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UPDATE Gloucestershire and Herefordshire Moot Big Broadband Extension

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 (2:53 pm) - Score 1,370

Rural fibre optic ISP Gigaclear looks set to grab yet another major state aid supported contract under the joint Fastershire project for Gloucestershire and Herefordshire in England, which is currently busy rolling out “fast broadband” services to “all who need it” by 2018.

Until recently the Fastershire project was only working with Openreach (BT) in order to ensure that 90% of the area could access a “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) service by the end of 2016. On top of that South Gloucestershire also has its own separate scheme (here), which is working towards 95-97% coverage by Dec 2017.

So far the project has helped an additional 96,516 premises in both counties to be put within reach of a faster broadband service, which involved the installation of 407 new street cabinets and upgrades at 99 exchanges. On top of that some 702kms of fibre optic cable have also been laid.

Since then Gigaclear has won a number of contracts in the area. Firstly, they signed a £10m deal to roll-out 1Gbps capable FTTP/H broadband to 6,495 premises in the Cotswolds area of Gloucestershire by the end of 2017. Last month they added to that by securing another £4.54m deal to deploy the same service for over 2,600 of the “hardest to reach homes and businesses” in the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire) and the Golden Valley (Herefordshire).

Both of the above contracts are known as Lot 1 and Lot 2 under Stage 3 (Phase 2) of the Fastershire Broadband Strategy 2015-18, which divided both counties into 8 different lots. In other words there are six lots left that suppliers can win in order to help the local authority to improve the coverage of faster broadband connectivity.

fastershire_phase2_broadband_lots

The agenda for next Wednesday’s Cabinet Meeting (we found it here) confirms that the “procurement exercises” connected to Lots 3 (A-E) and 4 have now concluded. The document states that Gigaclear are the odds on favourite (“highest scoring supplier“) to win the bid for Lot 3c, 3d, 3e and 4; this reflects a commitment that could see the ISP put £29.2m of private investment on the table.

Details from the Agenda

Such contract shall require Gigaclear to (i) deliver fibre broadband infrastructure within the areas described in Lot 3c (South Herefordshire & West Gloucestershire), Lot 3d (North Gloucestershire), Lot 3e (South Gloucestershire) and Lot 4 (North Herefordshire) and (ii) provide gap funding in respect thereof. The maximum value of such a contract (for Lots 3c, 3d, 3e and 4), shall be £12.7m (made up of £5.14m to be contributed by Gloucestershire County Council and £7.56m to be contributed by Herefordshire Council).

Such contract shall include an option to increase Herefordshire Council’s Lot 3c subsidy contribution by no more than £1.4m in accordance with the original published subsidy limit set out in the ITT. Such option may be exercised only if a delivery plan has been agreed by Gloucestershire County Council’s Commissioning Director. The term of such contract shall expire seven years after the final infrastructure payment is made, (anticipated to be December 2019). The said contract shall not be entered into with Gigaclear until Herefordshire Council has provided its approval.

Meanwhile Lot 3A and 3B, which reflect a maximum available public subsidy of £910k, have yet to reach the same stage. It’s understood that a provisional preferred bidder has been selected, although the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK department has yet to complete their own assurance checks.

However assuming all goes well then the award of contracts as outlined above, along with previous stages of deployment, should result in 97% of premises in Gloucestershire “being served by either superfast or ultrafast broadband of at least 30Mbps“.

Apparently those in the final 3% of premises will then be tackled via either extensions to existing contracts or smaller scale procurements, some of which will be supported by £925,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and further funding is also being sought from other sources.

The alternative would be to re-run the procurement again in order to seek better terms (the local authority feels they already have a good deal on the table) or not to award any contracts (i.e. cease investment in broadband), but thankfully neither of those options seem to be recommended in the latest report.

By the sounds of it Gigaclear will soon need to drum up a lot more money from their investors.

UPDATE 6th Feb 2017:

The decision has been taken to authorise what was proposed above (here), which means that it’s just a matter of getting the contracts signed and then beginning the survey process etc. However we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out the details and the plan for Lot 3A and 3B, as explained above.

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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.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Chris says:

    Of course all of this is on the back of the CDS contract. Gigaclear are going to be very busy over the next few years! It sounds like a significant challenge to ramp up the business given this rate of growth. I understand that today they have a small back-office.

  2. Avatar MikeW says:

    Good win for Gigaclear. Its definitely going to keep their finance team busy.

    The stuff going on here and in CDS really contrasts with their attitude towards West Oxfordshire, just across the border from lot 3d.

    1. Avatar GwynnR says:

      I bet this one doesn’t involve ITS….

    2. Avatar TheManStan says:

      I’d say it’s completely different kettle of fish and nothing to do with attitude.

      Gigaclear is delivering the network in the all the BDUK projects they’ve directly won.

      The Costwold BB they acquired well into the collaboration with WODC and ITS was the network provider. Which means ITS has failed to deliver network builds in 2 projects, for CBB and Fibre GarDen.

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