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UK Government Help Superfast Broadband Reach 4 Million Extra Premises

Thursday, August 25th, 2016 (10:10 am) - Score 1,270

The Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, which is supported by £1.6bn of public investment, has released its latest progress update and confirmed that 4,021,047 additional premises can now access a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service and there’s more to come.

As it stands most of the original Phase One BDUK contracts with BT, which are assisting via the expanded roll-out of their hybrid fibre FTTC (up to 80Mbps) and some pure fibre optic FTTP (330Mbps) broadband networks, have now completed. Overall it’s estimated that a shade over 91% of the United Kingdom can today order a superfast connection, if so desired.

We should point out that, prior to BDUK, the commercial market had already enabled operators like BT and Virgin Media to expand the reach of superfast connectivity to around 70% of the UK. However they were slow or unwilling to invest in upgrading the final 30% (i.e. too expensive) and so the state aid fuelled BDUK project was born.

Latest Progress Report

Take note that the “premises passed” figure used below only reflects those able to order superfast speeds of greater than 24 Megabits per second thanks to the BDUK project. Sadly the Government do not provide an additional column for showing the overall premises passed total, which would ideally also include those premises receiving sub-24Mbps speeds via the new “fibre broadband” infrastructure.

Otherwise the headline figures used below are said to be cash based (i.e. when grants are made or budgets transferred). But on an accruals basis, which matches costs incurred to the timing of delivery, cumulative BDUK expenditure to end-June 2016 has been estimated as £513,995,473 and that equates to 7,823 premises covered per £million of BDUK expenditure (expenditure is higher for this because the work is said to have been delivered in advance of payment).

Take note that this only reflects the BDUK side of the public investment and does not include match-funding from the EU, Local Councils or other public sources.

bduk_broadband_progress_for_june_2016

Readers with a keen eye will notice that the roll-out pace has slowed, which is an expected outcome of the fact that the programme is now beginning to concentrate on the most challenging rural and some tedious sub-urban locations (e.g. Exchange Only Lines). Related areas take longer to reach (per property), often cost more and deliver fewer premises passed.

Never the less the BDUK programme is far from finished and Phase Two is already working to push the coverage out to 95% of the UK by 2017/18. On top of that the Government has hinted that strong take-up should result in a big slice of public investment (more than £250m so far) being clawed back (details), with the reinvestment potentially boosting coverage to 97% by 2019.

Crucially Phase Two and future phases will involve many more alternative network providers, such as Gigaclear, AB Internet, Call Flow, UKB Networks and others. As such we’re already seeing a lot of fixed wireless broadband networks become involved, as well as pure fibre optic (FTTH/P) providers, and more of this technologically neutral approach looks certain to follow.

Meanwhile the Government are also examining how best to cater for those in the final 2-3% of difficult to reach premises and communities. As part of that they’ve already introduced a new quick-fix Satellite broadband subsidy (here) and there’s been a proposal for a new legally-binding 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (here and here) via the Digital Economy Bill. But the details are still being worked out.

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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.
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27 Responses
  1. NGA for all says:

    BT reported state aid receipts of £36m while saying £12m of this is added to the capital deferral owed to Government of £256m.

    This final bit translates into 50% of some constituencies, so all the capital, clawback and underspends need to be reported upon and held in place to complete what was and should remain a rural programme

  2. Colin Orr says:

    According to BT line checker (BT Wholesale and Openreach) I’m one of the lucky fibre enabled premises. Even though I’m 7Km from the cabinet. Miraculous, world leading, technology.
    I keep telling them that myself, and the several dozen other premises in the postcode (SK13 6) are NOT fibre enabled, but they insist we are. So occasionally (5 times, so far) I order it, and watch with fascination as the Openreach engineers install my new fire broadband. Which doesn’t work.
    When I order it, I tell them that it won’t work, and that they’ve already tried “x” times before. Makes no difference., they still insist they can.
    So …. how may of the 4 million are similarly accounted?

    1. Steve Jones says:

      “So …. how may of the 4 million are similarly accounted?”

      “The Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, which is supported by £1.6bn of public investment, has released its latest progress update and confirmed that 4,021,047 additional premises can now access a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service and there’s more to come.”

