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Spectrum Internet and Openreach FTTP Rollouts Clash in Rural Wales

Saturday, March 6th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 5,160
spectrum_internet_engineers_hand_with_cables

Residents in the rural village of Llanvaches near Newport (South Wales) will soon be able to benefit from a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network thanks to UK ISP Spectrum Internet, which is being part-funded by the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme. But Openreach’s rival state aid supported rollout isn’t far behind.

The project was only spotted after a local resident in the village informed us that Spectrum Internet had started deploying their FTTP network in the area, and the expectation is that it live by the end of March 2021. Meanwhile, the civil engineering side looks as if it’s being carried out by contractor Complete Utilities.

NOTE: This is not part of Spectrum’s new £200m project, which aims to cover 150,000 premises by late 2025 and is due to begin soon (here).

A quick look at the area shows that Net Support UK (NSUK) is listed as “excavating to install fibre optic cable and customer connections” in the village, which is home to around 400 people. This is relevant because, back in February last year, the Welsh Government awarded a 20-year concession to NSUK that gave them the rights to access the WG’s existing ducts and trunk roads in order to install new fibre (here).

Spectrum has previously announced that they planned to take advantage of this same concession agreement, which would mean working with NSUK and that helps to explain their involvement in the project. So far, so normal.

A Spokesperson for Spectrum Internet told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Spectrum is currently building a full fibre network to around 100 premises in Llanvaches – with the aim of connecting our first customers in the village in the next few weeks. This was planned pre-investment. The work is a continuation of Spectrum Internet’s programme of community full fibre projects and is being part-funded by the Rural Gigabit Voucher Scheme.

As the build takes place in Llanvaches, we are also finalising our plans to bring full fibre to other communities across south Wales following our recent investment. The new rollout will start with homes and businesses in Pembrokeshire, the Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire later this summer. Further details on specific locations and premises will follow shortly.”

Interestingly, locals say that Openreach is now targeting their village with FTTP too. We did contact Openreach about this, and they confirmed the plan, as well as the fact that their project is being supported by the Welsh Government and Building Digital UK (i.e. it’s part of the state aid supported £52.5m Phase 2 Superfast Cymru contract – here).

The clash is potentially quite controversial because both projects seem to be harnessing some degree of public investment, one via direct state aid and the other via publicly funded vouchers (i.e. the rules say they shouldn’t be overbuilding each other, at least not while using public funding to do so), although there are some caveats to this.

Openreach’s engineers are understood to have surveyed the community in 2020 and the build plans were then approved in January. Assuming all goes to plan then Openreach expects to connect residents in the village within 6-9 months, which is obviously sometime after Spectrum’s project will have completed.

Meanwhile, Spectrum said they’re “aware of Openreach’s plans for a FTTP build to a small number of properties in Llanvaches at some point in the future – however, this does not impact on our work in the village.” By the sounds of it Openreach and Spectrum’s publicly funded deployments may initially avoid each other, but it remains to be seen whether either operator will attempt an overbuild by doing the rest of the area (e.g. as part of a purely commercial extension).

However, regardless of what happens, the main thing is that homes and businesses in the village will soon be able to benefit from access to gigabit-capable broadband connectivity, even if the split of network coverage between different operators could make it a bit more awkward for locals to navigate.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Leex says:

    Well they won’t be able to avoid each other forever (well Spectrum/other real fttp providers won’t be able to avoid openreach) as openreach is planning on going full fibre eventually replacing the copper network

    1. Avatar Andrew Johnson says:

      But using government find to overbuild another operator is at best silly and at worst manipulating the system to benefit the incumbent

  2. Avatar Bob says:

    Wish they would clash outside my front door.

  3. Avatar Michael Powell says:

    What Spectrum is doing is fair game, they have a commercial deployment for the core gigabit network, and can access vouchers to complete the end-user connections. Exactly the same model as Openreach and their community fibre partnership (CFP) commercial operation uses. It beggars believe however, that the Welsh Gove BDUK state aid funds aren’t being withdrawn for this area. Why put OUR money alongside a commercial venture, use it to better value where rural broadband is non-existent?

  4. Avatar boost says:

    NSUK/Spectrum are the same outfit. Human capital is managed under NSUK and the network assets are securitised under Spectrum, I believe.

    As for duplicating public funds, let’s not pretend this is the first time it’s ever happened. Where the subscriber base is concerned, however, more choice is always a win.

  5. Avatar Bill says:

    They can clash outside our poles if they want lol

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