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Rural Oxfordshire UK Set for £6.3m Ultrafast Broadband Boost UPDATE

Friday, Nov 1st, 2019 (4:43 pm) - Score 1,921
rural broadband trenching dig road

The Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) has announced that UK ISP Airband and network operator Openreach (BT) have won several new contracts – supported by a funding boost of £6.3m from DEFRA – to help rollout “ultrafast broadband” (mostly FTTP) across more homes and businesses in the county.

At present the existing state aid supported Better Broadband for Oxfordshire project with BT and Building Digital UK has already helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) network coverage to around 97% of the county (up from 69% in 2012), which equates to helping an additional 77,000 premises that might have otherwise been left neglected.

Exact details of the new contracts were not available at the time of publication, although they appear to follow a recent award of £6.3m in public funding through DEFRA’s Rural Broadband Infrastructure Fund (RBI). Related grants are funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which forms part of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF).

Broadly the two contracts aim to deliver ultrafast network connectivity to cover an additional 970 small businesses (SME). On top of that the suppliers will also connect some 900 nearby residential premises at their own cost, which will use Gigabit-capable “full fibre” (FTTP) lines. Overall this should extend superfast broadband coverage to 98% of Oxfordshire.

Craig Bower, OCC Digital Connectivity Programme Director, said:

“This is a great boost for Oxfordshire’s rural SME’s. All the businesses in scope currently have slow broadband when they increasingly need fast access to online resources to improve productivity and be competitive. Our existing Better Broadband programme has delivered superfast access to over 77,000 premises and we know it is making a huge difference to residents and business with over two thirds of those able to connect subscribing to the superfast services.”

Redmond Peel, CEO of Airband, said:

“We are delighted to be working with Oxfordshire County Council on this important next stage of improving digital infrastructure in the county. We are delivering full-fibre connectivity capable of gigabit speeds which will future-proof broadband needs for the 21st century.”

Carl Sproston, Regional Partnership Director at Openreach, said:

“We have partnered with Oxfordshire CC for over five years delivering better broadband to thousands of premises, and look forward to continuing this as we deliver ultrafast connectivity to the hardest to reach premises in the county.”

The work is expected to add “several hundred kilometres of fibre” to the most rural parts of the county and is planned to complete by June 2022. Procurement was split into four Lots to encourage competition, with Airband winning 2 Lots (mostly south Oxfordshire) and Openreach winning 2 Lots (north Oxfordshire). The county council will manage the delivery programme.

Given the aforementioned descriptions it sounds like Openreach will rollout a traditional Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network, while we suspect that Airband will probably deploy Rural Optic, which is their wireless-fed local FTTP network solution.

UPDATE 5th November 2019

Airband informs that their FTTP deployment is actually a pure full fibre build, rather than their Rural Optic solution.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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1 Response
  1. Avatar photo chris conder says:

    Can’t help but mention that the ‘superfarce’ which has brought slightly faster to the area was a total waste of money (especially if state funded) as FTTP could have started much sooner but for all the brainwashing. Once the rurals have proper fibre all the urban lot will demand it too. FTTC is a stopgap dead end product and a waste of our hard earned taxes. FTTP is futureproof. Good luck to all the altnets. Just sayin.

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