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UPD 1Gbps FTTP Broadband for 35,225 Extra Devon and Somerset Premises

Wednesday, Dec 21st, 2016 (12:01 am) - Score 2,854

The Connecting Devon and Somerset project has today signed a major new £62.25m deal with rural ISP Gigaclear, which will enable the provider to roll-out their 1Gbps (1000Mbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband network to 35,225 of the hardest to reach premises in the region by 2019.

At present the CDS scheme is working with Openreach (BT) and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme to make “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connectivity available to over 90% of local homes and businesses by the end of 2016 (Phase One), which reflects a total investment of around £94m. On top of that they’ve also signed a separate £4.6m deal with fixed wireless ISP Airband to cover 5,800 premises in the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks (here).

Back in June 2015 there had been plans for a second phase extension of the original roll-out with Openreach, but hopes of a deal soon faded after the local authorities were unable to agree a mutually acceptable level of coverage and time-scale. At the time CDS said that BT couldn’t commit what was needed or offer “any reassurances that the 95% [coverage] target could be reached” (here).

The failure to sign a new deal occurred just as the EU’s original umbrella broadband state aid agreement with the UK was coming to an end, which effectively left CDS in limbo until a new agreement was signed in May 2016 (here) and in July 2016 CDS confirmed that they were committing £39.5 million of public investment to appoint a new supplier (here).

The new investment is also being supported by an additional £4m from the Government’s South West Ultrafast Fund, which should help to upgrade 4,000+ premises in contract two.

The New Deal

The phase two procurement has been divided into six lots in order to encourage greater competition from a broader range of providers and technologies, although suppliers were allowed to bid on more than one lot each (see picture at the bottom for areas reflected by each lot).

Today’s new £62.25m deal sees Gigaclear picking up four of the six lots on offer for phase two of the roll-out, while the winners for the remaining two lots should be announced “early in the New Year.”

Interestingly Gigaclear has managed to commit a staggering £43.75 million of its own private investment to the contract (four lots), which is a lot of money for an ISP that has only recently deployed its ultrafast FTTP/H network to a total of around 35,000 UK premises (i.e. today’s contract alone essentially doubles their current network size).

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council, said:

“This unparalleled contract is great news for Devon and Somerset. We are determined to provide world class broadband to residents and businesses as part of our strategy to open the broadband market to greater competition and innovation.

Thanks to this new partnership with Gigaclear tens of thousands will benefit from some of the fastest speeds across the country, providing significant lifestyle and economic benefits. It will encourage competition and drive up performance in the market that can only benefit consumers across the two counties.”

Matt Hancock, UK Digital Minister, said:

“This full fibre project will deliver a tremendous boost to the broadband speeds of thousands of homes and businesses across Devon and Somerset. It will be instrumental in driving growth and will deliver a welcome boost to the local economy. I’m very pleased to see smaller suppliers are now competing for, and winning, contracts for the next phase of the Connecting Devon and Somerset rollout.”

Matthew Hare, CEO of Gigaclear, said:

“The signing of contracts marks the beginning of what will be one of the biggest rural full fibre-to-the-premises network rollouts ever to have taken place in the UK, a project we are hugely proud to be part of. Working in partnership with Devon and Somerset County Councils, we can now set the wheels in motion to build a futureproof network, that’s 100% pure fibre, directly to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Gigaclear provides a Gigabit network connection at every property we pass, making sure that no one is left behind.”

Gigaclear will now aim to bring their ultrafast broadband speeds to an additional 35,225 homes and businesses in an area from Northern Somerset through to South Devon using a full fibre network, which should complete by the end of 2019.

However we’ll have to wait a little longer before the detailed roll-out plan is revealed, but once everything has completed then this could possibly push local coverage of “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable networks to nearly the 95% mark by 2019. Mind you that’s still a long way short of CDS’s “ambition” to provide “speeds of over 24Mbps to 100% of premises by 2020” and it also relies on BT completing Phase One as originally planned.

Speaking of targets, a quick look at Devon and Somerset suggests that both counties are still quite far off hitting the original 90% coverage target by the end of 2016 (current coverage is around 82-85%). However the coverage does reach about 90% if you include sub-24Mbps FTTC enabled areas, but it’s clear that Openreach still have a long way to go on the “superfast” front. We have asked the local authority for an update.

Gigaclear will also face similar challenges in bringing their network to such remote areas, although they do at least have plenty of experience in tackling such issues. Mind you the lack of major ISP choices on their network could create confusion for some customers, although most will be happy so long as they can get the promised service quality and speeds.

Speaking of which, customers typically pay from £41.30 per month for a symmetrical 50Mbps package on Gigaclear’s network and this rises to £76.60 if you want 1Gbps. On top of that there’s a one-off activation fee of £100 and installation costs start from £129.99.

The Phase 2 Contract Lots

Gigaclear won lots 2 (North Coast), 3 (Eastern), 5 (Exm2sea) and 6 (South Moor). Meanwhile Lots 1 (Uppder CDS) and 4 (North Moor) have yet to be won by any bidders.


UPDATE 4:28pm

The CDS programme has responded to our question about not yet having achieved the original 90% coverage goal for “superfast broadband“.

CDS Statement to ISPreview.co.uk:

The Connecting Devon and Somerset roll-out of superfast fibre broadband is a considerable success story. The four-year programme has overcome a variety of challenges, including the worst flooding in living memory, to bring this exciting technology to hundreds of thousands of premises across Devon and Somerset. It has already surpassed its target of making fibre broadband available to 320,000 homes and businesses by the end of 2016.

We do expect a small amount of residual work will be needed early next year to achieve the target of making superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps and above available to 278,000 premises. But when the remainder of the work is completed, we are confident that we will actually exceed the original superfast broadband target by several thousand premises.

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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