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Shropshire UK Won’t Achieve Universal Superfast Broadband by 2020

Friday, September 14th, 2018 (8:30 am) - Score 786
Connecting Shropshire UK Logo

A new report on local economic growth will next week warn Shropshire County Council in England of the “disappointing” news that their goal of providing all homes and businesses in the region with access to “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) by 2020 is “no longer likely [to] be achieved,” but it should get there eventually.

At present the state aid supported Connecting Shropshire programme, which is supported by the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK scheme, has already signed three contracts to deploy a mix of both fixed line (FTTC / FTTP) and fixed wireless broadband services from several network suppliers, including Openreach (BT) and ISP Airband.

Assuming all goes to plan then those existing contracts should be able to deliver “superfast broadband” coverage to 98% of premises in Shropshire by around the middle of 2020 (here), which is obviously 2% short of where the council expected to be by that stage. Interestingly the new report from Councillor Nic Laurens pegs the completion of the current contracts to an even later date than originally announced of 2021.

Update from Shropshire’s Economic Growth Strategy Report

Using comparative data, the Shropshire Council area currently has approximately 90% of premises connected to superfast broadband, with an expectation that up to 98% could have access to superfast broadband by the end of all current contracts that are expected to complete in 2021.

This projection assumes that all opportunities for extra delivery through contracts are optimised and that there are no further changes from current commercial coverage commitments which remain beyond the control of the Connecting Shropshire’s programme.

The Council’s aspiration, as set out in the Local Broadband Plan in 2016, is to provide all premises with access to superfast broadband. Using existing programme funding and additional contract incentives over the course of our current contracts we expect to realise this aspiration, although it is no longer likely that this will be achieved by 2020.

Whilst this is disappointing, it has always been a recognised risk to the programme, where infrastructure providers change their original commercial commitments. In all cases where commercial commitments change we will continue to lobby the providers and influencers to reconsider these frustrating and impactful decisions.

The report further notes that the original contract with Openreach (BT) helped to extend superfast broadband to an additional 52,453 premises (1,000 more than planned) and a second contract is currently in the process of extending this to another 3,700 premises, which is said to be “behind schedule” but still due to complete by the middle of 2019.

Meanwhile the 3rd contract, which was only signed in July 2017 with fixed wireless ISP Airband, aims to cover over 14,000 premises by the end of the contract in 2020 and today’s update notes that they have so far completed deployment to 6,000 premises.

Apparently Airband has also experienced some “siting and land acquisition challenges … in some areas,” although alternative sites “have been acquired in most cases to retain the momentum of deployment.” The report vaguely indicates that this may have an “implication on specific premises being able to access the network,” but no further detail is offered.

Elsewhere the report notes that some £1.2m of unused grant funds from BDUK could in theory be used to extend rural coverage to an additional 700 premises in the future, while potential fibre optic upgrades to Airband’s wireless network may also be able to facilitate “ultrafast broadband” (100Mbps) speeds.

On top of that a joint bid from Fastershire, Superfast Telford and Connecting Shropshire recently secured £1.498m of funding from DEFRA’s rural broadband scheme, which it’s suggested could be used to cover another 674 premises on top of the above work (expected to commence later in 2018).

Finally, Councillor Nic Laurens said they intended to review how the Government’s new proposals for universal “full fibre” (FTTP/H) coverage by 2033 could impact the county. “Whilst we welcome this long term ‘full fibre’ ambition it should be set within the context of the current infrastructure deployment challenges in a rural county,” said Laurens.

The report is due to be debated at a full council meeting on Thursday next week at 10am (20th September).

NOTE: The Superfast Telford project in the Telford and Wrekin Council area (details) is geographically part of Shropshire, although it’s a separate scheme from the Connecting Shropshire one.

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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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27 Responses
  1. chris conder

    All the other counties will be the same. FTTC can never deliver, it was all part of the superfarce vital vision plan to make all these promises and hoodwink everyone into funding a stop gap obsolete solution. I guess that soon all the others will have to make the same announcement.

    • New_Londoner

      Chris
      Presumably you realise that the three contracts already in place in the county have already covered around 60,000 premises, will ultimately reach over 70,000 premises. Put it another way, that’s 12 times more premises than B4RN covers now, with more to come.

      You keep referring to BDUK as a superfarce when the reality is very different – it has and continues to deliver good value for our taxes. If only the CAP and farming sector could do the same!

    • Mike

      Some people will never be happy.

  2. shropshire

    Forget superfast for god’s sake. What wrong with just rolling out FTTP / FTTH simple as that?

    • chris conder

      Hi Shropshire, nothing is wrong with doing that, it is just that it is easier, and a heck of a site cheaper to keep everyone using broadband through existing phone lines and marketing it as superfast fibre. They get far more money that way and don’t have to invest in real fibre. All part of the superfarce, but the coppersaurus is out to stop this blatent mis-marketing now, and call a spade a spade. Our toothless ASA is gonna have to take some physics lessons pretty quick.

    • TheFacts

      @CC – there may be issues with the word ‘fibre’, but that does not affect the millions who buy the product for the speed it gives them.

  3. chris conder

    new londoner, premises passed are a misleading statistic, and all part of the BT superfarce. (ie not BDUK) B4RN does not have the massive resources of openreach, but it has delivered a truly futurproof guaranteed gigabit connection to the rural properties. B4RN don’t even count homes passed in the figures. The backbone is now there to connect the urban parts to the same superb service, not a farcical fttc connection with upto speeds. As for the farming sector, the majority of the money goes to the paperworkers at Defra, not to the farmers. The government needs to sort themselves out on that one too. Their IT section at the RPA is another superfarce, but not a topic for this particular forum.

