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UPDATE Gigaclear and West Oxfordshire in New 1Gbps Broadband Rollout Deal

Sunday, October 29th, 2017 (8:16 am) - Score 1,608
gigaclear fibre optic trench digging

Earlier this year Gigaclearregretfully decided to withdraw” from the West Oxfordshire Superfast Broadband project, which followed a dispute with their supplier ITS Technology Group (here). But the good news is that the ISP has signed a new deal to rollout FTTP broadband to 10,000+ rural premises.

The original Cotsworlds Broadband CIC project was acquired by Gigaclear nearly two years ago after initially being established by Hugo Pickering. The old deal envisaged a deployment to around 6,000 premises in the county, which would have completed by May 2017. Funding for this came via a £1.6m (grant) from the Government, as well as £1.6m in the form of a loan from the West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) and £3.2m of private investment through Gigaclear.

Unfortunately those plans appeared to collapse in January 2017 after Gigaclear revealed that they had run into some unspecified “issues” with their supplier. Shortly after that both Gigaclear and the ITS Technology Group issued a joint statement to announce that their contract had been terminated by mutual agreement. At the time none of the public funding had been spent.

The outcome resulted in WODC beginning a new Open Market Review (OMR) and procurement effort in order to find a new supplier. Back then there was a strong suspicion that the outcome of this would result in another deal with Gigaclear, which usually prefers to use their own contractors (i.e. no involvement from ITS Tech). As a result few readers will be surprised by today’s news.

WODC Statement

The Council is delighted to announce that we signed contracts with Gigaclear to bring ultrafast broadband to the most rural parts of West Oxfordshire.

The contract will see more than 4,600 homes and businesses that are still without superfast broadband connected with ‘Fibre to the Premises’, giving them broadband with speeds of up to 1,000Mbps (1Gps).

The rollout will begin during November 2017 and will be complete by the end of 2019. By this time well over 99% of premises in the district will be able to get superfast broadband.

The confirmation came just after end-of-play on Friday and so far there doesn’t appear to be any information about the deal on Gigaclear’s website (a press release is expected on Monday). Likewise the update contains no detail on the new funding levels or split (we are asking), although the local authority has sent out a picture of all the players, which is nice. But we’ve now learnt that a second rollout has also been confirmed (skip below the picture).

gigaclear_west_oxfordshire_deal

UPDATE 30th October 2017

The WODC has now issued their official press release, which reveals that there are actually two agreements with Gigaclear (one through WODC and the other a commercial investment) and as a result 10,000+ premises will benefit. Yesterday we only covered the WODC deal.

Essentially the first project is an £8m plan to bring full fibre to 4,600 properties, jointly funded by WODC and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to the tune of £3.1m, with Gigaclear adding £5m from their own pockets.

On top of that Gigaclear has announced that it is investing a further £8m to connect another 5,700 homes in the area, linking existing networks together and extending the provider’s already significant footprint in the district.

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

“We’re delighted to expand our footprint in West Oxfordshire, not only through our contract with WODC and the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) rural broadband programme, but also through our own commercial investment.

Broadband is no longer just nice to have, it is a vital utility. Full fibre is the only future proofed solution, so by working with the District Council, Gigaclear is helping to secure the area’s digital economy.”

Cllr Colin Dingwall, Cabinet Member for Broadband at WODC, said:

“Ultrafast broadband is essential for individuals and businesses in the area so we’re pleased that, through the contract with Gigaclear, we can see this investment through.

Oxfordshire is known as the UK’s leading centre for innovation and we want to make sure we have the infrastructure to support this.”

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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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11 Responses
  1. Avatar Gadget

    I wonder what happened to the missing 1,400 premises – could they have been part of the reason for the “reset” or just a consequence?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      I suspect that Gigaclear worked out that the 6,000 premises couldn’t be delivered within the budget, hence the new contract for 4,600. I assume it means that 1,400 premises will now miss out, at least at this stage, as I suspect it’s unlikely that

      I live in West Oxfordshire myself in a tiny town called Charlbury which has FTTC along with a lot of villages in the area with more than perhaps 100 houses or so. Unfortunately, what remains are the smaller hamlets and more remote locations along with isolated farmhouses (and some rather grander remote houses). These tend to be increasingly expensive to service of course.

