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UPDATE UK Councils Quietly Recognise 30Mbps as NGA Broadband

Monday, April 18th, 2016 (1:44 pm) - Score 1,257
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Over the past two months a growing number of UK councils have begun to consult on how best to use money that has been clawed back (gainshare) from BT in order to further extend local broadband coverage, but this time around they all seem to agree that NGA connectivity starts at 30Mbps, not 24Mbps or 15Mbps.

As most people know BT (Openreach) won all of the Government’s Phase one Broadband Delivery UK contracts, which aimed to deliver 90% coverage of “superfast broadband” (this has recently been achieved) and nearly all of the Phase Two contracts (these aim to deliver 95% coverage by 2017/18).

The clawback (gain share) mechanism in related BDUK contracts requires BT to return part of the public investment when take-up of the new FTTC/P service passes beyond the 20% mark and this is currently said to be worth £129 million across the United Kingdom, with Ed Vaizey MP confirming (here) that they’re “on course” to clawback £250m and “maybe more” as take-up rises.

Most of the 40 or so UK local authorities where this is relevant are now either preparing, running or have just concluded a new round of public consultations, which aim to establish which areas (aka – NGA White Areas) should benefit from faster broadband through the aforementioned reinvestment.

However one of the most interesting aspects to all of this is the way in which the local authorities appear to agree that 30Mbps+ (Megabits per second) is the start of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband, which reflects guidance from the Broadband Delivery UK programme.

Previously many councils had instead adopted the central UK Government’s definition of 24Mbps+ and some local authorities had even used the much lower figure of 15Mbps (e.g. Worcestershire, Norfolk and Suffolk) to define under the catch-all NGA title for white areas. Part of the reason for this is because local authorities needed to deliver a clear step change in performance when using public money.

Extract from Worcestershire’s Consultation

Worcestershire County Council has changed its definition of NGA white areas from that used in its previous consultation of 10th October 2014. In Annex A, areas with speeds below 30Mbps are identified as “NGA white areas”, whereas they had previously only been identified as NGA white areas where they had speeds below 15Mbps.

Extract from Lincolnshire’s Consultation

Lincolnshire County Council has changed its definition of NGA white areas from that used in its previous consultation of 23rd September 2014. In Annex A, areas with speeds below 30Mbps are identified as “NGA white areas”, whereas they had previously only been identified as NGA white areas where they had speeds below 24Mbps.

So far as we can tell all of the gainshare related consultations that have gone live include wording similar to the above and have thus adopted the definition of 30Mbps for NGA White Areas. What’s less clear is whether or not this will result in any ‘white areas’, such as those previously defined as sub-15Mbps, suffering a duplication of public investment. We have queried with several of the local authorities and will update when or if they respond.

UPDATE 19th April 2016

The Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) has kindly given us the following response, which helps to clarify the reasoning.

An LCC Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“The Public Consultation document is essentially a Template from BDUK with some ‘Local’ flavour added and the reference to 30Mb/s is driven by the need to arrive at a doubling of average speeds where Public Funding is invested.

In other words, if an end user was receiving sub 15Mb/s at the end of the first deployment, we could justify investment to double their speed to 30Mb/s, the universally accepted Superfast speed. If a line was above 15Mb/s, say 22Mb/s, then we would effectively be doubling beyond Superfast and this would not be acceptable.”

The approach is understandable and complies with existing State Aid guidance, although having so many different levels of speed in the process does create some confusion and still means that some areas may not be upgraded if they sit a little below the “superfast” level.

The LCC spokesperson also confirmed that they would “not be deploying to areas that are already above 15Mb/s or are covered by other operators” and in fact the council has already sent back BT’s original Phase 2 offering because of their “concerns with overbuild” in existing Virgin Media areas (a revised plan is being prepared).

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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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar Dave

    Great News!
    What this means is that the final 2-3% which is far too difficult and expensive to tackle will be left with nothing and Openreach will be far to busy upgrading all the easy bits again!

    • Avatar Al

      No doubt, unless any contracts that are drawn up that use public money specify that the slower areas have to be done first. Which is how BDUK should have been run in the first place.

      I’ve only been able to place my order for fibre within the last week as my area has finally gone live, and I’m on a 20CN exchnage. And I’ll a massive jump in speed.

  2. Avatar Steve Jones

    I forecast that this will make precisely zero difference to those that can currently get 24mbps but no 30mbps. Nobody is going to authorise public money to be spent on those premises.

    Of course what it will do is confuse what counts nationally as “superfast” coverage, but I really can’t see it making a significant difference to investment decisions. The TBB estimator only puts one or two percent difference in coverage between the two speeds.

    • Avatar JohnTAB

      Yeah but what about the move from 15mbps or less?

    • No councils defined superfast as 15 Mbps and faster. Some had the superfast requirement and a second level ‘high speed’ 15 Mbps coverage target written into the contract too.

      Have even seem some outlets confusing the 10 Mbps proposed USO with a universal roll-out of superfast broadband just to further confuse the public.

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