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Devon and Somerset UK to Expand Rollout of Superfast Broadband

Friday, December 22nd, 2017 (8:14 am) - Score 1,448
connecting devon and somerset uk logo map 2016

The £171 million Connecting Devon and Somerset project in England has announced that their existing contracts with wireless ISP Airband and “full fibre” (FTTP) provider Gigaclear are set to be extended, which could result in an extra 9,000 rural homes and businesses being reached.

At present Airband holds two contracts under the CDS programme. The first £4.6m deal (here) has seen them deploying “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) to 5,800 premises in the Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. The second £7m contract (here) focuses on expanding their fixed wireless network to a further 13,000 premises in rural parts of Northern, Central and West Devon.

Similarly Gigaclear has secured several phase 2 contracts (here and here) that will support the expansion of their 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) network to reach over 41,000 premises across parts of both counties by the end of December 2019 (Airband are working to a similar time-scale).

The good news is that CDS has received Government approval to expand their existing deal with Gigaclear, which will see a further 6,000 homes and businesses in hard to reach parts of the two counties gaining access to their FTTP network by December 2020. No details about cost or investment have been shared.

On top of that the CDS programme has confirmed that they are “finalising a bid to Government” for approval to expand their deal with Airband even further, which should result in the operator’s wireless network being extended to cover a further 3,000 premises in parts of Northern and West Devon by the end of 2020.

Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear, said:

“We’re delighted to once again expand our network in the South West and it’s fantastic to secure further funding allowing Gigaclear to bring ultrafast, full fibre broadband to even more homes and business across the county. It’s only right that more residents get the opportunity to experience the benefits of full fibre-to-the-premises broadband and this further investment helps to secure the UK’s digital economy, especially in rural locations.”

Redmond Peel, Managing Director of Airband, said:

“With our work in Dartmoor and Exmoor almost complete and the build now underway in Devon, the prospect of being able to help even more homes and businesses to get connected is really exciting. Both Devon and the wider UK initiative to ensure rural and hard to reach areas receive fast, reliable broadband is really working, and now accelerating, and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”

So far the existing CDS supported deployments, which were largely conducted alongside BT (Openreach) until the new Phase 2 programme began, have resulted in more than 250,000 additional premises across the two counties gaining access to superfast broadband than would have otherwise occurred.

Confusingly the exact coverage statistics seem to vary, depending upon which CDS press releases you read (the current “superfast” figure under the contract could be 282,000.. if confirmed), which is an example of how some projects can suffer from confused messaging (examples here and here).

This of course comes before we get into the endlessly annoying aspect of politicians using the raw “fibre” footprint (at any speed) coverage instead of the figure for pure “superfast” reach.

Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital, said:

“We want everyone in the UK to have access to fast and reliable broadband, and the Connecting Devon and Somerset project has already made this a reality for more than 320,000 local properties who would otherwise have been left behind. But we know there’s still more to do, and I’m delighted that our investment will now take gold standard, full fibre broadband, to over 40,000 extra homes and businesses across the region.”

Sadly the CDS project, which until very recently had an “ambition” to provide “speeds of over 24Mbps to 100% of premises by 2020“, has in the past year shied away from giving a clear percentage figure for their expected coverage of superfast broadband under the new Airband and Gigaclear contracts. Premise counts are all very well but they don’t tell us much about how close to that ambition CDS will be at the end of 2020 (maybe that’s the point).

Nevertheless it’s important to remember that Devon and Somerset are quite rural counties, which has made it very challenging to deploy the new services and is one of the main reasons why such a large amount of funding is involved (CDS is the biggest public-funded broadband programme in England).

Meanwhile we should add that the gainshare (clawback) from BT’s original Phase 1 CDS contract (i.e. public subsidy returned by BT due to increased take-up of services delivered under the contract) is also due to be reinvested in order to further increase the coverage of superfast broadband in the counties. CDS said there is a “discussion about the final amount” and have not yet confirmed a solid plan or time-scale for 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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20 Responses
  1. Avatar Graham Long

    Gigaclear have also published their full fibre roll out schedule for Devon & Somerset at https://www.gigaclear.com/connecting-devon-and-somerset-rollout-schedule/ and if you add all the properties they will connect with 1,000Mbps fibre under their 5 CDS contracts, the total is 47,800 but they are adding another 33,400 to which they will fund commercially. That makes a total 81,200 properties in rural Devon & Somerset that will be connected by full fibre by the end of 2020!