      Rather unusually, some smallish places (like Bletchingdon – about 300 properties) have both Gigaclear and OR FTTC cabinets. I assume that at least one (probably Gigaclear) is commercial and may have been enabled when fibre was laid by Gigaclear to some of the smaller communities in the area (like Enslow). I recall the fibre being laid along the Islip road to that place.

      The story of what is directly commercially laid and what other areas might get enabled commercially along the way is, perhaps, more complex than people think. In any event, there are several places in West Oxfordshire, some of just a very few hundred premises that have a choice of FTTC & Gigaclear FTTP.

    • Avatar MikeW

      On that “commercial fibre is complex” arc…

      I remember chatting to NYNET guys at the time that Gigaclear were proposing to cover a couple of villages in North Yorkshire, back in 2015. While BT were having problems with those specific locations.

      IIRC, the main enabler for considering the villages in the first place was laying some fibre to serve some business(es). But that part doesn’t end up in any of the public articles.

  2. Avatar MikeW

    Gigaclear do their own civil engineering?

    I thought we’d been seeing stories on here about how Gigaclear had just outsourced the engineering work to a variety of civils companies.

    eg Carillion-Telent, £200m:
    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/10/gigaclear-carillion-telent-rollout-1gbps-broadband-south-west-england.html

    eg Complete Utilities, £90m
    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/09/gigaclear-hand-90m-fttp-broadband-roll-contract-complete-utilities.html

    In contrast, it looks to me like a cynical attempt to worm their way out of a contract that became unaffordable, and to squeeze more money or fewer premises. The latter obviously leaves open the scope for more money in the future, as there are still premises left.

    You would think that, after Gigaclear had just screwed them over, WODC would have barred Gigaclear from participating. What’s it like to get back into bed with someone who just cheated you?

    • I meant they prefer to use their own contractors.

    • Avatar Roger Cashmore

      What a charming use of language! I guess you must be one of the many sad BT employees or pension holders who cannot stand to see another organisation playing in their sandpit. If you are not, then do let me know and I will apologise in writing. But if you are then don’t you consider it may be a little ironic to assume the moral high ground?

      “What’s it like to get back into bed with someone who just cheated you?” Just ask CDS down in Devon who did just that, they refused to get back into bed with BT after being comprehensively messed around by them in phase 1! You are so right, – it is cynical to renegotiate a contract, I am sure if BT did not try to do just that very thing to CDS then we would all be suffering from BT rolling out our phase 2. Just read the press releases from CDS for confirmation

      Regarding the use of sub contractors don’t you think that is exactly what BT does? – ever heard of Kelly Group for example?

      I guess we all should wake up to the fact that there are a now a number of new players in town and they may just be leaving a few footprints in the BT sandpit!

    • Avatar MikeW

      Ah. As usual, anyone who disagrees on here must be a BT employee. That company must have more employees than its heyday as the GPO. All with jobs of defending them on the internet.

      On the whole, I have no problem with what Gigaclear are doing. But I have found their behaviour over the Cotswold Broadband issue especially distasteful and underhanded.

      My reaction wasn’t helped by the way that Gigaclear attempted to sweep things under the carpet as fast as possible. The way the website was shutdown – first to a single page, then removed entirely, both within days – was a lesson in how to erase unwanted history. There has not been a single word of explanation. Not a single apology. Not a dicky bird.

      When attempts have been made to bury something without trace, it raises suspicions.

      When that happens on a project that has proudly worked to a different agenda, with different ownership, different targets, different funding, it makes you question things. Why would Gigaclear take over a community project that they had no association with, only to shut it down and renege on the contracted rollout?

      Who would do that?

      After SYDR, the biggest question asked of altnets is whether they can survive. That question shaped BDUK. So you’d think that Gigaclear would take pains to point out that the failure of a project wasn’t related to its financial viability. But no … Gigaclear took pains to hide everything.

      When you had questions about the way the takeover and shutdown happened, wouldn’t you start asking more questions when the council publicises that the new contract has gone … straight back to the company that acted so … questionably?