    • TheFacts

      Premises passed means a property can order, an important number. What’s you issue with this?

    • Graham Long

      @Thefacts. The problem is that the copper that connects to properties from a cabinet cannot deliver superfast (24Mbps) speeds because of skin effect signal degredation when line lengths exceed 1.6km. BT howvever describe all properties connected to each cabinet as “being passed” and having superfast speeds no matter what length of copper connects them to the enf of the fibre at the cabinet. NB The 1.6km is cable length not straight line distance between cabinet and property so if your copper runs up hill and down dale before reaching you you can be much closer to the cabinet and still not get superfast. In urban areas where all properties are likely within 1.6km of a cabinet this is not problem but it make FTTC a no starter in many rural areas.

    • Gadget

      Graham, if you check the independent analysis done by Andrew Ferguson on the thinkbroadband data site I believe you’ll see that the numbers claimed are not simply those connected to an enabled cabinet regardless, but only those capable f >24Mbps or 30Mbps depending on the statement variant.

  4. Meadmodj

    Comparing OR with B4RN is completely wrong on many levels.
    FTTC has provided a practical and effective speed to more people in the time period for the cost involved, based on Fibre costs at the time. Now that Fibre costs have reduced significantly new cost models now apply. The failure of BDUK was to not insist that Openreach revise their technical approaches as the projects proceeded and should never have accepted any lines that technically could not support the superfast objective. The focus now should be on FTTP/FTTdp/FTTB/FTTM but it will take some time.

    • TheFacts

      Not sure what you mean by ‘accepted’.

    • Meadmodj

      Its just a suspicion that BDUK could be encompassing copper lines in their figures that any reasonable technical assessment of line length or type (aluminium) cannot achieve a sync speed that would support their superfast 24Mbps+ broadband objective and that the number of premises passed with “access to Superfast” may be inflated. FTTC performance can vary enormously and sometimes not as expected. This could easily be confirmed by publishing the lowest sync speed by post code and applying this to the potential number of premises for that postcode. Then it would clearly be seen whether they had met their remit. It shouldn’t be we have done this cabinet so it applies to all lines on that cabinet. Unless BDUK are closing the delivery loop another way, if so how?

  5. Fastman

    Only premises that get an auditable 24 mbts are included in tbe bduk passed premises. That has always been the case

    • Meadmodj

      Sorry I remain unconvinced. The defined term states Superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps or more). Can’t see upto anywhere. To achieve this you would probably need a guaranteed line sync speed above 28Mbps.
      To audit a pair that has never been used previously for VDSL without physical testing remains a theoretical assessment.
      With direct connection to the line (no phones etc) I am about 4-6Mbps below my neighbours down my road on sync speed yet I am nearer the FTTC cabinet which shows how wide line performance can vary.
      It is important that the figures published by BDUK, Ofcom and others are accurate for both current and future public spending. Also those areas covered by recent BDUK investments are unlikely to be picked up by other plans for the foreseeable future. If just 1% of the BDUK lines are under performing that would significant.

    • Gadget

      @Meadmodj the redacted version of the IoW contract indicated a verification process for the contract before payment ie “show us the speed before we pay you”

    • TheFacts

      @Mm – Do you proposed setting up and measuring every line? 1% is a reasonable, if not good, accuracy.

    • Meadmodj

      Thanks but …. theoretical (premises passed), actually tested or a live line after it has settled and DLM rules applied?

    • Meadmodj

      @TheFacts. No, I am not advocating testing all lines and certainly those passed not yet used for VDSL. But it should be possible to extract sync speeds by postcode 3 months after live (looks as though ISPs are already using them for sales). For live lines actual sync speed can confirm minimum achievable speed within in postcode.
      I just can’t believe FTTC in BDUK areas (more rural) is somehow performing better even if infill cabinets were used in some cases.

    • Fastman

      Mead

      Those infill bduk cabs new ones will only be built if the vast majority of those line can be proven to be greater than 24 mbps If the majority of them cannot be they will not have been built

    • T

      @MM – so you don’t know how the numbers are determined?

    • Fastman

      mead

      service provider only know central location of all the postcodes connected to a cabinet, they do not know where that cabinet is or how far that postcode is from that cabinet which is why someone service providers will adivse a resident is a superfast area even if they have no ability at the address level to purchase a superfast Service,

      whether you understand how it works is almost an aside but a BDUK operator (deploying a BDUK contract whoever they are) will only get paid on auditable premises that gain over 24 m/bps (no benefit and no payment from uplifting someone from 5 – 6 to 18 – 23 if they cant obtain 24 as the operator will not be paid for those premises

    • Meadmodj

      Thanks. If the contractual handoff is correct then thats fine.
      My issue is that if BDUK and then subsequently Ofcom and Government state that X % of premises in the UK have access to Superfast Broadband or better will that be true for lines not yet moved to VDSL and lines that may subsequently settle below 24Mbps. Those not included in the BDUK phase will be picked up subsequently hopefully by FTTP where the speed will be more consistent. For those “covered” already by BDUK which have been signed off but subsequently perform below the 24Mbps there is unlikely to be any retrospective action and therefore the achievement statements would become untrue.

    • TheFacts

      @Fastman – surely ISPs use the Wholesale checker for a specific premises? What else would they use to tell someone they are in a Superfast area?

    • Fastman

      the facts they will be using the pcp to cost code match file which CP’s are provided with of when a cab is close to going live which they will market — it will say you are in a superfast area or the postcode is and that’s is — CP’ wont sit their checking the wholesale checker to see what speed you can get

  6. Meadmodj

    @T. No, hence my question.

  7. Ace1

    Why do you all keep mentioning ‘ copper’! Many phones lines are aluminium , and don’t get broadband.

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