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Clarifying WeFibre’s FTTP Rollout Intentions for Llanon in Wales UPDATED

Monday, July 12th, 2021 (11:40 am) - Score 2,016
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A new report suggests that UK ISP WeFibre (Telcom) may have dropped the rural Ceredigion (Wales) village of Llanon from their gigabit voucher supported Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband rollout plan, which occurred after Openreach (BT) announced that they’d cover the community. But the situation may not be so clear-cut.

Earlier this year (here) we reported that the provider, which holds an ambition to bring their “full fibre” network to 1 million UK premises by the end of 2023 (here), would initially focus on areas like Marsden (West Yorkshire), Tameside in Greater Manchester and Blackpool. WeFibre also revealed that they would deploy across a number of rural communities in Cumbria and West Wales, supported by the government’s gigabit vouchers.

Since then, some of those communities, such as Llanrhystud and Cross Inn, have secured the necessary funding and can now proceed to deployment. But according to a community website for the project, the same can’t be said for Llanon, which like a lot of other gigabit voucher projects has allegedly found itself becoming ineligible for voucher funding.

The change in circumstance appears to have occurred as a result of Openreach’s move to expand their FTTP rollout, which is said below to have occurred under a contract with the Welsh Government (here). Except, Llanon was added to the rollout list when Openreach raised their commercial plans to include 6.2 million rural and semi-rural premises (here).

Major expansions like this are positive, although Openreach’s deployment timescale runs in to late 2026 (i.e. a potentially much longer wait before the service arrives) and it has disrupted a number of other voucher-based rollout plans by rivals.

A statement on the project site said (here):

“We’re thrilled to announce that after much dialogue with DCMS we have received final funding approval and sign off for Llanrhystud.

We do however have some sad news for the residents of Llanon. I am sure most of you would have seen the update from Openreach, this was to say that Llanon are now going to be upgraded by them. This decision was taken out of our hands, due to the contract the Welsh Government have with Openreach. It will come as no surprise that these upgrades will be in the next 5 years for Llanon. If we had a choice then Llanon would be getting the green light as is Llanrhystud.”

The move, if it were correct, would make sense from the sides of the Welsh and UK Governments (Building Digital UK), since they don’t want to invest public money to help deployments in areas that are planned to benefit from commercial upgrades.

On the other hand, there’s always the risk that Openreach could change their tentative plans for such communities at a later date, and it’d thus be hard luck if the area now ends up waiting years longer to benefit (it’s not yet known when OR’s FTTP will arrive in Llanon, but hopefully it’s closer to 2021/22 than 2026). However, all is not as it appears..

UPDATE 23rd July 2021

WeFibre has informed us that the project site and their statement on Llanon was inaccurate. According to the ISP, WeFibre to date has not submitted any proposal to DCMS for a voucher funded project that includes premises in the Llanon area.

A Spokesperson for WebFibre told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Our current plans are to focus on the roll-out of service within Llanrhystud where we do have funding approval with a view that we will further extend our network to cover the Llanon area as a subsequent project. We also note that the vast majority of premises in Llanon remain eligible for voucher funding and once our planning and community engagement is further developed for the area we will be in a position to submit a proposal to DCMS for their review.

Openreach’s plans for the area have no direct impact on WeFibre’s plans; we welcome choice and competition in the market as this represents a positive benefit for customers.”

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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.
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16 Responses
  1. Anna says:

    As a resident of Llanon I find this a very strange decision. Interest was shown and vouchers “claimed” in force across the 3 villages. Did the interest by Llanon’s residents bolster llanrhystud’s and Cross Inn’s case at all? Saying that llanon are excluded because of a relationship between Open Reach and the WG isn’t providing the clarity which I think we need. We need to find out why.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      It’s fairly simple, as per the article, you don’t spend public money in an area where private funding intends to deploy. The voucher scheme is intended to focus on rural areas where no such plans exist.

    2. CeredigionMan says:

      From Welsh Government
      “The following postcode areas include premises which appear in the schedule for our ongoing publically funded fibre roll out.”

      I would seem to me, that Openreach have undermined WeFibre’s efforts here.

    3. CarlT says:

      Think that’s ‘competition’, CeredigionMan.

      Personally I’m quite happy that Openreach are going to be using entirely private investment rather than the taxpayer picking up a big part of the bill, though your mileage may vary.

    4. Mark Jackson says:

      So, as far as I can see, the village was added to Openreach’s commercial FTTP rollout plan in May 2021, and the mention on the project website of “will be in the next 5 years for Llanon” supports that (since that build runs to Dec 2026).

