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Wales UK Signs Deal to Expand BT Fibre Broadband Services to More Areas

Tuesday, Jul 7th, 2015 (3:38 pm) - Score 1,800

The state aid fuelled Superfast Cymru project, which is currently working with BT to make “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity available to 96% of Wales by the end of 2016, has signed a new deal that will extend the service to another 42,000 homes and businesses by June 2017. Also.. Fibre on Demand (FTTPoD) is coming back!

The current project is already being supported by public funding worth £205 million, which includes £56,930,000 from the central Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, and its target of 96% reflects a total of 691,000 premises that should benefit from the scheme. So far around 480,000 have been completed, which equates to 79% coverage of “fibre broadband” in Wales.

By comparison the new Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) contract will be supported by another £19 million of public funding from BDUK and “significant” further investment is anticipated to come from both the EU and BT, although no figures for the last two have been provided and the Welsh Government isn’t mentioned as a contributor.

On top of that a contract has been let with high speed fixed wireless ISP Airband to bring “superfast broadband” to 2,000 more premises in business parks and industrial estates across Wales by Summer 2016. Airband also recently won the deal for the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks in England (here).

Other measures announced today include:

* After negotiations BT has agreed to make Fibre on Demand (FoD or FTTPoD) available across the “majority” of Wales. This is a business-focussed ultrafast (330Mbps) broadband technology, which will be available by the end of summer 2015 to the majority of premises in Wales.

But it’s far too expensive for most homes and means lumping the huge building cost onto end-users (details); even businesses found it to be a difficult proposition (here). FoD is not currently being sold, yet today’s announcement appears to confirm its return in the coming weeks or months (we had been expecting it to come back, but not this soon).

* A take up target for superfast broadband of 50% by 2024. Current take up is claimed to be 22% in areas which have had the service for over one year, one of the highest in the UK.

* Work is continuing on a new scheme to make superfast speeds available to all homes and businesses across Wales. It will build on the success of the Access Broadband Cymru scheme and will use a range of technologies including satellite, wireless and 4G to deliver superfast speeds.

We assume that the Fibre on Demand deal, which as we say tends to be too expensive for normal domestic purposes, is perhaps the Welsh Government’s way of meeting their original pledge for ensuring that “at least 40% of all the premises in the intervention area also [benefit] from access to services in excess of 100Mbps“.

However if so then this is a rather tricky move as the nature of FoD is that it doesn’t technically cover ANY premises until after the service itself has actually been built to your property. As such if we’re going to use that as a means of meeting the 40% target then they might just as well apply the same logic to leased lines and call it job done. The lack of ISP support was also problem for FoD.

On the flip side, if the service can be positioned in a way that supports a good SLA and multi-dwelling units etc., then we can see it gaining interest in the business space; especially given the Welsh Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher scheme (here). Otherwise it risks remaining an oddball in the market.

The Welsh Deputy Minister said:

We are committed to making Wales a digital nation, and the success of Superfast Cymru so far, which has been backed by Welsh Government funding, is testament to that. We set ourselves the challenge of bringing superfast broadband to parts of Wales where the market would simply never go and we have made extraordinary progress through Superfast Cymru. Now we are ahead of the European average.

To the end of June we have provided superfast broadband to nearly half a million premises, that is around 480,000 that would not be able to receive superfast broadband speeds without our intervention. Progress to date is no small part thanks to the significant efforts of the BT workforce and their sub contractors.

I am also pleased today to announce the contract with Airband and that BT will make “Fibre on Demand” available across Wales. Faster broadband is vital for our businesses and today’s announcements are a recognition of that.”

Ann Beynon, BT’s Director for Wales, said:

This extension to the Superfast Cymru programme, which BT is helping fund, will not only enable us to reach some of the most remote parts of the country, but will also be enabling businesses in suburban areas, who want to, to access some of the fastest broadband speeds in the UK. Every day the internet is touching our lives in new and exciting ways, providing new opportunities to connect and communicate at home and in the workplace, which is why today marks another important development for Wales.”

As usual the Welsh Government doesn’t clarify precisely what proportion of premises can expect to actually receive “superfast” download speeds of 24Mbps+, although the original contract required that a minimum of 95% of all premises “in the intervention area” should be capable of having access to such performance.

A useful report on the progress of the current Welsh Broadband scheme can be found here and we are asking about the final funding figures from the EU and BT.

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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