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Gigaclear and BT Win Essex’s Phase 3 “Superfast Broadband” Rollout Contract

Friday, June 30th, 2017 (8:45 am) - Score 925
router with fibre optic cables on top

The Superfast Essex project in England has announced the award of their £24m Phase 3 “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) roll-out contract to Gigaclear and BT, which should extend the network to a further 24,000 premises and push local coverage to around 97% by December 2019.

At present around 90% of the homes and businesses in the county can already access a “superfast fibre broadband” (most FTTC, with a bit of FTTP) network, with 85,000 premises having benefited as a direct result of the state aid supported Phase 1 contract with Openreach (BT). Meanwhile a Phase 2 contract is already in progress with BT and aims to extend that coverage to a total of 120,000 premises (i.e. 95% of premises by mid-2019).

In addition to the above, Gigaclear has previously won the Phase 2b Rural Challenge Project (£5.5m from Gigaclear and £2m of public money), which is currently rolling out their 1Gbps ultrafast capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to cover 4,545 premises in the Epping Forest area of Essex by the end of 2017.

Summary of all current delivery phases

Phase 1 Phase 2a Phase 2b
Project Value £24.6m £18.9m £7.591m
Partner BT BT Gigaclear
Premises reached (per project) 65,000 51,000 4,545
Starts April 2014 Summer 2016 November 2015
Completes Summer 2016 2019 December 2017
Technology Predominantly FTTC, with some FTTP Predominantly FTTC, with some FTTP All FTTP
Speeds Superfast (24Mbps+) Superfast (24Mbps+) Ultrafast (50Mbps up to 1000Mbps)

However last year it was confirmed that the Essex County Council had been preparing a Phase 3 contract (here), which at the time was said to be supported by £2.2m from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme, £1.9m in public investment clawback from BT, £3m of “savings” from Phases 1 + 2 and £2.2m from Tendring District Council.

The Original Phase 3 Plan for Essex

Across the four Lots, an estimated 24,000 premises are eligible for inclusion in the Phase 3 rollout. The actual number of properties to be included will be determined during the procurement process. The lots are split as follows:

* Uttlesford District – 5,500 premises. One of the most rural districts in the county with significantly poor connectivity.

* Central North – 4,500 premises. This includes parts of Braintree, Colchester and Chelmsford districts.

* Tendring District – 5,500 premises. To help Tendring District reach 100% superfast broadband coverage.

* South East – 8,500 premises. This includes rural areas along the coastline of Maldon and Rochford districts and parts of Castle Point and Basildon districts.

Today the local Dunmow Broadcast newspaper reports that the £24 million contract to reach 24,000 extra premises in the county (total of 144,000 on Phase 1+2+3 completion) has now been awarded to Gigaclear and interestingly it’s due to complete by December 2019 (the original proposal pegged completion for the end of 2020).

However the newspaper’s report isn’t very clear about whether or not BT will also have some involvement in Phase 3, such as via reinvestment of the earlier clawback, and we’re currently attempting to clarify the situation. In the meantime the only solid confirmation we get is that Gigaclear’s ultrafast FTTP network will be extended to 4,600 premises in Uttlesford and 3,800 premises in rural Braintree and Colchester.

Curiously the Gigaclear deployment appears to be less than was originally proposed above and so it remains unclear why the total target of 24,000 premises is still being stated. Sadly there aren’t any official press releases online yet and so we’ll have to wait for some responses to our hails before there’s any solid clarity.

Cllr Gagan Mohindra, Deputy for Growth and Infrastructure, said:

“The achievement of the Superfast Essex rollout so far has been fantastic and I’m thrilled there is plenty more to come.

These new contracts show our determination to become one of the best connected counties in the UK and I look forward to hearing about more success in the future.”

Joe Frost, Gigaclear’s Business Development Director, said:

“We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with Superfast Essex following the success of the Rural Challenge pilot project. We look forward to upgrading many more communities to an ultrafast experience thanks to phase three.”

The contract value of £24m suggests that a majority of the funding for Phase 3 has probably come from private investment. We suspect that Gigaclear will have done as they did in other areas and contributed a greater amount of private investment than the committed state aid. We hope to have some extra details soon and will update this article accordingly.

UPDATE 10:09am

We’ve confirmed that BT are involved and will reach 6,800 extra premises around Maldon and Colchester, while clawback should help to connect 8,900 properties in Colchester and Chelmsford. More details to follow.

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Richard

    Sadly Superfast Essex consider the County Broadband wifi service as ‘superfast’, even though it is heavily traffic managed, so areas covered by it are being excluded from these plans.

    • Avatar Fastman

      there quite a few area of County Broadband that are not in intervention -not sure there are many premises in Tendring that are not covered @ 24 m/bps that are not excluded due to alternative network operator activity and therefore not eligible for funding

  2. Avatar TomD

    The numbers only add up to 24000 because SuperfastEssex have “found” some more coverage in central and south-eastern Essex. The Uttlesford and Braintree targets will miss by about 20%.

    • Avatar GNewton

      The Tendring District has way less than 90% suoperfast (>= 30mbps) coverage at the moment.

    • Avatar MikeW

      TBB’s figures for Tendring, as of June 2017:
      30Mbps: 87.7%
      24Mbps: 88.3%
      10Mbps: 96.2%
      2Mbps: 99.0%

      The 30Mbps coverage was 65% in April 2014, when the commercial rollout had finished and when Superfast Essex started rolling out.

  3. Avatar Fastman

    Gnewston i snot not think it was way less that 90% ased on what been done on the commercial and BDUK coverage in contract 1 and contract 2 (there will some areas outside of the commercial / Intervention area as they have chosen to exclude themselves — but I would it would not be much

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