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Berkshire UK Coughs to Openreach and Gigaclear Broadband Delays UPDATE2

Thursday, October 25th, 2018 (10:26 am) - Score 3,259

The cries of “oh no, not another one!” can already be heard today as the Superfast Berkshire project in England joins others in confirming that their roll-out of fibre-based broadband ISP networks – via both Gigaclear and Openreach (BT) – will face a significant delay in the county (affecting both Phase 2 and 3 contracts).

So far we’ve already run reports on the delays being seen in other Gigaclear contracts (e.g. here), although the issue in Berkshire extends to include Openreach (BT) too. Until now the local state aid supported project had expected to push the overall level of “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) coverage in the county to 99.6% of premises by the end of 2019 (currently 97%).

The above target was supported last year by the signing of two new contracts (Phase 3). Firstly, Gigaclear agreed to roll-out their 1Gbps FTTP network to cover an additional 6,100 premises in East Berkshire. Secondly, Openreach said they would deploy a mix of FTTP and FTTC to reach a further 7,400 premises.

Unfortunately the project has now been forced to admit that a “lack of engineering capacity in the broadband industry and the rapid expansion of commitments on the relative newcomer Gigaclear” means that both suppliers are now “unable to meet their original contractual delivery targets in Berkshire“.

State of the Delay

* Gigaclear’s phase 2 delivery, in West Berkshire, scheduled for completion by October 2017 is now forecast for May 2019, 20 months behind schedule, with 1,530 of 16,011 premises still awaiting their fibre broadband connections.

* Gigaclear’s phase 3 delivery, for Berkshire, scheduled for completion by September 2019 is now forecast for December 2019, 3 months behind schedule.

* BT’s phase 3 delivery, for Berkshire, scheduled for completion by December 2018 is now forecast for December 2019, 12 months behind schedule.

Oddly the statement includes an apology from Gigaclear, but not Openreach, although we have just asked the latter for a comment and will report back below in an update when they respond.

Mike Surrey, CEO at Gigaclear plc, said:

“Gigaclear apologises for delays encountered with these deliveries, we are confident that under new ownership and with a new management team in place we will work with the Superfast Berkshire team to complete these projects without further operational delays, delivering Ultrafast broadband to all the properties in our contracted areas.”

Dominic Boeck, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Broadband, said:

“We’re working closely with both suppliers to minimise these delays and to meet the broadband expectations of our communities.

We’ve also experienced quality issues with some of the engineering works already completed by Gigaclear during their phase 2 rollout and we expect that this remedial work will take at least 18 months to complete and will start in November 2018. This will be a separate programme and it should not slow down the rollout of remaining phase 2 broadband connections nor affect those customers whose connections are already live on Gigaclear’s network.

Any extra programme costs associated with this late delivery and other remedial works will be borne by the contractors and will not come from public funds.”

The fact that we’ve now had to report on big delays for several counties, including Berkshire, Northamptonshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Devon and Somerset does not bode well for the Government’s related Broadband Delivery UK programme, which had been expecting that “superfast broadband” coverage could reach at least 98% of the UK by the end of 2020.

At the current rate of deployment 98% still seems to be achievable for the UK but doubts may be cast if the problems spread even further (lower coverage may also have an impact on the cost of the 10Mbps+ USO).

So far most of the problems have stemmed from Gigaclear’s contracts, although Openreach clearly are not immune and being 12 months behind schedule is not a small problem. We should point out that many of these later stage contracts focus on “full fibre” FTTP, which is a lot more expensive, complex and slower to deploy than cheaper hybrid fibre solutions.

UPDATE 2:55pm

Openreach has now kindly supplied a comment.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk

“Good progress continues to be made through our partnership with Superfast Berkshire to make superfast broadband available across some of the most rural parts of the county. Delivery is undoubtedly more challenging as we move into the latter stages of the programme and some of the hardest to reach areas, but we remain committed to working together with the Superfast Berkshire team, LEP and combined councils.

