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1Gbps FTTP Broadband for More of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire

Friday, December 2nd, 2016 (8:19 am) - Score 1,332

The joint State Aid fuelled Fastershire project for Gloucestershire and Herefordshire in England has announced that rural ISP Gigaclear is now the preferred bidder for the next £4.54m phase of their local broadband roll-out, which will benefit over 2,600 remote premises.

The Fastershire scheme, which is also being supported by Openreach (BT), aims to deliver around 90% “fibre broadband” coverage (includes slower FTTC lines) across both Gloucestershire and Herefordshire by the end of 2016. After that they hope that everyone “will be able to access the broadband services they need” by the end of 2018 and this is where the new contract will help. We should point out that South Gloucestershire also has its own separate scheme (here), which is working towards 95-97% coverage by Dec 2017.

Gigaclear, which specialises in rolling-out ultrafast 1Gbps+ capable Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband networks to rural areas, has already won one £10m contract (£7m of which came from the ISP itself) in the region to cover 6,495 homes and businesses in the Cotswolds area of Gloucestershire by the end of 2017 (so far they’ve completed over 3,900 premises).

However today’s announcement would appear to all but confirm that the provider will also grab a second contract, which aims to reach “over 2,600 of the hardest to reach homes and businesses” in the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire) and the Golden Valley (Herefordshire).

Mark Hawthorne, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said:

“Access to a fast and reliable digital connection is becoming more and more important for families and businesses here in Gloucestershire and right across the UK.

We’re making a real difference to peoples’ lives, enabling the fibre network to reach some of the most rural areas where larger suppliers were not prepared to go. Faster broadband connection remain a priority to our economy, education and supporting our communities. The Fastershire project is pushing the boundaries of the technologies available with this next stage a key step in meeting the ambitions of the two counties.

That’s why phase two of our Fastershire project focuses on using new and emerging technology to deliver full fibre solutions to some of the hardest to reach premises across the county.”

David Harlow, Cabinet Member for Herefordshire Council, added:

“It’s positive that the Government has recognised the importance of “full-fibre” or fibre to the premise (FTTP) access and Fastershire has already made a significant investment in this technology.

It’s a measure of the project’s success that currently 15% of the properties in Herefordshire have access to full-fibre and is in stark contrast to the recent news that only 2% of properties across the UK can access the more future proof technology.

By making the recommendation to award the contract to Gigaclear to deliver phase two in parts of the Forest of Dean and the Golden Valley Fastershire will significantly increase the number of rural homes and businesses that can access ultrafast broadband.”

We wouldn’t be at all surprised if Gigaclear had done something similar to its first contract in the area and offered to provide the majority of investment for the roll-out, although we won’t know for sure until the contract is officially signed within the next few weeks or months. A further contract to cover the rest of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire under phase two is expected to be announced during early 2017.

Naturally Gigaclear’s CEO, Matthew Hare, has expressed “excitement” at being chosen as the scheme’s preferred partner and he said that the provider would “aim to ensure the residents and businesses in the Forest of Dean and Golden Valley start to receive the same great service next year.”

All of this follows last week’s move by the Government to encourage more investment towards pure fibre optic Gigabit-capable broadband networks (here), which seems likely to encourage some local authorities to give greater weight towards such services. Mind you the new fund is not specifically focused on reaching poorly served rural areas and has wider applications.

Rural areas also tend to be very expensive to tackle and thus FTTP/H solutions won’t be affordable everywhere, so we still expect to see most of the future contracts in other counties adopting a wider variety of technologies in order to deliver on the original “superfast broadband” (24-30Mbps+) targets rather than Gigabit expectations (1000Mbps+).

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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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16 Responses
  1. Patrick Cosgrove says:

    An excellent outcome.

  2. George says:

    Fantastic news but let us hope Fastershire really mean it this time especially in the Longhope area – some parts of the Fastershire site say ‘aspiration to…’ so time will tell.

    It will be good to see if/when the roll out plans are shown which areas will be targeted first – low hanging fruit or really the hard to reach. Look at SSLOP Cabs 1 and 5 for example passed by BT/Fastershire in the first phase, electricity there, ease of access etc, etc but no connection, the fibre taken further down the road (e.g. A40) to another larger, less rural location.

