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Gov Starts GBP5bn UK Gigabit Broadband and Voucher Schemes UPDATE

Friday, March 19th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 13,920
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The UK Government has today revealed new details of how their £5bn gigabit broadband roll-out scheme will work and rebranded it as “Project Gigabit“. As part of that they’ve also confirmed £210m for an extension of their rural Gigabit Voucher scheme and £110m to connect up to 7,000 rural GP surgeries, libraries and schools.

At present around 40% of homes and businesses across the United Kingdom can already access a Gigabit (1Gbps+) speed capable broadband ISP network, which is likely to reach over half of premises by the end of 2021 (c.60%). But the majority of that is largely thanks to commercial deployments and upgrades in urban areas (i.e. most of it stems from Virgin Media’s DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade, while the rest comes from FTTP).

NOTE: Up to 80% of gigabit coverage is expected to be delivered by commercial projects, thus public funding is focused on helping the final 20% of premises (i.e. rural and sub-urban areas – c.5-6 million premises, which the market finds too expensive).

The Government’s Project Gigabit programme wants such speeds to reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, and they also aim to get “as close to 100% as possible” – depending upon how the industry responds (i.e. so far only £1.2bn has been released from the budget, but more will be unlocked if the industry shows they can deliver what is needed).

Despite all this, it’s now expected to be the “first half of 2022” before the first contracts are awarded under the new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) and the Government has also warned that those in the final 1% may still be “prohibitively expensive to reach“. However, until now, the new programme has been largely stuck in the pre-launch design phase, but all that is about to change.

Phase One of Project Gigabit

The first phase of Project Gigabit revamps the gap funded (i.e. direct supply side intervention) model, which we first saw in the previous £2.5bn Superfast Broadband (SFBB) programme from the Building Digital UK (BDUK) team, albeit with a few key changes. This is expected to gobble up the lion’s share of that £5bn and involves inviting ISPs to bid on contracts for covering intervention areas of varying different sizes.

The new scheme, which in England will be centrally managed by BDUK (as opposed to being managed by local councils like SFBB), will once again require bidders to ensure that their networks are available for use by other ISPs via wholesale (open access). Various operators, both big and small (e.g. Openreach, Virgin Media, Cityfibre, Gigaclear, Cityfibre etc.), are expected to take part and areas with sub-30Mbps speeds will be prioritized (but NOT to the exclusion of all else).

More than 1.1 million homes and businesses are expected to gain access to gigabit-capable connections in this first phase, starting with up to 510,000 premises in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley.

The first procurements to be announced from the above batch are:

➤ 110,000 to 130,000 premises in Durham, South Tyneside & Tees Valley and areas of Northumberland – including Darlington, Stockton, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside

➤ 60,000 to 80,000 premises in West Cumbria including in the Lake District National Park

➤ 30,000 to 50,000 premises in North and West Northumberland and East Cumbria – including Brampton and Rothbury

➤ 120,00 to 140,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and adjacent areas – including Peterborough and parts of Northamptonshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Rutland

➤ 40,000 to 60,000 premises in East Cornwall – including Launceston, Callington and Looe

➤ 30,000 to 50,000 premises in West Cornwall – including in Cambourne-Pool-Redruth and Penzance and the Isles of Scilly

NOTE: On top of these six regional contracts above (‘Phase 1a’), there will also be further local supplier contacts in rural Essex and Dorset.

Then, in June 2021, BDUK expects to announce the next batch of procurements (Phase 1b) to connect up to 640,000 premises in Norfolk, Shropshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Further details on these will follow in the future (quarterly updates are expected on all of this).

However, despite all the talk being that “available speeds will rocket to more than 1,000 megabits,” it should be stated that the contracts themselves need to reflect reality (e.g. consumer connections share their capacity between users in order to remain affordable). In the real world this, and various hardware limits, mean that even if you buy a 1Gbps package then the ISP might not be able to deliver 100% of that speed to you 24/7.

Documents released in July 2020 revealed that BDUK appeared likely to require a “normally available” download speed of at least 500Mbps and uploads of 200Mbps (here) – as defined at peak times (8-10pm for residential and 12-2pm for business services). We’ll check later this morning to see if there’s any update on this, but saying 500Mbps is more about defining real-world capability on residential networks.

