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Party of Wales Criticises Welsh Government for 2 Year Broadband Delay

Saturday, January 5th, 2019 (8:14 am) - Score 1,949

The Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru) has criticised the Welsh Government (WG) over delays to their “fast broadband” roll-out project (Superfast Cymru), which they claim means that some parts of the country “will not see any work done to install broadband connections for almost two years.”

In fairness the two year claim isn’t entirely correct since the original contract was extended and Openreach’s (BT) deployment of related fibre-based broadband ISP infrastructure (lots of FTTC and a little FTTP) appeared to fully conclude by around the spring of last year. On top of that commercial operators have continued to work on their own separate deployments, which is separate from Superfast Cymru.

Nevertheless there have certainly been some significant delays in trying to award a new follow-on contract, as well as to deliver on the promised coverage aspirations. Under the original plan the WG hoped to award their next contract (focused on 3 LOTS – regions of Wales) by the end of summer 2018, which officially pledged state aid of £80m to help around 88,000 premises gain access to “superfast” speeds of 30Mbps+.

However the first part of this contract wasn’t awarded to Openreach until October 2018 and it’s scale appeared to be significantly smaller than hoped (here, here and here). The £13 million deal for just LOT 1 and 3 promised to reach “almost16,000 premises and 90% of this would be done using Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.

Sadly this meant that those covered by the remaining LOT 2 (reflecting rural parts of Cardiff, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, Powys, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham) would have to wait a little longer for a separate contract announcement. Meanwhile the first LOT 1 and 3 premises wouldn’t begin to go live until the end of 2019.

Bethan Sayed AM, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet, said:

“It has been a year since the previous contract came to an end and there’s been no work done on the ground for almost a year.

Welsh Government has stated that the first premises of the new contract would start to be connected by “the end of 2019” which will mean almost two years without any work by the Welsh Government on the ground.

This is unacceptable. Rural communities in particular continue to go without a decent connection. It has a detrimental effect on farmers and small business who administrate and sell products online which could be devastating at such a busy time of the year.

People in all parts of Wales should have adequate access to the internet regardless of where they live.”

One of the biggest problems facing the procurement in Wales is that BT seems to be the only serious supplier involved in the bidding process. Openreach will naturally only propose to deploy where it makes economic sense to do so, within the available funding and contract terms.

Remote rural areas are disproportionately expensive and if the aim is to focus on FTTP then reaching 88,000 could be very difficult indeed (this alone will also not achieve universal coverage of superfast broadband). At this stage BT has declined to reveal how much, if any, funding it has contributed to the latest contract, which makes it hard to know how much investment is going into the new deal.

As for LOT 2, we had expected a contract announcement to be made before the end of 2018 but that never happened. But if the situation around LOT 1 and 3 is any indication then we’d expected the LOT 2 deal to be equally underwhelming. As ever, tackling remote rural areas by upgrading fixed lines remains a slow, complicated and highly expensive business.

On top of that this process will soon be complicated by the UK Government’s new Universal Service Obligation (USO), which will require BT (or KCOM in Hull) to ensure that all of those in slow broadband areas (where no near-term upgrade plans exist) can access a minimum download speed of 10Mbps+ (1Mbps upload). In practice this is likely to mean a fair bit of extra FTTC and FTTP being deployed, which will be funded by the industry.

ofcom broadband coverage wales dec 2018

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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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9 Responses
  1. welshgit says:

    there is an area near me that was earmarked for fibre ,the exchange is a very small wooden hut it had a fibre cab installed outside to feed the only street ,but the next village fed off the same exchange was having fttp. the fibre tubing is coiled up on the poles and has been there for at least 12 months

  2. Clive Price says:

    WG have been fairly useless in getting ththis contract sorted, they seemed to leave everything to BT and were just interested in numbers upgraded as opposed to where they were. My family who could get 8-10 anyway suddenly got up to 80 while a couple of miles away others who could only get 1-3 can still only get 1-3.
    Everything seems to be just slipping all the time.

    1. Brian says:

      That’s the same everywhere else. Chasing numbers for politicians soundbites, upgrading those at the higher end of adsl speeds as they are easy, and leaving the slowest with the low speeds. Meanwhile whilst the average speed climbs, which is what website/service gear towards, so effectively the bottom end gets slower, so you get things like console game updates taking 84 hours.

  3. Matthew says:

    Maybe we should do a No Deal Brexit use the £39 Billion for FTTP that would cover a lot of it lol.

    1. Clive Price says:

      But most of that is going to the NHS isn’t it? Big red bus and all that.

  4. Denise Ashton says:

    We have a fibre cable, not connected to the box. Is there anyone other than BT/Openreach that would connect if for us ?

    1. Jack B’stard says:

      Openreach are responsible for the infrastructure. BT no longer has anything to do with that side of things. Keep checking the Openreach website. Information is on there for when upgrades to the network are scheduled to take place. There is a rolling program in place. Once operational you will be able to pick the Communication Provider (BT, Sky, Talk Talk etc) you want to supply you with your phone and internet service. Hope this helps.

  5. Denise Ashton says:

    Thank you Jack. Unfortunately we are in Lot 2 of the Welsh Govt fibre rollout which means we are unlikely to be connected this year. We are now looking at a community wireless solution, in desperation, as speeds are 1mbs in my village.

    1. AdamH says:

      Hi Denise,
      Try to see if using 4G mobile broadband will work for you.
      I have used both EE and Three, which are the best for data packages.
      I’d recommend the Huawei B525 router (see: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Huawei-Unlocked-300Mbps-mobile-Router/dp/B06ZZL966Q/ – but look on eBay and elsewhere too) – you can even attach an outdoor antenna to the router to boost the signal if it’s poor in your area. You put the SIM card directly into the router. Place the router in an upstairs window, and experiment with location for best signal. Plus even the built-in antennae in these 4G routers are much better than smartphones, so you can often pick up a signal even if you can’t on your phone, and a better strength signal too.
      Three are currently doing unlimited data for £20 per month, and EE also have large data packages (and are generally faster & better coverage in my area of rural Ceredigion – but considerably more expensive).
      So – it’s worth trying 4G as another option. It also provides a useful backup link anyway to any other broadband you have (ADSL/VDSL or fixed wireless).
      Good Luck with your community wireless project (we may do the same here, see how things go with 4G first). We are in LOT1 (Ceredigion) – and have found out we are not included in Phase 2 – so won’t be waiting for fibre (either FTTC or FTTP) any more, could takes years to get here (if ever…!).
      Kind regards,

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