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UPDATE Uncertainty Looms Over FTTH Aylesbury Vale Broadband Rollout

Saturday, November 11th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 2,229
aylesbury vale broadband ftth rollout bucks

The Aylesbury Vale Broadband project, which is deploying a “full fibre” (FTTH/P) broadband network to a number of rural Buckinghamshire (England, UK) villages, is currently said to be “considering expressions of interest” from potential buyers and this week also saw the operator’s MD depart.

At present AVB’s rollout is being supported by around £700,000 in the form of a publicly funded commercial loan from the Aylesbury Vale District Council (95% shareholder), which has so far enabled the 300Mbps capable network to reach roughly 2,000 premises with their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) technology.

Sadly the AVB website hasn’t posted any updates on its deployment progress since January 2017, when the operator said that “over the next nine months AVB [will] spread its wings and we’ve rapidly grown – we’re now live (or about to be live) in six villages with another four villages slated for the first quarter of 2017. We have deployed approximately 100 KM’s of ducting across public and private land.”

So far the network appears to have reached Hoggeston, Granborough, North Marston and Swanbourne. Meanwhile a post made in March 2017 on their Facebook Page stated that AVB had “started the work extending our ultrafast fibre broadband network to Soulbury and Stewkley in rural Buckinghamshire (on the way to Drayton Parslow).”

Since then silence has been the order of the day, although there was a brief spat with rival operator Gigaclear (here) and some criticism of AVB’s financial situation from one of the local Liberal Democrat Councillors, Llew Monger (here). In May 2017 the Oving Parish Council also expressed their disappointment with AVB’s progress (here), although such delays are not uncommon with complex FTTP deployments.

Back in September we queried the project’s progress with AVB’s former Managing Director, Andrew Mills, who informed ISPreview.co.uk that they were continuing with their “rapid growth” and had decided to focus on tackling a “huge backlog of people waiting to be connected.” Andrew added that AVB regularly received expressions of interest from people wanting to replicate their efforts, as well as those seeking to invest or acquire them.

More recently a number of community forums for the Aylesbury Vale area have started to post complaints (examples here and here), which is notable because AVB’s network is still very small. Some examples from this month can be found below (names removed as those are personal details, but you can track on the FB pages).

AVB Complainant 1:

“Can someone from avb please let all of us customers know what is happening … there is no support for all the people on the service. Mine is currently working since we had help from an outside source but if it goes wrong again we have no contact at all. I know of several people in North Marston who cannot work from home due to the broadband dropping out.”

AVB Complainant 2:

“AVB totally useless took our deposits a year ago on the promise they would supply us by March. Nothing we are with Rapid rural now . I have asked out of principal for my deposit back from AVB and they have not replied.”

AVB Complainant 3:

“We paid our deposit in good faith, but it doesn’t seem like they are going to supply it and my requests for a refund have been ignored.”

AVB Complainant 4:

“Terrible experience, always chasing, left mess everywhere in my house big holes in wall, bad attitude when asking for advice and now no support even when there was support you couldn’t get hold of anyone. Wish I never instructed them”

Despite this it’s important to note that many others are continuing to receive a good connection and have nothing but praise for AVB, although it’s clear that there may be some on-going capacity or “technical” issues in certain areas and doubts are starting to accumulate about the project’s future.

More recently an article appeared in the Bucks Herald (only available in print), which confirmed that Andrew Mills had left AVB and included a useful statement from the local authority.

Cllr Janet Blake, Cabinet Member for Business Transformation, said:

“AVDC is currently exploring expressions of interest in Aylesbury Vale Broadband and, for that reason, is unable to discuss any sensitive matters relating to the company. In the meantime, we continue to prioritise our customers and are currently working to resolve a temporary technical issue which is affecting some subscribers.

We apologise to those customers for any inconvenience but, apart from that, it’s business as usual. AVDC is proud to have been instrumental in bringing ultra-fast fibre broadband to a number of villages in the Vale and is now considering the best option for continuing that good work.”

A quick check of AVB’s company records (here) shows that Andrew resigned from his position on 8th November. We understand that Andrew has spent a huge amount of time working on AVB and is now enjoying his first holiday in two years. The remaining Directors of AVB are Janet Blake, Teresa Lane, Tracey Aldworth and Simon Eggleton (all work in the local government / council).

As ever the lack of information from AVDC concerning AVB’s future plans / status merely serves to create a fertile breeding ground for speculation, although aside from the technical issues the local authority remains adamant that AVB is not in danger. We’ve been told that a press release may soon be published to help clarify the situation.