In any case, most rural homes would hardly moan at such speeds. Nevertheless, some people may be confused by anything that seems like a dilution of “gigabit” performance.

More Public Sector Dark Fibre

The existing demand-side intervention approach adopted by the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme, where public money is used to help build Dark Fibre to connect public and community buildings (e.g. council houses, schools, libraries and GP surgeries) will continue and is being boosted by another £110m.

The government states that this funding should help to extend gigabit fibre to connect up to 7,000 more GP surgeries, libraries and schools in rural areas. As before, the hope is that some of these Dark Fibre style deployments will later be harnessed by the commercial sector (using private investment) to help extend Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband into surrounding homes and businesses etc.

The existing LFFN programme seemed to work quite well and the extra funding should make it more viable to take this approach in some of the hardest to reach parts of the UK.

The New Gigabit Voucher Scheme

Until very recently the existing £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme was still offering gigabit connectivity vouchers to people living in rural and semi-rural areas. The RGC scheme offered up to £3,500 for businesses, or £1,500 for homes, to help them get an ultrafast or gigabit-capable connection installed (last year many of these vouchers doubled in value).

NOTE: So far more than 66,000 vouchers worth up to £127m have been issued to premises across the UK.

Sadly new applications for these vouchers have been in limbo for a few weeks because the existing scheme was due to finish on 31st March 2021 (pre-existing projects will still be served until March 2022). We had been expecting a follow-on scheme to launch and today the Government confirmed that they’ve committed £210m to “relaunch” the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS).

The new vouchers, which will be of the same value as before (see above), will go live on 8th April 2021 and “mean that rural areas will not have to wait for supplier contracts under Project Gigabit to reach them.” Apparently a “new online postcode checker” will be made available, so people can check if their home or business is eligible for a voucher, although it’s unclear how this will differ from the old one.

As we’ve previously reported (here), the follow-on scheme will only be available to those deemed to be in Ofcom’s Area 3 definition, which reflects the least competitive rural areas (previously parts of semi-competitive Area 2 were also covered). This is necessary to reduce conflict with deployment contracts under the new gigabit programme and focus funding to where it’s needed the most.

Some existing projects under the old programme, which are still in-flight and may have headroom for more vouchers after the scheme ends, may also be able to transfer to the new scheme, but obviously this will still exclude any Area 2 premises.

Tackling the Final 0.3% of Premises

As mentioned earlier, the Government (DCMS) has previously warned that those living in the final 1% of remote rural premises may be “prohibitively expensive to reach” (here). Today’s announcement notes that, “thanks to completed or pending government-funded projects“, less than 0.3% of the country (i.e. under 100,000 premises) are likely to fall into this category (roughly the same gap that the 10Mbps USO has struggled to fill).

NOTE: According to data provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are approximately 420,000 premises in the UK which are classified as ‘remote’. This represents c.1.4% of the total number of premises in the UK.

UK_Premises_by_Rurality_Pie_Chart_2021

For these “Very Hard to Reach” premises, which are mainly located in remote and isolated locations in Scotland and Wales, and some National Parks in England, a call for evidence has been launched to explore the barriers to improving their broadband and how innovative new technologies might help change this (open until 11th June 2021).

The consultation states: “The costs of improving broadband coverage rise exponentially as deployment continues into the final percentage point of most remote premises. A very small proportion of premises – potentially less than 100,000 – are therefore likely to be significantly above the broadband USO’s reasonable cost threshold and considered “Very Hard to Reach” with gigabit-capable broadband technologies like FTTP. This is due to factors like their isolated geographic locations or the often substantial distances between them and existing or planned telecoms infrastructure, which make it challenging to deliver improved broadband.”

The suggestion is that all of this could lead to the government encouraging industry to use new wireless kit, LEO satellites (e.g. Starlink, OneWeb) or high altitude platforms to “beam faster connections to far-flung homes and businesses.”

We don’t know what the outcome of this will be, but we could easily see a voucher approach being extended to help cover the cost of Starlink’s (SpaceX) hardware (c.£500). But at present the £89 per month rental on Starlink is still far too expensive for most people, so that would ideally need to change first (or OneWeb may launch with better affordability). Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) networks may also help in some areas.