    • Avatar Somerset

      Installation in progress in Compton Bishop.

      Is there any coordination with Truespeed? They are live in Biddisham and Gigaclear are planning to build there in January.

  2. Avatar Tim

    While this is good news for Devon & Somerset, my concern is that Gigaclear risk over-stretching themselves. The target is for this new work to be complete in 3 years, but it took a year for Gigaclear to release the roll-out schedule for Fastershire, and much of that roll-out isn’t even scheduled to start for 2 years (target is completion by the end of 2020). There is a vast amount of work for a small company, and a lot can happen in 3 years.

  3. Avatar Graham Long

    Mark, In their June submission to DCMS entitled “Ensuring transparency when network providers upgrade their infrastructure using your money”, Vodafone estimate the clawback monies due back to CDS from BT under the Phase 1 clawback clause for Devon & Somerset, amounts to £21M.

  4. Avatar Fastman

    Vodafone (who have no BDUK work or understanding of delivering a FTTC/FTTP) network have estimated a figure on something they know have no view of

    • Avatar Devon Paddler

      That Vodafone document looks like it was written by @NGA – same distortions and assumptions

      Plus wierd that a corporate document has no revision data, author or ownership!

    • Avatar TheFacts

      It (must be Mike Keily) says ‘we are unable to answer even the most basic questions’.

      61 pages later…

    • Avatar Tim

      I’m amazed at the roll-out dates. CDS lot 1 which according to the “Gigaclear Story” was awarded in July 2017 is due to start the build in January 2018, while the Fastershire lot 2 awarded in March 2017 won’t start at all until 2020. Fastershire appears to be Slowershire!

  5. Avatar MikeP

    A little unhappy (!!) that I’m in one of the 3 communities that aren’t scheduled for rollout end until Q2 2020. Just hope that doesn’t slip…..

  6. Avatar Graham Long

    In case people don’t know, Gigaclear was awarded contracts for four of the CDS Phase 2 lots Dec 22, 2016 and their fith lot in July 2017. It has taken a full 12 months for the roll out schedule for the first four lots to be published and 6 months for the fifth lot to be published. This is not because of any delay caused by Gigaclear but because CDS were not approving the Gigaclear roll out schedule until last week. In the meantime Gigaclear have doubled the amount of private investment they are putting into Devon & Somerset, so they will connect 82,000 properties rather than 47,000 and signed a £200M contract with Carillion telent for all the civil engineering work required. I would welcome anyone from Gigaclear or CDS commenting on this.

    • Avatar Somerset

      Do the GC rollout maps include the private investment locations?

    • Avatar Graham Long

      In reply to Somerset: The Gicalear rollnout maps include the private investment Gigaclear have added to CDS Phase 2 investment, but not the commercial roll out they funded themeslves in the Blackdown Hills before the Phase 2 contacts went out to tender in 2016.

  7. Avatar Noitche

    The below document indicates Managing Director was entitled to a salary of £60,000 per annum…

    http://democracy.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/documents/s4563/AVB%20report%20FS%20SC%2011%2007%202016.pdf

  8. Avatar Sue Brooks

    If you live within hills, forget it. If you live a mile or more from a village, forget it. Even though Exmoor National Park have committed to connecting us all, even though the government says we AL have the legal right to 10mbps, if it’s “too expensive” to connect you, there is NO obligation.
    The worst part is that no-one will even give us an option – maybe we would be prepared to pay for our own run of fibre from the enabled cabinet in the village (a mile the OTHER side of the village from our property) if a cost could be provided. Now that even SKY are abandoning satellite and Channel 4 has cut Freest services, we are going to be increasingly without the basics. We don’t have FM, let alone DAB, we have no terrestrial TV signal and no mobile services. If all the rural areas could act together we’d have some clout but as isolated groups we are ignored – while urban people complain about 20mbps!!

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