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Suffolk UK Set to Approve Phase 3 Superfast Broadband Rollout UPDATE

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 (11:36 am) - Score 1,135

The Suffolk County Council (SCC) appear set to appointed a supplier for their new £10m+ state aid fuelled Phase 3 Superfast Broadband contract, which could see 7,000 additional premises (mostly in rural areas) being reached by faster UK ISP networks; most likely via “gigabit-capable” Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.

At present the existing £64m state aid supported Better Broadband for Suffolk (BBS) project with Openreach (BT), which is based off the Building Digital UK framework, has already put “superfast” speeds of 24Mbps+ within reach of 96% of homes and businesses within the county. The existing contracts should take this to 98% of local premises by the end of 2020.

NOTE: The first two phases of the programme have delivered a “fibre based” broadband service (mostly FTTC and a little FTTP) to more than 145,000 premises and 92,000 of those have taken the service.

The procurement process for their follow-on Phase 3 contract (aimed at the final 2% of premises) began last year (here) and a final decision on the outcome of that is now due to be made by the end of this month (a meeting will be held to discuss all this on 14th Jan 2020). We’d probably put money on an operator like Openreach or Airband being chosen as the supplier(s).

In terms of funding, the document for the aforementioned meeting only mentions £10m of gainshare (clawback) funding from BT, which is effectively a reinvestment of previous public funding that was put toward the earlier contracts (i.e. public money gets returned as take-up in related areas rises so as to improve coverage). But we also know that DEFRA funding of £1.725m will be included and a previous update put the total Phase 3 pot at nearly £15m.

The contract signature would then be followed by detailed technical and civil engineering survey and planning work, before commencing deployment of broadband infrastructure in the second half of 2020, continuing through 2021 and completing in 2022as soon as possible.” As usual a full rollout plan will be available after survey work is completed.

Interestingly it’s noted that in addition to the £10m from gainshare, a further £10m from DCMS / BDUK also exists, although apparently the Government “are not willing to commit the DCMS share of the Suffolk “gainshare” to re-invest in further coverage under Suffolk Phase 3” (i.e. maybe for a future Phase 4?).

However this was set before Boris Johnson’s (PM) new £5bn gigabit rollout was announced and so SCC have given themselves some wriggle room, which means that if the policy did change then they could still add the extra £10m to their Phase 3 as an extension.

In theory Phase 3 could push local coverage of superfast broadband to nearly universal levels. Oddly though Suffolk’s document still defines “superfast” as 24Mbps+, although all new contracts generally use the 30Mbps+ definition in order to align with the EU/Ofcom etc.

UPDATE 16th Jan 2020

As expected the council has approved their Phase 3 plan.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar joe

    The budget may well seem more detail on the 5bn to help or complicate any decision taken now.

  2. Avatar NGA for all

    Can you point to the PDF? If Suffolk are reaching 100% and monies being re-allocated then it is good news for all of rural.

  3. Avatar gerarda

    I am not quite sure where the numbers come from. According to the procurement consultation the white areas, presumably those not covered by phase 2, have a total of 17,629 premises or nearly 5%. but phase 3 is covering only 7,000 or just under 2% premises with the implication either that the other 3% is actually covered by phase 2, or phase 3 will leave 3% without superfast coverage.

    • As above, they come from the council.

    • Avatar gerarda

      Very strange as I checked a postcode I know that has sub 1mb speeds (ip30 0aj) and this does not appear on the procurement list suggesting that postcodes awaiting upgrade in phase 2 have been excluded.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Gerarda, if you contract for 85% and 98% and 2% then you should only contract for 7,000 where 2% = 7kpremises.

      However, white areas is now 17K, plus another 13k under review. The intervention area has increased from 134k (36% of total premises) notified in 2011 to a potential 175k 48% if under review gets included. Some of these will be at end of BT commercial but also the BT commercial footprint adjusted downwards in the presence of state aid occurring under commercial confidentiality.

      I will blog on the BT capital expected but the extra £10m suggests the BT capital and not clawback arriving late. The clawback should max at £18.8m, with £3.9m being announced in phase 2. The success of this project will be level of FTTP in-fill not the cabinets.

      The extent to which Commercial Confidentiality is subverting a National Infrastructure project should be assessed.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Gerard .. this phase 1 85% to phase 98% suggests 47k premises but the PR at the time pointed to just 16k (needs checking).

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