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Delays to Rural ISP Gigaclear’s Full Fibre Rollout Reach Essex UK UPDATE

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 (4:06 pm) - Score 1,800
Gigaclear Engineers Talking

It never rains, but it pours. Gigaclear’s state aid backed rollout of a new 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network in Essex, which forms part of the wider Superfast Essex (SFE) project, looks set to suffer another delay due to issues of “contractor resource, the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the lack of availability of cabinets.”

The latest update from SFE, which follows only a few days after the similar Fastershire project warned of a reduction to Gigaclear’s planned build in Herefordshire (here), has recently been sent to a number of local authorities in the county and (credits to Dan) is now starting to make its way out into the public domain (not yet fully reflected on SFE’s website).

Back in April 2021 the SFE project revealed that their rollout programme, which is working with both Openreach and Gigaclear on different contracts, had reached nearly 140,000 additional premises with broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps (i.e. those that the commercial market may have otherwise ignored). Meanwhile, around 20,000 premises had been put within reach of FTTP and there were plans to cover a further 7,000 by spring 2022.

As part of the remaining rollout, Gigaclear is currently contracted to deliver Phase 3.1 (Uttlesford), Phase 3.2 (Braintree, Colchester) and Phase 4a.1 (Epping Forest). However, as a result of the aforementioned deployment challenges, Gigaclear has now notified SFE of some delays, which will see Phase 3.1 completed by September 2022, while Phase 3.2 and 4a will finish by March 2022 – all were previously due for December 2021.

SFE Project Update Announcement

Gigaclear has advised that the delays are due to several reasons, which include a decreased amount of contractor resource, the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the lack of availability of cabinets.

We understand this is disappointing news and would like to apologise for the further delays. Gigaclear is writing directly to residents and businesses who have registered interest and are impacted by the change in timescales. These letters are due to land [this] week.

We want to reassure you that we will continue to work closely with Gigaclear to support them in overcoming the challenges associated in deploying their ultrafast network, to ensure Essex communities can access the high-speed broadband services they have been waiting for.

Residents are advised to contact Gigaclear’s Network Build Care team, a dedicated support team for residents who are not yet connected to the network, by either email: networkbuildcare@gigaclear.com or phone: 01865 591137.

The news of yet another county suffering delays will no doubt cause some frustration for those affected, although unlike in Herefordshire the ISP hasn’t removed thousands of premises from their rollout plan. The delays also only seem to impact a smaller proportion of premises (exact figures are not provided, but we think it might be in the hundreds).

Nevertheless, it’s not the first time that delays have struck a Gigaclear deployment, and that will no doubt be a source of some embarrassment for the operator. The ISP has otherwise been making quite good progress on their wider commercial deployments across England, but clearly some problem areas remain.

By comparison, most of Openreach’s remaining FTTP orientated SFE contracts haven’t changed, although a few months ago their final Phase 4b (Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Colchester, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Tendring, Thurrock, Uttlesford) contract did see its completion date being pushed back from June 2021 to December 2021.

Suffice to say, such issues are not unique to Gigaclear and, as we’ve said before, the current situation is another reminder of just how challenging it can be to build FTTP into rural locations – particularly the most remote communities, where per premises build costs can easily rise above expectations and take longer than expected.

UPDATE 15th Oct 2021

We’ve had a comment from Gigaclear.

A Spokesperson for Gigaclear told ISPreview.co.uk:

“The different build projects we’re involved with across the UK are completely independent and encounter unique challenges and issues. While we are dealing with labour shortages and rising material costs across the board, just like every other sector in the UK, these issues impact different contracts in different ways.

The labour shortage in particular is the main cause of the delay in our BDUK-funded roll out with Superfast Essex, but we’re working with them to address it as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

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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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15 Responses
  1. occasionally factual says:

    Strange how Gigaclear have issues with resource management and delivery on the publicly funded work but not on the commercial side.
    Does the commercial work happen in a parallel universe with no Brexit, covid or other issues?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      They’ve had problems in the recent past with commercial builds too, but unlike the state aid ones, they don’t have to talk as much – publicly – about those issues.

    2. BDUK Low Priority says:

      Same with Openreach, a BDUK funded project announced over 3 years ago still hasn’t been completed although a Fibre First project in the same area only announced a few months ago is nearly completed and the BDUK funded properties have been excluded from the First First project. Seems the BDUK projects have lower priority.

    3. AnotherTim says:

      There is the same rapid progress in commercial builds, but slow or no progress in BDUK builds with Giagaclear in some Fastershire areas. The BDUK supported build in my area is still facing delays after 5 years, while the nearby village which already has BDUK FTTC has been added to the commercial builds and FTTP is now live within a year.

  2. occasionally factual says:

    Okay so they have problems everywhere. It’s just the public funded ones where they have to admit it. Got it 😉

    1. TomD says:

      Gigaclear’s commercial plans were reduced recently in rural Essex (in Arkesden for example) and that attracted a lot of adverse publicity locally – for which they have apologised. I think Arkesden was going back into the SFE plans.
      Certainly their commercial plans have been chopped and changed constantly over the years owing particularly to duff or non-existent subcontractors.

  3. Paul says:

    “…decreased amount of contractor resource…”

    Gigaclear should consider applying to local councils to take on the Community Service convicts and make them help lay their fibre ducting. Or they could help patch up peoples gardens or sweep the mess.

  4. FibreBubble says:

    Low take-up. Burning money. Unable to deliver commitments.

    1. Alex says:

      If our village is anything to go by, anecdotally there’s already been a 10% take up of Gigaclear in the six months since it went live.

    2. Paul says:

      Any company would have carried out ‘due diligence’ before planning a roll out.

      What was the anticipated takeup percentage of Gigaclear services?

      In my own observations, 80% of the great British general public are not particularly intelligent and when you include things like “BT fraudulent advertising” everyone already believes having ADSL they are already on fibre.

      ADSL/FTTC ridiculous false advertising has become a disaster for FTTP takeup.

      Yes, people are stupid paying £37.98 for 3 Meg ADSL when you can get 300 Meg symmetrical fibre for £24.00

  5. AnotherTim says:

    It seems really unlucky that Gigaclear’s BDUK contracts are repeatedly hit by delays caused by Brexit, covid, contractors, supply chain issues, wayleave delays, unfavourable tax changes, bad weather, the countryside, electricity supply connections, and lack of backhaul.
    At least the delays aren’t caused by lack of planning, poor project management, or lack of oversight by BDUK bodies.

    1. BDUK Low Priority says:


      “lack of oversight by BDUK bodies”

      You are so spot on, local authorities have allowed these projects to drift without penalty.

    2. AnotherTim says:

      Actually, I’ve just found a diagram that summarizes BDUK’s efforts – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/902227/Benefits_of_High_Speed_Internet_Dialectogram.pdf
      It’s worth a look! Really!

  6. David Wilson says:

    I’m totally broadband illiterate, but I’ve just spent the last 10 days watching gigaclear contractors laying fibre cable outside all of the houses along my road with individual connection points outside each home. Unfortunately I doubt many will take up the offer to join gigaclear as County Broadband beat them to it by 12 months. I now have a fttp connection by county broadband and will no doubt be offered a connection by gigaclear. Nice for us to have an alternative, but what a waste of effort and money by gigaclear. Postcode CO6 2AB

  7. Rich says:

    I guess I am in one of the hundreds of houses. The frustrating thing is that to write this message and email my MP I’ve had to disconnect from my current broadband.

    The original date for completion was December 2015. I’d expect to lose my job if my deadline slid anywhere near a year let alone 7….

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