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Project Gigabit Expands Open Market Review for Phase 2 Areas

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021 (1:54 pm) - Score 1,656

The Broadband Delivery UK team have today launched a second batch of Open Market Reviews (OMR) for additional parts of England covered by Phase 2 of the Government’s new £5bn Project Gigabit broadband roll-out. This aims to identify any existing or planned commercial coverage by gigabit ISP networks.

Just to recap. The project aims to ensure that a minimum of 85%+ of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable (1Gbps) broadband connection by the end of 2025 (here). The effort for this will be targeted at the final 20% of premises (i.e. the hardest to reach rural and some sub-urban areas), where commercial investment models tend to fail, although so far only £1.2bn of the proposed funding has actually been released.

NOTE: Commercial builds alone could push gigabit coverage to c.60-65% of UK premises by the end of 2021 and 80%+ by the end of 2025. The current UK figure is over 50% (here).

In England the new programme is much more centrally managed than the original Superfast Broadband (SFBB) scheme and that explains why these consultations are all being run by Building Digital UK (BDUK), rather than individual local authorities.

In any case, the first step – before procurements can begin and any contracts awarded to suppliers – is to identify precisely which areas are not expected to benefit from gigabit speeds under existing commercial builds, which covers related plans for the next 3 years. Only once you have the answer to that, can you identify where public funding will be needed to help address market failure.

The latest OMRs cover several regions across England, which reflect a second batch of Phase 2 areas under the Project Gigabit programme. Most of the details for these areas, including those from earlier phases, have already been revealed (here), but the final OMR should confirm the exact intervention areas.

Phase 2 – Second Batch of OMRs

East Sussex (Lot 16)

Indicative contract value: £49m – £83m
Estimated Intervention Size: 50,300 premises

Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes (Lot 12)

Indicative contract value: £85m – £144m
Estimated Intervention Size: 87,500 premises

Derbyshire (Lot 3)

Indicative contract value: £64m – £110m
Estimated Intervention Size: 67,300 premises

Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire (inc Swindon) (Lot 30)

Indicative contract value: £85m – £145m
Estimated Intervention Size: 88,000 premises

Lancashire (Lot 9)

Indicative contract value: £90m – £153m
Estimated Intervention Size: 92,200 premises

Surrey (Lot 22)

Indicative contract value: £101m – £171m
Estimated Intervention Size: 101,900 premises

All of the above areas are currently due to enter the procurement phase in August 2022, with contract commencement then being expected to follow from July 2023. The closing date for responses to this collective OMR is 22nd November 2021 by 5pm (ignore where it says 22nd October on the Government’s related web page, that is incorrect).

The Government have previously warned that they consider the final 0.3% of premises “could be prohibitively expensive to reach” via even their gigabit programme (i.e. the same sort of area as their 10Mbps USO was supposed to fix – that has also suffered problems). A separate consultation is still considering how to tackle those.

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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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7 Responses
  1. AnotherTim says:

    One big problem with identifying areas that won’t be covered commercially, is that lots of companies announce plans to build networks – but then not all of them are built. The areas that have no commercial interest may be covered by Project Gigabit, but those that have commercial plans that come to naught won’t be (at least not for years).
    In my area we have been waiting for superfast broadband for 7 years, but are still waiting for a date when it may be available – meanwhile we have been blocked from all other help because we are “in plan”.

  2. chris conder says:

    And the superfarce rocks on. After advertising that we all have ‘fibre’ broadband for years, the snouts go back in the trough to ‘do it again’ – apart from the hard bits. When will government learn that altnets can do the rural areas far better and cheaper than the incumbent? And why hasn’t the incumbent already done the lucrative areas instead of queering the pitch for compentition by blanking out entire counties?

    1. occasionally factual says:

      Alt nets better? Thanks for coming back and spreading humour again.
      Notice that you never comment when the alt nets mess up big time like Gigaclear or use the courts to delay the FTTP roll out to the consumer.
      And given that a large number of the alt nets have bigger financial backers than BT do, why are they not going into the countryside on mass?
      Most of the UK FTTP live deployment comes from BT, followed by Virgin media and the alt nets are a long way behind. BT made more live FTTP connections in the last 30 days than the bulk of the alt nets combined have managed over the total life history.

    2. AnotherTim says:

      Some companies are more consistent than others. Altnets can be very good or very poor. As far as I’m concerned Gigaclear have been more of an obstacle than a solution in my area. BT/OR have improved the broadband a little – upgraded ADSL Max to ADSL2+ 4 years ago – but Gigaclear with the BDUK contract for the past 5 years haven’t (yet…).
      OR build more FTTP connections in a month than Gigaclear have built in 10 years.

    3. Aled says:

      I personally think the best route is for rural communities to club together and dig their own trenches and ducts.

      Problem with bigger companies is that you inevitably have landowners, hagglers, lawyers, builders, surveyors, nimbys, councillars and every other hanger on who wants a cut of the $

    4. AnotherTim says:

      I tend to agree, but once you have a company promising to build FTTP to all properties within 12-18 months it is very hard to gain the commitment for a community based build. Even if the build is delayed, and delayed, and delayed, people tend to think it must be due any moment now. Unfortunately, all that has been achieved is an effective block on builds by the community or other companies.

  3. Paul M says:

    it’s frustrating that people in my area don’t care about the decaying copper providing their internet… they couldn’t be bothered to commit to the fibre/gigabit grants and so we lost £180K of government investment into our local infrastructure.

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