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Cheshire UK Finish Rollout of Superfast Broadband to 95% of Premises

Thursday, August 1st, 2019 (7:42 am) - Score 902
cheshire_bduk_project_completion_phase2

The £22m+ state aid fuelled Connecting Cheshire project has finally completed Phase 2 of their contract with Openreach (BT) to rollout a “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) network – FTTC (VDSL2) and a little FTTP – to cover 95% of local premises (100,000 additional premises), albeit 7 months later than planned.

The deployment contract, which has been funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), BT, Building Digital UK and 4 local authorities, was originally planned to complete by the “end of 2018” but when that didn’t happen they simply updated the website to say “by the summer of 2019” instead.

The network footprint actually stretches to cover around 98% of premises, although a small portion of those are unable to achieve 30Mbps+ speeds via Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology and hence how we get to the 95% figure. Otherwise the final FTTC street cabinet was deployed in Windle Hill (near Neston) and it joins over 650 others that have been installed as part of the programme.

We do however note that the latter parts of the rollout have seen an increased focus on building Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, although that still only accounts for a tiny proportion of premises in Cheshire.

NOTE: The 100,000 premises figure actually falls to around 82,000 when only looking at 30Mbps+ capable properties.

Robert Thorburn, Openreach Partnership Director, said:

“I am proud to be part of the team that’s delivered one of biggest feats of civil engineering undertaken in Cheshire in recent years. It’s ironic that this broadband cabinet – the last to go live – has also been one of the most difficult to complete.

It has taken almost two years of working with multiple organisations including Cheshire West and Chester’s Highways Agency, Scottish Power, landowners our contractors and the residents themselves, who have been very patient while we battled through multiple and extremely complex wayleave and power issues. Without this close collaboration this cabinet would not be live today.

The Connecting Cheshire team and all the Openreach engineers who have worked to make this happen should be very proud of their achievement and for the overall success of the programme.”

Councillor Richard Beacham, Cheshire West and Chester Council, said:

“This is a significant step forward in the campaign to deliver full and fast digital connectivity across Cheshire. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in our borough now have access to fibre connections, releasing the huge advantages that faster broadband speeds can bring.”

However Richard Beacham said he recognised that there are “some rural communities where there is still more to do” and the project website confirms that they’re “currently in the process of trying to source additional funding for further Connecting Cheshire roll-out” (they should have some gainshare / clawback returned via BT in the near future), although we couldn’t find any mention in recent council documents of a future contract.

We also note from recent council documents that the project had in fact been targeting 99% coverage of superfast broadband for 2018/19, although this is not a figure that we’ve seen widely publicised before. Previously they’d only ever talked vaguely about 98% “fibre broadband” coverage or 95% superfast.

In the meantime those in the final 5% are being encouraged to seek out some of the Government’s various broadband voucher schemes or to consider a co-funded Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) with Openreach. From March 2020 there will also be the option of a 10Mbps+ Universal Service Obligation (USO) from BT.

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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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18 Responses
  1. Avatar Summer Is Here

    Such a song and dance, they should remember the 8 month delay and the 3% of homes they upgraded that didn’t achieve the 30Mbps+ speed target. They should shut up and crack on with what they promised to do.

  2. Avatar Matthew

    it is a big showing really when 18,000 premises drop off trying to reach 6Mbps extra.

  3. Avatar Tony Williams

    I’m one of the lucky ones of the area that can juuuuuussssst get HD streaming because even with FTTC lots of us have loads of copper from our routers to the green box in leaft Cheshire. I have 1 mile of copper and my download at its worst is 12Mbps and best at 16Mbps.

    Cheshire need to *not* rest on their laurels and use any clawback to start identifying long copper stretches that should be replaced with fibre optic overhead ( or underground ). We are heading to UHD streaming as common withing the next 2 years – universal service should be set at 25Mbps NOT 10.

