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Cumbria, Devon and Somerset – BDUK Fibre Broadband Rollout Progress

Tuesday, Jul 21st, 2015 (1:59 pm) - Score 495

A couple of the Government’s Broadband Delivery projects, including the Connecting Cumbria and Connecting Devon and Somerset schemes in England, have just passed important milestones in the progress of their state aid supported “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) deployments with BT.

Firstly there’s the Phase 1 BDUK project for Cumbria, which aims to bring “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connectivity to 93% of local homes and businesses in the county by the end of this year. Apparently 90,000 additional premises have already benefitted from this scheme (up from 70,000 just a few short months ago), which means that the regions overall “fibre coverage” now stands at more than 75%.

The local authority further reports that 66.6% of properties who have gained access to this service through the scheme are getting average speeds of over 50Mbps, which sounds about right since BT’s Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology has a headline rate of up to 80Mbps.

In relation to this Connecting Cumbria’s business support programme, Big Cumbria, states that more than £15.1m of Gross Value Added (GVA) improvements have been reported by the SMEs supported (around 3,300 have engaged with the scheme), which is nearly double the programme target of £8.5m. But estimates like this should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Pat Bell, Cumbria County Council’s Deputy Leader, said:

Connecting Cumbria’s programme is ahead of schedule and is already changing lives. The second wave of investment from 2015 onwards will help us reach even further into communities and get to some of the properties we couldn’t reach first time around.”

Despite the progress it’s important to reflect that 75% is still a long way from 93% and progress can often slow as the focus switches to more remote rural locations. However the local authority are clearly confident of meeting the target, or possibly even completing earlier than anticipated, but with only half a year left there’s a lot still to get done.

In addition a new Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) contract was recently signed (here), which will push the coverage to around 95% and benefit an extra +5,000 or so premises.

Devon and Somerset

Elsewhere the £94m Connecting Devon and Somerset project, which is similarly working with BT to make “superfast broadband” speeds available to over 90% of local premises by the end of 2016, has passed the half-way mark by revealing that they’ve delivered related services to 170,000 premises in both counties (note: 150,000 can get superfast 24Mbps+ speeds).

Apparently some 770 street cabinets (FTTC) have so far been installed to help achieve this and it’s worth pointing out that 690,000 Devon and Somerset premises already have access to “fibre broadband” when BT’s separate commercial programme is included.

The partnership thus claims to be “on schedule” to make “fibre broadband” available to around 320,000 premises by the end of next year as planned. The CDS team might be hoping that this news can help to gloss over last month’s inability of BT and the local authority to reach a deal on their own extension contract to help meet the national 95% target (here).

The related extension contract will now go back to an open market tender, which seems likely to attract some bids from a consortium of smaller ISPs (here) and there’s always the chance that BT might bid again, even if they were previously reluctant to take a punt on the original open tender.

However the CDS team appear confident that this administrative delay will not affect the overall timescale for achieving their future goals past the first 2016 target / contract with BT, although this does rather depend upon who wins the tender and what approach they take.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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