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Shropshire UK Reveals Tentative Extension Plan for Superfast Broadband

Saturday, November 12th, 2016 (7:56 am) - Score 887

The Shropshire County Council in England has this week revealed that the next phase (Phase 2b) of their on-going Connecting Shropshire project will aim to bring “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) coverage to another 16,015 premises via £11.7m of public funding, but the plan remains vague.

At present the original contract (Phase 1) is still working towards completion, which aims to extend Openreach’s (BT) “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network to an additional 62,000 homes and businesses by the end of 2016 (93% coverage, although only 87% will be within reach of “superfast” 24Mbps+ speeds). So far 55,522 premises have already been completed.

A smaller £5.6m extension contract (Phase 2a) was signed with BT last June 2015 (£4.7m from Broadband Delivery UK and £900,000 from BT), which aims to add another 4,000 premises to the total by winter 2017 and should help to push “fibre broadband” cover to 95% (i.e. coverage of 24Mbps+ speeds might just about hit 90%). All of this excludes any work conducted under the separate Superfast Telford project, which also exists within Shropshire.

The new contract, which has this week been put out to tender, is essentially the second part (Phase 2b) of the one above. We should also point out that a 30Mbps+ definition for “superfast broadband” has now been adopted instead of 24Mbps+ (this doesn’t make a big coverage difference); the latter is the same for all third phase contracts being signed post-June 2016.

Apparently the £11.7m of public funding for Phase 2b, which will benefit a further 16,015 premises, has been secured through both the Government’s BDUK programme and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership. Oddly this does not include the £2.2m that is being returned by BT via clawback due to high take-up, which is said to be “ring-fenced” for future broadband investment.

Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader of Shropshire Council, said:

“As we near the end of Phase 1, we’ve already provided over 55,000 homes and businesses with access to better broadband. At the same time as gearing up to deliver our Phase 2, I’m thrilled to be starting the procurement for the next phase of work. We’re eager to close all of our gaps and particularly want solutions that prioritise coverage for premises on the slowest speeds.”

At this stage there’s no solid completion date for Phase 2b, although we believe that the goal may be to complete this specific deployment by the end of 2018 (we believe this was the expectation for all of Phase 2a + b).

However the overall programme is not due to complete until 2020 (the aim is still to achieve 100% coverage of “Next Generation Access” broadband, albeit not necessarily “superfast” speeds), so there’s still plenty of room for future contracts after Phase 2b.

No doubt the cash strapped local authority will also be hoping that Phase 2b can be boosted by private investment from any chosen supplier(s), although this is by no means guaranteed as the project is now focusing upon some of the council’s most economically challenging rural areas.

Broadband providers have now been given until 30th January 2017 to prepare and submit their bids, while Shropshire Council expects to award contract(s) in March 2017. We should then find out the final plan for Phase 2b during the spring or early summer.

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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.
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18 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    Almost 4,000 premises have been excluded from the intervention area because a supplier says it can supply them, but no-one has seen any plans, and any ‘blue, under review’ areas that can’t demonstrate sufficient demand look likely to be left behind. Connecting Shropshire says these areas will be taken back into the Phase 2b intervention area, but it could take up to three years. Hardly a satisfactory situation.

  2. Avatar NGA for all says:

    The postcodes appear to include premises which are attached to BT commercial cabinets but too far to glean a benefit. Does BT’s mixed economy solutions not apply to their declared commercial footprint including premises attached to cabinets but too far away.
    I do think the cost recovery for FTTP should be specifically catered for in Ofcom’s WLA pricing review, so BT capital contribution can be formalised and is predictable. It will be needed more and more as the harder to reach areas are being tackled.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      If you read the outcome report, then you’ll see that it explicitly states the following:-

      “In addition, the Intervention Area includes 3,728 ‘under review’ premises (coloured blue on the map). These premises are part of suppliers’ planned commercial coverage area for NGA broadband. The majority (92%) of these ‘under review’ premises are in the west of the county and are in areas where Secure Web Services (SWS) plan to extend their network coverage commercially.

      Although SWS have provided credible and robust plans to provide NGA broadband to these ‘under review’ premises over the next three years, Shropshire Council has declined from classifying these premises as grey. Instead Shropshire Council has classed the premises as ‘under review’.

      http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/20161103-Shropshire-State-Aid-Public-Consultation-Report-FINAL.pdf

      So, it would see the majority of these premises with planned commercial provision are not BT Openreach and also, whatever company has responded, will have their plans and progress monitored.

      Surely rather better to read the report first and then comment in context.

  3. Avatar fastman says:

    The last OM<TR was on 7 digit postcodes so these long lines would have been picked as potential intervention in SEP a while ago so nothing new there

    different day — same repetition !!!!!

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      So your suggesting it is normal for the state to pay for what was declared a commercial area where the solution delivered provides no new benefit to a segment of those customers.

      How do you think BT’s investment in FTTP such as it is should be accommodated, encouraged?

    2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      @NGA

      If you read the report, 92% of those premises flagged for commercial development are down to submissions from Secure Web Services(SWS). They are a wireless provider. That leaves only about 300 between the other two commercial outfits who submitted responses (BT and VM).

      http://www.securewebservices.co.uk/

    3. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @Steve you miss point, if you map the postcodes, many are attached to BT commercial cabinets. The Wireless provider is a separate issue.

    4. Avatar AndyH says:

      @ NGA – Examples?

