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Frustration in Shropshire Over Stalled Openreach Fibre Rollout

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020 (9:14 am) - Score 2,581
fttc_cabinet_shropshire

Frustration has erupted in Shropshire (England) after it emerged that 1,800 premises covered by several street cabinets in Shrewsbury and Ludlow would not gain access to “superfast broadband” (FTTC/P) ISP technology from Openreach (BT). The cabinets had been due to benefit from the operator’s commercial UK roll-out.

At present around 94% of local premises can already access a 24Mbps+ capable “superfast broadband” connection (up from around 25% in 2013) and a big chunk of that has been achieved via the state aid supported Connecting Shropshire programme, which is backed by Building Digital UK and has contracts with both Openreach and ISP Airband.

NOTE: Virgin Media and Full Fibre Ltd. are also operating in the county and looking to cover some of the gaps.

On top of that Openreach have also been conducting a complementary commercial deployment, which until now has mostly focused upon the roll-out of slower hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2 and G.fast) than pure “gigabit-capableFibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology.

As part of that commercial deployment several street cabinets in Shrewsbury and Ludlow were all due to be upgraded (assurances were still being given as recently as October 2019), which also meant that those cabinets had been excluded from the Connecting Shropshire programme.

Sadly the Shropshire Star reports that Openreach has recently done a u-turn and thus left 1,800 premises to continue suffering from slower broadband speeds.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“With new technologies and ways of working being introduced all the time, we often re-visit areas yet to be upgraded – such as these last few cabinets in Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth – to see if we can find an affordable and practical solution. We’ve not managed to do so yet, but locations such as these are still very much on our radar.

We’re always looking at ways to extend the reach of our broadband network and regularly announce new locations (we announced 200 in January) to benefit from our build, particularly full fibre. Full fibre is not only faster, but it’s also more reliable and future-proof. Openreach hopes to reach four million premises by March 2021.”

In fairness roll-out plans are always tentative and frequently go through changes, which can result in some areas being removed and new ones added. Since 2018 the increasing focus on “full fibreFTTP technology has also resulted in Openreach taking the decision to gradually move away from inferior hybrid fibre FTTC and G.fast solutions. Inevitably there would be some casualties.

On top of that we have the government’s new target for “gigabit” (1Gbps+) capable broadband coverage to reach every UK home by the end of 2025, which is not possible via FTTC (VDSL2) and is extremely difficult to achieve via even ultrafast G.fast technology (you can do it via an FTTdp approach but the network would become complex and this doesn’t fit with the wider push to retire copper in favour of FTTP).

Unfortunately the decision has come during the latter stages of the Connecting Shropshire project, which makes it difficult to see the area being re-scoped into that programme, at least not for another year or two. We suspect they may have to wait until contracts are signed under the Government’s new £5bn gigabit scheme or hope for more clawback/gainshare (i.e. public funding returned by BT for reinvestment due to high take-up) via the original BDUK contracts.

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1 Response
  1. Avatar P says:

    Many of these cabinets have been flip flopping between planning and survey stages for over 4 years.
    Also dont forget the debarcle of the Cabinet that had to be removed from Coleham, as they didn’t consider the impact of putting a massive cabinet outside the Christian Science building (https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/07/community-conflict-after-removal-of-openreach-broadband-cabinet.html)

    Thanksfully thirdparty providers have managed to provide a service in Coleham, sharing OpenReaches ducting to provide a service where OpenReach failed. (
    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/07/video-full-fibre-ltd-highlight-broadband-rollout-in-shrewsbury.html)

    And as mentioned Virgin Media has made inroards starting from the Sundorne end of Town, rolling out their service

    OpenReach is thankfully going to continue to loose market share as they continue to provide excuses instead of solutions.

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