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Q1 2017 – Gov Project Extends Superfast Broadband to 4.42 Million UK Premises

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 (11:03 am) - Score 1,030

The latest Q1 2017 figures from the Government’s £1.6bn+ Broadband Delivery UK project has revealed that some 4,426,493 additional premises across the United Kingdom can now order a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) service as a result of their joint investment with local councils and the private sector.

At present around 92% of premises in the United Kingdom can access a fixed line superfast broadband connection and this should reach 95% by the end of 2017, before hopefully rising to around 97% in 2020. The remaining 3% are likely to be catered for by alternative networks (altnets) and the forthcoming 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Prior to BDUK the commercial market (i.e. purely private investment) had already enabled operators like BT and Virgin Media to expand the reach of superfast connectivity to around 70% of the UK. However the major operators’ tend to view many of those in the final 30% as being “not commercially viable” and so the BDUK programme was setup to boost the deployment via public investment.

So far most most of the deployment has been supported by Openreach’s (BT) ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and some ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology, as well as some work from alternative network ISPs like Gigaclear, Call Flow and UKB Networks etc. We expect to see altnets taking a greater role when it comes to tackling the final 3-5% as these are areas where BT may struggle.

Q1 2017 Progress Report

The “premises passed” figure used below only reflects those homes and businesses (premises) able to access “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+ as a result of help from the BDUK project (i.e. it excludes those that have also benefited but which only receive sub-24Mbps speeds). The data also excludes “overspill effects” of BDUK-supported projects on premises which already have superfast broadband available.

NOTE: The table only shows state aid from the Government’s project (BDUK) and does NOT include match-funding from local councils, the EU and other public or even private sources.

bduk broadband performance update q1 2017

The headline figures used above are said to be cash based (i.e. when grants are made or budgets transferred). On an accruals basis, which matches costs incurred to the timing of delivery, cumulative BDUK expenditure to the end of March 2017 has been estimated as £582,211,960 and that equates to 7,603 premises covered per £million of BDUK expenditure (expenditure is higher for this because the work has been delivered in advance of payment).

Admittedly the roll-out pace has slowed somewhat since the early years, although this is to be expected because the programme is now concentrating on the most challenging rural and some tedious sub-urban locations (e.g. Exchange Only Lines). Related areas take longer to reach, often cost more and deliver fewer premises passed in the same space of time.

Likewise there’s a big question mark over the impact of clawback (gainshare) on the above figures, which forces BT to return some of their public investment when take-up goes beyond the 20% mark in related areas. So far around £446 million could potentially be returned, which can then be reinvested into further broadband improvements. However we might not get the full picture for awhile.

One final point to make is that future deployment phases, such as those aiming to deliver coverage above 95%, will be adopting the slightly improved 30Mbps+ definition for “superfast broadband“. The EU and Ofcom have been using this definition for many years, although official BDUK contracts have been slow to do the same.

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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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14 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    Mark – whenever you mention clawback, you use the word ‘potential’. Is this because the figure is not a fixed amount and grows with increased uptake, or because there is doubt that BT will fully repay it?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The £446 million comes from BT’s latest results and is constantly rising as take-up increases, although it’s still provisional until fully allocated, confirmed and signed-off via new contracts and hence I’m measuring my language.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      There appears to be some block on funds above the initial £130m which has been earmarked for Phase 3&4 activity. It is not clear BT has the appetite/resource to deliver £446m worth of FTTP in rural, although their made be some pseudo competition issue in the state aid clauses. It would be useful if OR declared how much they could do/willing to do, given the first £130m was going to pay for an extra 1% as per the Openreach Charter.

      The money is owed as it is in the accounts and it is likely to climb further, – £121m last quarter, a plan is needed, but it is not clear what is holding up even a discussion on this matter given the work that could be done.

    3. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @began BT are not publishing that data, but they have told councillors that some 14,000 of the next 37,000 premises upgrades will be FTTP. The figures of £3k tend to drop to significantly less than that once the planning begins. Which county are you in?

