» ISP News » 

UK and Scottish Governments Row Over Superfast Broadband AGAIN

Saturday, January 20th, 2018 (8:26 am) - Score 2,218

A sense of the familiar could be felt toward the end of last year, when the UK and Scottish Government’s first locked horns over the coverage levels of “superfast broadband.” Now they’re at it again after Scotland claimed to have achieved the 95% “fibre broadband” coverage target, but there’s a problem.

Over the past few years many Broadband Delivery UK supported rollout projects have, often at the beset of local authorities, almost ritualistically blurred the lines of communication on this subject. At the centre of all this is a debate over how both they and the central Governments of each country define the performance and coverage of what is actually being deployed.

Long-time readers will know that we’ve often raised this subject and try our best to gain clarifications whenever it crops up, although our calls for clarity aren’t always heeded. The issue is most often punctuated by the almost interchangeable use of phrases like “high speed fibre broadband“, “fibre broadband” and “superfast broadband.”

Ignoring the fact that in this case “fibre broadband” often only means a rollout dominated by slower hybrid fibre technologies (FTTC / VDSL2), rather than pure ultrafast fibre optic connectivity (FTTH/P), the meaning of these three phrases tends to vary from place to place and contract to contract. This makes it a nightmare for both us and ordinary people to figure out what each rollout project is actually aiming to deliver.

This issue is on-going across various projects around the UK but today our focus is on Scotland.

Keith Brown, Scotland’s Economy Secretary, said (Scotsman):

“The latest coverage figures are currently being assured, but we shortly expect to be able to confirm that our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme achieved its target of extending fibre broadband access to 95 per cent of homes and premises by the end of 2017.”

At this point the UK Government’s Culture and Digital Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, criticised the claim by highlighting that Scotland’s definition of “fibre broadband” was not necessarily equal to the “superfast broadband” definition that most other project’s use.

The £428m Digital Scotland project has never spelled out precisely what they mean by “fibre broadband” (in speed terms) but our understanding has always been that it largely reflects the raw fibre footprint of related technologies, which will sadly also include areas that may receive slower than superfast speeds due to the distance limits of VDSL2 over copper lines etc.

By comparison the UK Government’s overall aim has been to achieve 95% coverage of “superfast broadband” by the end of 2017, which they’ve long defined as needing to offer download speeds of greater than 24Mbps. We should point out that both Ofcom and the EU blur the lines by defining “superfast” as 30Mbps+ and in fact so does the Scottish Government. The most recent contracts in England and Wales now also define as 30Mbps+.

Extracts from the Digital Scotland Website

1. “The Scottish Government is committed to delivering fibre broadband coverage to at least 95% of Scottish premises by the end of 2017 under the current Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme.”

2. “What is superfast broadband? – Cable, FTTC and FTTP are collectively known as next-generation access networks, while superfast broadband is defined as delivering headline download speeds of greater than 30 Mbit/s.”

3. “The Scottish Government and its partners are extending high speed fibre broadband to around 95% of Scotland by the end of March 2018.”

Suffice to say that Scotland and many other BDUK supported projects would certainly help their constituents by splitting the figures out and communicating them correctly. We have no problem with politicians referencing the raw fibre based coverage of their networks, just so long as they also highlight the coverage of 24Mbps+ and / or 30Mbps+ connectivity alongside so that nobody ends up getting confused!

However politicians often prefer to use the general fibre based coverage figure because it enables them to highlight a bigger percentage, even if that doesn’t always reflect “superfast” speeds. We should state that some other projects do mean “superfast” when they state “fibre broadband” but as we say, it varies and hence the confusion.

Thinkbroadband’s data from the end of 2017 helps to show where Scotland actually stands. Take note that the ‘Highlands and Islands‘ and ‘Rest of Scotland‘ areas below represent the two halves of Scotland’s overall roll-out programme, while the figures for ‘Scotland‘ alone represent the combined total coverage.

Area % Fibre based % Superfast 24Mbps+ % Superfast 30Mbps+
United Kingdom 97.40% 94.7% 94.30%
Rest Of Scotland 97% 94.3% 94%
Scotland 96.60% 93.1% 92.70%
Highlands and Islands (Scotland) 89.70% 77.9% 76.50%

In short, Scotland has indeed exceeded the 95% target for “fibre based” broadband coverage, although they’re lagging a little bit behind on the definition of superfast broadband. On the other hand the contract doesn’t actually complete until the end of March 2018 and some politicians might call that the end of the 2017 “financial year.” Fun.