After delivering Contract 1, covering around 24,000 homes and businesses, under budget and ahead of schedule, we acknowledge we’re behind on where we should be on Contract 3. But a plan agreed with the council is already in place that will take us through to work finishing at the end of next year.”

UPDATE 26th October 2018

Another comment, this time from Glide.

James Warner, Director of Sales and Marketing, Glide Business, said:

“While it’s disappointing to hear of the Superfast Berkshire delays, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve been able to deliver almost all our planned BDUK commitment to Berkshire and have 56 cabinets live across the region, in areas which have long been neglected by previous providers.

Investing in our own infrastructure means we are not dependent on others to deploy fibre which has numerous advantages – the most obvious being the speed at which we can operate and the fact we aren’t reliant on any external funding. Our priority in the region will continue to be liberating business parks and industrial estates from poor broadband speeds; empowering them to grow with world class connectivity, while strengthening the regional economy.”

Take note that Glide aren’t part of the aforementioned SFB contracts and are primarily focused upon serving local businesses.

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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.
Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. CarlT says:

    If only we had some way of attracting more of this semi-skilled labour from abroad easily. Some kind of free movement of labour, rather than requiring minimum income levels which some skilled professionals don’t reach, let alone the manpower these civil engineering projects need

    1. Joe says:

      Not really a fair point. You could easily setup a visa system for ‘skilled’ workers of the type needed for this work. The only options are not an open border -v- highly restrictive income thresholds.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      The real issue is that UK Government closed down training boards and UK companies have not been investing in training resource (new/existing) over three decades. Yes if there is a short term shortage then you may need to seek resource from a abroad as did BT with Irish resource in the past. People have migrated for work for centuries and it should remain so but there is no excuse not to plan and train resource rather than expecting others to provide the trained labour. Whether Manufacturing, Building, NHS or other. The NHS issue is due to previous reductions in medical places and bursaries at UK universities.
      OR have renewed their training facilities to skill up for Fibre First and that is the model required in all UK industries. We need net increases not poaching whether in the UK or from abroad.

  2. MikeP says:

    @Joe – The problem with any Government-run visa system is that it will be slow, bureaucratic and the visa numbers allocated will always lag the demand curve – both up and down. Just look at the position with doctors.

    I continue to be amazed that a political party so keen on market forces and deregulation seems to think that it knows better when it comes to the need for workers from outside the country. Financial capital is allowed to flow freely, but not human capital. Inconsistent or what ??? Surely xenophobia isn’t involved… ????

    1. Joe says:

      While that is partially true it very much depends on how any visa system is run. You can do a lot of fast tracking with biz with self certification Visas / sectoral Visas and broad points based categories.

      “I continue to be amazed that a political party so keen on market forces and deregulation seems to think that it knows better when it comes to the need for workers from outside the country. Financial capital is allowed to flow freely, but not human capital. Inconsistent or what ??? Surely xenophobia isn’t involved… ????”

      I’m not sure it is tbh. Because these are apples and oranges comparisons. Capital doesn’t need a house, a doctor, a school, roadspace &etc.

  3. Matthew says:

    At least Gigaclear has done the majority of the premises so far. That’s good news and all of these are being future proofed. There’s a lot of BDUK that was FTTC and will need further State Aid money in years to come to sort that out. Glad Phase 2 and 3 contracts focused on FTTP it’s good for future taxpayers it may bring delays but at least it’s once in a lifetime.

  4. Satta says:

    Future proofing is not fibre tubes so badly installed that it is pretty much laid overland with dust brushed over the top.

  5. RG8 8PT - forgotten by Gigaclear says:

    Gigaclear have forgotten us – RG8 8PT

    Took our orders in June 2017 – yes June 2017! – now in October 2018…still waiting…

    We haven’t received a single call or email from Gigaclear to explain whats happened.


  6. Karen williams says:

    They have forgotten us too RG8 8HT

    Can’t even upate an app our internet is so poor

    Are they co,in back haven’t even seen them around lately

  7. Julie says:

    False promises no feedback utter shambles promises not delivered.
    Registered interest no updates of any kind hideous company

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