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Gigaclear’s Rural FTTP Broadband Rollout in Essex UK Delayed Again UPDATE

Friday, August 9th, 2019 (7:16 am) - Score 2,324
gigaclear narrow trenching uk fttp broadband

The Superfast Essex (SFE) project has begun informing rural residents in poorly served areas that completion of Gigaclear’s Phase 3 and Phase 4a contracts to rollout a new 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network have been delayed yet again, with completion being pushed from July 2020 to December 2021.

The situation began toward the end of autumn last year when the provider revealed that their various Building Digital UK contracts with several counties across England had fallen “significantly behind schedule” (in some areas by as much as 2 years) due to “fundamental issues,” such as a lack of operational capacity, poor decision making, slow deployment by contractors, a lack of detailed planning and a failure to redesign their build methodology etc.

At the time Gigaclear had already completed their Phase 2B contract (4,000 premises in Epping Forest) in the county, but they also had on-going work under Phase 3 (8,300 premises in Uttlesford and Central North by Dec 2019) and had recently won the contract for Phase 4a (2,100 premises in Epping Forest).

Sadly the local authority soon acknowledged that the provider’s problems had hit their contracts in Essex too, which meant a significant delay. “Work under Phase 3 in Uttlesford District and parts of Braintree District and Colchester Borough and Phase 4a which is due to extend the existing coverage in Epping Forest District is now due to complete by July 2020, rather than December 2019,” said SFE (here).

The really bad news, as if it wasn’t already bad enough, is that the SFE team have now begun writing to locals affected by the prior delay in order to warn them that it’s going to take even longer to complete. At the time of writing the SFE project has not yet issued an official press release but they have updated the dates on their website and you can see an extract from one of their private messages to locals below (credits to Dan).

Superfast Essex Statement

The Superfast Essex broadband programme is writing with news about its Phase 3 full fibre broadband rollout with network operator Gigaclear in Uttlesford Distruct, which is bringing ultrafast fibre broadband to more than 4,600 homes and businesses – including parts of your community.

We’re writing to inform you that Gigaclear has advised the timescales for ultrafast broadband becoming available in your community have changed due to several unexpected engineering challenges which means work will be completed later than previously anticipated.

All work under Phase 3 of the Superfast Essex programme by Gigaclear is now due to complete by December 2021. Each community also has a revised estimated date for work to be completed within the overall network build timeframe in the district. We understand Gigaclear’s commercial rollout plans around Phase 3 will also be impacted.

The above announcement only mentions Phase 3, although from their website it’s clear that Phase 4a is also now due to complete by December 2021. A full table of the revised delivery dates for each area has been posted to the SFE website (here). We have also contacted Gigaclear for a comment via their most recent PR agency and are awaiting a response.

UPDATE 12:14pm

We’ve now got Gigaclear’s comment.

Nathan Rundle, Delivery Director at Gigaclear, said:

“We remain fully committed to the delivery of our full fibre broadband network in Essex and understand that this further delay will cause a lot frustration for residents and businesses.

This is a huge engineering project with many dependencies, some which are out of our control but, we are fully focussed on resolving the issues. Gigaclear has recently welcomed a new leadership team who will be appointing additional contractors to the region and additional resources to the local Essex team to ensure delivery processes are improved.

We want to complete the network build as quickly and efficiently as possible for the residents and our stakeholders and remain committed to do so.”

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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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27 Responses
  1. Avatar TheFacts

    ‘several unexpected engineering challenges’ Incompetent.

    • Avatar GNewton

      So if you think that others like BT are more competent, then why don’t have a fibre line from BT by now?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – 9hrs 9mins. Maybe I have.

      xxx

    • Avatar GNewton

      How about you come up with a constructive solution for the rural areas affected by the Gigaclear delays? It’s easy to label them as incompetent, but others, including BT, have experienced their own problems and delays, too. The very fact that you can’t order a fibre line from BT illustrates it clearly. At least Gigaclear had the courage to try to go into areas which BT wouldn’t touch.

      Also, there are appear to be issues here with the BDUK contract, with the Essex county, who should have properly managed their end and acted in a timely manner, especially when taxpayer’s money is involved here.

  2. Avatar Fred

    Oh bless them. They are struggling a bit aren’t they. I have a spare shovel I can lend. Appears they are better at digging reputation holes (well a bottomless pit really) than physical holes in the ground.

    I suspect a degree of ‘deliberate over commitment’ in order to secure deals also played a part. Trouble is that when you over commit and then have unforeseen issues collapse (Carrilion was probably hard to predict) then you are probably left with a complete scheduling mess.

    Certainly where I live the delay will cost them through reduced opportunity as more nimble operators are hoovering up potential customers – albeit at modest rates. TrueSpeed are certainly making good progress in my neck of the woods.

  3. Avatar New_Londoner

    It makes you wonder why some of the BDUK contracts haven’t been cancelled due to the obvious and continuing breaches by Gigaclear?

    • My guess on that would be because Gigaclear has often made significant commercial contributions, which often far exceed the public side of the investment (a challenge to do in these final 5% style rural areas). So it may take longer but they probably feel it’s worth the wait versus having to pay a lot more public money for BT might do it, which would still take a long time to deliver.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @MarkJ
      Fair comment, however there ought to be some sort of penalty to encourage delivery against contractual milestones and to discourage making ridiculous commitments simply to win tenders. AT the moment Gigaclear seems to be missing all of its BDUK targets, to date I’ve seen no mention of any form of compensation.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      From my perspective the only thing worse than Gigaclear’s glacial roll-out is the lack of information about it. I’m in a Fastershire area, and it is impossible to get any idea of whether progress is on track with the latest (much delayed) plans or not. From watching roadworks I have the impression they are gradually slipping, but as the only dates available are start dates for individual postcodes it is hard to say for sure. And when it says “The build in your area is due to start in Q1 2020” it isn’t clear what that area is, or how long the build may take. The last information I had from Gigaclear suggested that I may get connected in a couple of years from now if all went well – but there’s no way to know whether things are going well or not.
      I had understood that Fastershire were to provide quarterly updates, but there’s been no news since the beginning of March.

