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Delays Confirmed for Gigaclear’s FTTP Broadband Rollout in Essex UK

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018 (8:42 am) - Score 1,910

The Superfast Essex (SFE) project has now confirmed that they too have been affected by Gigaclear’s civil engineering delays, which means that the ISP’s planned roll-out of a 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in the UK county will now complete in July 2020 instead of December 2019.

Over the past few weeks Gigaclear has been in the news for all the wrong reasons after a number of their Broadband Delivery UK linked contracts in Berkshire, Northamptonshire, Fastershire (Gloucestershire / Herefordshire), Devon and Somerset suffered significant delays (here, here, here and here). As a result some areas may even have to wait an extra 2 years on top of what was previously planned.

A couple of weeks ago we reported that there were also concerns over their roll-out in Essex (here), but at the time nothing had been decided. So far Gigaclear has already completed their Phase 2B contract (4,000 premises in Epping Forest) in the county, but they also have on-going Phase 3 work (8,300 premises in Uttlesford and Central North by Dec 2019) and recently won the contract for Phase 4a (2,100 premises in Epping Forest).

At the time SFE informed us that Gigaclear’s work was “proving challenging as the network build becomes more complex” and that a meeting was due to be held in order to discuss their “delivery schedule and any potential associated risks“. Sadly the latest email update from the project’s mailing list (this is not yet live on their website) confirms that a c.6-7 month delay appears to have impacted the plan (Credits to Dan for this).

SFE Programme Update – November 2018

Gigaclear’s full fibre broadband rollout across Essex is now forecast to complete later than previously anticipated primarily due to the complexity of the network build coupled with resourcing challenges resulting from Gigaclear’s rapid growth.

Work under Phase 3 in Uttlesford District and parts of Braintree District and Colchester Borough and Phase 4a which is due to extend the existing coverage in Epping Forest District is now due to complete by July 2020, rather than December 2019. The new timescales for Phase 3 have been updated on our website and interactive map.

The Phase 4a cabinet areas and the addresses which will be served by them are being finalised in preparation for work to start and will be added to the website with build dates once confirmed in early 2019. Superfast Essex and Gigaclear are sorry the timescale is changing and accept this will be disappointing to all communities eagerly waiting for the full fibre network to arrive.

Under Phase 3 it has taken Gigaclear longer than expected to complete and then validate the overall network design ready for the build to start, but work is underway and progressing now, with the first three cabinet areas in Uttlesford and Braintree being built.

Gigaclear is building an entirely new full fibre network to rural areas which in itself is complex – both in terms of negotiating permissions with third parties to physically dig up roads and laying new fibre cables and agreeing local road closures. Gigaclear is also growing at a rapid pace and there has been a lag in scaling its business processes, resulting in some network rollouts taking longer than anticipated.

Gigaclear has recognised the need to commit more resource to the project and is doubling the size of its Essex team, including the addition of a dedicated local community liaison officer, and is also establishing an Essex-based office. Gigaclear remains fully committed to building the planned network. The new timescales are robust and will be closely monitored as the work progresses.

We understand communities will be disappointed at the change in delivery timescales, however Superfast Essex is confident the inconvenience of the delay will be outweighed by the satisfaction that the quality of the new full fibre network will provide when it arrives, and the fact that the ultrafast network will be future proofed for years to come.

On the bright side Gigaclear’s delays in Essex aren’t nearly as serious as they have been in other parts of England and they certainly wouldn’t be the first state aid supported broadband contract to suffer a c.6 month delay. Nevertheless it’s still another piece of unwelcome news for local homes and businesses, which will now have to wait even longer for what was promised.

Separately the same update also revealed that the Superfast Essex team has now listed availability for Openreach’s own FTTP network on their website (scroll down on this page). So far more than 2,400 homes and businesses have already been upgraded to access their FTTP network and there are thousands more planned by March 2020.

Meanwhile SFE is currently planning a Phase 4b rollout in Essex and continuing to explore options for further funding to do even more. The current rollout has so far reached 115,000 homes and businesses and is expected to reach 154,600 by September 2020 under existing plans.

Phase 4b will be funded in part by a DEFRA grant, which is to be focused on upgrading some businesses across Essex to access fibre broadband, and in part by a Thurrock Council investment contribution which will be focused on rolling out fibre to some residents and businesses in Thurrock District.

Procurement for Phase 4b is currently underway and is expected to complete in Spring 2019.

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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
4 Responses
  1. TomD says:

    Yes not unexpected news. Regarding Phase4b SFE had some very ambitious plans with up to £30m available. Sadly this has evaporated and it looks like Phase4b will fizzle out with a small set of businesses benefitting but lots of fragmentary rural patchwork properties at edges of served areas not covered.

    ECC minutes show the state of Ph4b @ 27/11/18:
    The original business case for Phase 4 (a and b) was agreed in
    August/September 2017 assumed various different funding sources such as
    contributions from local District and Borough councils and associated match
    funding from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), a new
    Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) grant from DCMS and a new DEFRA grant.

    Unfortunately we didn’t secure as many local district/borough contributions as
    we were hoping for and when the terms and conditions of the LFFN grant
    were released they were incompatible with the Superfast rollout programme
    so sadly we were unable to apply for that in the end. This means that the
    original £29m budget that had been approved has to be reduced down to
    match the funding that we have been able to secure i.e. a grant from DEFRA
    and a contribution from Thurrock with associated match funding from DCMS.
    Given where we are in the 18/19 financial year, if we go out to procurement
    now it’s unlikely that we’ll have contractor(s) in place in time for delivery to
    begin this financial year, therefore we decided to remove the 2018/19 Phase
    4b budget from the programme and we’ll address the future year budget
    requirement through the 2019/20 budget setting process.

  2. John says:

    Any news on Fastershire?? Two years means a five year delay since we were first left out by Fastershire and BT….

    1. AnotherTim says:

      No news as yet – Gigaclear are supposed to be providing a revised plan by the end of November. However they were supposed to provide an updated plan for CDS by the end of October but that one wasn’t acceptable – so I expect the Fastershire plan will take longer than expected. Personally I’ll be surprised if Gigaclear actually manage to roll out FTTP in some parts of Fastershire – at the rate of progress over the past 2 years it will take another 6 years to reach my area. I can’t see that they can find the resources in order to speed up enough to complete all Fastershire areas before BDUK funding goes away.

  3. John says:

    Thank you AnotherTim for the reply.
    Looks as though we will be stuck yet again with the 3meg we currently get.

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