      However, WODC is the one council who have chosen to go outside BDUK, so aren’t subject to any of the resources and oversight that comes with the central project. There are another set of questions that wonder about the behaviour of WODC in this … who have been equally silent on this issue. Just why didn’t WODC make a lot of noise when the original agreement folded? Why wouldn’t the founder of the community project say something?

      Where companies want to argue that they (in contrast to BT) take the moral high ground, then the unfortunate thing is that they need to stay there. When things go wrong, and they often do (don’t they, BT?), isn’t it right to offer the mea culpa? To talk about what went wrong?

      In Devon, we see so many parties (yourself included) making a noise when things go wrong, and even when they’re not really going wrong, but there has not been a peep about West Oxfordshire. It seems like something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and no-one wants to stick their nose in.

      “it is cynical to renegotiate a contract”
      Isn’t it business as usual in a lot of cases? Admitting you got things wrong, or that something changed? Don’t lots of contracts get agreed with terms that allow them to be changed?

      It might be cynical if you agree to a contract that you know you won’t ever meet. But lots of contracts get changed, entirely by agreement. That alone isn’t cynical.

      “I am sure if BT did not try to do just that very thing to CDS”
      BT tried to renegotiate? What I read & understood (and I’ve followed it plenty) was that phase 2 was a new contract, with new negotiations, just like all other council areas. The failure of the phase 2 negotiations was “just” a failure to reach agreement over a new contract. There might be plenty to argue about why negotiations failed, but they didn’t involve renegotiation of the old contract, which continued to run, and has been met.

      Combined with the previous point, I’d question whether you understand what “contract renegotiation” really means.

      “Regarding the use of sub contractors”
      I know BT use subcontractors. I know KCOM use subcontractors (including, as it happens, BT). I know Gigaclear use subcontractors.
      The only issue was that Mark’s article suggested that Gigaclear were doing the civil engineering themselves

      “I guess we all should wake up…”
      … to the fact that our new heroes don’t always act so heroically. That what they leave in the sandpit isn’t only footprints.

      No. I have no association with BT, other than paying an ISP for the privilege of using their wires to post these bytes. Can I get the apology framed?

  3. Avatar Fastman

    Roger Cashmore One of the usual BT apologists left a snarky comment on this ISP post, sorry could not resist replying – shooting fish in a barrel. — posed on B4rds facebook page

    this was posted on B4rds facebook page about the link

  4. Avatar Roger Cashmore

    I am happy to apologise, wholeheartedly to MikeW for coming to the erroneous conclusion that the the majority of posters on this site (including MikeW) appear to be either working (or had once worked) for BT. I am sorry, it is the only reason I could think of that could possibly account for the many rather one sided, often myopic, comments that one so often reads on this forum. (it would be great if posters could declare /register such an interest prior to posting!)

    If anyone wishes to assume the moral high ground (either commercially or technically) on these subjects then I do wish they would not demean the underlying quality of their messages by using “emotive” language such as “screw over” in an attempt to reinforce their arguments. This is the real reason I posted in the first place, I am concerned that whenever I read posts on these forums, there does not appear to be too much room for an alternative view to be aired without attracting considerable, often unwarranted, heat.

    Regarding WODC. May I suggest one looks at the past involvement of Broadway Partners etc in order to partly explain some of the background history?

    Regarding CDS, I live in Devon and have been involved with the people concerned, hence my suggestion to read past releases re phase 2 (from the likes of Cllr. A Leadbetter for example?). I stand by my comments in this regard .

    @fastman. As I have tried to explain in this post above, pointing out the many apparent one-sided posts on these forums to my untrained eye, IS rather like shooting fish in a barrel! (BTW Good to see you are reading the B4RDS FB group, there you WILL see robust discussions being conducted between many different people with widely differing points of view. It is however qualified by the fact that it is a group designed to lobby for improving connectivity services for the deprived Rural Communities of Devon and Somerset. Good luck gentlemen!

  5. Avatar Hugo Pickering

    Remember folks, you are welcome to call me any time to discuss the Cotswolds Broadband/Gigaclear situation and outcome so that I can put any records straight. There is not and nor has there ever been any disagreement between the two organisations or the District Council for that matter, so it’s not a question of Gigaclear ‘screwing over’ the council.

    I’m sure you know where to find me!

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