The good news is that the future R100 programme has more clearly defined its aspiration as being to extend superfast broadband (30Mbps+) networks to cover 100% of premises in Scotland by the end of 2021 (or March 2022 as a financial year). So at least it should be much easier to judge future contracts and progress.

In closing, it’s important to remember that the % figures put out by such projects are modelled estimates and should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Sadly such figures won’t always reflect real-world experiences and this is particularly true where issues like faulty lines, poor home wiring, slow WiFi and other problems can result in much slower speeds than expected.

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
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
7 Responses
  1. If the fibre figure that Scotland is working towards is the one with a 15 Mbps or faster definition, i.e. high speed broadband Scotland as a whole is at 94.5% as a whole.

    This is coming down at a pace that means 95% >= 15 Mbps for March looks relatively certain.

    https://labs.dev.thinkbroadband.com/area/scotland has the various permutations, so you can see its ahead of 95% if you use a 10 Mbps definition.

    These poor definitions and misuse by politicians from all parties is something I hope to get on the record on Tuesday.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Good job Andrew. God knows how much time we’ve both lost while trying to get key details clarified from the various projects. But unless some standard is imposed on how such projects communicate with the public then I fear the problem may continue. At least if you can make a point of it then that might make a difference.

  2. Davek says:

    I get pissed off with all the news about poor old Scotland.
    What about Cornwall? Only 89% supper fast coverage.
    And my area Southeast Cornwall with 85% coverage.
    But it’s ok because all the politicians keep telling use how well they are doing and rural areas won’t be left behind.

  3. Fastman says:

    davek think you are wrong — this was a headline run by ISP in 2015 -The Cornwall County Council (CCC) in south west England looks set to approve a new Superfast Extension Programme (SEP) next week, which will aim to expand the coverage of “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) connectivity from the currently level of around 95% and make “superfast” (30Mbps+) services available to 99% by March 2019.

    1. Davek says:

      That may have been the aim.
      But in reality according to the latest figures from ‘thinkbroadband’ Cornwall has only 90% Superfast coverage.
      There is no chance of increasing this another 9% or in my particular area another 14% in 2 years with the tinkering going on at the moment!

    2. gerarda says:

      It is clearly not just politicians that use “fibre” broadband misleadingly. BT ands its supporters do too. As FTTC speeds can actually be slower than existing ADSL speeds implying fibre coverage is a measure of improvement is as misleading as BT and that Govt’s long held assertion that ADSL coverage was universal.

  4. dragoneast says:

    I have no problem with (and would encourage) pointing out where money is wasted or how a particular piece of work could be done better or more cheaply, or evidenced administrative or technical incompetence (which though, I suspect, is much rarer than we imagine)… But I have difficulty seeing how the “I want it now and the money and resources can be magicked out of thin air as far as I’m concerned” helps anybody with anything, apart from, I suppose, if it makes us feel better by letting off steam; but perhaps we could more usefully bay at the moon, together with our politicians if we like, for all the difference it makes.

Comments are closed.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Vodafone £19.50 (*22.50)
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • NOW £20.00 (*32.00)
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £20.00 (*25.00)
    Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: BIRTHDAY10
  • Shell Energy £21.99 (*30.99)
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Plusnet £22.00 (*38.20)
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £60 Reward Card
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £24.00 (*49.00)
    Speed: 300Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £24.00 (*27.00)
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Community Fibre £25.00 (*27.50)
    Speed: 200Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £25.00 (*35.00)
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: BIRTHDAY10
  • Virgin Media £28.00 (*52.00)
    Speed: 108Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (3552)
  2. BT (3021)
  3. Politics (1935)
  4. Building Digital UK (1924)
  5. FTTC (1887)
  6. Openreach (1834)
  7. Business (1690)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1478)
  9. Statistics (1408)
  10. FTTH (1365)
  11. 4G (1276)
  12. Fibre Optic (1172)
  13. Virgin Media (1167)
  14. Wireless Internet (1159)
  15. Ofcom Regulation (1147)
  16. Vodafone (845)
  17. EE (834)
  18. 5G (770)
  19. TalkTalk (769)
  20. Sky Broadband (747)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact