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Some Progress on Resolving Part Built Fibre Broadband Areas in Wales

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 (8:52 am) - Score 1,856

A hint of progress is in the air as the Welsh Government (WG), Openreach (BT) and Building Digital UK (DCMS) programme are continuing their efforts to find a solution for the “stranded assets” problem, which reflects thousands of premises on unfinished (part-built) “fibre broadband” (FTTC and FTTP) deployments in Wales.

The Stranded Assets problem stems from the fact that a fair few FTTC/P deployments under the original contract were left unfinished when Phase 1 of the WG’s state aid supported Superfast Cymru scheme came to an end last year.

Since then a £22.5m Phase 2 successor contract has been agreed with BT, which aims to provide an additional 26,000 premises with access to “fast reliable broadband” (mostly ultrafast “full fibreFTTP) by March 2021 (details). Despite this the WG has been clear that Phase 2 would not resolve stranded assets because, they say, such areas remain a “matter for Openreach and have not been paid for by the Welsh Government.

Instead the WG was known to have been supporting a £12.9maccelerated gainshare arrangement” (i.e. public investment returned by BT as a result of high take-up under the Phase 1 contract), which would have enabled Openreach to finish part built structures not completed and not paid for under Superfast Cymru. Sadly the UK Government rejected Openreach’s initial proposal for this at the start of 2019 (here).

Fast forward to today and we’ve recently noted that some premises in related areas (e.g. a few in the village of Blaenffos), which until now have been stuck in an uncertain limbo due to the aforementioned issue, appear to have suddenly popped up on Openreach’s future fibre broadband roll-out plan (confirmed via their availability checker – credits to Steve for spotting).

Upon investigating this we’ve learnt that there isn’t really one single solution to how Openreach and the WG now intend to tackle stranded assets. We’ve also had it confirmed that Openreach and the WG recently re-started the discussions over the use of gainshare money to resolve this problem, although as yet there’s no word of a solid agreement being achieved.

However the WG did confirm in July 2019 that areas marked as “under review” (this tends to include stranded assets, as well as other premises) would be looked at again as part of a new Open Market Review (OMR), which must be conducted before they can give a final answer (OMRs determine which areas will be served by existing / commercial rollouts and which will thus be left unserved / in need of help).

Lee Waters AM, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said:

“The information we currently hold on remaining white and under review premises dates from an Open Market Review conducted in 2017. We are very shortly to commence a further OMR to update and refresh this data. I will write to you would once the review has been completed and the data has been refreshed.”

So why have some affected premises in Blaenffos and other areas suddenly had a positive change of status on future deployment plans? As we understand it there are several reasons. Some premises are now set to be completed commercially (most of the infrastructure in part built rural areas is there already and so this reduces the cost), while others have instead taken the co-funded Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) approach and a few more have been picked-up and connected through over-build schemes.

The above will still leave a lot of stranded assets left to resolve and for that we’ll have to wait and see if round two of the gainshare discussions results in a solid agreement. One of the initial problems was that some of the part built areas seemed to be FTTC based but the UK government are now FTTP focused and thus no longer approve FTTC deployments. We’ll be interested to see how they resolve that one (hopefully with more full fibre).

Separately the WG has recently revealed a more detailed but still tentative list of the roll-out plan for the 25,957 properties under their £22.5m Phase 2 rollout contract, which we’ll paste below. The first homes and businesses under this project will be connected in late 2019 and be able to place an order from early 2020.

Local Authority Phase 3 Intervention Speed Premises
BRIDGEND Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1399
CAERPHILLY Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 2944
CARDIFF Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1152
CARMARTHENSHIRE Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 971
CEREDIGION Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 714
CHESHIRE WEST AND CHESTER Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 4
CONWY Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 960
DENBIGHSHIRE Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 705
FLINTSHIRE Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 2049
GWYNEDD Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1486
ISLE OF ANGLESEY Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 532
MERTHYR TYDFIL Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 481
MONMOUTHSHIRE Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1582
NEATH PORT TALBOT Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 638
NEWPORT Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 269
PEMBROKESHIRE Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 374
POWYS Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1398
RHONDDA CYNON TAFF Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1592
SHROPSHIRE Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 2
SWANSEA Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 739
TORFAEN Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1021
VALE OF GLAMORGAN Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 973
WREXHAM Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 2652
CEREDIGION NGA 30 – 100 Mbps 363
CONWY NGA 30 – 100 Mbps 185
DENBIGHSHIRE NGA 30 – 100 Mbps 55
GWYNEDD NGA 30 – 100 Mbps 633
ISLE OF ANGLESEY NGA 30 – 100 Mbps 84
NOTE: There is a tiny bit of overlap in some border areas with England.