  2. Avatar RuralBroadband says:

    Does anyone have ideas on how I can get onto a superfast radar in Northern Ireland?
    I checked with BT/Openreach, and they have said that there are no plans to upgrade my line. My cabinet was upgraded to FTTC a few years ago, but I am 3000+ meters from the cabinet and they said that i should work with my community group to make it financially viable. There is no community group.
    I pay for multiple adsl lines, and I load balance them, but even that doesnt come close to 10 mbit because the lines are in a poor state of repair with tree’s rubbing on the wires causing them to break each year, and many of the poles leaning at approximately 30 to 40 degrees from vertical. I also happen to be in a mobile signal/2/3/4G blackspot.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      I would suggest that making representations to local political representatives is the only way to get this up the agenda. However, you’d really need to find others in the same position. Ideally FTTP would be needed, but that takes time and money,

      The only other thing that might offer a glimmer of hope is the long range VDSL trials. There is the potential to get around 12mbps at 3,000m (one pair). It might just hit the proposed USO level and (in theory at least) would be quick to implement if it wasn’t for all the regulatory hurdles as it directly impacts LLU.

      As for the basic local infrastructure, it sounds like it would take a very large amount of money to uplift that if this is a relatively remote location, and very probably not commercially viable. That means the subsidy word. That can either be by cross-subsidy or state subsidy. Either involves politics and regulation as many such rural lines are loss makers already.

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      Where in NI are you? There are c62 rural locations in NI where FTTP is provisioned and there a good deal of FTTP work scheduled, while BT will be owing a lot of money back to the process.

    3. Avatar Began says:

      Similar to yourself – NI – we looked into FTTP – approx 250 premises passed would have been circa £250k. Some of the “premises passed” are unoccupied or don’t even have phone lines – we’d be looking at circa £3k each in terms of interested parties to get the infrastructure installed and even then would probably have to pay more to get connected from the Fibre node. This is a no-go even for a deeply rural situation – people want faster speeds (everyone currently sub 2mb) but hardly anyone would be filling to pay £3k upfront to achieve this. Although, if someone offered me 330mb/s FTTP for £3k myself – i’d seriously consider it.

      Any info of where FTTP is currently panned in NI?

    4. Avatar NGA for all says:

      @began BT are not publishing that data, but they have told councillors that some 14,000 of the next 37,000 premises upgrades will be FTTP. The figures of £3k tend to drop to significantly less than that once the planning begins. Which county are you in?

    5. Avatar Began says:

      @NGA

      Rural south Derry. Quite close to the Tyrone Border. No

  3. Avatar Began says:

    Similar to yourself – NI – we looked into FTTP – approx 250 premises passed would have been circa £250k. Some of the “premises passed” are unoccupied or don’t even have phone lines – we’d be looking at circa £3k each in terms of interested parties to get the infrastructure installed and even then would probably have to pay more to get connected from the Fibre node. This is a no-go even for a deeply rural situation – people want faster speeds (everyone currently sub 2mb) but hardly anyone would be filling to pay £3k upfront to achieve this. Although, if someone offered me 330mb/s FTTP for £3k myself – i’d seriously consider it.

    Any info of where FTTP is currently panned in NI?

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      FTTP is evident north of Pomeroy on Camaghy Road South, Glenburrisk near Galbally and more in the foothills of the Sperrin mountains near Tulnacross exchange on Dunnamore/Flo road. Fantastic to see, but BT seem to be hiding these efforts. If there is four+ of your, then it should be possible to keep nudging fibre on demand and the community broadband effort to extend fibre from one of the many publicly aggregation nodes.
      BT Community Broadband is a rip off but it is a way of beginning a process and aggregating some demand. There is a lot of monies to come back so lots of fibre extensions will need to be planned. ONe bit of BT wants to do more, others in BT think fibre access is reserved for private circuits.

    2. Avatar Began says:

      Yeah – since our community have basically said that the large initial amount is out of our league – I’m at a loss as to where to go from here.

      Would love to get a natter to you some time for advice – you seem pretty well in the loop!

      Just passed some more FTTP today, Toberhead Road between Castledawson Roundabout on way to Curran – very jealous!

      Thanks nGA

    3. Avatar NGA for all says:

      Began, if you look for ICBAN and download their ‘Fibre at a Crossroads’ report we can connect that way. There is more work coming, but what you seeing ought to become more commonplace given the funds available.
      Those high initial quotes look to be worst possible case.
      The latest DfE/BT work will include some 14,000 FTTP in rural which is fantastic, but there as yet no process to add your area to what is an unpublished list.
      There needs to be a co-ordinated effort politically to go after about £40m of the £446m BT capital deferral for NI and BT needs to be held to account for its capital contribution which is distinctly lacking in NI. Individual MPs and MLA’s doing good work, Elliott, Simpson, Ritchie but this needs joining up, with possible audit work in Stormont to force the issue but as you see it is more than possible.

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