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Wales UK Consults Public on Next £80m Superfast Broadband Rollout Plan

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 (8:56 am) - Score 903
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The Welsh Government (WG) has launched a 30 day public consultation into their proposed £80 million plan to extend the roll-out “fast reliable broadband” (defined as 30Mbps+) to “every property” in Wales by 2020, which could see a further 98,145 premises being covered by the service.

At present the existing state aid supported Superfast Cymru project with Openreach (BT) aims to make “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services available to around 95% of Wales (so far 645,000 extra premises have been covered), although the proportion that can actually access “superfast” speeds of 30Mbps+ is currently around 90%.

However it’s not unreasonable to say that the programme is running some-way behind the original 2011 aspiration, which over optimistically sought to “ensure that all residential premises and all businesses in Wales will have access to Next Generation Broadband [defined as 30Mbps+] by 2015, with the ambition that 50 per cent or more have access to 100Mbps” (here). In the end they never stood a chance of being able to deliver on that.

The current contract, which is worth £225m (total public funding), is on-going and according to the Welsh Government, “BT has confirmed it expects to deliver 30Mbps download speeds to around 690,000 premises before the [current] programme closes at the end of December 2017.” This is said to be “in line with the UK Government’s targets” (i.e. 95% coverage of “superfast broadband” [defined at the lower figure of 24Mbps+] by the end of 2017), although it remains to be seen if they’ll achieve that.

Last year a second roll-out project was proposed to follow the existing one, which would be “backed by a public sector budget of around£80 million and begin its deployment in January 2018 (here). Since then we haven’t heard anything new, until last night when the WG launched a public consultation on their plans (details here).

The consultation also “outlined the premises that cannot currently access superfast broadband” and where telecommunications companies have no plans to reach in the next three years, which is based on the outcome of an Open Market Review (OMR) that was conducted between 5th January 2017 and 3rd February 2017.

Julie James, Welsh Minister for Skills and Science, said:

“I am keen to hear the views of both the telecoms industry and residents and business owners on whether any further premises should be included or whether any premises currently on the list should be excluded.

The consultation will help us to further refine the list of unconnected premises. The more responses we receive, the more comprehensive the list will be.

If there are communities that have an interest in driving their own solutions, I want to hear from them. If there are views on how we should lot the procurement, I want to hear them. If there are views on how we should prioritise or target the funding, I want to hear them.

We have already transformed the situation in Wales through Superfast Cymru. The most recent Ofcom report showed that Wales has the best superfast broadband availability amongst the devolved nations, with over eight out ten premises with access. This compares with just over half in 2014.

But the work does not end when Superfast Cymru ends. We want to reach the final few premises. There will be further engagement with the industry and key stakeholders over the summer to refine the procurement approach with a view to invite formal tenders to deliver the new project in September with the new project beginning in early 2018.

I am committed to achieving our ambitions in Taking Wales Forward to offer fast reliable broadband to every property in Wales.”

Interestingly the new document claims that the Welsh Government “has been allocated up to £200m additional public funding which includes contributions from the Welsh Government, BDUK, the EU and Local Authorities which can be committed via the forthcoming procurement,” although initially they only seem to be tendering on a lower figure of £80 million. Funding from the EU is obviously susceptible to Brexit.

The consultation itself will run until 13th July 2017 and after that ISPreview.co.uk understands that the Welsh Government aims to issue an Invitation to Tender (ITT) during September 2017, with a contract then being awarded before the end of 2017. Given the new EU state aid rules, we’d expect more interest from alternative network providers (altnets) as well as the usual big boys (e.g. BT).

However we have our doubts about whether the original aspiration to start the roll-out in January 2018 is viable (unless they’re only talking about the paper work / admin side) and likewise, given the remote rural nature of remaining areas, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the 2020 completion target slip by a year or two.

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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
2 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all

    By virtue of the support through satellite, they in effect declare the B-USO of 10Mbps is already met. This is what you expect, but it good to see it formally acknowledged.

  2. Avatar Wendy Pink

    We are in Gwynedd, Wales with broadband speeds of less than 2mb/s. We are told every month since earlier this year by BT that we can have Superfast Broadband and by Openreach – no you can’t! We don’t believe the figures quoted for coverage. They have connected the easiest to do, we suspect that they haven’t upgraded the network apart from Fibre cables as we hear a number of complaints from those that have been successful in gaining a connection. This is a con.

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