    Let us keep an open mind and at least give a thumbs up to this and hope they remember those who did not get it in the first phase (maybe an indication on the Fastershire website as to the time line would be good)

    1. NGA for all says:

      I count 55 subsidised BT cabinets in the Forrest of Dean already which is a lot of subsidised engineering. Why no BT FTTP in-fill, given the money is there and it is in the contract? The size of those cabinets means BT will be handing the subsidies back.

      There does not look to be a huge amount left. Pretty brave of Gigaclear. Why was BT not forced to finish the job?

    2. George says:

      They walked away after cherry picking the ‘easier’ routes and there did not seem to be an appetite to force through. They did not even apply (as far as I am aware). It will be interesting to see if/when (probably ‘if’ due to some excuse I am sure) the money from BT comes back in. My understanding (please correct if wrong) is that any money that comes back should be spent in the same geographical exchange area in order to upgrade/enhance the FTTC/FTTP so any money that comes back fro the Longhope exchange should be spent on upgrading the cabinets in the same exchange area??

  3. Fastman says:

    George — money only comes back at a county level not at an exchange level

    cherry picking the easier routes !!!! actually all county was interested in was ensure the coverage and speed at a county wide level !!!! county really not interested where you live

    1. NGA for all says:

      Not here clearly. So 55 cabinets serving an average of over 300 premises each, suggests all subsidies will be repaid, so why no bid. The premises were included anyway in the original piece of work.

  4. Fastman says:

    included in the intervention but no value for money so excluced as no buikd

    that assume they are hard and expensive and diffcult to get to and hard to deliver

    if there was no bid that a commercial decision by the bidder and if they did bid and didn’t win that’s a commercial decision by the issuer

    the real costs of these are way above the “warm perfect armchair spreadsheet world” with no actual understanding of network engineering which is clearly evident from questions posed on various forums over the last ffew days

    and now you have the audacity to complain that someone might not have bid !!!!

    1. NGA for all says:

      I am trying to understand why BT would prefer to hand the money back from the work already done rather than taking the opportunity to upgrade more of its network where some of those funds could be utilised. In Wales where your executives have committed to Fibre on Demand in every exchange you will be expected to support an affordable fibre on demand service from every exchange area in receipt of subsidy.

      Forgive my audacity, but in the WFAEL Ofcom consultation fibre/ATA is given equivalence to copper since 2013 for cost recovery and these subsidies do provide opportunities to begin upgrades where the cost recovery for the local loop is based on the replacement cost.

      If you could explain why BT did not bid, we could better understand the thinking.

  5. Fastman says:

    having been in the bid world for 15 years -whether you bid or not bid is a fundamental decision and you look at what in that document and who is written for –because it will be written with someone in mind !!!! so that the acid test — if its nard area where you know its not easy to get to and going to be hard and expensive to deliver // Service whatever the industry you are you have to make a commercial judgement call

    1. NGA for all says:

      Thank you, if it was written to exclude or marginalise BT even though you are expected to support FTTP/GPON on demand then that is interesting bit of complexity Fastershire are adding in the mix.

      It will be interesting if Gigaclear agree to a deal for such small numbers.

      Would a more complete commitment to FTTP/GPON on demand would remove what are piecemeal bits of procurement?

  6. Fastman says:

    VFM — it was a general comment from a bidding background — it was not sysnopsis on the issue document

    1. NGA for all says:

      Understood, but FTTP/GON on demand would remove the need for these mini-procurements. A revision must be due.

  7. Fastman says:

    a revision to what ? FTTP on Demand !!! the wrong answer to the wrong question

    1. NGA for all says:

      Enlighten us!

  8. Paul says:

    BTs decision not to bid was, I expect, largely driven by the complexity of the Contract with Fastershire. The original contract did not follow the framework of the standard BDUK contracts, and was significantly more onerous in terms of delivery, with multiple geographic delivery areas each with their own homes passed target, and a different superfast definition and time frames. It as also one of the earliest contract signed, and as such a lot of the targets were over optimistic. When I was at Openreach there was little to no desire to extend the contract, so I imagine they made a fairly straight decision not to bid.

    On another note, what is continually surprising me about Gigaclear is the amount of money they are willing to put in. Given the later round of SEP contracts were mostly based on BT contributing about 10% of cost, Gigaclear’ contributions seem extremely generous, if not commercially questionable.

  9. fastman says:

    gigclear aim in life is to be sold to a bigger network so the venture capitalist can get their money back (that’s why they have invested) — the only way you can do that is have market share — to do that you have to gain customers

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