  4. Avatar Cheshire resident

    Unfortunately it is a common complaint locally that their website and social media are far too self-promotional, rather than genuinely updating progress. Every switch-on is extensively promoted, while delays and descopings are quietly ignored and there is absolutely nothing about future plans other than vague unfunded aspirations. For a long time, they said they were scoping a new roll out to be confirmed in early 2019, a claim that wasn’t dropped until well into spring when it became obvious that they were struggling for funding. Time will tell whether they will actively help residents with alternative funding mechanisms, or simply put up a web link to say “we can’t help you – try these guys”.

  5. Avatar NGA for all

    Finish? 95% is great to see, but the mission was and is to use all the monies to go as far as possible. Budgets were set allowing for the cabinets limitations. BT’s Capital Contributions to allowable costs and the clawback should turn 95% to something much much better.

    • Avatar Gadget

      Budgets were set by the local authority when then posted the tender notification

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Gadget: Project Budget were mostly set by BDUK and need for LDP to match, and crucially how BT decided to play their capital offer.

      The cost budget for phase 1 ad phase 2 was then derived from the inflated bid prices in the BDUK 2012 Framework – 2015 NAO audit documented 38% excesses + contingencies, hence on actuals everyone is reporting ‘savings’ while no one is reporting BT’s contribution to allowable costs, as it would not be needed to achieve 90% or 95%.

      FTTP in-fill being planned as an after thought is problematic but at least 340k have been reported + 90k in Cornwall. Opportunity to do another 600k with the budgets available.

      Cheshire looks to be left a little short overall.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Mike
      “95% is great to see, but the mission was and is to use all the monies to go as far as possible. Budgets were set allowing for the cabinets limitations.”

      This is simply incorrect. The “mission” was defined by each contract, with a requirement to hit a stated coverage target in a given timescale and within an agreed budget. Anything else is wishful thinking on your part.

  6. Avatar David Warner

    I live in south Cheshire close to the Shropshire border and our home and the properties in our local can’t receive any fixed line broadband at all and Openreach has no plans to improve the situation any time soon.

  7. Avatar Oink Oink

    They should be wearing greedy pig costumes and be holding a large lottery style cheque.
    Another subsidised FTTC rollout that is not fit for purpose or future proofed.

  8. Avatar Steve

    So 5% are being asked to find their own solution with the possibility of a grant and the majority of that 95% are Superfast enabled and not Ultrafast enabled?
    This is probably a great news story 5 years ago.

  9. Avatar Cheshire resident

    The Ofcom availability map is interesting – towns and even larger villages are pretty well covered, but 90% of the spaces in between (smaller villages and hamlets) are still orange/red, the large majority sub-USO. If we applied the same % of landmass covered that 4G is now subject to, I doubt coverage reaches 50% – hence BT’s big push to get 4G accepted as a USO “get out of jail free” card.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Why is geographic coverage relevant for a fixed line service? Trees and sheep can’t order broadband, availability as a percentage of premises in a given area is the appropriate metric.

    • Avatar Tony Williams

      I’ve actually just started using 3’s AI Cube Mobile broadband router service instead of my FTTC ISP. I’ve been fortunate enough to be near a decent 3 mast and have improved my FTTC speeds ( 12 to 16Mbps ) to 3’s ( 20 – 25Mbps ). So for me, at least, 3G and 4G are a decent alternative to Cheshire’s FTTC ( with miles of copper to the green box still ).

      3 have just started doing an unlimited download service for £26-ish per month but order direct over the phone from 3 to get an option to cancel the contract if you are not happy with the speed in the first 14 days of use.

      Downsides are:
      1. no fixed IP address assigned to your router ( if you need it )
      2. my ping time on FTTC was 14ms but with 3 is about 35ms ( but I’m not an online gamer )
      3. Initially had to play around a lot with positioning the router in the house to get the best speed from the phone mast

    • Avatar Cheshire resident

      Well, last time I checked, they couldn’t use mobiles either! Not to be taken too seriously, but it’s just an illustration of the economics of a fixed line service – far fewer customers per km of cable laid.

  10. Avatar Badem

    Considering FTTP is being rolled out just a few miles north on The Wirral, and B4RN are installing FTTP to some areas in the West Cheshire location, how soon before BT start upgrading to FTTP? I am taking bets and work starting around 2030…….

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