      So that would be none of those 4 million then…

    2. AndyH says:

      If you really are 7km from your cabinet, then I fail to see how you’ve been able to order FTTC. Openreach’s systems just would not allow it…

    3. Lee says:

      Unless of course Openreach records are wrong…

    4. TheFacts says:

      @Colin – if you are where I think you are I suspect the data is wrong.

    5. AndyH says:

      Unless the final drop is a ridiculously long length from the DP, then it’s going to pretty unlikely to be a database error. You cannot order FTTC if the speed estimate is below 2Mb/s and a lot of ISPs will refuse to supply it below 10Mb/s.

    6. Craski says:

      “So …. how may of the 4 million are similarly accounted?”

      I also noticed several addresses in my my local area for which BT DSL checker reported they can get a full speed 80/20 FTTC which clearly were errors in their database as they are >5km from the cabinet. I informed Openreach and Digital Scotland and they have been fixed now.

  3. Colin Orr says:

    I wasn’t looking for an argument, merely pointing out that the line checker, hence the records, are wrong. I re-checked before posting, my BT line is still showing as fibre enabled by BT openreach, BT sales, and BT Wholesale. Reading my original post will point out that I have 5 times called BT to ask them to correct the error, as it will limit this postcodes ability to access voucher schemes, and 5 times they’ve insisted that cabinet 4 in Glossop is fibre enabled, and that my line will give “up to 80mb downstream”. So five times I’ve told them that it won’t, and that I’ll order it to demonstrate. They send an engineer, who spends several hours proving my point, and then within a month or two, send me further marketing emails telling me I’m fibre enabled. It’s incompetence on a fairly big scale, so the figures quoted in this article probably include more than one single cabinet in Glossop.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      It’s not ideal, but Andrew Ferguson on Think Broadband is often able to follow up on records issues with Openreach. You might want to drop him a note.

    2. Cabinet 4 on Glossop exchange is definitely enabled, but there are 3 or 4 postcodes too far from it to get anything useful from VDSL2.

      Thus don’t believe there is any errors to correct – a common mistake is that people see FTTP on Demand and assume this means VDSL is available, but it is not. Without a specific address to go on hard to say much more.

      If the user is one of the postcodes outside of Glossop then project should be well aware of the line length issues, and looking at the BT wholesale checker it is too.

  4. Steve Jones says:

    @Andrew

    He seems to be saying that BT/OR are saying that he ought to be able to get up to 80Mbps and surely he shouldn’t have been able to order it at all if it is really 7km to the cabinet as he says. That’s a long, long way.

    I suppose the result from the BT Wholesale checker would be a useful bit of information (not to mention the postcode).

  5. fastman says:

    I assume its a former farm or some weird historial that either serviced by a continuous DP (some could be up to 5 – 7km of the DP or the Location of the DP is wrong in the records !!!

  6. Colin Orr says:

    Hopefully I can clarify:
    I know I am 7km from Cabinet 4 (it’s a farm, and quite possibly historical, as it was used by Great Train Robber Charlie White), I know Cabinet 4 is fibre enabled, and most importantly, I know I can’t get fibre here. That’s why I pay an eye-watering £179.00 p/m for a business satellite service. It is BT that contact me, to tell me “good news you can get Infinity/Fibre.” The BT Wholesale line checker (just looked again) shows me VDSL A & B at 80 down and 20 up, “available” and FTTP at 330 “available”. Five times they have contacted me, five times I’ve explained that they cannot provide the service on the line, five times they’ve “checked with openreach” or “the manager” and insisted that they can. Five times I have said “go on then”, as if you’ve ever tried to contact somebody at openreach or wholesale to amend or correct their line checker, you may also gave experienced a certain degree of frustration. My hope was that eventually it would dawn on them that correcting their erroneous records would be a cheaper options than a monthly 3 hour engineer visit.
    Then I see articles like this, and I think “there’s around 15 of us here (in this postcode) showing as fibre enabled. We aren’t.” So my post was intended to question the accuracy of the numbers claimed on that basis.

    1. TheFacts says:

      Andrew will know how to contact Openreach to get the data checked/corrected.

