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Status Update on the Rollout of Superfast Broadband in Hampshire UK

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 (8:46 am) - Score 1,499

Over the past few months we’ve had a number of emails from people in rural parts of Hampshire that have been overlooked by the state aid supported Hampshire Superfast Broadband project. All wanted to know how the council, which has been fairly quiet on the subject since 2017, planned to tackle the final 2-3% of premises.

At present the existing project is already working with Openreach (BT) to roll-out “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks to cover 97.4% of local premises by the end of 2019 (i.e. tackling the gap beyond the 80% reached by purely commercial rollouts in 2013), although reaching the final 2.6% of homes and businesses (mostly those in remote rural areas) will be difficult due to the high costs.

NOTE: Current superfast broadband coverage stands at 95.7% in Hampshire, England.

In other words the state aid supported broadband programme has so far reached over 115,000 premises (around 12,000 via full fibre FTTP rather than hybrid fibre FTTC) and has delivered a take-up by consumers in related intervention areas of around 60% (official figures).

In 2018/19 alone some 12,869 extra properties in Hampshire were given access to the new broadband network, which exceeded the year’s target of 11,779.

Government Intervention 2013 – 2019

– Wave 1 – £11m
• 64,500 premises upgraded 2013 – 2015

– Wave 2 – £18m (£9.2m from HCC)
• 34,500 premises 2016 – 2018

– Wave 2 Extension – £6.8m
• 8,500 premises 2018 – 2019

However the last major development on this project – aside from the on-going rollout – happened in 2017 when the council set aside £1m to help remote communities co-fund their own deployments (here), which offered up to 50% towards the gap cost for a community. At the last update in January 2019 around 312 premises across 11 communities had made use of this to install FTTP ultrafast broadband.

The big problem is that those in the final 2.6% are incredibly expensive to reach, particularly now that the Government’s Building Digital UK programme will often only approve new contracts that harness Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) or other Gigabit speed capable technologies. According to the council, there are 15-20,000 premises beyond the scope of current funding that have broadband speeds below 24Mbps.

On top of that the average cost per property is heading above £2,000, so the council expects it will have to find between £20m and £40m to achieve close to universal coverage (i.e. doing just the final 2.6% of premises could cost more than Wave 1 + 2 combined). This is to be expected given that rural communities tend to be both small and sparse, which stretches the economic model to an extreme.

At this point a lot of other local authorities have already started to develop new contracts but we could find no such plan for Hampshire (despite searching through lots of council meetings). In theory the gainshare / clawback clause in the Wave 1/2 contracts should result in BT returning some of the public money, which can be reinvested to further boost coverage. The council have now told us that this is being considered.

Keith Mans, Leader of Hampshire County Council, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“High quality digital connectivity is key to supporting Hampshire residents and businesses to thrive, which is why the Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme is increasing coverage from 80% to 97.4% of premises by the end of the contract – seeing upgraded connections to over 100,000 premises.

As a local authority, we are working with Building Digital UK (BDUK) to see how gainshare funding might be used to increase coverage in the areas not included in the current programme.

At the same time, we would encourage Ringwood residents and businesses to tap into Government initiatives, including the Rural Gigabit Connectivity Voucher, which specifically supports rural communities. The County Council has, and continues to work with a number of communities to deliver match-funded projects – seeing them receive full fibre broadband.”

So for the time being it looks like isolated parts of Hampshire will either have to make use of the local community co-investment scheme, various Government voucher schemes (here) or wait for the 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) to start in March 2020. The latter now seems to do little more than offer a subsidised 4G connection (plus a little bit of FTTC/P where 4G fails to reach).

Alternatively the other option is to wait until the Government succeeds in achieving nationwide coverage of full fibre broadband, which under the current target won’t be achieved until 2033 and in our view even that seems optimistic. Meanwhile the man likely to be our next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has proposed the seemingly unachievable goal of doing this by 2025 but he has yet to say how that would be made possible.

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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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1 Response
  1. Avatar 5G Infinity

    There is finally other activity ongoing with the BDUK program, many of the FTTC plans have been hit [not by the blocked duct issue, though there continue to be lots of those] but because OR doesn’t have enough fibre to some of the exchanges, including the EOL ones. Second wayleaves continue to be an issue, where we are a wayleave for a cabinet was approved but the power connection wayleave refused – combine the above and Hants/BDUK/OR are just going the FTTP route, more expensive in the short term but cheaper in the longer term as its new poles and ducts, but do it once and you won’t have to do it again in 2025-33.

    We get FTTP next month, 330/50Mbps rather than 70Mbps FTTC.

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