Finally, we understand from one of those involved that an important announcement could be made within the next couple of weeks or more (possible sale?). We’ll keep our eyes peeled.

UPDATE 13th Nov – 7:11am

We understand that AVB started work to correct the current network issues on Friday and this has been on-going over the weekend. We should also point out that Andrew Mills remains a shareholder in AVB and, despite no longer being the company’s Managing Director, has been assisting with the fix work.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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23 Responses
  1. Tim

    Lets hope they don’t go tit’s up like the Selling village fibre network!

  2. Steve Jones

    I’m puzzled where Fairford Leys comes into it (complainant 2). It’s not rural. It’s a modern high-density housing estate on the western outskirts of Aylesbury (although it’s officially, and perhaps artfully called a village). It’s got both VM and BT FTTC (commercial) and the role of a local authority supported outfit like AVB would be odd, even if it might not strictly count as state support as it’s a “commercial loan”.

    • No that one is my mistake, pasted wrong one when it should of been a reply to another gripe.

    • Steve Jones

      Having trawled through some posts there appears to be a claim by some that VM provides the backhaul for AVB (I don’t know if that’s verified) and that the bad experiences on the VM network in Fairford Leys might be related to poor performance on the AVB network.

      I any event, the whole AVB saga looks a bit murky, but then it always did look rather odd.

    • I believe that VMB do provide backhaul for some of AVB’s network (not sure if that’s true for every area), which some people point towards as being part of the problem (limited capacity?). However I avoided being specific about that in the article because it’s not something that I’ve been able to get any official clarification on.

    • Carl T

      The performance of the broadband network in that area is irrelevant to the performance of the backhaul AVB are using. It’s like comparing FTTC with a leased line, they go to different places via different fibres.

    • Carl T

      I don’t know what these guys are paying for but they’ve a VLAN on a 10GE port to a router at VM’s Northampton site.

  3. brian

    Wow, yet another Mom and Pop operation that looked at OR and thought that it can’t be that hard ends up on their behind.

    Wonder how many more need to go pop before people start to realise network provision is actually quite hard.

    • Tim

      Not sure anyone say’s it’s ever going to be easy. Thing is sometimes when BT refuse to deliver there is little choice.

    • New_Londoner

      @Tim
      In this case I’m pretty sure that the council diverted money from the planned BDUK deployment into its own operation (the council owns95% of the company).

      There seems to be scope for a lot of conflicts of interest, with councillors acting as directors, for example I believe that the Councillor quoted above also sits on the AVB board. Also IIRC correspondence posted on here previously appeared to show the company suggesting it collide with Gigaclear about coverage, which would breach the Competition Act.

      This all shows why councils shouldn’t try to operate in the private sector, and why care needs to be taken to avoid apparent conflicts of interest.

    • Tim

      In which case let’s hope that those involved from the Council are removed from the Council and do not benefit financially when Aylesbury Vale Broadband go into administration.

      I hope that a successful FTTH company will take on the network, continue roll out and fix what is wrong after hopefully a not to long winded administration process…

    • New_Londoner

      @Tim
      I’m not aware that the directors from the council have benefited financially from Aylesbury Vale Broadband, and very much doubt that they’ll do so if it does go into administration either. However the company has received loans from the council which may now be at risk, which of course would be to the detriment of all council tax payers in the district.

  4. Fastman

    Not sure anyone say’s it’s ever going to be easy. Thing is sometimes when BT refuse to deliver there is little choice. — don’t this was ever in scope and was never in the intervention area for BDUk — think build was funded by section 106 funding — will leave others to coooment on the but cost of doing FTTC in north martston would have been small and well within the BDUUK value for money criteria but it was never in scope as far as I understand

    • Carl T

      Hopefully it’ll be picked up as a going concern and these guys can continue to skip FTTC, both variants, and stay straight at the endgame.

  5. Taxpayer

    Sounds like land-owners who gave access to AVB to run fibre across their land free-of-charge, on the basis it was a Community Interest Company may have second thoughts if it’s sold to a commercial venture… It’ll be interesting to find out eventually how much taxpayer money has been wasted on this vanity project.

  6. J

    Latest – gigacleaR now bought AVB

    We are delighted to announce that we have agreed the sale of the Aylesbury Vale Broadband Ltd (AVB) network to Gigaclear plc, the leading supplier of ultrafast full fibre broadband to rural locations.

