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Gigaclear Close to Completion of West Berkshire FTTP Rollout

Friday, May 29th, 2020 (8:10 am) - Score 1,005

Rural fibre optic UK ISP Gigaclear has confirmed that their gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in West Berkshire – built with support from public investment via the Superfast Berkshire project – is now nearly complete following massive delays. Some 14,000 local premises can already access the service.

Back in 2018 the Superfast Berkshire project revealed that both of their contracts with Openreach (BT) and Gigaclear were facing huge delays (here). The worst hit was Gigaclear’s long-running Phase 2 deployment for West Berkshire, which had targeted a “full fibre” roll-out to 16,011 premises by October 2017 but at the time was forced to push this back by 20 months to May 2019.

NOTE: Gigaclear also holds a Phase 3 contract for East Berkshire (6,111 premises) but there have been no progress updates on that since 2018, despite being due to complete at the end of 2019.

In the end Phase 2 is still on-going today, albeit with a smaller number of homes and businesses yet to be completed over the next two months. The delays were most likely caused by some of the same issues that affected their other Building Digital UK contracts at the time (here), although the company’s new owners (Infracapital) have been working hard to correct for mistakes made by the previous management.

The sheer difficulty and high cost of deploying FTTP into remote rural areas is another issue, which Gigaclear’s original management failed to fully appreciate in their planning. However we can’t blame the council for sticking with the massively late contract because the ISP is understood to have contributed around £16m to the project and only £3.7m came via public investment. Better extremely late, than never, perhaps.

Laura Jones, Gigaclear’s South Central GM, said (Kennet Radio):

“With any large-scale engineering project in a rural area, you are bound to encounter challenges but West Berkshire has had more than its fair share, hence why other network providers have overlooked it.

With Superfast Berkshire we have also been faced with unique obstacles including crossing the major network rail bridges and the extremely fast and busy M4 motorway. That’s why we invested heavily into this project, with further funding being provided by Building Digital UK (BDUK) and Superfast Berkshire. In fact, for every £1 of government contribution, Gigaclear invests up to £7 of commercial finance in the growth of our network across rural England.

The end result is connecting people that would have otherwise been left behind in terms of broadband access, which makes it all worthwhile.”

As it stands more than 700km of new fibre optic cable has been laid across rural West Berkshire by Gigaclear since the project began and “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) coverage is now said by the local council to stand at 96.2%, which is a little behind their original target of 98%. However independent data from Thinkbroadband puts the figure at 99% and they’re normally more cautious than official figures.

Now if only there was an update from the council for East Berkshire, as opposed to a year and a half of effective silence.

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar russ

    sadly It seems this superfast Berkshire plan is being delayed since the change in superfast from 24mb to 30, I recently enquired as the bt sites kept saying fttp coming soon for months, and I was informed that the decision had been taken to cancel due to lack of funding and that my line supported over 30mb, even when I provided evidence from my own speed tests and various estimates that 20mb is the real speed. after trying to push for them to continue, I was just told end of story, take it up with my isp and that fttp was not coming to my area anymore.

  2. Avatar Ray

    How do you get ISP’s to get FTTP to your area (in Bracknell Forest and nearest exchange is in crowthrone that only supports FTTC)

  3. Avatar Graham Long

    Connecting Devon & Somerset (CDS) take note: You cancelled Gigaclear’s five Devon & Somerset contracts, introducing at least three years delay while Berkshire and Essex steam ahead and CDS will not even have replacement suppliers identified via their fourth attempt at Phase 2 procurement until the end of 2020 at the earliest. To make a mistake once is a learning experience; to make the same mistake a second time is an error, but to make the same mistake a third time is incompetence and CDS have now cleary demonatrated their utter incompetence. Keri Denton, David Hall, Patrick Flaherty, Phil Norrey and Rufus Gilbert are the guilty parties who should no longer have responsibility for the mess that is CDS.

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      Fastershire didn’t cancel their Gigaclear contracts and yet there are still massive delays with no published plans or dates for remaining areas, so CDS are not alone.

    • Avatar Graham Long

      At least Fastershire have not cancelled contracts and been round the houses four times to find suppliers. The big problem with all these “local bodies” where the job of procuring suppliers and then managing the contracts is that local authorities have absolutely no expertise in telecommunications projects (wityh the exception of Hull). BT ran rings around CDS in Phase 1 and CDS were awarded £27M in 2012 to run Phase 2 but 83% of rural Devon & Somerset are today no closer to getting fast broadband than they were in 2012. CDS and the two County Councils I believe see these projects as a job creation scheme for themselves with the aim of spinning the programme out as long as they can.

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