Closing Thoughts

Unfortunately what today’s announcement doesn’t tell us is how long it will actually take to achieve near universal coverage of gigabit-capable broadband. One recent forecast predicted that the UK could potentially reach 98%+ coverage by 2030 (here) and that seems like a reasonable prediction, if still subject to a fair degree of uncertainty.

The new programme, particularly its dominant gap-funded approach, is also a bit more complex than we’ve seen before. The new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) is designed to help do the heavy lifting here, but there’s no guarantee that delays won’t still creep in (we always see some problems with big projects like this).

Meanwhile, we still don’t know exactly how the funding will be managed for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has already had a little for R100, but that’s different – here). England may have taken a centralised approach, but the devolved governments have already signalled that they’d like to be in charge of their own funding allocations, but BDUK/DCMS may well worry about this approach attracting further delays (it took years to get R100 into delivery mode).

Oliver Dowden MP, Digital Secretary, said:

“Project Gigabit is our national mission to plug in and power up every corner of the UK and get us gigafit for the future.

We have already made rapid progress, with almost 40 percent of homes and businesses now able to access next-generation gigabit speeds, compared to just 9 percent in 2019. Now we are setting out our plans to invest £5 billion in remote and rural areas so that no one is left behind by the connectivity revolution.

That means no more battling over the bandwidth, more freedom to live and work anywhere in the country, and tens of thousands of new jobs created as we deliver a game-changing infrastructure upgrade.”

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister, said:

“Project Gigabit is the rocket boost that we need to get lightning-fast broadband to all areas of the country. This broadband revolution will fire up people’s businesses and homes, and the vital public services that we all rely on, so we can continue to level up and build back better from this pandemic.”

At this point we should remind readers that, while a lot of the focus above will be on “full fibre” FTTP technology, the Government is in fact adopting a technologically neutral approach to delivery (e.g. FTTP, DOCSIS 3.1 Hybrid Fibre Coax, 5G or fixed wireless broadband could all play a part). But the mobile variant of 5G, due to its preference for lower frequencies to maximise coverage in remote areas, is unlikely to foster gigabit speeds for rural homes.

Nevertheless, Project Gigabit is still a big step in the right direction and we welcome the fact that it’s now, finally, able to get out of the starting blocks. Alongside the Delivery Plan for Project Gigabit, DCMS has today published an update on the work of its Barrier Busting Taskforce. The Taskforce has played a key role in improving the environment for digital infrastructure investment and deployment.

In the meantime, we shouldn’t forget that rural gigabit deployments have continued to be supported by extensions to BDUK’s original £2.5bn Superfast Broadband (SFBB) project, which for the past couple of years has largely helped to extend FTTP coverage.

Additionally, between September and December 2020, the government approved a further £490 million in new contracts via the SFBB programme across the UK to connect a further 172,000 premises to gigabit connectivity in Scotland, Cheshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Devon and Somerset. We suspect this will also help to push 30Mbps+ coverage to c.98% in around 2 years time (presently it’s c.97%).

Project Gigabit – Phase One Delivery Plan
https://www.gov.uk/../project-gigabit-phase-one-delivery-plan

UPDATE 6:54am

A few more comments from the launch.

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach said:

” We’re already building Full Fibre broadband to 20 million homes and businesses under our own steam – including in rural and hard-to-reach areas – and we welcome this as a vital next step to connect the toughest parts of the UK.

We’ll be considering these proposals for the final 20% with interest and we’re keen to support the Government. This is a massive opportunity to level-up the country and boost the bounce-back after the pandemic, so it’s important the process moves quickly and that all operators do their bit.

Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said:

“Project Gigabit is another welcome accelerant that will propel the UK towards a Full Fibre future, supporting economic growth and levelling up opportunity right across the country. As the nation’s largest independent Full Fibre platform, with a build programme underway to a third of the UK market, CityFibre is ready to extend our network even further to reach rural communities. We look forward to participating in this important programme to ensure no one is left behind.”

Gareth Williams, Gigaclear CEO, said:

“As a rural operator already delivering multiple ‘Superfast’ BDUK contracts, we are naturally delighted to see the next step in the development of the Outside In programme.

