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8200 Extra Devon and Somerset Premises to Get Fibre Broadband

Friday, July 10th, 2020 (7:58 am) - Score 2,187
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The troubled Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) project has signed two extension contracts with UK ISP Airband and telecoms giant BT (Openreach), which will see a further 8,200 premises gaining access to faster “fibre broadband” (mostly full fibre FTTP) connections by the end of 2021.

At present the existing CDS scheme has already helped 300,000 extra homes and businesses gain access to “superfast broadband” (24-30Mbps+) connectivity and take-up in those areas has reached 65%. The vast majority of this was delivered via BT’s earlier state aid funded contracts using FTTC and a little FTTP technology, while a fixed wireless access network (FWA) from Airband has also provided access to around 16,000 premises.

NOTE: Total “superfast” coverage across the Devon and Somerset area, including a majority of commercial build, is around 90% (nearly 1 million premises).

The new Fibre Extension Programme being outlined today is a follow-on from the aforementioned contract(s) and mostly harnesses public investment that has been returned by the operators as a result of high take-up (gainshare / clawback). On top of that about £2.16m seems to be coming from a local growth deal.

Roughly £6m of the aforementioned gainshare will be used to help Openreach extend their gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to 2,000 extra premises. Meanwhile Airband has also agreed to bring “fibre broadband” to a further 6,200 premises, although sadly they don’t clarify if Airband’s “fibre” is wireless fed FTTP (Rural Optic) or end-to-end FTTP.

Under this deal Airband will begin engineering work this month (July 2020) and roll-out to communities across northern, west and central Devon. At the same time Openreach have begun survey work in Oakford and this will continue across a broader cluster to the north of Tiverton and south of Dulverton, spanning the Devon and Somerset border and a second cluster to the east of Plymouth centred on Bickleigh, Wotter and Shaugh Prior.

Openreach’s final roll-out plan won’t be known until this survey work is complete. We’ve listed more roll-out and survey locations at the bottom of this article.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, CDS Board Member, said:

“This funding collaboration with Openreach is enabling us to provide more communities with access to reliable, superfast broadband. With unprecedented numbers of people now working from home and keeping in touch via the internet, we’re fully aware of the important role the local broadband network is playing – and this investment will be a great addition to that.”

David Ralph, CEO of the Heart of the South West LEP, said:

“I am very pleased to see £2.16 million of our Growth Deal and Growing Places funding supporting enhanced connectivity at such a critical time for businesses and residents. This support is fundamental to enabling businesses in North Devon, Torridge and West Devon recover and grow from COVID-19 by providing ultrafast broadband where the commercial market has so far failed to reach. We’re delighted to welcome this latest expansion of CDS fibre coverage.”

We should add that CDS is also working closely with the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme to support rural communities who wish to contract with telecoms providers to design and shape bespoke broadband solutions for their communities. “Where appropriate, CDS provides additional finance from its Community Challenge Fund to help communities with funding shortfalls,” said the team.

Otherwise the two new extension contracts are ultimately intended to complement a much bigger Phase 2 roll-out programme, which is currently being planned by CDS and supported by £18.7m of Government funding (the new contract is due to be awarded by the end of 2020). But that future contract follows the failure of CDS’s earlier Phase 2 contract with Gigaclear (here), which they scrapped last year over a failure to deliver (that in turn also followed an earlier failure to reach a Phase 2 agreement with BT some years ago).

We should point out that Gigaclear and CDS agreed, during February 2020, to “continue with its roll-out of full fibre broadband in those communities where work started under the former contracts” (here). Despite this we have since heard from a number of partially-complete communities that have now been told they will not benefit from this agreement with Gigaclear, which once again leaves them stuck in limbo.

Otherwise the roll-out plan for Airband and survey plan for Openreach can be found below.

Airband’s Fibre Rollout Areas
• Ilfracombe
• Croyde and Georgeham
• Gunn
• Molland and East Anstey
• Bideford
• Abbotsham
• Hartland
• Putford
• Holsworthy
• Clawton
• Gulworthy and Morwellham Quay
• Lewtrenchard and Chillaton
• Yeoford
• Cheriton Bishop

Openreach’s Survey Locations (Rollout Plan TBA)
• Blue Anchor
• Brayford and North Molton,
• Brompton Ralph
• Exe Valley
• Haccombe, Rocombe and the Teign Estuary
• Lane End
• Satterleigh and Warkleigh
• South Kentisbury Ford
• South Zeal and Throwleigh,
• Teign Valley
• Twitchen
• Watermouth
• Widecombe Parish
• Yettington

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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
8 Responses
  1. Avatar Dave says:

    Why are cds throwing good money after bad. Someone is getting back handers

  2. Avatar NGA for all says:

    Is some of the BT cash, which it could have planned more work earlier in the process being used to pay Airband?

  3. Avatar James says:

    God, if they wanted to circle my house without coming quite close enough to link us up they’re doing a good job!

  4. Avatar Rms2 says:

    Openreach told me a few weeks ago that Oakford area has a plan for completion ending July 2021. And surveying has been spotted taking place in the area in a couple of weeks ago.

  5. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

    What CDS have created here in Devon and Somerset is an utter shambles that will take decades to sort out. With multiple failed contracts, different schemes and different technical systems dotted all over the place, hundreds if not thousands of premises have fallen between the gaps and are now stuck in limbo. Heads need to roll but never will, these are your ‘job for life’ local government people, CDS boss Keri Denton is paid £100,825 a year to run the scheme, you really couldn’t make it up.

  6. Avatar MikeP says:

    A weird list there from BT.

    Quite specific parishes named along with “Teign valley” and “Exe Valley” – talk about vague. Unspecific enough to be useless.

    1. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

      And some overbuild from Airband, Chillaton has FTTC and Lewtrenchard has good service too (only about 10 premises in Lewtrenchard!).

  7. Avatar DavidT says:

    I’d be interested to know what Airband fibre is. For instance Hartland is listed on this announcement. The village itself has FTTC via BT and other parts are already covered by Airband. So what exactly extra are Airband now going to offer there. Same goes for other areas listed too. Is it greater coverage or a better product.

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