bringing superfast, as well as aiding BT in its’ monopoly, which can’t be good.

      I don’t see why they shouldn’t though, bad enough trying to get 10km of fibre to one place, but getting power to that cabinet can involve a lot of work beforehand too.

      If they really are underspending, they should shift focus toward the areas in Wales that cannot even get above 2mbps first. It’s not fair on isolated homes and villages across the country which may or may not lack adequate transport to faster areas.

  6. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    Dear MikeW

    Superfast Cymru has it for all of Wales because it reflects the way that BT provides it.

    See link: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/rural_broadband_take_up_6#incoming-579185

    So I refuse to believe that they don’t have it for all of UK.

    Re-reading my latest request, I don’t see it as a rant, I was simply quoting Sean Williams’ evasiveness as a prelude to give context to my very specific request.

    Kind regards

    Patrick

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      As the rollout is not complete what are your conclusions?

    2. Avatar DTMark says:

      I thought this was about the targets and what is planned to be delivered.

      The stage of the project doesn’t have anything to do with what has been purchased by tax payers, or what the targets are.

      Targets are not the proverbial ‘moveable feast’.

    3. Avatar hallelujah says:

      Not to mention if a target figure can be reduced then so should the funding.

    4. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The Wales letter is about take-up, at the top you talk about speed ranges. Which?

    5. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: “As the rollout is not complete what are your conclusions?”
      Why do you even care?

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      Aye Patrick, but all the prelude does is mask the actual request. It sidetracks the government employee into thinking you are making a rant, and makes him want to get rid of you, rather than answer you.

      If you wish to add context, which could be good, then do so as an addendum. Don’t lead the whole letter with it.

      By leading with the BT transcript, it certainly looks like your only intention in making the FoI is to prove the BT man wrong. It doesn’t just add context – it sets the whole scene for the reader, but not in a way that is favourable to your request.

      And in adding superfluous detail (especially the reference to what you know BT collects), it gives DCMS a way to get rid of you too.

      If the request looked like you had spent a good amount of time formulating the request, and a variety of data, it looks like it deserves a response. If it looks thrown together in 30 seconds then, apologies, but it deserves an answer that takes 30 seconds.

      The linked request to Wales had nothing superfluous, and no obvious way out. A great example of why the other one would have felt frivolous.

      Both could be improved by giving an example result snippet that showed the kind of result you were after.

      Even better… Mr Vaizey told the recent Westminster debate that the “homes reached” figures for superfast speeds were audited. Wouldn’t it be better, if you ask DCMS for data, that you reference the departmental minister rather than a spokesman for a third party talking to a fourth party?

  7. Avatar Michael says:

    Good to see progress, but disappointed to see that there is still a gap between this Welsh Governments public policy statement of 100% coverage at 30Mbps minimum download (sustained) by July 2015 through multiple measures and technologies including the contract with BT.

    Perhaps in negotiations somebody forgot what the policy goal was ?

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