We are fully supportive of the Government’s ambition to roll out gigabit capable connectivity across the country as quickly as possible, the importance of which has been further highlighted by the COVID pandemic.

We look forward to playing an active role in meeting this ambition and will review these opportunities in detail.”

UPDATE 8:16am

The new Gigabit Project documentation also gives us a little preview of which areas / regions are likely to be in their Phase 2 procurements. “We are aiming to commence preparations in each of these areas by starting our National Open Market Review in the next three months,” said the documentation.

Tentative Phase 2 Procurement Plan

● Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes (Lot 12)
● Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and East of Berkshire (Lot 26)
● Derbyshire (Lot 3)
● East Sussex (Lot 16)
● Kent (Lot 29)
● Lancashire (Lot 9)
● Leicestershire and Warwickshire (Lot 11)
● Nottinghamshire and West of Lincolnshire (Lot 10)
● Oxfordshire and West Berkshire (Lot 13)
● South Yorkshire (Lot 20)
● Staffordshire (Lot 19)
● Surrey (Lot 22)
● West Yorkshire and parts of North Yorkshire (Lot 8)
● West Sussex (Lot 1)
● Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire (Lot 30)
● Potential projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Lots TBC)

Beyond Phase 2 (TBA – later in the programme)

● Birmingham and the Black Country (Lot 35)
● Cheshire (Lot 17)
● Devon & Somerset (Lot 6)
● Herefordshire & Gloucestershire (Lots 15, 18)
● Dorset (Lot 14) (although note some Local Supplier contracts are being progressed here)
● Essex (Lot 21) (although note some Local Supplier contracts are being progressed here)
● Lincolnshire (including NE Lincolnshire and N Lincolnshire) and East Riding (Lot 23)
● Greater London (Lot 37)
● Merseyside and Greater Manchester (Lot 36)
● Newcastle and North Tyneside (Lot 38)
● Northern North Yorkshire (Lot 31)
● Remaining projects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Lots TBC)

UPDATE 8:26am

The documentation also gives us a little more detail, albeit still not finalised, on how DCMS/BDUK will approach the issue of working with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. By the sounds of it, in Scotland these “Projects will be developed jointly by the UK Government and Scottish Government through a collaborative approach, in which it is expected that the Scottish Government will be the lead partner on implementation management on behalf of DCMS.” As for Wales and N.Ireland, it’s still a little unclear, but there’s a lot of “working together” style waffle without any specifics.

UPDATE 8:35am

Some might wonder what happened to all of the expected smaller procurements above, as much smaller clusters (bundles) were mentioned during the design phase. In short, there’s been a lack of specific proposals from suppliers and that has made it hard to implement, but they’re keeping the door open.

This is what DCMS/BDUK say on that: “The feedback from telecoms providers and local authorities confirms that there remains a strong level of interest in smaller procurements through the DPS. As described in this document, the lack of specific proposals to consider has made it hard to develop specific procurement areas so far, but we remain committed to the procurement route and will follow up with smaller telecoms providers expressing interest, particularly where they have proposals for areas to include in procurements.”

UPDATE 8:43am

In the above article we mentioned the launch of a new voucher website / checker, which the documentation suggests reflects the ability to give greater feedback on eligibility: “Where eligible, consumers will be able to contact registered suppliers to understand how vouchers could be used as part of a project to connect their community. Where not eligible, we will explain why and provide information so that consumers can identify what connectivity options are available to them and timelines for when we would reappraise eligibility if network build plans have changed or not progressed as expected. Providers will also be able to alert where they believe our eligibility assessment may be based on inaccurate records, just as they can today.”

UPDATE 9:36am

Another comment.

Steve Leighton, Voneus, said:

“As a rural provider of Gigabit connectivity, the Government announcement on Project Gigabit is welcome news to us and the communities we serve today. Working alongside Government, we look forward to playing an active role in future procurements, accelerating our Gigabit roll out to the hardest to reach areas of the UK.

This transformational project, will provide much needed support to the rural communities we engage with on a daily basis, and we are ready to step in and make a real difference.”

