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Wildanet Win Gigabit Broadband Rollout Contract for Cornwall UK

Thursday, Jan 19th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 1,784
Wildanet-Engineers-Hand-Connecting-FTTP-Lines

The fifth contract awarded under the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme – worth £36 million – has today been handed to UK ISP Wildanet, which will upgrade connectivity for more than 19,250 hard-to-reach homes and businesses across rural parts of Cornwall in South West England.

At present, Wildanet is already in the process of deploying their gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network – backed by an investment of £50m from the Gresham House British Strategic Investment Infrastructure Fund (BSIF) – to reach rural premises across rural parts of Cornwall and Devon (they also operate a slower fixed wireless network). But the operator has, thus far, been quite vague about how much progress they’ve made.

NOTE: Around 73% of UK premises can already access a gigabit network (c. 45% via just FTTP) – see here.

By comparison, Project Gigabit aims to extend 1Gbps capable (download speeds) networks to reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, before hopefully achieving “nationwide” coverage (c. 99%) by around 2030 (here). Commercial investment is expected to deliver around 80% of this, which leaves the government’s scheme to focus on tackling the final 20% (mostly rural and some sub-urban areas), where the private sector alone often fails. The project is technology neutral, so it can be delivered via either “full fibre” FTTP, Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) or fixed wireless access (e.g. 5G), but FTTP favoured.

The project uses a number of different approaches to tackle this challenge (e.g. vouches and investment in dark fibre builds), but the largest part of the scheme involves a gap-funded subsidy approach – the Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy (GIS). This is where smaller local and larger regional contracts are awarded to network operators and ISPs who can help to build their gigabit-capable infrastructure across the final 20%.

The Building Digital UK (BDUK) team, which manages Project Gigabit, awarded their first GIS contract to Wessex Internet for North Dorset (Lot 14.01) in August 2022 (here), which was followed by GoFibre picking up the contract for both Teesdale (Lot 4.01) in September 2022 (here) and North Northumberland (Lot 34.01) in October 2022 (here), then Fibrus scooping Cumbria (Lot 28) in November 2022 (here).

The Cornwall project being announced today actually appears to reflect two local supplier procurements – Central Cornwall (Lot 32.03) and South West Cornwall (Lot 32.02) – with the funding and premises being fairly evenly split between both. Work will start today to survey rural premises from Newquay to Fowey. Building work to connect those are then set to begin as early as this summer 2023.

Helen Wylde, Wildanet CEO, said:

“This is great news for remote communities in Cornwall as we continue to connect Cornwall’s homes and businesses to full fibre broadband in non-urban areas, with the economic and social transformation that brings.

The funding from the Government will help to breathe new life into Cornwall’s rural communities and give people access to the opportunities that gigabit broadband provides. It will also send out a positive signal to remote communities across the country who, to date, do not have the broadband connectivity to benefit from the digital age that many of us now take for granted in our daily lives.

Wildanet undertakes to deliver on this project using the public funds provided through these awards as a key player for Cornwall, by Cornwall, and of Cornwall. We passionately believe that the funding provided by DCMS for these two vitally important infrastructure projects will assist Cornwall in growing its economy, connecting more people and businesses, and democratising digital services so that everyone can benefit from the opportunities that they present.”

Digital Infrastructure Minister, Julia Lopez, said:

“From Tintagel to Tredavoe, we are investing millions of pounds to connect almost 20,000 homes and businesses across Cornwall to lightning-fast broadband. This will generate growth and opportunity for people in the region’s rural communities.

The move is part of the government’s flagship £5 billion Project Gigabit programme to spread fast, reliable and fit for the future broadband to rural and remote communities in the UK.”

The announcement represents a significant vote of confidence in the alternative network provider, which hopefully suggests that the Government’s Building Digital UK (BDUK) team has done plenty of due diligence to ensure they’re able to deliver on what is quite a sizeable contract for an operator of their size.

