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Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Closing on New Gigaclear FTTP Plan

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 (3:07 pm) - Score 2,675

The state aid supported Fastershire project, which is working to extend superfast broadband services across Gloucestershire and Herefordshire in England, has announced that a revised “full fibre” (FTTP) roll-out plan from UK ISP partner Gigaclear could be approved and published by the end of this month.

At present Gigaclear are responsible for a big chunk of the Fastershire contract, with Openreach (BT) holding another piece of the pie. However toward the end of last year it became clear that Gigaclear’s latest roll-out plan for an extension of their existing 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network had hit a spot of trouble due to “unexpected delays” (here).

A similar situation was experienced in several other counties, such as Devon and Somerset, where the local authorities stated that the provider had suffered problems due to a lack of operational capacity, poor decision making within the ISP, slow deployment by contractors, a lack of detailed planning and a failure to redesign the build methodology.

The situation, which partly stemmed from some of the challenges that the ISP had faced in scaling-up their operations in order to deliver on several new Broadband Delivery UK contracts, meant that a “number of the start dates anticipated for certain communities have been missed.” Gigaclear was eventually ordered to produce a new deployment plan, but the first revision was rejected at the start of this year (here).

The good news is that another revision has now been received by the Fastershire team and if all goes well (the new plan has to go through their governance process and BDUK approval again) then it will be “published via the Fastershire website address checker later in March, subject to approval.” We spoke to the project team about this today and have a bit more detail to add.

A Spokesperson for Fastershire (Herefordshire) told ISPreview.co.uk:

“A revised plan was received in mid-February and the timescale extension request is going through the council’s governance process at present and thereafter (subject to approval) the newly adopted plan will be incorporated into the premise checker on the Fastershire website.

It proposes pushing back completion to the end of 2021 with a handful in the January of the following year. The change will also see the inclusion of more premises into the contract so that more of our deep rural communities get the benefits of a full fibre connection.

Our hope is that the new plan puts us back in a position where we can communicate progress on the build in a transparent, timely and accurate way thereafter.”

Fastershire appears to recognise that one of the “biggest frustrations” has been their current inability to tell people when we’re getting the new service. “We find our local communities invariably understand the size of the task and can cope with delays but not the lack of communication,” said the team. However it’s important to recognise that a lot of progress has already been made and the roll-out hasn’t stopped.

The project has been working with Gigaclear since 2015 and manages 5 contracts with them. The first of these in the Cotswolds is now complete and was delivered pretty much within the contractual time-scales, delivering a significant boost to “full fibre” coverage.

The remaining 4 contracts are said to be at various degrees of completeness with North Gloucestershire at a relatively advanced stage of delivery. Gigaclear plan to dig c.4.5 million meters of fibre to reach the contracted premises and they have this month surpassed the 1.5 million mark.

Nearly 16,000 premises in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire can access Gigaclear already, and there is said to have been “tangible evidence of activity throughout this period“. The delays are thus more about “resetting expectations,” given a significant proportion of the build has taken place and they now have a better understanding of the task and scale ahead.

The delays are a disappointment but given the extreme sparsity of many of our areas and the quality of the end product it’s worth investing the extra time,” said the spokesperson.

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Mark Jackson
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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11 Responses
  1. Avatar AnotherTim says:

    It is good to finally get some news, but until the details are released I think this creates more questions than it answers. I believe they have 30,000 properties still to reach, and that means around 900 a month on average to meet the January 2022 deadline. I believe that is substantially more than they have been achieving over the past year. As they have not installed a single pot in Lot 2 or Lot3c yet, and that is the largest geographic area, they are going to have to move very fast to complete it in 3 years. They probably have twice the work to do in 3 years than they have completed in the last 4 in the Fastershire areas.

  2. Avatar John says:

    We have been waiting so long now for decent information and action that I have decided to give 3 a go (based on the info on this site). Waiting for the router to arrive and they have said at least 18Mb+ which is 6 times faster than I get from BT. Whilst this is not as good as Gigaclear we cannot get any forward motion with them or the pathetic attempts of Fastershire in the Forest of Dean. I will review this as time goes on (may even be before the 14 day cooling off period!)and see but again even if the timescale is published Fastershire are so awful at holding people/companies to account I am sure it will be a banana skin situation again.

    With an external omni-directional antenna we should get even faster speeds and to be fair for my household 15-20 is probably what we need. Real shame that Fastershire/Gigaclear/BT could not have gotten their act together sooner or even for BT to offer something similar on the EE network that is reasonably priced.

  3. Avatar John says:

    OOPS – forgot to post this above

    “The delays are a disappointment but given the extreme sparsity of many of our areas and the quality of the end product it’s worth investing the extra time,” – love this quote as when the original BT/OR fibre roll out occured they bypassed our cabinet and took the fibre 2km further away. The cab for my entire area was 20m from the main road (where the fibre was run) including us 3-4 years ago would have saved them a fortune (granted speeds not as fast) and the community would have been well served.

    1. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      That “given … quality of the end product it’s worth investing the extra time” annoyed me too. With that logic there is no point rolling out FTTP now – if you wait a couple of decades something much better will come along which no doubt would be worth the wait!
      For businesses in particular, time is of the essence. There have been several local businesses close or relocate due to not being able to get a usable broadband connection. Several local households (including mine) now use 4G. By the time Gigaclear get here there won’t be any market for them. Four years ago I’d happily have paid £200+pm for a superfast connection – now I pay £20pm for a (mostly) usable 4G connection. The thought of paying Gigaclear £100+pm for a 100Mbps business connection isn’t as attractive as it once was.

  4. Avatar Ash says:

    Interesting ambition. We haven’t even made it into scope of Fastershire yet for FTTC!

    1. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      I don’t think any further FTTC is planned by Fastershire – there was some completed in Gloucester last year, but I believe all future builds are intended to be FTTP (as they have covered all the viable FTTC premises now). If you weren’t in the FTTP plans before they were taken away to be rewritten, you may be in the new plans due to be released soon as Fastershire have said they are extending the scope of the coverage. You’ll just have to wait for the new plans to be published before you know. Meanwhile I’d suggest investigating 4G coverage in your area.

    2. Avatar Ash says:

      For Fastershire we’d we in area 3A if we were recognised but the intervention area was set before our cabinet was stood up so we’re out of scope. Cab’s are still being FTTC upgraded this year though at least in 3A anyway. Glos County Council were reporting planned Cheltenham FTTC upgrades just before xmas, and a lot of Barnwood exchange’s cabinets look to be getting the same treatment this year – with the exception of ours 🙁 Desperately trying to find a useful contact to discuss with.

    3. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      On re-reading the press release Fastershire put out before Christmas I see that some FTTC builds are still to happen in 2019 in 3A (Gloucester and Cheltenham). Good luck with getting your cabinet added.
      My area, 3c, is yet to see any premises connected by Gigaclear (as is lot 2). I’m not holding my breath, as my local area was due to be one of the last to be built. Until the new plans are published I won’t know for sure, but I expect I’ll still be at the end of the list.

  5. Avatar Mr Patience says:

    The problem is inevitably timing. This BT contract expires withing weeks and for continued connection they will offer a contract of at least a year. No other option will be available, that is the way businesses work. Being rural, even mobile connections are unreliable or not at all in the house.
    Delays in completing & connecting sections only compounds things.

  6. Avatar Andrew says:

    There are third world countries with better internet connectivity than the Forest of Dean. It’s completely ridiculous.

  7. Avatar Robert says:

    Fully agree with you andrew.

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