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Essex UK Council Target 100% Coverage of Superfast Broadband by 2021

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 (7:41 am) - Score 938

The Essex County Council (ECC) in England has unveiled details of their final Phase 4 contract under the Superfast Essex project, which could be supported by up to £29 million of public investment and aims to reach “near” to 100% coverage of “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) by 2021.

At present around 90% of local homes and businesses in Essex can already access a “superfast fibre broadband” network (mostly FTTC and a bit of FTTP), with 85,000 premises having benefited as a direct result of the state aid supported Phase 1 contract with Openreach (BT). A Phase 2 contract is also underway 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 won the Phase 2b ‘Rural Challenge Project’ (£5.5m from Gigaclear and £2m of public money), which supports a roll-out of their 1Gbps ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to cover 4,545 premises in the Epping Forest area of Essex by the end of 2017.

More recently both Gigaclear and BT have also won the Phase 3 contract (here), which should reach a further 24,000 premises (total of 144,000) and push local coverage of superfast broadband to around 97% by December 2019. So far about 90,000 of the expected deployment has already completed and 46% of the properties enabled in Phase 1 have ordered a related “fibre broadband” service.

superfast_essex_progress

The good news is that the ECC has this week taken the decision to proceed with a future Phase 4 contract, which is expected to be the final one and it will naturally target universal coverage!

Kevin Bentley, Deputy Council Leader, said:

“We have an ambition to become one of the best connected counties in the UK as we recognise the importance superfast broadband has for residents and businesses alike. Essex is a fast-growing county which makes achieving close to 100% coverage no mean feat but the County Council remains committed to improving the availability of broadband and considers it one of our priorities to invest in.”

Apparently Phase 4 will be funded by “project savings and subsidy refunds” (clawback / gainshare), which reflects public money that will be returned by BT under Phase 1 + 2 and reinvested. On top of that there will be further contributions by local councils, a new grant from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme (BDUK) and the ECC hopes to apply for further government grants that could be worth up to £18 million.

Assuming all of the aforementioned investment can be gathered then it’s predicted that Phase 4 might have an overall value (public investment) of up to £29 million, which the council would then expect to be complemented by private investment from suppliers. Superfast Essex now plans to begin the tender process for Phase 4 during October 2017.

The project team are planning to update their broadband maps in due course, which will identify the areas that are eligible to be included in the Phase 4 roll-out.

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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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5 Responses
  1. TomD says:

    Good news.
    Openreach were pushing their Community Fibre Partnership this week in Essex (in Uttlesford). That seems a bit pointless now for a community to stump up significant cash when it should all be done by 2021.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The target does say “near” to 100%, so certainly it might be better for such communities to wait and see how the 10Mbps USO and final BDUK contracts (like Phase 4 above) pan out before proceeding.

      On the other hand the completion date is 2021 and gaps will still exist. A lot of communities have chosen to gap fund schemes directly, often simply because they don’t want to be kept waiting for another x years.

    2. Steve Jones says:

      I suspect some of those community gap scheme contributors will see that, in paper terms at least, that the amount involved will pay back many times over in terms of increased property values.Of course you can’t realise that until/unless you sell, but in that respect it’s probably a very good investment (unless, of course, you can persuade somebody else to do it for you).

      The enhanced value of (especially) more remote property would, in theory, provide for ample means to justify the average cost of fibre uplifts, but the market structure and commercial dynamics don’t really allow that to be easily exploited by network builders, especially where the regulatory bias tends more towards LRIC (Long Run Incremental Costs).

  2. Fastman says:

    a lot of that area not in intervention are supposedly covered by Wireless – depends by what they mean by 100% and 100% of what

    my understanding is there is not ability for a community to fund if they are already proposed in a BDUK plan (and they actually get benefit form that plan)

  3. gerarda says:

    “near” is not 100%.

    Those of us who were in ADSL notspots know how politicians can play that card or be deceived by it.

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