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Gigaclear Deal Brings 1Gbps FTTP Broadband to 4,500 Essex Premises

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 (1:26 pm) - Score 1,917

The state aid fuelled Superfast Essex project in England has become to latest to break with the tradition of BT contracts by agreeing to a new £7.5m deal with Gigaclear, which will see 4,500 premises in the Epping Forest area benefit from their “ultrafast” 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

The full funding split is not stated, although investment for this “Rural Challenge Project” is coming from Gigaclear, the UK Government, Essex County Council and Epping Forest District Council has contributed £84,000. Apparently if the project is successful then the local authority will “consider expanding this approach to other rural areas in Essex” (i.e. rural locations not yet included in their current Broadband Delivery UK based plans).

Otherwise most of the new network will be in the north-east of Epping Forest (i.e. Fyfield, Stapleford Tawney, Bobbingworth, Ongar, Moreton, Magdalen Laver, High Laver, Little Laver, and Theydon Mount). But some parts of the following communities will also benefit: High Ongar, Willingale, Abbess Beauchamp and Berners Roding, Stapleford Abbotts, Stanford Rivers, Matching, North Weald Bassett, Lambourne, Theydon Garnon, Sheering, Epping Upland, Theydon Bois and Chigwell.

Ed Vaizey MP, Digital Economy Minister, said:

The Superfast Essex programme has made tremendous progress in rolling out superfast broadband to rural communities. I’m delighted to hear that even more people and businesses in Epping Forest will now benefit from this project with Gigaclear as part of our commitment to ensure 95 per cent of the UK has access to superfast speeds by 2017.”

Matthew Hare, CEO of Gigaclear, added:

We are thrilled to have been selected by Essex County Council to deliver what will be one of the fastest broadband networks in the UK. Once connected, customers on this purely fibre based network will benefit from a transformed Internet, work, communications, entertainment and play experience. Everyone in a household or business can have enough broadband capacity to do online, whatever they want, whenever they want, saving time and reducing frustration.”

The construction phase is due to start in November 2015 and will complete by December 2016, although the first customers should be able to connect as soon as December this year. Customers typically pay from £38.80 per month for Gigaclear’s entry-level symmetric 50Mbps package (no phone line rental required).

Meanwhile the wider Superfast Essex project is still working to make BT’s slower “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network available to 87% of local homes and businesses by the end of summer (benefitting 65,000 premises) and a new contract was recently signed that will extend this to another 51,000 premises (here).

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13 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    Some really nice areas that I know well.

    What’s puzzling me is that @ 7.5 million this appears to equate to about 1.6k per premise. Why is that so high?

    And perhaps more to the point, and this seems a reasonable assumption: how can BT be so grossly inefficient and backward that they could not have used their existing ducts and poles to deliver this more cheaply, so that it was cheaper to build entirely from scratch?

    And a further question arises: if BT were awarded contracts for some of the neighbouring areas and this is “gap filling”, how has the 1.6k per premise number been impacted by the decision to use a mix, potentially rendering some areas less commercially viable, rather than simply using Gigaclear to do those neighbouring areas too attracting greater private investment by offering a wider target area with more customers?

    1. Avatar TheManStan says:

      BT is a big beastie and has lots of inertia, I don’t think that they developed the skill base on a wide enough level nationally for being able to deliver these kind of projects efficiently. Small dynamic companies have gone for fibre from outset skill up and are setup from the outset.

      Hence, BTORs choice of incremental fibre extension with G.Fast, with FTTP premium option. Which gives them more time for training and skilling up their workforce.

    2. Avatar DTMark says:

      Take Fyfield as an example. IIRC (years since I’ve been there) it consists of a petrol station, two little housing estates next door one of which is quite new, a couple of shops, and a single road with houses at the sides maybe a mile or two long.

      Start at one end, pop the fibre on the poles, work along the road with a cherry picker and a two man team – can’t take long to do that. FTTP available to all premises in no time. When someone orders, rip out the copper drop the house and pop a fibre one on. A “cable” style drop, no more than an hour’s work.

      But it is apparently cheaper/more efficient to dig ducting all around said area and lay a brand new network.

      Makes me wonder if BT held out for silly money and Essex have called their bluff and fired a warning shot about where the rest of the money will be going.

    3. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      I don’t know whether this one went to tender, but if you look at Superfast Cornwall, it has 85,000 premises passed with FTTH (that is to the manifold – like Gigaclear it doesn’t include the final drop). So at about £1,600 per property that would be £136m in total. However, we know that the total project cost (including BT’s contribution) was £132 million. In addition to the FTTH it also included around double that number of properties covered by FTTC and, in addition, the £2.3m cost of cutting and re-routing an undersea fibre link to the Isles of Scilly. So it’s clear that the total cost per premises of FTTH in Cornwall must be considerably less than £1,600 per premises passed.