UPDATE 26th March 2021

We managed to get an update on last year’s pilot of the Broadband Upgrade Fund, which was a consumer led (instead of supplier led) approach to the gigabit voucher scheme (i.e. like a dating site for vouchers where people/communities expressed an interest in vouchers and suppliers could then choose to engage with them). We were curious about what would happen to this idea under Project Gigabit.

Apparently, the final stage of the Broadband Upgrade Fund only recently completed, in January 2021, and many suppliers are still in the process of engaging with communities to put together project proposals to submit to BDUK for approval. Therefore, a full assessment of the effectiveness of the pilot will be done once there has been sufficient opportunity for proposals to turn into voucher projects. This will inform any decisions around whether to adopt this kind of model in the future.

BDUK also clarified their position on setting the speed criteria for future gap funded contracts: “We will confirm the requirements in the tender documents for the procurements but have been making some changes to the technical requirements in light of feedback from the market. Essentially, the requirements will be largely consistent with commonly available in the market today from gigabit providers, including offering, as a minimum, a product that includes headline download speeds of 1Gbps with a (lower) minimum throughput during busy hour periods, plus a minimum upload speed. We expect bidders to offer other tiers of service and they will submit their wholesale product offerings and will be evaluated accordingly.”

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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
53 Responses
  1. Granola says:

    A step forward and nice headlines but, “120,00 to 140,000 premises” spread across 5 counties is a little thin, you’d consider yourself lucky to be included in that.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      They’ll probably give it in one voucher to a old guy living on an island off Scotland to install hundreds of miles of fibre under the irish sea.

    2. Gary says:

      @Buggerlugz, Not that far off the mark with that comment, Zero word on who and where is getting R100 connections in Lot 1 nor what those connections are going to be, Apparently its way too early in the process for that, But not too early to commit to numerous expensive subsea fibre links to the Islands out of the LOT 1 budget thereby reducing the number of improved connections elsewhere.

      I’d dearly like to see the cost per head justification of a subsea fibre link VS other normal connections that are deemed ‘too remote and expensive’

  2. anon4575 says:

    I live in Worcestershire, so I’m glad this area is included in the plans. Fingers crossed that all premises in Bewdley and surrounding areas will be covered!

  3. Peter S says:

    Great for those areas included in the initial phases, but as usual Cheshire is totally overlooked. With the value of the individual gigabit vouchers remaining unchanged and little prospect of our local authority topping them up, its looking like several more years of sub 10 mbps services around here !

  4. Frank Butcher says:

    This is nothing like what was promised before the election. Johnson has a lot of form for over-promising and under delivering.

    Imagine what the £15bn wasted on defective PPE would have done for broadband.

    1. Adrian says:

      To be honest with the ofcom announcement the mix of OR, VM, city fibre and the other alrnets I suspect that the 85% that is the commercial rollout will be met. 25million properties roughly.

      Our village now has two gigabit choices announced when I thought we’d get nothing.

      I suspect that this money is now for the almost commercial viable and that the final villages and towns are going to need some help or other solution.

      And being in the east Midlands I am happy that London and the south east may have to wait for once.

    2. Carl Conrad says:

      Adrian – in fact the East Midlands has greater Superfast (+30 Mbps) coverage than London. Admittedly, ultrafast is higher but please don’t get the impression this is widespread. Fast broadband is the norm in new blocks but the rest of us get a pathetic, unreliable service from ageing copper based networks.

    3. Adrian says:

      well as my cabinet was at the end of a long run of mixed overhead cable dropping to underground through a conservation area, the combination of line length, cross talk and a neighbour who has decked their house with cheap outdoor fairy lights my speeds were 25 meg and dropping.

      Given in the south east where I lived 5 years ago I was on 80/29 with VM as an additional option if that wasn’t enough.

      But here in Notts there may be “plenty” of superfast but that is all in Nottingham with the 2 universities and all the fibre overbuild with the big population density. The trouble is the huge amounts of small towns and villages scattered everywhere makes broadband a huge postcode lottery and I welcome cityfibre branching out from their Nottingham network.

      I do feel that a huge amount of villages will still lose out just for being in the correct location even if the cable passes them.

  5. Gigabit says:

    Glad to see Hampshire quite early on.

    Do we have any idea how that works with areas that might also be commercially covered? Is there any kind of ETA for entire counties being covered?

