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Uncertainty Lingers Over CDS’ Truespeed Fibre Rollout in Somerset

Saturday, May 14th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 1,176
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The status of the state aid supported Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) contract with alternative broadband ISP Truespeed, which aims to cover 15,170 premises across Bath and Somerset with a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network, remains in doubt after concerns were raised earlier this year over build “delays“.

The Phase 2 contract, which was originally signed at the end of 2020 (here) and is being supported by a public investment of £6.7m, reportedly began to establish its primary “backhaul” connections in Bath, Kingston Seymour, Wells, Saltford, and Nunney about a year ago. This was due to be followed by the publication of a more detailed rollout plan last summer, and then rollout completion by December 2024.

NOTE: The last solid progress update was in March 2021, which stated that the first homes were “anticipated … [to be] connected by Autumn 2021“.

However, in February 2022 the CDS programme warned that it was “engaging with Truespeed in relation to delays in its contracted roll-out of full fibre broadband“, as well as on the impact as a result of commercial build by other FTTP providers in parts of its contracted areas (overbuild is a growing challenge in today’s market).

Several months have now passed and ISPreview.co.uk has thus attempted to secure an update, although little appears to have changed.

Joint Statement from CDS and Truespeed to ISPreview:

“Communications between Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) and Truespeed are currently underway, in relation to delays in the contracted roll-out of full fibre broadband and the impact as a result of commercial build by other providers in parts of its contracted areas.

Both CDS and Truespeed are in discussions regarding the position of the rollout, which will then be reviewed by CDS and the Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) agency.

Truespeed has reported a number of connections are in build or are at the planning stage under the CDS contracts. The company has reported a further number of homes and businesses now have access to full fibre broadband in CDS areas. All are subject to final assurance by CDS and BDUK and therefore it is not possible to provide confirmed figures at this stage, and no public funding has been claimed by Truespeed.”

The CDS programme has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs over the years (e.g. the scrapping of their contract with Gigaclear), and the 2020 contracts – some of which also went to Airband and Wessex Internet (those appear to be having better luck) – was partly an attempt to put that right. As such, we can only hope that they find a way to get back on track and work around the current problems.

At the same time it’s worth noting that Truespeed’s separate commercial build appears to be having a better time and their funding was recently boosted to £175m by Aviva. The operator, which has so far covered 200 communities around Somerset, recently confirmed that they held an “ambitious target to reach 500,000 properties within the next five years” (end of 2026).

Customers of the service typically pay from £40 per month for a symmetric speed 150Mbps package on an 18-month contract term (currently discounted to £25), which rises to £70 for their top 900Mbps tier (currently discounted to £49). The service also includes a free phone service, installation and a heavily restricted router.

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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
9 Responses
  1. Dave says:

    I would think they picked Bath as more of a vanity project, with them bent based there. Central Bath is an absolute nightmare to dig in. Also relatively well covered by VM. I believe the CF build in Bath isn’t going too well either. Saltford also heavily covered by VM. The other areas listed they should mop up new customers.

  2. DevonResident says:

    Looks like Airband focussing too much on their commercial programme than the funded CDS programme, trying to blame it on commercial overbuild by others how about stop delaying the build and there will be less commercial overbuild.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      This is a story about Truespeed. I’ve not seen any concerns raised by the authority over Airband, which seems happy to promote their progress.

    2. DevonResident says:

      Sorry I meant Truespeed happy for you to remove for re-post or amend company name to Truespeed.

  3. Somerset says:

    This is old news from 21 Feb on the CDS website, not a statement to ISPreview.

    They have now connected their 10,000th customer.

  4. Rob says:

    Got connected to TrueSpeed yesterday. Here in street there has been a lot of activity and the guy that connected me sounded like he was very busy connecting customers. Not sure if we are part of CDS or commercial roll out but they seem very busy round here. In the build up to this they always seem to keep their cards close to their chest about future intentions compared to other local providers. Locked down router is annoying but their upload speed is actually uncapped (atm at least) which was a nice surprise.

  5. Alex A says:

    Say what you want about Openreach but they seem to be a lot better on delivering on their public contracts than others…

  6. Ryan says:

    Not suprising considering they were only given a small amount of the CDS contract. That being said they do have some very strange build programmes and methods which don’t always make progressive sense.

    1. Jim says:

      They were “given” (were awarded through public sector OJEU procurement) the contracts they bid for. You can’t award contracts for lots a company doesn’t bid on…

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