      I don’t see why Essex would cost more than that. Indeed, I would have thought it less challenging.

      The truth might be in the level of gap funding (which is unclear). I think it must be a lot lower than in Cornwall or, possibly, BT are short on manpower resources Unfortunately the process is a little opaque at this stage.

      nb. it’s not impossible that Gigaclear will use some of BT’s passive infrastructure.

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      That’s an interesting number….

      I have a recollection about being told of a £1,700 threshold for North Yorkshire, but I can’t find where. Their most recent phase had become £750 per property, and the expectation is that the amounts for anything beyond the existing contract will be around £1,500 per property, unless FTTRN can be made to work.

      Meanwhile, the launch of phase 1 in Northern Lincolnshire specifically mentions a “£1,700 premises cap”. The project overall was listed as £7.3m for 31,000 premises, so averages £235. That cap of £1,700 has to signify something a *long* way from the average.

      Interesting to see, then, that the Gigaclear award is just under this same threshold.

    5. Avatar TomD says:

      Funding for the rural challenge project was about £2 million from Essex, presumably matches by £2m from BDUK, and £3.5m from Gigaclear.
      This project was put out to tender and I shouldn’t think BT even bid for it. Tender here -> http://england.unitedkingdom-tenders.co.uk/75151_Superfast_Essex_Rural_Challenge_Project_0146_BDUK_Phase_2B_2014_Chelmsford

    6. Avatar DTMark says:

      Fyfield is probably the exception in the list as it’s so easy to do, a complete no-brainer. The cost is surely not much more than the time required to string the fibre from one pole to the next mostly along one straight road – barely a few hundred pounds per premise if that. A really quick win, cheap as chips.

      Some of the others would be soft verge digging – really quite rural with narrow lanes.

      I raise the point about costs increasing in “fill in” areas because the groups of areas are not contiguous and therefore I would guess that some of the projects are really small in scope but still all need backhaul.

  2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    The £1700 figure may be a coincidence, but it has the feeling of a realistic number albeit that seems to be the total. We’d need to know the full breakdown to see the state assistance.

    Looking back through reports, the Cotswold Broadband contract for around 6,100 homes has a total budge of £6.4mn of which half is public money. That’s a more modest £1,050 per premises passed.

    The Fastershire/Gigaclear project is for £10m for about 6,450 properties, which is back to about £1,550 per premises passed, of which £3m is public momey. Confusingly the press release mentioned £5.6m from BDUK and matching funds from the local authority, so who knows?

    I suspect these projects are counting on a relatively high takeup rates, which might well be reasonable if existing services are very slow.

  3. Avatar FTTX says:

    BT’s homes passed model is nothing like Gigaclears, much of BT’s cost is deferred. If you get paid for homes passed, why do more than you have to.

    I would suggest that from FTTP Homes Passed to Connected Gigaclear will be 5-10x faster (depending how long the garden is).

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      I think 5-10x is a bit of an exaggeration. One bit of evidence is that the BT charge for an FTTP install seems to be £100, very similar to the Gigaclear cost if you lay the cable to the boundary of the property yourself (otherwise add another £90 or so).

      So no doubt the Gigaclear model does save some workforce time at the point of final delivery, but if the real difference was 5-10x as you suggest, there would surely be some very considerable difference in installation charges.

  4. Avatar FTTX says:

    I am very confident that 5-10x is correct if not generous to BT’s ‘current’ methods.
    (I have simulated both here & assisting in speeding up FTTx rollout is what we do).

    BT requires fibre blowing from DP. If Aerial drop is the method they need to put up the Drop duct first from the Manifold to home, then blow, then splice x2 minimum.

    ‘Working at heights’, ‘Fibre Blowing team (2 man currently)’ then Splicers. £££££

    Gigaclear, you plug in a patch cable to a pre-terminated demarcation at the end of your garden. 1 Man, the customer can even do it themselves.

    SKY / CITYFIBRE / TalkTalk / VM / Gigaclear… they all have more sensible Homes passed models. They need subscribers to get revenue.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      Isn’t this the stuff that BT are re-working as part of their trials for getting FoD going again?

      A different form of fibre? A different way of splitting? More connectorisation instead of splicing?

    2. Avatar FTTX says:

      @ Mikew, Possibly. I can’t comment on what they may do only on what their original model was.

      If they can make their DP (Splitters) less open to damage and add connectorisation close to the Subscriber, it will make things a lot easier. Possibly you could use contractors for final drops then. Their Homes passed costs will ramp though, the original HP models was bare bones.

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