      As such, I think the project comment above, about this stemming from Openreach’s contract with the Welsh Government, may be a mistake or is not the full context. Since that state aid contract has been running for a while and is due to complete in June 2022 (i.e. its rollout plan has been known since late last year).

    5. CeredigionMan says:

      The Llanon postcodes were in-scope for these vouchers, then following the Openreach announcement they were not, this decision was taken out of WeFibre’s hands.

      Mark mentions “its rollout plan has been known since late last year” Where is this information?

    6. Mark Jackson says:

      Contract on the latest WG extension for Phase 2 was signed in July 2020 and, so far as I’m aware, Openreach had completed all or nearly all of their engineering surveys for that by around the end of 2020. The build phase is now well advanced.

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/07/wales-extends-bt-fttp-broadband-rollout-to-39000-premises.html

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/06/q1-2021-progress-update-on-wales-bt-fttp-broadband-rollout.html

  2. A Local Ceredigion Resident says:

    That is a shame – I would say however that Llanon although suffering from patchy 4g signal in the area – they have had FTTC rollout for quite some time – with average/peak speeds of 50-80 Mbps, whereas the averages for where we live not 10 minutes drive from here is still 1-3mbps on a good day, with fibre hanging from the poles for nearly 8 years now. Thankfully, it seems there has been a flurry of activity over here with manifolds installed for a couple of months now and I’ll believe it when I see it, but in theory BTW should have FTTP enabled by the end of this month, we’ve waited a very long time and unfortuanately the WeFibre programme couldnt help us when we needed it the most. I’ve long since learnt however to not count me chickens in this world, because things can change in a day, and we could be waiting another five years

  3. Still waiting for fibre says:

    What puzzles me about this is that the Llanon exchange feeds Llanrhystyd too, it’s situated almost half way between the two villages.
    That would mean that both villages are part of the Openreach 2026 plan and both would come under the same eligibilty criteria.

    Wefibre’s quote doesn’t make sense either.
    “I am sure most of you would have seen the update from Openreach, this was to say that Llanon are now going to be upgraded by them. This decision was taken out of our hands, due to the contract the Welsh Government have with Openreach.”

    The Openreach plan to upgrade is nothing to do with the Welsh Goverment and from what I can find out there doesn’t seem to be a WG plan to pay Openreach to upgrade the Llanon exchange area.

    I think DCMS have made a mistake and would encourage the residents in the area to find out exactly why they’ve been told they’re ineligible for voucher funding.

    The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme site still shows Llanon as eligible.
    https://gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk

    1. John says:

      The DCMS haven’t made a mistake.

      It doesn’t matter if the Welsh government are paying OpenReach or not.

      You aren’t eligible for voucher funding if an area is part of a rollout plan, even if that is a privately funded commercial rollout.

      The fact OpenReach are rolling out FTTP from their own pocket is enough to mean the area is no longer eligible for funding.

    2. Still waiting for fibre says says:

      “John,
      The fact OpenReach are rolling out FTTP from their own pocket is enough to mean the area is no longer eligible for funding.”

      This should mean that Llanrhystud is also no longer eligible for funding as it’s connected to the Llanon exchange.

      So if Openreach or anyone else say they have a plan for a commercial rollout in an area, no matter how far into the future, it means that an area is no longer eligible for voucher funding.
      Those areas will now become more disadvantged as no one else will be interested and will be at the mercy of the commercial provider and might have something rolled 5+ year plus down the line.

    3. CeredigionMan says:

      This is what I don’t understand, because it’s a NOT commercial rollout, it’s publicly funded by Welsh Government!

    4. NE555 says:

      > This should mean that Llanrhystud is also no longer eligible for funding as it’s connected to the Llanon exchange.

      FTTP doesn’t have to be deployed to a whole exchange at a time. It can be (and often is) installed in pockets.

      See this recent thread on Thinkbroadband from a tiny village in North Yorkshire which has just got Openreach FTTP:
      https://forums.thinkbroadband.com/fibre/f/4688550-dont-beleive-it.html?view=collapsed

  4. Liam says:

    No mention of Tameside on WeFibre site. Has that been pulled too? Openreach have announced plans for the bough through 22-24

  5. Still waiting for fibre says:

    >FTTP doesn’t have to be deployed to a whole exchange at a time. It can be (and often is) installed in pockets.

    Openreach haven’t said which parts of the Llanon exchange area they’re planning to do by December 2026. Therefore how can one part of the exchange area no longer be eligible whilst another part is?

  6. Fibre on lampposts and no one to terminate it? says:

    A big part of fttP is roadside to Premises. I wonder if W.Gov have PSBA requirements around there, (schools/ health/Gov buildings), and O.Reach are using the PSBA infrastructure investment to piggy back some of the FTTP infrastructure…

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