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Q4 2017 BDUK Build Superfast Broadband to 4.77 Million Premises

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018 (11:07 am) - Score 1,196

The Government’s £1.6bn+ publicly funded Broadband Delivery UK project has published its latest progress update to the end of 2017, which reveals that it has so far helped 4,772,207 extra premises across the United Kingdom to be reached by a fixed “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) network.

At present more than 95% of premises in the UK are estimated to be within reach of a fixed line superfast broadband network. The next step will be to extend this to 98% by around 2020, while the final 2% will be largely tackled via a mix of alternative network providers (altnets) and the forthcoming 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Most of the BDUK roll-outs have been supported by contracts that harness Openreach’s (BT) ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and a small bit of their ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) technology. More recently we’ve also seen altnets like Gigaclear, Call Flow, UKB Networks and Airband win a number of contracts, particularly around the more remote rural premises where Openreach tends to struggle.

We should point out that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) are planning to cease publication of this statistical release, with the final update due in May 2018 and that will cover data up to March 2018. This is somewhat disappointing because we are still expecting BDUK linked deployments to continue into 2020 and tracking progress will become harder.

Q4 2017 Progress Report

The “premises passed” figure used below only reflects those properties (homes and businesses) able to access “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+ as a result of BDUK linked investment (i.e. it excludes those that have benefited but which only receive sub-24Mbps speeds). Similarly the data excludes “overspill effects” of BDUK-supported projects on premises which already have superfast broadband.

NOTE: The table only shows state aid from the Government’s project (BDUK) and does NOT include match-funding from local councils, the EU and other public or even private sources.

bduk_broadband_performance_update_q4_2017

The headline figures used above are said to be cash based (i.e. when grants are made or budgets transferred). On an accruals basis, which matches costs incurred to the timing of delivery, cumulative BDUK expenditure to the end of December 2017 has been estimated as £620,875,323 and that equates to 7,686 premises covered per £million of BDUK expenditure (expenditure is higher for this because the work has been delivered in advance of payment).

The roll-out pace has slowed somewhat but that was to be expected because the programme has now reached some of the most challenging rural and tedious sub-urban locations (e.g. Exchange Only Lines), which take longer to reach, cost more and deliver fewer premises passed in the same space of time.

There’s also a question mark over the impact of clawback (gainshare) on the figures, which sees suppliers like BT return some of the public investment when take-up goes beyond the 20% mark in related areas. So far up to £527m could potentially be returned (here), which can then be reinvested into further broadband improvements. On top of that around £210m from efficiency savings will also be available (here).

Most or all of the above funding / reinvestment will be used to help bridge the gap between 95% and 98% coverage by 2020.

NOTE 1: Future deployment phases (i.e. those aiming to deliver coverage above 95%) will be adopting the slightly improved 30Mbps+ definition for “superfast broadband“. The EU and Ofcom have been using this definition for many years, although official BDUK contracts were slow to do the same.

NOTE 2: The above expenditure figures exclude support for Connection Vouchers, the Mobile Infrastructure Project, the Rural Communities Broadband Fund, the Market Test Pilots, DCMS administrative expenditure and the new “Full Fibre” programmes.

NOTE 3: As we reported in October 2017 (here), BDUK supported projects have overbuilt some of Virgin Media’s network to the tune of around 1 million premises, although such premises are not eligible for public funding and so haven’t been included into the above total.

NOTE 4: The commercial market (i.e. purely private investment) has already enabled operators, such as BT and Virgin Media, to extend the reach of superfast broadband to around 76% of UK premises. However the major operators’ tend to view many of those in the final 25% as being “not commercially viable,” hence the reason for BDUK being setup to boost the roll-out via public investment.

bduk impact may 2017

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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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16 Responses
  1. CarlT says:

    In before comments on the ‘superfarce’ or about 3 million posts on how deferrals can ensure fibre to the toilet bowl to every hut in the land if only BT were forced to declare their capital contributions.

  2. AnotherTim says:

    It is disappointing that they intend to stop these reports, as I suspect that apart from saving a little money it will make it easier to ignore those that are not lucky enough to have fast broadband by 2020. While the official stance may be that almost everyone will have fast broadband by then, there are some that are in BDUK plans for after 2020 (thereby preventing the use of any voucher schemes), and some that are still not even in the plans at all.

    1. MikeW says:

      I agree – it is a shame.

      Government seems to have swapped its focus from “95% superfast by 2017” straight to “USO of 10Mbps in 2020”. It is ignoring the ongoing work making use of clawback, and commercial rollouts, and looks set to lose coordination work.

      From a politician’s perspective, they’re going to stop counting just before they cross the 5 million threshold, when they could still add perhaps 1 million more.