As a result of these new contracts, Wildanet expects to create 200 jobs on top of the 150 the company has created in the area already. This will include a range of skilled roles across the build operation – including network design, surveying and partner management – plus engineering and head office roles. There will also be indirect opportunities for local companies such as civil contractors and through the supply chain.

Full fibre customers of the service typically pay from £39.99 per month (currently discounted to £25) to receive a 200Mbps (100Mbps upload) package on a 24-month term with free installation, which rises to £59.99 if you want their top 900Mbps (400Mbps upload) package.

As a side note, Wilanet appears to have quietly launched a cheap social tariff for those on state benefits (only ‘Universal Credit’ is mentioned), which costs £20 per month on a 12-month contract for download speeds of 30-100Mbps and uploads of 6-50Mbps (we suspect the unusual performance range exists to help accommodate both their variable wireless and full fibre connections).

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
11 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Jon Doe says:

    The press release content includes these words:

    “The new 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) network represents a significant technological leap for Cornwall. It is capable of speeds up to 100 times faster than the average internet speeds available in the county.”
    Question then – Are Wildanet rolling on a 10Gbps infrastructure instead of a 1Gbps infrastructure?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      They adopted ADTRAN’s Total Access 5000 10G fibre access platform with XGS-PON technology back in 2021.

  2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

    Seems like a bit of a waste of money and effort, given that Openreach are planning to cover virtually all of the same areas anyway & wildanet won’t be using the infrastructure built by Openreach for Superfast Cornwall.

    Put my postcode in – “in contract area”, but 2023 to 2026. Or essentially on the exact same timeline as Openreach’s rollout. Given that OR just need to come up the road and wildanet are starting from nothing, who will be first…

    1. Avatar photo FFF says:

      BDUK has done a lot of consulting and mapping to ensure that these subsidised properties do not overlap with Openreach’s plans. Also Wildanet will use Openreach infrastructure where possible through PIA to keep costs down.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      then someone’s telling a porkie. Openreach has the entire exchange area on its list (much of it actually already is FTTP and I’m unlucky enough to have been put on FTTC), but wildanet seem to think any local postcode I put in including my own is “in the contract area”, whatever this means. Not a properly rural area by any means, 288 port cab and well over 100 homes on it

      OR have already done their own non-subsidised infill, including some very rural properties on my cab that wouldn’t get a meaningful FTTC service.

      Even if they can piggyback on Openreach’s ducts (“alt” net indeed), they’ve still got to install an OLT somewhere and run the fibre from that point.

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      that said, just tried sticking in postcodes in this village that have had OR FTTP for yonks – wildanet doesn’t claim to be covering them.

      so presumably I’ll end up in a rural version of the ridiculous overlapping between an alt net and openreach that is taking place in urban areas. At least I can’t get Virgin too!

    4. Avatar photo FFF says:

      Openreach listing an exchange as part of their Full Fibre programme means they aim to get to 75%+ of its premises, but never all. This project in theory will infill the missing parts.

    5. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      well that’s sort of my point, if they didn’t cover this cabinet and street they wouldn’t get to 75% of the exchange area, it’s that large. They’ve already done places that may be considered to be “too hard”, whereas this is the easiest of pickings.

      I cannot possibly see why anyone needs government subsidy to bring anything here.

    6. Avatar photo Testy McTestFace says:

      As of April 2023, Wildanet are skipping the same streets that BTOR have skipped. For the same reasons (no ducting, etc).

      So right now, if you’ve been passed over by one you’ve been passed over by both.

      There’s no timescale to fill in those gaps. Uneconomical means uneconomical, even with subsidy, it would appear. Rural areas are getting the love but “challenging” urban areas are just put on the “under review” pile and that’s that.

      Worth nothing that BDUK being “technology neutral” means that Wildanet could offer a fixed wireless service (something they also provide) to those properties, in order to fulfil the contract.

  3. Avatar photo Evan Thomas says:

    This is so good for Cornwall this is needed to bring them out of the copper age .

    1. Avatar photo Alistair Webb says:

      … rolling on and helping it explore the lithium age …

Comments are closed

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