  6. Jono says:

    Luckily managed to get my Community Fibre scheme over the line last week, we wouldn’t be eligible from April.

    1. InTheSlowLane says:

      That’s why anyone in Ofcom area 3 projects got thrown under the bus by OR recently in order to maximise their grant funding from the area 2 projects that are no longer eligible.

      DCMS have made the voucher focus more rural – i.e. more expensive – but without giving it increased funding (still £1500 per house). On top of that most county top ups are running out of funds and with local government funding review kicked down the road, the top-ups are likely to disappear. Many area 3 projects will die as vouchers now won’t cover them and they are not big enough for the smallest procurement schemes.

      There needed to be positive discrimination to fix the rural problem but they have missed the opportunity.

    2. Peter S says:

      InTheSlowLane

      I totally agree – By failing to increase the value of the individual BDUK vouchers it is highly likely that the vast majority of community led projects in Area 3 will not be viable without local authority top up funding. We are located less than 3 miles from a city centre and border Openreach’s commercial rollout plans, yet we are facing a significant funding shortfall without local authority support. The post code lottery continues …….

    3. Fastman says:

      in the slow lane

      That’s why anyone in Ofcom area 3 projects got thrown under the bus by OR recently in order to maximise their grant funding from the area 2 projects that are no longer eligible.

      area 3 should get another scheme – area 2 wont

      so what did you do engage with road, street village etc (your community) befor asking Openreach for a Quote (A) or did you ask for a quotee and then go and talk to your community (B) and then find you needed get a different quote for more / less premises

    4. Jono says:

      @fastman
      so what did you do engage with road, street village etc (your community) befor asking Openreach for a Quote (A) or did you ask for a quotee and then go and talk to your community (B) and then find you needed get a different quote for more / less premises

      I got an initial quote for the entire estate, was insane and no chance it would happen. Then got a second quote for my close but that ended up turning into 140 houses. The cost was reasonable.

      I engaged with community on Facebook, posted flyers and did lots of chasing. Luckily got it over the line just in time.

  7. A_Builder says:

    So outwards-> in has hit the bin?

    I’m not surprised TBH as there are a very few properties that could swallow masses of budget for no great public gain. The key may be to provide handoff points.

  8. Gigabit says:

    Is there any more specific info on postcodes or exchange areas and when they are due to be covered?

    1. Bob says:

      Don’t be silly

  9. DorsetBloke says:

    Is there anything here that’s going to change anything? BT have been going for the easy wins, regardless of what’s already in place, so you have this insane system where some areas have lots of different options, and others have none.

    1. GNewton says:

      “insane system where some areas have lots of different options, and others have none.”

      The whole framework is wrong. Fibre broadband should be regarded as a utility, just like electricity or water. You only have one water pipe or power line into a premise, you don’t build mutltipe water pipes from different water companies into the same house while large areas are without water supplies. It’s time to deal with fibre in the same way. A kind of a NBN-style project is needed for at least parts of this country. Competition should be provided mainly on the service level, not on building multiple fibre access networks in some same areas.

      The current postcode-lottery style cherry-picking approach doesn’t work, it won’t solve the digital divide. Private companies are not able to fibre networks in certain areas when the ROI is too far in the future.

    2. Bob says:

      No it is more of the same mess. More hype than substance

    3. FibreFred says:

      Re “treated like a utility” it wouldn’t make any difference for rural locations it doesn’t matter how you classify it or who does the work it will still be expensive to connect up.

      If you are not connected to the gas or water mains look up the cost of bringing that to a rural location.

  10. occasionally factual says:

    Thing to make me shudder was the phrase “centrally managed”.

    Look how well this government has manged things centrally and you will see why this alone will kill off any effective work.

    The money will vanish into off-shore bank accounts quickly.

    1. Bob says:

      Rural does not mean a tiny hamlet. The general definition used by the government for rural is areas with a population of less than 10,000 homes

  11. lolfibre says:

    “this funding should help to extend gigabit fibre to connect up to 7,000 more GP surgeries, libraries and schools in rural areas. As before, the hope is that some of these Dark Fibre style deployments will later be harnessed by the commercial sector (using private investment) to help extend Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband into surrounding homes and businesses etc”

    but OR charge a premium if you use the fibre to feed a FTTP network

  12. Gavin says:

    While it is good all these areas are being announced, and more to come in the future, it is still very confusing for the average person, even one more tech aware, to have any idea of just when I’m going to get offered an FTTP option.