    2. Someone has figured out the address and emailed me, so will fire off a correction email at the weekend.

      BT Infinity people will simply believe the checker and not do any checking. With respect to the BDUK figures it may be counting or may not, depends on how much checking they do themselves, but errors like this are pretty rare, more common for it to be someone in an FTTP area but checker says they cannot have it.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      The statistical impact of a few errors in the OR database will make no significant difference when they are counting premises by the million. However, it’s extremely frustrating for those involved, and I would have expected that the OR engineers who came to set this up would have some way of getting obvious errors corrected.

    4. Steve Jones says:

      nb. There was a Jimmy (or James) White and a Charlie Wilson involved in the Great Train Robbery, but no Charlie White.

    5. MikeW says:

      Perfectly fair to question the numbers … there will always be some entries in the database that are wrong. But there aren’t likely to be that many that are as wrong as this.

      For most people, the worst that can happen is that they try to get service, and succeed, but at a different speed … and the database gets updated. There are very few who just can’t get service: just a couple of percent. To be one of that couple of percent and to then have a database error “in your favour” will be very rare.

      Note, though, that it isn’t a surprise for all the houses around you to suffer the same fault. Estimates are based on the database entry for the whole DP – so one faulty entry for the DP is enough to taint the entries for all the houses.

      The basic statistics are shown in this graph:
      https://postimg.org/image/qao7esyr1/
      … where the number of lines which can’t get service at all are the few beyond the region of 2km.

      Your line, at 7km, just isn’t visible on the graph. Even if it is 0.9mm copper, and acts like a line that is 3.5km of standard copper, it still falls off the end.

  7. Ben H says:

    An interesting read, but although I live very close to my exchange and cabinet, I cannot order fibre at M16 7H. The search reports that the cabinet is not enabled, although the exchange has been enabled for some time.

    It mystifies me that this article reports that 91% can now access fibre, but I live in a suburb very close to the city centre of Manchester in a residential area and still, after all these years, and many millions invested by government, cannot access fibre.

    1. If the article was reporting 100% access to fibre at a decent speed then it would be a mystery, otherwise if you prefer negative headlines it is saying just under 1 in 10 cannot get superfast speeds.

  8. Ben H says:

    I suppose, technically, they have reached over 90% in my area. I would be really interested to know what the reasons were for not enabling the cabinet.

    1. MikeW says:

      Your postcode isn’t complete, so the best guess is that you are in Moss Side … and the answer is based on that. Given the post on TBB, I’d even guess at cab 50.

      It isn’t likely to be the many millions invested by the government, as Manchester isn’t part of one of the subsidy schemes. Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford & Wigan councils are part of the Greater Manchester scheme, but Manchester and Salford are not. It is likely that the government reckoned that those two councils would reach the 90% / 95% targets from commercial deployments only.

      Beyond that, it seems most likely that you cabinet is just too small to be profitable commercially: not enough postcodes, not enough subscribers to make it worthwhile.

      BT are continuing with further commercial deployment, though. They announced a few £million for “30 cities” a while back, but look to have spent it on London so far. Who knows if they will get anywhere else. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.

    2. MikeW says:

      The bits of Greater Manchester that are part of BDUK are actually getting pretty decent coverage out of the money: between 99.2% and 99.6%.

      Check item 21 on here:
      https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/285/greater_manchester_combined_authority

      The truth is that *whoever* gets left out will be mystified as to why them.

  9. NGA for all says:

    Why the loss of momentum – 181k in a quarter, when there is now £270m capital deferral in BT’s accounts?

    1. New_Londoner says:

      @NGA
      Why the loss of momentum? As Mark states in his article “Readers with a keen eye will notice that the roll-out pace has slowed, which is an expected outcome of the fact that the programme is now beginning to concentrate on the most challenging rural and some tedious sub-urban locations …”.

      As for the capital deferral, how is your complaint to BDUK / the NAO going?

    2. NGA for all says:

      NL – c£270m deferral constitutes some 8 quarters of work at this rate. If you combine the underspends and BT capital and most of phase 2 funding you get some idea as to what could have been achieved and can yet be achieved.

      No complaint and never has been complaints to BDUK or NAO, but BT capital contribution deserves ongoing scrutiny. It may or may not be taken up in the NGA Cost Modelling exercise by Ofcom. Audit Scotland promise to examine the BT capital contribution next time round.

      Have I missed something in BT’s published accounts where these contributions are made clear?

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