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Benacre Estate in Suffolk Helps Self Dig Openreach FTTP Broadband

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 (5:21 pm) - Score 2,786
openreach fttp benacre estate

Residents living on the country Benacre Estate in Suffolk (England), which spans about 7,700 acres and includes nearly 100 homes, can now access Openreach’s (BT) Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network after local farmers mucked in to help the build.

Initially the cost of deploying FTTP across the sparse rural area would have been far too expensive (sadly no figures are given) for a commercial operator like Openreach to do itself or for the local community to afford. However the team at Benacre identified that they could make a significant cost saving by choosing to self-dig around 5km of their own network trenches.

After that the estate’s team engaged with local farmers, Openreach and the Better Broadband for Suffolk (BBS) project in order to agree a way forward. Clearly a mutually beneficial solution was found because the network is now in the process of going live.

Edward Vere Nicoll, Local Landowner, said:

“We found that we were struggling to rent out some of our properties, because the first question that most people asked was about the broadband speed. At that time, we didn’t have fibre and it was proving to be a major obstacle. I got in touch with Openreach to find out more and we quickly identified three self-dig opportunities at Benacre, around 5km in total, which would make a huge difference.

We worked really closely with local farmers to get the new infrastructure in place, including pulling armoured cable through underground ducting. You do have to be careful on farmland, but with these modern machines capable of creating a trench just a couple of feet wide, we’re able to go down to a sufficient depth around the edge of fields to make sure it’s out of harms way and not accidentally damaged in the future.

It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to bring some of the fastest broadband speeds available to this remote part of Suffolk. We used to get low single figure download speeds, but now we’re comfortably over 300 Mbps. Faster broadband is critical to the long-term prosperity of rural communities, with an ever-increasing reliance of broadband for home and work use. Self-dig is a great option for those in a position to do so.”

Until fairly recently we didn’t tend to see Openreach engaging in community self-dig projects, although gradually we are starting to spot more and more of these as the rollout of existing Building Digital UK based projects reaches into increasingly remote rural areas where even the public subsidy model can become strained (another example here and here).

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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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4 Responses
  1. Avatar Justin Leese

    Starting to see a few of these. Ditcham Park School and neighbouring properties near Petersfield in Hampshire were connected via self build into an Openreach Community Fibre Project a couple of kilometres away. They utilised the specification Openreach supply for new build developers and like a new build developer Openreach provided a field engineer to advise and ultimately sign off the quality of the build.

    • Avatar Fastman

      there have been a number of these before Ditcham (some dating back to 2014/2015)

    • Avatar NGA for all

      The first was supported by BDUK in Fell End, Cumbria in 2012-13. Community build and benefit was how it was defined, it should be in all the requirements. The FTTH build south of Appleby did not need a community contribution at the time but did support demand aggregation. These were supposed to be the norm until over building Virginmedia and stationing subsidised Cabinets outside ducted business parks became a bizarre norm.
      At least the funds while not been used to accelerate build-out in rural as we speak have not yet been lost, although the manner in which BT Group have capitalised the capital deferral means BT Group have removed any reason for Openreach to conduct work for which they are already recovering costs.

  2. Avatar NGA for all

    Good to see and there is a mountain of money available to do more.

    Some efficient means of aggregating customers at the edge is needed. As long as BT is making a transparent capital contribution consistent with the cost recovery processes, then the upside from the clawback and outstanding capital balances could play a huge part accelerating the 2033 ambition by continuing to reveal how comparatively cheap this is to do.

    It would be useful for others if the community contribution per premise was teased out!

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