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Devon and Somerset Complete Phase 1 BT “Fibre Broadband” Rollout Contract

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 (2:19 pm) - Score 1,150
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The Connecting Devon and Somerset project in England has today announced the completion of their original £94 million Phase One roll-out contract with Openreach (BT), which has made “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services available to 278,000 premises.

The contract was originally due to complete by the end of 2016, although much of the remaining work in Q1 2017 has involved the deployment of 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) infrastructure and this is a slower process; as well as being one that involved a fair few headaches due to the need for numerous wayleave agreements and highways notifications. Lest we forget that Devon and Somerset are both highly challenging rural counties.

Overall the Phase One CDS contract has managed to push “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services out to an additional 320,000 local homes and businesses (take-up in related areas has also reached 33.5%), which is a higher figure than the 278,000 mentioned above because this also includes slower sub-24Mbps areas.

Most of this deployment has involved Openreach’s slower ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology and a total of 1,460 new “fibre” Street Cabinets have been installed by Openreach, as well as a quarter of a million miles of optical fibre.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Economy and Growth for Devon County Council, said:

“Connecting Devon and Somerset and its partners have been a driving force in solving the challenge of bringing next generation access to businesses and communities in the region.

Completion of our phase 1 programme means that thousands of homes and businesses now enjoy the benefits of having much faster internet speeds, which supports modern day living and working practices as well as being critical to the local economy. We recognise there is still a long way to go to ensure everyone can enjoy the same speeds and benefits across the region.”

The original contract was supported by around £32 million of State Aid from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, plus another £10 million from the local councils and the final £41 million reflects match-funding from BT (private investment). Several million also came from the Bath and North East Somerset Council (public sector total of around £53 million).

Despite the progress, Thinkbroadband’s database estimates that both counties are still a long way off achieving the Government’s original 90% goal for “superfast broadband” coverage. The current data estimates just 81% coverage of 24Mbps+ speeds in Devon and 84% in Somerset (note: the official figures tend to be +1-2% more optimistic, but we prefer TBB’s more cautious data).

However Phase One still has a little bit further to go, which over the “next few weeks” will take it a beyond the original expectations.

Bill Murphy, BT’s MD of Next Generation Access, said:

“Connecting Devon and Somerset has been an outstanding success, overcoming considerable engineering and geographic challenges, including the worst flooding in Somerset in living memory, to deliver a major boost to households and businesses across the two counties.

The target of making fibre broadband available to 320,000 premises has already been easily exceeded by more than 12,000, whilst the target of making superfast speeds of 24Mbps and above available to 278,000 premises has also been achieved and, indeed, we expect to comfortably exceed it in the coming weeks.

The successful roll-out of this exciting technology is great news for Devon and Somerset communities because whatever you do online you can do it better with fibre broadband. When BT’s commercial programme is also included, it means that we have been involved in making fibre broadband available to more than 868,000 premises across the two counties.”

At one point last year BT had been in the running to pick-up the CDS Phase Two contract, although that plan collapsed after Openreach and 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).

Since then CDS has signed a separate £4.6m deal with fixed wireless ISP Airband to cover 5,800 premises in the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks (here). On top of that they’ve recently agreed to a major new contract with Gigaclear that will bring 1Gbps capable FTTP broadband to an additional 35,225 of the hardest to reach premises in the region by 2019 (here).

In other words the 90% coverage goal for “superfast broadband” still looks likely to be achieved over the next few years, although it’s clear that closing the final 10% gap after that will be a huge challenge. Sadly that’ll be a tough pill to swallow if you happen to live in the final 10%, although hopefully the proposed 10Mbps USO will provide some help but perhaps not until 2020.

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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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22 Responses
  1. Avatar Scampmeister

    Very latest update from Devon CC meeting (14-Mar) here:


  2. Avatar MikeW

    In some of the recent county meetings, Keri Denton suggested that the failure to meet 90% was because some of the commercial rollout hadn’t been finished.

    Today’s meeting didn’t touch on that aspect, but did fill in one or two other details relating to phase 1.

    It seems that the “beyond expectations” for phase 1 is around 4,000 extra premises.

    Takeup has reached 33.5%

    The “advance payment for clawback” appears to be £4.7m, and the CDS board has decided to make use of this offer, and agreed to start working with BT in June to figure out where will benefit.

    The £4.7m seems to come exclusively from takeup, with no underspend expected (but final figures on that are 6 months away). The money is also confirmed as being not just contractual clawback, but an offer to include future clawback money.

  3. Avatar TheFacts

    The current map shows Phase 1 as blobs and not the previous detail.