    According to the information provided Greater Manchester is in with Merseyside in Lot 36 that will be chosen sometime in the later phase.

    Am I right in thinking that these programmes are in addition to the regular commercial roll out that the network builders are doing?

  13. TomD says:

    I understand Gigaclear have recently stopped their commercial rollout in Arkesden and other rural NW Essex villages.
    I hope this will kick-start them but it’s yet another multi-year delay.

    1. Dave says:

      Dave says
      {“_response_info”:{“status”:”not found”}}

  14. West Cumbria FTW says:

    ‘if’ 5G is so good, why are we spending all this money on laying cables?
    on a positive note, apart from digital tv, its a first seeing West Cumbria near top of a list for anything else

    1. Gary says:

      Because 5G is not ‘that good’ enough.

      5G as a nationwide broadband solution would require thousands of new towers with power and backhaul to achieve good coverage and speed even in densely populated areas, take that out to sparser rural locations and the coverage per tower per user is laughable yet still needs power running to the masts even if we use radio backhaul.

  15. argonaut56d says:

    My small Hertfordshire hamlet of Watford doesn’t seem any closer? Sure it was originally in the plans for March 2021 install? Probably wrong?

    Just checked and we have 2.38% availability of FTTP, of which 0.53% is Openreach. I’m sure Hyperoptic installed FTTP to some commercial areas (other 1.85% maybe?) in the last year or so, but when asked had no plans for residential installs.

    We have good Virgin coverage (though being Virgin, not good service).

    Not bad seeing we had a population of 130,000+ according to the 2011 Census, and figure will have gone up massively with all the scandalous developments that have been approved over the last 10 years.

  16. Bob says:

    It is going down the same road that Cable TV did and that did not end well

  17. Barry Forde says:

    Whilst the announcement is welcomed the devil is in the detail. I suspect that Local authorities will want to go with Regional Suppliers to keep life simple. There are unlikely to be many local suppliers in the true rural areas due to the complexity and onerous terms of the DPS contracts. Community projects looking to use the voucher route to build are likely to be frozen out as the LAs will set the build areas and favour the Regional suppliers. The LAs have a track record of going with single supplier large contracts so expect most councils to go with BT and few if any builds ending up with community projects. Thats regrettable as the most rural areas are likely to end up several years behind where there could be, and unlike community projects who deliver 100% connectivity, end up with un-fibred properties which will then be dependant on LEO, tethered ballons or telepathy.

  18. graham t says:

    is there a link to where it says about Tentative Phase 2 Procurement Plan?

    interested to see what areas in east sussex lot 16 will be looked at etc

    thanks

  19. Ben says:

    “uploads of 200Mbps” – interesting, so BT’s normal FTTP products won’t qualify?

    1. Meadmodj says:

      The minimum specification appears to be there for consistency in the Out/In tenders. This also includes a definitive agreement to the exact premises to be covered. Therefore it is inferred providers will have to provide technology in these areas to meet these.

      This contrasts with commercial rollouts where the provider will choose their technology which in the short term may include older GPON generations (until supply of newer kit is introduced availability/cost), the actual splitter availability to each street (marketing forecast), the premises covered (CityFibre 85%) and the back haul capacity supplying their OLTs.

      So my view is that those that will be on these schemes are likely to be in a better position than the existing FTTP areas for actual availability/speed as it will be some time before providers retrofit.

    2. CarlT says:

      A new tier with 200 Mb/s upload in return for extra cash would be fine for compliance.

      The GPON Openreach are using would be fine with this. Where load built up to where it was no longer adequate this would be remedied as it is in commercial deployments, either via reducing the homes sharing the capacity or an XGSPON overlay.

  20. pikkoz says:

    I’m so lucky I live in a area of 60 houses built circa 10 years ago that is in the middle of a city, we’re a literally a stone trow from the city centre. It’s been years we re complaining with Openreach, the City Council , Virgin , MPs, as we have only access to a slow Adsl line, with 15is Mb download and barely 1mb upload (after tweaking the modem SNR signals) while all the household had FTTC and Virgin cable years ago, and in the last couple of years Openreanch FTTP and Cityfibre council founded FTTP.
    Openreach fibre finish at an exchange that is litteraly opposite to my house.
    Obviously no voucher for us.