  3. DL says:

    A question for those on here who actually know about the engineering involved:

    In Oxfordshire’s BDUK project they seem to be continuing the strategy of building FTTC cabinets with increasingly smaller premises-serving catchments. This makes mathematical sense as it’s (currently) cheaper and faster to keep doing that than deploy FTTP. The headline percentage of 24mbps premises increases fastest this way.

    They will be going into phase 3 soon – where I live was covered in phase 2. My cab covers 62 properties (apparently, according to CodeLook) and I only get 10mb. Around here is pretty rural and property density is on the low end. There will be plenty of premises like mine who are connected to a cab but sub-24 (e.g. a common technique is to put a cab directly outside an exchange.)

    So – my question is this: At some point the calculus will shift and it will be cheaper to deploy FTTP to those under 24mbps than to build an FTTC cab to serve a small number of premises. At that point can OpenReach adapt an FTTC cab into a Fibre Aggregation Node? or do they have to ignore the cabinet, and run fibre all the way back to the exchange for relatively remote properties?

    1. DL says:

      I seem to have found an answer to my question…

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/talk/showthread.php/31573-Splitters-and-Aggregation-Nodes/page2

      It seems that when building FTTC cabs OR blow many fibres to them to allow FTTP build-out from the cab in the future. Which sounds good.

    2. MikeW says:

      You’re right about the gradual swap from FTTC in-fill (using AIO cabs) toward FTTP in-fill. It is happening now.

      The architecture that BT deployed for FTTC is also meant as the basis for future FTTP. That means the fibre spines have been built out from exchanges, dropping aggregation nodes at strategic locations. So future FTTP will only need to run back to the nearest AGN, not the exchange (or, worse, to one of the 1,100 head-end exchanges).

      The intention was for AGNs to be left underground. Each is a waterproof case around a set of splice trays, and is suitable for FTTP to around 1400 premises. That means, on average, 3-5 green cabinets per AGN.

      In maybe 30 years, BT would want to be able to take the existing FTTC cabinets away, so they aren’t likely to turn a cabinet into an AGN. However, they might put an AGN in the chamber in front of the cabinet. Or, if it is a smaller cabinet, it might only need to house a splitter node (up to 128 premises), which would then need fibre back to a relatively close AGN.

      Having said that, Carl knows of some cases where BT have been making use of the FTTC cabinets to provide improved GPON capability downstream, so it is indeed a possibility.

    3. DL says:

      Thanks MikeW, very informative.

      Alas my exchange only serves about 1k premises, so I suspect that we only have 1 AGN (which is the wrong side of the local area for me.)

      Hopefully they will eventually put a splitter near my cab (only serves 62 premises) and deploy FTTP to the network outliers who are sub-24mbps. Oxfordshire still happily building AIO cabs here though, no sign of any FTTP yet…

    4. CarlT says:

      Ah that was me and is actually wrong. They don’t blow a high fibre count cable to cabinets, quite the opposite actually.

      As far as cabinets improving FTTP they use kit inside cabinets to reduce the amount of fibre needed for FTTC, leaving more capacity for FTTP. They can certainly use the kit inside Huawei cabinets to originate FTTP from, by changing line cards, etc, in the kit there, so there’s no need to make them completely redundant, though what their plans are I do not know.

  4. Fastman says:

    FTTP has to get from an Aggregation node that is likely to be further back in the network that where the cabinet is

    1. GNewton says:

      Is there any public list of the locations for the aggregation nodes?

    2. FibreFred says:

      I’m not sure why that information would be made public?

  5. Davek says:

    How is the USO going to tackle the final 2%. We all know that these are the most difficult to reach. Therefore most will be well above the cost threshold. It’s not going to be worth the paper it’s written on.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      The simple answer is that we don’t know. However, possibilities might include approaches to demand aggregation or some form of subsidy system. However, what I don’t expect is something that universal doesn’t, and will never mean 100% (at least using land line techniques). There will always be some that are beyond any sane cost envelope (as there is with the a phone landline). Then wireless or, failing that, satellite might be the only option.

  6. Steve Jones says:

    The DCMS stopping regular stats reports after March 2018 is fairly outrageous given the sums of public money involved. Just how difficult is it to collate figures from the BDUK projects that it’s deemed too much trouble? The costs must be very minor when compared to the loss of transparency and accountability.

    1. AndyH says:

      You would think that most of these numbers are collated as a matter of normal auditing, so I would be surprised if significant extra work is required.

      Is there any explanation given why the reports will cease?

  7. Techman says:

    No doubt they will no longer report stats because the majority of the people left are extremely frustrated and vocal so if they totally remove all transparency it will be a lot easier to fob them off.

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