    • Avatar TomD

      It’s GC’s commercial projects that are most vulnerable. There appears to be no oversight or come-back for commercial plans that are not delivered on. SuperfastEssex at least have a contract – is there really any authority tasked with checking the commercial projects deliver in a rural setting where it’s become apparent that GC simply cannot make the sums add up?

    • Avatar John

      “There appears to be no oversight or come-back for commercial plans that are not delivered on. SuperfastEssex at least have a contract – is there really any authority tasked with checking the commercial projects deliver in a rural setting where it’s become apparent that GC simply cannot make the sums add up?”

      Nope.
      I don’t think there should be either.

      If you start punishing private companies for not meeting ambitious targets or forcing them to follow through with said targets you will find a lot less commitments in the 1st place.

      There needs to be the ability for a Telco to halt, pause or amend a commercial rollout as it sees fit.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      “There needs to be the ability for a Telco to halt, pause or amend a commercial rollout as it sees fit.”
      That is all well and good, but there needs to be oversight so that the BDUK organisation becomes aware that an area is not going to be covered commercially, and that alternative arrangements need to be made. Without such oversight large numbers of people are going to be completely missed out when commercial plans are shelved.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I guess it depends just what your area is defined to be. If it is “England”, then they have started the build.

  4. Avatar AnotherTim

    As for why the contracts not being cancelled, I think Mark is correct that the alternatives may cost more. While BDUK bodies have a contract with Gigaclear they can sit back and say that the roll-out is planned, and treat it as job done. It also blocks the various voucher schemes that are available, as the properties in plan aren’t eligible, so that saves more money.

    • Avatar 1pF

      AnotherTim…Fastershire/Gigaclear were supposed to start in my area in Q1 this year after delay,delay,delay but good news they have failed again here (at they are consistent at doing something!) Contacted FS 10 days ago for an update, they must be sending their reply via snail as I am still waiting for info.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I contacted Fastershire a month ago for an update – I immediately got an automated reply stating that they aim to respond within 10 working days. Today I contacted them again…
      They are as slow at responding to e-mails as they are at building networks. They now seem to spend all their time (and money) running training courses to teach people how to use a tablet etc. rather than getting people connected.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      @1pF, if the build in your area was to start in Q1, that was before the latest plans were released. What does the post code checker say now? The dates for the build in my area have changed several times – originally due to be finished last December, and slipped to a start last September. It is now due to start Q1 2020, but I expect that to slip further.

    • Avatar 1pF

      AnotherTim still says….’The build in your area is due to start in: Quarter 1, 2019 *’ on the FS site. They really are poor (think my real words would get filtered!). We should have completed by Sept last year but..

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I have just received a reply from Fastershire – they say “Gigaclear are currently planning some changes to the Lot area which may result in some re-scheduling. This would see a change in the dates with work starting earlier than planned in some areas and later in others. We won’t be in a position to publish anything however until we have been formally approached and have had the opportunity to assess the impact which as you rightly state means that some of the existing dates have already lapsed.”
      It is only a few months since the last change to the plans, so it seems very early to be changing plans again. However, hopefully they will come up with a plan that will work this time…

  5. Avatar CarlT

    This must be costing Gigaclear a fortune. Their budgets per premises were really high even going to plan let alone taking on these extra expenses.

  6. Avatar Guy Cashmore

    While FTTP is clearly the gold standard, for the majority of domestic premises 30 Mbps is currently ample. The big problem for the likes of Gigaclear is that rural wireless (FWA & 4G) coverage is improving very rapidly, so even when FTTP does finally arrive they will find many potential customers who were stuck on slow ADSL a few years ago are no longer interested in getting a better connection, making their economics even worse.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I tend to agree that Gigaclear risk missing the boat – although in my area there are no wireless ISPs available (e.g. voneus who at one time was advertised as being able to provide fixed wireless access until Gigaclear’s build arrived, can’t actually provide any connection until Gigaclear’s build arrives). However even for me 4G is better than ADSL and is likely to improve further long before FTTP arrives.

    • Avatar Guy Cashmore

      Indeed so, our experience of using 4G only, which is now in its third year, is that the service has improved faster in all respects than our needs have grown. At the same time the monthly cost has roughly halved.

    • Avatar StillWaitingForSuperFast

      Agreed, 4G is the go-to solution here in rural North Somerset too. At £20 per month for unlimited (bless you Three!) at 50+ MB/S, we are doing ok for now. With 5G on the horizon I may never have a need for the promised-but-never-delivered Gigaclear solution (Connecting Devon & Somerset Sometime).

    • Avatar Guy Cashmore

      Another service that has probably missed the boat is EE Hybrid Broadband, seemed a good idea when announced last year, can’t see many people wanting it now both Three and Vodafone are offering unlimited for less than £25 a month, surely won’t be long before the other two offer similar.

  7. Avatar In the know

    Maybe one of the reasons they are behind is due to internal issues such as an inability to plan the route to avoid private land and not wanting to pay the landowner if they do…. Just a thought

  8. Avatar C Braddick

    Meanwhile, as the schedule goes on for years with a disclaimer from Gigaclear that none of its timescales mean anything, Superfast Essex continues its cheery PR campaign about a service that is taking years to set up

    https://www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk/gigaclear-delays/

    Devon and Somerset also have had probs.

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