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Hampshire UK Council Leader Warns of Big Rural Broadband Challenges

Monday, Jul 4th, 2016 (9:43 am) - Score 456

The leader of Hampshire County Council in England, Roy Perry, has warned that bringing superfast broadband to rural premises in the final 4% of the region will present “significant challenges” (very expensive) and that in the end it may be left up to “self-funding providers” and inferior Satellite.

The local Hampshire Superfast Broadband project with BT (Openreach) has already succeeded in expanding the coverage of superfast (24Mbps+) connectivity to 90% of the county (80,712 extra premises have already benefited from the effort) and last month they began the roll-out of their second contract, which will add another 34,500 premises (i.e. 96% coverage) by September 2018 (i.e. an improvement on the original mid-2019 target).

As a result Hampshire now faces the daunting prospect of having to figure out how best to upgrade those in the final 3-4%, where traditional fixed line methods can quickly become prohibitively expensive for traditional methods.

Roy Perry said:

“We are working hard to ensure that as many of Hampshire’s residents as possible have access to superfast connections – regularly overcoming hurdles such as gaining landowner consent and stakeholder support.

We are also pleased that the deal, recently announced by the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), between BT’s network division Openreach, and the Home Builders Federation to offer free or co-funded broadband to all new developments, will go a long way towards meeting the Government’s aspirations to bring faster internet speeds to more of the nation.

Significant challenges remain in Hampshire to reach the final 4%. It is these harder-to-reach areas where proportionately more expensive infrastructure is needed for a smaller number of properties.

We are alert to the challenges faced by communities and residents not in the current plans, and we are working hard to find a solution for these areas, such as facilitating discussions with satellite broadband or self-funding providers. We await details from the Government on how this will be tackled nationally.”

Perry also pointed to the £1.2m Government pilot project by Call Flow Solutions as another possible example of their future direction. The pilot recently delivered a 30Mbps+ hybrid fibre optic and wireless broadband network to 1,700 homes in the rural communities of Monkwood, Beauworth, Privett and Preshaw (Winchester and East Hampshire districts).

The challenge is by no means unique to Hampshire and almost every other UK local authority is now starting to consider the same problem. Some areas will be able to do deals with alternative network providers and further extensions of existing BT deployments, while others may fall back on Satellite as a quick-fix due to a lack of funding or innovative thinking from the local authority.

The government are also working to establish a new Broadband Investment Fund (details), although so far this seems to be more directed towards providing support for building “ultrafast” (100Mbps+) broadband infrastructure and it’s not clear how much of an impact this may have on rural areas, if any.

On top of that Government are also working to establish a new 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, although there have been strong hints that this too may allow a fall-back to Satellite solutions in some areas (i.e. the final 1% or so). As part of this BT are also conducting trials of a new Long Reach VDSL (FTTC) solution in Isfield (East Sussex), although it remains to be seen whether this will progress to a significant roll-out.

Needless to say that there are many challenges ahead and a lot of questions left to answer, but at least all of the decision makers are finally having to consider the most remote areas.

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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