    Will Gigaclear connect those on the way to their shown coverage?

  4. Avatar NGA for all

    Congrats on the 1,460 cabinets and the smattering of FTTP. The latter is impressive and should be claimed.

    1,460 cabinets at an OTT of £30k each is £43m, so as good as this is, the story must be how much more is possible given the budgets available? Six months to argue allowable costs and BT’s capital contribution is a bit OTT.

    Affordable FoD is now essential for in-fill.

  5. Avatar DTMark

    Phase 1 target premises (“intervention area?”) = 320k.
    Superfast connections achieved = 278k.

    That’s 87% of the area targeted that now has the estimated potential to get superfast speeds. But not 87% of the entire LA area.

    So is it the case that the other 13% of the premises in the target area all have access to Virgin’s cable network or some other solution, so as to claim success?

    When Gigaclear build the “infill”, will that be having a commercial yet state funded provider overbuild a state funded area? Will they be forced to refuse to supply a property that can get VDSL at superfast speeds and skip past it in order to avoid this?

    • Avatar MikeW

      Not quite.

      Devon+Somerset total premises: Approx 1 million premises.
      Phase 1 Intervention Area: 360k (ie CDS’ target area)

      Phase 1 connected to NGA cabinets (“passed”): 320k (ie BT’s target area)
      Phase 1 capable of superfast speeds: 278k
      Phase 1 left to go: 4k

      Phase 1 contract required BT to reach 278k premises.

      “Claim success” criteria:
      – For BT in phase 1 = reach 278k premises with superfast speeds. No VM involvement.

      The main Phase 2 ITT has an intervention area of 76k premises, across 6 lots (excluding Dartmoor and Exmoor). There are an additional 76k premises labelled “under review” which presumably means that commercial delivery is in jeopardy.

      Gigaclear has won 4 lots so far, targeting 35k premises. The intervention area in those 4 lots is 52k. Gigaclear can target any of these 52k … and are governed by this list, rather than any notion of “overbuild”.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Fibre on Demand was promised for in-fill first nationally in q4 BT PLC news release transcripts for 2013-14. FoD was stated as delivered in Wales to Welsh PAC on Sept 2016 to do this in-fill job.

      I think you will find the budgets will emerge. There is a BT capital contribution of £21m lurking somewhere and the clawback has to be stated as function of £325m capital deferral, not the £133m so far distributed. The Capital Deferral will keep growing throughout phase 2.

      Converting the emerging financials into coverage is problematic.

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ NGA – Can you link where FoD was promised nationally for infill?

    • Avatar NGA for all

      @AndyH Q4 2013-14 BTPLC.com transcripts. CEO Openreach …”I guess the only two things to add to that is fibre on demand does go live across the entire estate, as Clive says, during the course of the next 12 months, so that gives you FTTP by choice, so if anybody wants it, they can have FTTP , that’s new news.”

      And if your Directors in Wales have stated it is already delivered in Wales as per Welsh PAC record 16th September 2016. Two places Audit Wales report, paragraph 2.18 p36, and http://senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s55753/PAC5-09-16%20P5%20-%20WG%20Broadband%20Update_e.pdf look for recommendation 3.

      Are all the monies to be handed back or can you deliver demand led fibre extensions in the form of GPON for perhaps a minimum of 4 customers?

      There is always more money, if OR is allowed to step beyond the shackles of BT Group.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Right, so back to phase one again, which isn’t “finished” yet..

      Where is the plan to upgrade the 13% of premises where speeds are somewhere between nothing (unavailable) and 24Mbps?

      In particular, examples such as premises that could only get 256k ADSL, who can still only get 256k ADSL because VDSL didn’t reach that far; where’s the tender to complete the work in the phase one area that is, for some reason, being called a “success”?

      From the above there was a suggestion back in the day that if there were objections to the short reach of VDSL this could be neatly solved by being able to order “fibre on demand”, which to qualify as a BDUK solution would need to be available at certain price levels.

      I don’t recall who it was that suggested it but it may have had a bearing on the decision to adopt mostly or exclusively VDSL solutions which were never going to reach in the first place.

      But then those limitations were known back then, hence my question about the plan to complete the roll-out for phase one.

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ NGA – We must be reading different things as I do not read FoD as a promise for national in-fill.

      You cannot have ‘demand led’ public funding. This would fall foul of BDUK rules.

    • Avatar MikeW


      BDUK has been going how many years, and you still don’t understand how it works?

      Properties that are too far from a VDSL2 cabinet to benefit from its superfast capabilities are eligible to be included in the NGA white zone for future deployments.