    5. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      @NGA

      It’s completely irrelevant if they are attached to a BT enabled cabinet. The point is that the vast majority (92%) of premises have been placed into the “blue” category as another service provider has submitted plans for those areas. That means your claim that BT has simply blocked intervention on those premises is baseless. There are only about 300 premises blocked by BT and VM combined and, in any event, those locations have to have credible superfast NGA plans and locations on long lines from enabled cabinets would not qualify.

    6. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @Steve Of course it is relevant, BT has a mixed economy solution and is perfectly capable of delivering improvements to customers beyond the reach of their cabinet solution in the areas they originally identified as commercial.
      The majority of the work is around Shropshires major towns, 11k of the 16k.

    7. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      @NGA

      Of course BT could deliver faster BB to those locations by using FTTP from the aggregation points which will have been put out. However, they clearly don’t have commercial plans to do so as it’s not cost effective. They might be able to extend the reach of SF a little by using LR-VDSL, but that solution is probably more appropriate to the 10mb/s USO and is reliant on the NICC (and Ofcom) approving a change in the ANFP which will greatly reduce the reach of ADSL from the exchanges which have to go through those cabinets. Most importantly, it would not qualify for the 30mb/s NGA SF criteria.

      In any event, if you aren’t willing to accept the Staffordshire’s own project report that 92% of the “blue” premises have that status due to one (non-BT) network service provider and continue to claim that it’s down to BT blocking locations connected to enabled fibre cabinets, then there is no hope of finding anything that will ever convince you.

      As it is, anybody rational reading the report can’t help but see that there are only 300 premises “blocked” by the commercial plans of either BT or VM. The remaining 3,400 are precisely nothing to do with BT (or VM),

  4. Avatar fastman says:

    NGA to be clear as you are well aware the first OMRs were 5 dignt – 2nd round of OMR’s were at 7 digit postcode and were based on speed you might be on a Former commercial cab / or a bduk and then those were both eligible for intervention — in the same way there were of postcodes classified commercial where virgin did not actually cover as build had taken plan

    what I think is neither here nor there — however my understanding is that he business has made its intentions very clear around FTTP very clear over the last few months and therefore that begs a more interesting question is when are any more service providers going to consume it – as there are a number of significant FTTP area now and have been for a number of years and I cant see any inclination of any other major service providers wishing to sell it

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      It’s just down to NGA making assumptions. 92% of the affected premises are down to a wireless operator (as the outcome report makes clear).

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @Fastman In future cost recovery discussions it is useful to record the reduction in size of BT’s commercial footprint. If premises attached to BT’s commercial caninets are being subsidised then it is less money for the original intervention area. It should be acknowledged that is all and reflected perhaps in lower prices going forward or greater repayment of subsidies.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @NGA – How would a premise connected to a commercial cabinet be defined and subsidised?

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      Plenty of BDUK LAs have included low-speed properties within their white-area definition, even if they are connected to a commercially-upgraded PCP.

      CSW was one of the projects most forthcoming with FAQs and answers. Here’s what they said at the launch in 2013:
      http://www.cswbroadband.org.uk/newsletter-june-2013/

      Will premises connected to exchanges already announced in the commercial roll-out but unable to benefit currently (eg. exchange only lines, cabinet not included for technical or commercial reasons or too far from an enabled cabinet), be included in this initiative?

      “Yes, it is possible that some of these premises in white areas could be included in the project following the completion of surveying and planning. It is also possible that some of these properties will benefit from commercial deployment by BT, which is on-going, and that of other communications providers.

      The project is unable to invest in grey or black areas that will be covered under the commercial roll-out.”

      The first part makes clear that just> being on a commercial cabinet, but too far from it, isn’t enough to disqualify the property from subsidy.

      However, the final paragraph makes it clear that being marked grey or black – perhaps even accidentally – could be fatal.

      It isn’t clear from that particular newsletter how CSW treated “partial postcodes”, where some properties remain uncovered. Would they be marked white, grey or black?

      Thankfully, in a subsequent newsletter, they describe the criteria used for the second phase. Here, they note that “partial postcodes” would be considered as NGA white, and clarify that “Even 1 premise under 15Mbps would turn a postcode white, even though 99% may have NGA coverage.” (They used a 15Mbps speed as a threshold for inclusion in the second phase, though they still targetted 24Mbps as superfast).
      http://www.cswbroadband.org.uk/newsletter-august-2014-public-consultation/

  5. Avatar DTMark says:

    “At present the original contract (Phase 1) is still working towards completion, which aims to extend Openreach’s (BT) .. network .. 87% will be within reach of “superfast” 24Mbps+ speeds”

    Another failed BDUK project, then. A year late already, and no mention of the 2Mbps for all target.

    Why are we putting more money into things without an enquiry to uncover why these projects have gone so badly in the first place?

    1. Avatar AndyH says:

      “a year late already” – according to who?

      The Council’s Deputy Leader said this last summer: “The programme remains “on target” in its current Phase 1 delivery that started in March 2013 and is due to complete by winter 2016. Phase 1 aims to deliver superfast broadband to 87 per cent of premises, when added to commercial providers’ obligations.”

      “no mention of the 2Mbps for all target.” Did you look on their website? http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/basic-broadband-subsidy-scheme/ and http://connectingshropshire.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/20160720-Guide-to-the-Better-Broadband-Subsidy-Scheme.pdf

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