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BDUK Consults on Gigabit Broadband Coverage in Essex UK

Thursday, March 18th, 2021 (1:38 pm) - Score 1,128
essex_gigabit_map_bduk_mar_2021

The Government’s Building Digital UK team has today begun a new consultation to help them identify what existing or planned commercial gigabit-capable broadband coverage exists in Essex (England), which will help to establish the areas where public investment may be needed to deploy the service.

At present the existing Superfast Essex (SFE) project with Openreach (BT) and Gigaclear has already helped to extend “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) networks to nearly 140,000 properties, but the focus is now turning to future gigabit (1000Mbps+) capable connections.

NOTE: Commercial rollouts of gigabit networks could push coverage up to 80% of UK premises by the end of 2025. The current UK figure is over 37% and rising fast (here).

As part of this the Government has already pledged to invest £5bn on a new scheme – Project Gigabit, which aims to ensure that at least 85%+ of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable connection by the end of 2025 (here). The effort for this will primarily be targeted at the final 20% of premises (i.e. the hardest to reach rural and some sub-urban areas), where commercial investment models tend to fail.

In England the new programme will be much more centrally managed than the original Superfast Broadband (SFBB) scheme and that explains why the consultation for Essex is being run by BDUK, rather than the county council. In any case the first step is in identifying precisely which areas are not currently expected to benefit from gigabit speeds under existing deployments, or any plans for the next 3 years.

According to the new consultation, which will be open to responses from the public and stakeholders until 19th April 2021, BDUK has so far identified a total of 163,824 premises (white areas – see map below) that may be in need of intervention under the new project. Prior to today, Cumbria was the only other part of England to launch a similar consultation (here).

essex_gigabit_map_bduk_mar_2021

We can expect similar consultations like this to follow for other parts of England, although it’s currently still unclear how the government will handle all of this in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In any case this means that Cumbria and Essex will probably be at the front of the queue once the new procurements for gigabit infrastructure – handled through a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) – begin this Spring 2021.

Assuming all goes to plan then the first contracts under this could be awarded by the end of 2021 or early 2022, but such things can be complicated, and we wouldn’t rule out some delays. The Government have also forewarned (here) that they consider the “final 1%” of premises “could be prohibitively expensive to reach” via even their gigabit programme (i.e. the same sort of area as their 10Mbps USO was supposed to fix and that has suffered problems).

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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.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all says:

    How will this work with Annex 16 of Ofcom review this morning, where Ofcom put in place the incentives for BT to do ~3.2m and then estimate 7m area 3 premises by 2031?

  2. Avatar PhilipSmith72 says:

    Durham also launched a new OMR yesterday on behalf of DCMS and representing 12 North East council areas.

    http://www.durham.gov.uk/article/25284/Broadband-coverage-Open-Market-Review

  3. Avatar Dominic Adshead says:

    This only seems to cover Essex CC remit rather than Essex as a whole, we have an Essex postcode but fall under Redbridge CC and from reading this we would not be covered or able to submit responses as these go via Essex CC.

    1. Avatar Bob says:

      Redbridge falls under London and not ECC. I am not clear what happens with the two unitary authorities of Tilbury and Southend

  4. Avatar CJ says:

    It will be interesting to see how Openreach play this following the Ofcom review. Will they submit firm plans for some of the white postcodes before the end of the consultation period, to block the possibility of a competitor winning a subsidy, or will they hold back and hope to win a subsidised contract themselves?

    I doubt BT shareholders want to see Virgin or others being subsidised to expand in urban areas. My guess would be far fewer intervention areas in places like Clacton and Harwich when the map is updated after the consultation period, but BT might want to test what happens if they let them go to tender.

    1. Avatar Fastman says:

      CJ

      not sure why you have singled out openreach. that statement could be the same of any network Builder) The Consultation Process (Open Market Review) will invite vendors to notify there future plans in a given Period normally 3 years – those plans will be a premise level ie a 7 digit postcode or even at a UPRN (unique premise indicator) that information is then collated as part of the consultation process and procurement can then only the take place on what the White are is specified post consultation (and white means it is not covered by anyone.

      i would expect the intervention area not be much different as one of the big areas of challenge you have is where a lot of the network is undergound and also direct in ground (so that expensive to turn into FTTP without massive civil disruption that does not lend itself to commercial building

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