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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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9 Responses
  1. Avatar Sally says:

    “TORFAEN Gigabit – 1000 Mbps + 1021”

    That’s my council area- I have 1000/220 on the checker and until Friday it was showing as Stage 2 and available – Now I am being told there is about a 2 year waiting list – because let’s face it – who is going to move off this when they get on it? not many unless they move!

    so it’s about 2021 for me – I put the order in Yesterday.

  2. Avatar Tom Humphreys says:

    Living near a FTTP area and contacted Openreach.
    in the North Wales Llanberis,Dinorwic area about the FTTP on the cost to build fttp and i recieved an email about a cost quotes of £10,000 for the properties in the area, which i am not looking to pay, as some properties have got FTTP at 1000mbps max already.

    I am currently on an LTE Broadband which i get 40 – 50mbps download and 20mbps upload which is aint bad.

    i feel it would take a long time for them to install FTTP to the property as they have run out of money.

    1. Avatar NGA for all says:

      There is a huge amount owed, some £668m clawback in BT’s books, for which they have already capitalised and in so doing are recovering these funds from customers, before it is handed back or invested in the network.

      Furthermore, BT Group charged unit costs of £300 a premise passed in Wales (unique to Wales) instead of actual costs. This needs reconciling and monies returned where needed.

      Hang in there, there is more to come. Resourcing is the issue rather than funding.

    2. Avatar Andrew Ferguson says:

      How much clawback for Wales?

      Forcing the hand against the £300/premise costs might backfire due to the high amount of FTTP done in the phase 1 contract. So some might be under that but others above it, and if returning it on the low ones being paid more for others seems fair.

  3. Avatar A_Builder says:

    As the OR commercial drive continues any low hanging fruit where there is backhaul nearby and say ducting installed is going to push itself up the priority list.

    What does stranded mean? If it means missing the PON and everything else is there it is a bit weird. There are shades of meaning here.

    And some mean FTTP is nearer than others. Context is king.

  4. Avatar Dr David Griffiths says:

    I live half way between a fully functional fibre DSLAM and a mixed ADSL/fibre cab – the old copper and the new fibre bearers pass the top of the track that I live on (30 yards away), yet I am still connected to the old copper but have a VDSL modem. Sometimes my download speed is 70kbps and at best 2mbps (only occasionally). When it rains, my download speed often comes to a standstill. Openreach don’t give a damn about ptoperties like mine (I’m a scientist working from home 3 days a week). The simple solution is 5G/4G Wi-Fi with 4G modem/routers to minimise cable costs but there seems to be zero interest of commitment to that in the rural area.

    1. Avatar Clive Price says:

      Have an application for WG grant funding to install 4g where I live. Can get up to 45mb down on a phone indoors with Vodafone, currently getting less than 1.5mb with BT.

      Will get rid of the landline and the four BT mobile sims I have and never have to put another penny in BTs’ pockets again.

      Definitely a viable option now with unlimited plans available cheaply.

  5. Avatar Dr David Griffiths says:

    Unfortunately there are no cellular services where I live and consequently, no 3G/4G/LTE – if any of the executives of the 4 cellulr service providers moved here, I guarantee that a mast with 4G service would be installed in no time. Unfortunately, the 4 UK mobile network operators have no regard for the inhabitants and business owners in the rural area, they prefer to throw money sponsoring sports and creating TV ads.

    1. Avatar Clive Price says:

      System installed by Criccieth TV, Microtik router in the garage with an Ubiquiti Aircube in the lounge. Knocks out up to 60mb download and 20mb up in the lounge and mid 20s down in furthest reaches of the house. Very happy and have cancelled BT.£19 per month after cashback on Vodafone via Mobile Phones Direct for an unlimited plan.Hope you have an improvement in your service soon.

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