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Q2 2021 Status Update on BT FTTP Broadband Rollout in Wales

Monday, September 13th, 2021 (2:02 pm) - Score 1,512
wales uk counties map

The Welsh Government has issued a Q2 2021 progress update on their £52.5m Phase 2 Superfast Cymru contract with BT (Openreach), which reveals that 20,490 premises (up from 19,919 in Q1 2021 and 15,649 in Q4 2020) have now gained access to the operator’s 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

Just to recap. The related contract consists of two stages, the original £22.5m deal (target of 26,000 premises by March 2021) and a more recent £30m extension (13,000 premises by June 2022). The reason why the extension costs more, yet doesn’t go as far, is because the cost of deployment rises disproportionately as you enter those increasingly remote communities.

NOTE: The contract is deploying FTTP to tackle some of those areas in the final 4-5% of Wales that still cannot access a “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) connection.

According to the latest update from the WG, Openreach has so far built their full fibre network to a total of 20,490 premises (up from 19,919 in March 2021, 15,649 in Dec 2020, 14,698 in Sept 2020 and 9,895 in June 2020) – of these 4,820 are in the Lot 1 area (North West Wales), 7,076 in Lot 2 (East Wales) and 8,594 in Lot 3 (South West Wales). All of these completed premises are subject to further assurance by the WG and, so far, 18,278 have been checked through that process.

On the surface, it may seem as if the first target of 26,000 premises has been missed, but that aim was actually reduced to 20,000 premises due to the positive impact of commercial builds, as well as the re-phasing of work to make the rollout more efficient with the £30m extension and the switch of some area plans from FTTC to FTTP technology (here). Not to mention that COVID-19 hasn’t helped.

Admittedly, tens of thousands of premises are still expected to remain poorly served at the end of this contract, but that figure may shrink at the next review (commercial builds, such as from Openreach and Ogi, are going much deeper). The rest will probably be tackled by the WG’s voucher schemes and community fund, but others may have to wait for the UK’s £5bn Project Gigabit scheme – the first contracts won’t be signed for that until H1 2022.

Completed Premises – Q2 2021 Breakdown by Local Authority

wales_fttp_rollout_Q2_2021

Speaking of vouchers. A new Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by ISP FreeClix has discovered that there have been just 1,702 Access Broadband Cymru (ABC) voucher applications so far in 2021, which they say is only 2% of the c.79,000 homes and businesses eligible for superfast broadband funding.

In Blaenau Gwent 1,354 properties are without broadband, yet not a single property submitted an application to receive an £800 government ABC grant in 2021. However, Monmouthshire saw the highest percentage of properties without superfast broadband receive grant funding, almost 8% (of the submitted applications, some 88% were successful).

FreeClix believe there is a lack of awareness of the support available for businesses and homes, which is a not uncommon issue with such programmes.

NOTE: The ABC scheme offers £800 for speeds of 30Mbps+ and £400 for 10Mbps+.

FreeClix Managing Director, Peter Freeman, said:

“The reason for the lack of funding applications is a lack of awareness surrounding the grants for people to utilise the technology that’s available without paying a high price. SimRush has been delivering superfast broadband speeds for five years in Wales, the 77,000 homes without broadband need to realise that the technology is there to deliver 100Mbps download speeds, even if you live in a rural location. The launch of 5G now means cities such as Cardiff can get even faster speeds. There really are no excuses.”

Naturally, FreeClix has a vested interest here in plugging their own 4G based mobile broadband solution, which usually involves installing an external antenna and mobile router. You could do this yourself with Three UK, Vodafone, O2 or EE too, provided you’re comfortable with a bit of DIY.

The catch is that 4G in rural areas often struggles to deliver superfast speeds, let alone c.100Mbps, which is usually due to the limitations of existing network coverage and the reliance on lower frequency mobile bands (these travel further but also have less spectrum frequency for carrying data). As for 5G, rural coverage is virtually non-existent (the early rollout is mostly urban centric).

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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
3 Responses
  1. Aled says:

    571 connections in 6 months? Is this the end of the contract slowdown?

    1. Fastman says:

      thats jan – march 2021 -mo0st of the country in lockdown and doing anything BAU i expect hard and difficult (even more so in wales)

  2. Vidman says:

    Living in Pembrokeshire in an area with limited wifi options and 3 miles from the exchange my broadband is copper wire. On a good day it tops 4mbs but averages out at 1.5-2mbs. This is apparently acceptable to BT/EE but for the last few months the network drops out the engineers think due to the age of the copper wire (40yrs we think). I have the main connection point for fibre outside and yesterday an Openreach contractor was working on it. He said you have full fibre available to 10 properties in the area, all it needs is a connection from here to your property, 20mts. He then said Openreach are not connecting rural properties like you. We have a lot of people asking us why we can’t be connected. When asked, Openreach said they would need all properties to agree connection at a cost of £4500 each plus the WG voucher.

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