  21. Just a thought says:

    These 1% of properties that are going to be difficult to reach. What happens when copper is switched off? Do they get nothing? If they had nothing they are no worse off. If they had copper, then as they take it down from the poles, they just need to hang fibre instead. If it’s in a duct, they can use it to pull the fibre through. If it’s been direct buried they must have wayleave to be able to fix faults if the copper goes down. And the copper being removed is certainly a break in service so the would be allowed to repair it with fibre 🙂

    1. Fastman says:

      problem is you cant do that as you then disadvantage service providers that only offer copper. you cannot force a subscribe to move to Fibre by worsening (increasing the copper line length) or removing there current copper service , that one of the conditions of licence

    2. 125us says:

      Jointing fibre to copper is really hard. Unless both networks originate in the same place you can’t just swap one for the other.

      Wayleaves for copper don’t give you permission to install fibre, BT is allowed to install copper anywhere someone has requested telephone service. That’s not true for fibre.

    3. The Facts says:

      @125 – what are the actual words about only allowed to install copper?

    4. GNewton says:

      @Fastman: While there may be some problems, the one you describe is not the issue, as it could be resolved through an updated regulatory framework, along with the usage of virtual LLU. It’s not a complicated rocket science!

  22. James says:

    Sounds like it might be Starlink for me to bridge the gap. Latest beta results are up to 400 Mbps, so when it stabilises a bit I’ll probably look at changing over as it’s 9x faster than my FTTC connection already.

    1. Person says:

      I do not agree with the launching of more junk into space, but, it does seem this along with 5G will be the best solution. I did take a look at the Starlink website and it’s glorious, simple, explains everything well and the sign up and payment process is pure child’s play, you can even use Apple Pay! It will attract a lot of customers with an easy to use image like that.
      Also if you have 5G or Starlink you can say bye bye to BT having anything to do with your internet connection.

  23. JmJohnson says:

    Everytime I see a comment about Starlink I cringe a little.
    Whilst an additional 20-40ms latency may not seem alot you’ll feel it on any site that uses recursive queries… so most comment systems, listings etc and this is before I even get into the effects within gaming.
    LinusTechTips recently did a review of their trial kit… Great for anything that’s a continuous stream, worse than adsl for everything else.

    1. Lucian says:

      They say 20ms latency when out of beta which is what I’m getting now with EE mobile and I can tell you I can hardly tell the difference coming from (faulty, granted) FTTC.

    2. JmJohnson says:

      Faulty FTTC almost always results in an interleaved connection… which adds anything between 4ms to 40ms for error correction… anything over 40ms usually means greater issues and thus reportable.
      Try a fault free connection and you’ll notice the difference.

  24. Gary says:

    South Lincolnshire will be getting behind on the economy front.
    Yet again South Holland Council are not listed for gigabit broadband. The same area was last to get the superfast broadband 80Meg speed.

    It totally proves South Holland council puts up the poll tax for the area and doesn’t help the area at all.

    1. Tony says:

      South Holland will be in with Superfast Lincolnshire again, once their bit is dished out, they will decide where the monies will go.
      There are still OR builds going on in the area.

  25. Buggerlugz says:

    Was listening to Oliver Dowden MP on Radio 4 the other day. He actually believes that only 20,000 more homes in the UK are without fibre. He’s convinced everyone else has it and is completely in the dark as to how FTC is totally not the same thing.

    Guess Open-reach have the perfect guy in the job then.

  26. Person says:

    Sigh, more voucher scheme nonsense. It’s up to the public themselves to do the leg work for their tax money to be spent on providing them with what should be a utility service. After trying to get a number of homes, most complete strangers, to want to add there names to the list or FTTH and spend the money on it.
    Unfortunately the mass media will present this as 5 billion spent on improves broadband, with little to no mention of the voucher scheme mechanism behind it.
    All this will do is engineer a digital divide and no doubt increase the personal wealth for certain members of the scheme and Parliament.

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