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Welsh Government to Open Cable Ducts for Fibre Broadband

Friday, February 7th, 2020 (10:59 am) - Score 2,809
network cables closeup with fiber optical background

The Welsh Government (WG), which is currently working with Openreach (BT) to extend gigabit-capable”full fibre” (FTTP) broadband to a further 26,000 premises by March 2021 (here and here), has announced that they intend to open some of their own telecoms ducts up for use by ISPs to help boost connectivity and capacity supplies.

At present the WG operates a number of ducts, many of which sit alongside trunk roads (including parts of the M4) and are thus used for traffic management systems (e.g. CCTV cameras, digital road signs). Under the new approach Net Support UK (NSUK) have been awarded a 20 year concession, which gives them the rights to build ducts where needed and access the WG’s existing ducts in order to install new fibre infrastructure “at no cost to the public purse.”

NOTE: Recent data (here) shows that 95.3% of Wales can access superfast broadband (24Mbps+), 38.35% can get ultrafast speeds (100Mbps+) and 11.3% are within reach of gigabit-capable full fibre.

On top of that NSUK will also be able to commercialise this network, which is a key change that means we can expect more broadband ISPs / full fibre builders to harness the infrastructure (most likely in order to supply capacity for their own networks / businesses). At the time of writing this only affects trunk roads in South Wales.

The approach itself is nothing new and indeed over the past few years we’ve seen a number of local authorities opening up their existing ducts for commercialisation and fibre optic broadband. Nevertheless it’s always a welcome change.

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

“We are always looking at innovative and new ways of improving our fibre infrastructure, helping make Wales a more connected nation. One way is for government to look at its own assets and see if we are making the most of them.

This scheme is the first of its kind in the UK, and is truly innovative as the improvements to the infrastructure come at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Lessons learned from this will be used to support future projects.”

We should point out that NSUK has long been involved with a similar project around Bristol (here), which re-purposed the local authority’s existing 76km+ long network so that it could be used to deliver multi-Gigabit data speeds to businesses.

However we suspect that this probably won’t have a huge impact on rural broadband coverage. The main cost and challenge in those areas often stems from bringing that fibre deeper into remote and sparsely populated communities, although there may still be some areas where these ducts could help.

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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.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Wayne Latham says:

    I live in a rural area with aluminum cables that have now failed. Bt say its not cost effective to replace so we have to do without broadband. When are rural areas getting money spent on them?

  2. Avatar dee.jay says:

    Excellent news, I’m actually surprised at the WAG for once!

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