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Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 (12:01 am) - Score 2,636
connecting devon and somerset uk logo map 2016

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.

devon_and_somerset_broadband_contract_map

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.

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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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26 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all

    Wow, it shows efforts need to be re-doubled to get BT to return through whatever means the subsidies it has been paid for phase 1 cabinets so more fibre can be laid.

    • Avatar Gadget

      So you mean a contract amendment? Because AFAIK the money isn’t due back until the end of the whole contract – BT have offered early if taken as extra coverage.

  2. Avatar TheFacts

    Gigaclear say it’s lots 2, 3, 5 and 6.

  3. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove

    Congratulations Gigaclear. Let’s all move to the West Country (before the house prices go up!).

  4. Avatar Walter G M Willcox

    When you observe the sheer size of the projects and understand that Gigaclear will, in all probability, build an entirely new true Point-to-Point fibre network independent of the existing telephone exchange infrastructure providing symmetric services, it should be realised that this won’t be available everywhere in a short timescale.

    It also begs the question as to when the areas will be expanded to cover every property including those marginally provided with inferior asymmetric VDSL via ageing phone lines as well as the tiny amount of existing echange-based shared fibre solutions.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      What are ‘existing exchange-based shared fibre solutions’?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      ” it should be realised that this won’t be available everywhere in a short timescale”

      Indeed, good in the long run but in the meantime a lot of waiting.

      ROI will be very long for Gigaclear on this, I hope they can wait.

    • Avatar wireless pacman

      Given that Gigaclear is being bankrolled by VERY savy investors, I doubt that RoI is an issue.

      The amount of new capital that they are attracting is quite staggering.

    • Avatar fastman

      Given that Gigaclear is being bankrolled by VERY savy investors, I doubt that RoI is an issue.
      The amount of new capital that they are attracting is quite staggering.

      Wireless investors are savvy as they care not about your or me but only about their ROI — so the more premises that gigaclear get the greater there will be for it to be sold to the highest bidder and the ROI recouperated

    • Avatar wireless pacman

      Wireless investors???

    • Avatar fastman

      not sure why it said wirelsss –the rest is valid

    • Avatar fastman

      also bearing in mind that the average gigaclear uses take 50/50 package at best (less that 1% will take the gig product) !!!! seems some interesting comment from a village complaing of digital exclusion due to cost as no one was willing to purchase the product being provided — wil be interesting to see how that pans out over the next few months (not everyone want to pay £50 or more per month for their broadband

  5. Avatar FibreFred

    So I believe the main fallout from before was because BT couldn’t commit to 95% by 2017, so the new deal will be by 2019…

    • Avatar Malcolm

      If you read one of the links above you will find this:-


      The CDS project has updated their website with a more detailed explanation (here), which interestingly notes that BT was “unable to commit to achieving the target of 95% superfast broadband coverage by the end of 2017. In addition, BT could not give us any reassurances that the 95% target could be reached by 2021/22.”

      It seems you are somewhat selective in the dates you quote. If Gigaclear finish by 2019 then it is definitely better than BT saying they did not know when they could finish.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Malcolm
      Unfortunately it is not clear from the press release that this latest deal will give 95% coverage when completed either.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I think Malcolm is right that this failure to commit to delivery of 95% by somewhere around 2020-2021 was the reported reason for CDS’ rejection.

      However, the reason for rejection given in the CDS audit is a rather plainer “not value for money”.

      It does have to be remembered that the original tender was written as a reaction to complaints (by MPs, councillors etc) and demanded coverage of the final 5% first, the hardest to reach parts of the counties, rather than “any 5%” that was the norm in other counties.

      Because the bid was rejected, we’ll never know whether BT’s plans took that demand into account, or whether they were formed using their normal inside-out planning. If BT were truly unable to commit to a date 3 years later than any other project, it is plausible that this could be the case.

      This tender doesn’t specify that same requirement. It does ask for solutions to focus on “whole communities”, which is likely to mean that some of a community’s members will have better speeds than others. That suggests the solution doesn’t have to focus on the worst-served today … just that the worst-served in a community must be included.

      It also asks for “as much as possible” by the end of 2017, with full service commencement by the end of 2019.

      There seems to be every chance that we’re comparing apples with pears.

  6. Avatar fastman

    will be interesting to see what cost of getting from some of these premises that are passed down to the actual premises will be as there

    interesting as the average price per premises is £2,201 so greater than any other BDUK contract at a price per premises

    • Avatar Gadget

      at the risk of a pedant alert, isn’t there another cost that is not being counted here – from the pot outside the premises into the house itself? I’m recollection is unless DIY that is another £150 or thereabouts.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Gadget
      IIRK there is an activation fee of £100 plus a connection charge of upwards of £95, which can be significantly more if you are any distance from the road, on a private road, outside of the core of a village etc. So at least £200 per property to be funded by residents on top of the BDUK, government grant, LEP and local authority money.

  7. Avatar fastman

    crunching some number that sort of close to a £,1000 per premise from Both Gigaclear and LA

  8. Avatar Somerset

    Does this image show actual implementation?

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C0LndiiXEAAU8mE.jpg

  9. Avatar New_Londoner

    @MarkJ
    Quote “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.”

    The actual press release was oddly silent on coverage percentages, which is strange given previous statements by the politicians. Have you asked what % this four lots will take coverage up to once completed? By my calculations they will be some way short of 95% of premises with access to 24Mbps or more but I could be mistaken.

    Also, some of the areas not covered are currently pretty low down the constituency league tables, so I can see some pretty unhappy MPs commenting on the widening digital divide in the two counties.

  10. Avatar Graham Long

    Don’t forget that this £62.25M FTTP programme by Gigaclear is in addition to the £2.4M FTTP commercial programme in the Blackdown Hills of Devon & Somerset that Gigaclear announced in June 2016. See http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/06/uk-isp-gigaclear-hints-1gbps-broadband-blackdown-hills.html

  11. Avatar Somerset

    ‘early in the new year’ is actually:

    when detailed plans are announced in the new year (March/April 2017)?

    https://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/faqs-2/

    Things do appen a bit slower down ere…

  12. Avatar AndrewH

    I’ve asked this over on TB too, I’m in a BT commercial area but to far from my active cab (5.5km). Will Gigaclear be able to cover me? I assume so since it will as has been said, probably be a whole new network. Also I have sub 2meg speeds.

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