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Welsh Government Update on Unfinished Openreach FTTP Builds

Thursday, November 8th, 2018 (2:44 am) - Score 719
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Last month the Welsh Government awarded a new £13m contract to BT (Openreach) in order to further extend their FTTP and FTTC based broadband ISP network across rural Wales (here), but this left a question mark over how unfinished builds from Phase 1 would be dealt with under the new Phase 2 deal.

Some readers will recall that a number of FTTP deployments under the original contract were left unfinished (part-built). At the time of the first Phase 2 announcement the WG told ISPreview.co.uk that “any partially built deployments are a matter for Openreach and have not been paid for by the Welsh Government,” which left a sizeable question mark over how and when they would be tackled.

However, while digging through the WG’s website, one of our readers (Steve) found that Julie James AM, Leader of the House and Chief Whip, has recently supplied a more useful response. The suggestion appears to be that Openreach may be able to complete the build by using some of the gainshare / clawback money, which is public funding that can be returned and reinvested as take-up of the new fibre service rises.

Julie James AM said:

“We have received a proposal from Openreach as part of an £12.9M accelerated gainshare arrangement agreed between the UK Government and the European Commission. Under that arrangement, Openreach has proposed to complete part built strictures not completed and not paid for under Superfast Cymru. The proposal received from Openreach is being considered by DCMS as part of the approval process. I intend to issue an update to Members in due course.

We are also working closely with Openreach to confirm the premises that will be considered for rollout under the recently announced broadband investment. It is my intention to make this information accessible over the coming weeks, however, it is also my preference to discuss this list with you [Janet Finch-Saunders AM] rather than simply issue it without context. I would welcome a meeting with you in due course to discuss those premises in your constituency that stand to gain from this investment.

It is my hope that sharing such information with constituency offices across Wales will augment existing engagement channels and will help trouble-shoot the future issues that will inevitably arise as this roll out gathers momentum. As with previous work in this area, we must be mindful that the initial premises list will be subject to considerable real-world challenges as engineers seek to implement solutions.

Experience has demonstrated that challenges will emerge through this roll out leading to extended delivery timescales for some premises. It is essential therefore that we work together to ensure that your constituents receive clear and consistent messages on progress from Openreach, Welsh Government and your local teams.

It is also important to remember that fibre is not the only answer to faster speeds; a range of solutions and approaches will be needed to meet the unique challenges presented by Wales’ topography and population spread. The new fibre roll-out is just one of a suite of measures in place to offer fast, reliable broadband to all.”

Separately we should point out that the WG has yet to formally announce which supplier will deliver on LOT 2 (East Wales) of their Phase 2 scheme, although we are anticipating that such an update will surface this month. At present all signs point to LOT 2 being scooped up by BT as well (they seem to be the only supplier bidding in Wales) and if it’s anything like the LOT 1 / 3 result then the initial commitment will probably underwhelm.

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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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