      In that sense, they aren’t in a “phase 1 area”, aren’t a target of the phase 1 project, aren’t part of the decision to consider phase 1 to be complete or successful.

      They are, instead, to be considered for phase 2. Just like people that haven’t been touched by NGA infrastructure at all.

      Whether they get included in phase 2 is up to the people developing the plans for phase 2.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I agree with @AndyH: FoD is not an infill solution; not in the sense that most people use the term “infill”.

      “Infill”, as funded by BDUK, is something that brings superfast speeds to a place that couldn’t get them before. Somewhere where distance limitations got in the way, and are overcome with AIO cabs, with FTTRN cabs, or with pockets of FTTP. All of it subsidised (gap-funded) to ensure that, at the point of sale, the order is affordable.

      FoD is a future commercial solution that is unsubsidised beyond the initial placement of extra aggregation nodes. It does not meet the “affordable” requirements of standard superfast broadband.

      @DTmark is right that FoD can work as a solution to overcome VDSL2’s distance limitations, but it is a commercial alternative. Not a BDUK-funded one.

      Perhaps it is better to think of FoD as a choice that a superfast customer can use to go ultrafast, as their needs grow. I always think of it as something that will come into play in 10 years time.

      I think @NGA gets himself hamstrung in discussions like this. He believes that there is a huge pile of unspent cash, and that this should be used for FTTP. He believes there is so much cash left, that we might as well only bother putting FTTP in place. His belief in “more FTTP” seems to pull in “more FoD” too (though I’m not sure why). His core beliefs mean his angle of verbal attack is that every project should force more FTTP irrespective of what is being achieved with VDSL2, or can still be achieved.

      With that thinking, then, he naturally starts to talk about FTTP and FoD at the end of a BT phase.

      Unfortunately, BDUK isn’t like that. It wants coverage. More premises at the cheapest cost possible. It doesn’t have the ability to strategically force FTTP anywhere, whether there is money for it or not. If there is money left, BDUK’s perspective is that it should be either used for more coverage of cheap solutions, or back in the LA’s hands.

      Meanwhile, “affordable infill” in BDUK project won by BT, seems to be more AIO cabinets than anything else.

    • Avatar DTMark

      “They are, instead, to be considered for phase 2.”

      And that lack of planning is the reason for such widespread failure of the BDUK projects.

      “Fibre on Demand” isn’t going to work regardless of who pays when the premises we’re talking about are those furthest from connectivity points; there is simply nothing within a reasonable distance to connect them to.

      “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is not an approach that was ever going to work. What that approach would create and indeed is creating are random “pockets” of areas (those 50 houses at the end of that lane, those 3 housing estates, those four business parks) which have no commercial appeal for anyone. Even less now than they had before.

      “We’ve got a fiver left, would you mind terribly running the backhaul for 8 miles to wire up a small number of isolated spots?”

      Unless the build area is extended to the surrounds. Which now means over-build. State overbuilds state, or private overbuilds state. Two networks when there could have been only one.

      This approach is complete madness.

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ DTMark – If you were included for BDUK and had superfast speeds now, would you still be claiming BDUK was a widespread failure?

    • Avatar NGA for all

      MikeW – Hamstrung goes both ways. BDUK requirements to extend fibre as deep as possible are core to the requirement. The limitations of the cabinet and the possibility of creating another digital divide is fully recognised, hence the existence of FoD.

      You must see the underspends in every county, the £325m capital deferral, the as yet undisclosed LA investment accounts where BT;s capital contribution is resolved.

      There is no angle of attack only a return to the original announcements for FoD in 2013, and not the lets punish the first customer with ECC’s and treat it like a private circuit.

      There needs to be an assault on the BT Capital Contribution, now that the truth about BT’s costs are better understood.

      The funds are there to overcome the limitation of the cabinet not to bound by it.

    • Avatar AndyH

      @ NGA – Please can you show where it is a BDUK requirement “to extend fibre as deep as possible”?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGA – what’s the difference between ‘as deep as possible’ and ‘to the greatest number’?

  6. Avatar MikeW

    On phase 2…
    From the different wording used in separate reports, I think the status of the other 2 lots is:
    Lot 1: CDS set Gigaclear as preferred bidder, but this is held up by a legal challenge
    Lot 4: Someone other than Gigaclear and BT have won, has had due diligence, and has now been marked as preferred bidder.

    Meanwhile, Airband has now covered nearly 4,000 premises in Dartmoor and Exmoor.

  7. Avatar AndrewH

    I Just hope commercial areas get the same priority as other areas.
    I’m on a commercial cab but way too far away.
    I guess it depends if BT think it’s not viable for them.

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