    Since 2015 AVB has provided ultrafast broadband to seven Aylesbury Vale villages, but there are other local communities that AVB cannot reach without significant additional investment. Gigaclear is a company with the resources and expertise to continue the good work started by AVB and their commitment to growing the network in Aylesbury Vale was an important consideration in the shareholders’ decision to sell AVB’s assets.

    We are extremely proud of everything AVB has achieved. When we started the company, our primary aim was to bring high speed broadband to rural parts of Aylesbury Vale that, otherwise, had little likelihood of being connected. We now have one of the most advanced broadband infrastructures of any rural district in the UK. Having stimulated the market, the time is right to pass the reigns on to a company with the resources to grow the network quickly and benefit many more residents. Like us, Gigaclear want to provide a great service and we’re confident they will build on the foundations that we’ve laid.

    Gigaclear has purchased the assets of the business, rather than the AVB company itself, which means that you will need to sign up with Gigaclear if you want your service to continue. You will shortly receive a letter from Gigaclear explaining the next steps you will need to take. Gigaclear will keep supplying your service during the transition phase which will last until 31st January 2018. At that point, if you have not signed up to an agreement with them and given them your payment details, your current broadband service will cease.

    Your Direct Debit with AVB will be cancelled with effect from 31 January 2018 and we will then remove your payment details and personal information from our records.

    If you have any questions about migrating your broadband service or would like to talk to Gigaclear about the options available to you, please call their team on 01865 664220.

    We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your custom and wish you all the best for the future.
    Yours sincerely,

    Janet Blake
    Aylesbury Vale Broadband

    Frequently Asked Questions
    Who is Gigaclear?
    Gigaclear is a UK fibre optic broadband provider based in Oxfordshire employing over 200 people. Gigaclear builds and operates brand new full fibre (“FTTP”) networks in rural parts of the UK, delivering ultrafast Gigabit broadband to homes and businesses.

    Gigaclear builds networks using commercial investment supported by its primary investors Prudential Infracapital, Railpen and Woodford. Gigaclear has also been awarded contracts as part of the Government-subsidised BDUK rural broadband programme in Berkshire, Devon, Essex, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset and Wiltshire
    Why is this happening?
    AVB has grown quickly to provide ultrafast broadband in 7 Aylesbury Vale villages, but there are other local communities that AVB cannot reach without significant additional investment. Gigaclear is a growing company with the resources and expertise to continue the good work started by AVB. Their commitment to growing the network was an important part of AVB’s decision to sell the network to Gigaclear.
    Will this change bring any direct benefit to me?
    As an established company, Gigaclear will offer the security of an experienced fibre broadband supplier with the resources that implies. This will bring additional day-to-day operational support and also the security that the service will develop further in the future. Gigaclear understands in the importance of fibre for Aylesbury Vale communities and businesses and this sale should provide reassurance and enable them to plan for the future.
    What are Gigaclear’s plans for rolling out the service to other villages in Aylesbury Vale?
    Gigaclear has already built a full fibre network in Great Brickhill, Soulbury, Botolph Claydon, Calvert Green, Marsh Gibbon, Grendon Underwood, Piddington. Gigaclear will commit to completing the network builds by end of Q3 2018 in Stewkley, Oving, Drayton Parslow and Swanbourne. This means that the majority of residents in these areas will be able to access Gigaclear’s full fibre broadband services. To check if you’re in an eligible area, go to the postcode checker on Gigaclear.com.

    In parallel Gigaclear are evaluating other areas in Aylesbury Vale and will announce further details in due course.

    I have paid a deposit for a connection. When can I expect to be connected?
    Gigaclear doesn’t take deposits for its service. AVB will be refunding the deposits it holds for people awaiting connection to the network and will contact you soon to arrange this. If you are an existing AVB customer and would like to switch to Gigaclear, please contact 01865 664220 to discuss your options.
    I am an existing AVB customer what do I need to do to keep my Broadband working?
    Gigaclear will keep all the AVB customers’ broadband working until 31st January 2018. Gigaclear is offering all customers the opportunity to migrate onto the Gigaclear service. If you wish to do this please contact Gigaclear and explain you are an existing AVB customer.

    Who do I contact for support?
    If you have a technical problem contact 01865 591131. If you have account questions contact 01865 591151.

  7. Rob

    And now that I have received the email and an a contented AVB customer what will happen to the pricing?
    Currently £38/month with AVB for 100Mb service. Nearest option on the Gigaclear website is £46.85.
    I signed up with AVB in good faith and now looks like I will be hit with a hefty price increase like many others.

    • Rob

      Good news. Gigaclear have done the right thing and kept the monthly charge the same as AVB for 12months.
      Credit to them for doing that!

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