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BDUK Start Procurement on Cross Regional UK Gigabit Broadband Rollout

Monday, Jul 31st, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 3,328
Project-Gigabit-June-2023-UK-Progress-Map

The Government’s Building Digital UK agency has started the procurement phase for the award of their first major Cross-Regional Supplier Framework (Type C) contract under the £5bn rural Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme, which could see a single network operator being picked to help cover some of the most challenging areas.

Currently, over 76% of UK premises can already access a gigabit-capable network (details), which falls to 53% when just looking at FTTP (i.e. the gigabit figure is boosted by Virgin Media’s HFC upgrade – here). But Ofcom currently forecasts gigabit coverage to hit 92% by March 2025 (here), with purely commercial deployments alone being expected to deliver over 80% of that.

NOTE: Check out Project Gigabit’s Summer 2023 Update for more context.

Project Gigabit is thus intended to help tackle that final 20% (F20) of the UK and, more broadly, aims to help extend networks capable of delivering “gigabit” (1000Mbps) download speeds (and uploads of 200Mbps+) to “at least” 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, and then “nationwide” coverage (c.99%) by around 2030 (here).

Most of the funding from this project has been allocated to their Gigabit Infrastructure Subsidy (GIS) programme (currently £1.4bn and rising), which normally sees network operators (ISPs etc.) bidding through a new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) to extend their gigabit broadband networks across disadvantaged parts of the UK. Until now, this has been reflected by a mix of smaller (Local) and larger (Regional) deployment contracts (Type A/B).

However, the newer Cross-Regional (Type C) contracts are a bit of a different animal. The idea of this is to appoint a single supplier to target premises (i.e. subsidise the design, build and operation of a new gigabit network) in areas where no or no appropriate market interest has been expressed before to BDUK, or areas that have been de-scoped or terminated from a prior plan.

Such areas are often skipped due to being too expensive (difficult) for other, often smaller, suppliers to tackle. The good news is that BDUK formally launched the first procurements for Type C contracts on 27th July 2023 and at present there are two such contracts being offered.

NOTE: In Wales, in addition to the areas being proposed to be covered by BDUK’s cross regional procurement below, Project Gigabit is also proposing a regional procurement for North Wales which they plan to launch by the end of the year, and they are finalising the most appropriate approach for South West Wales.

The Current Type C Procurements

➤ Call-Off 1

This covers 57,500 premises across parts of Lancashire, North Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire, West and Mid-Surrey, Staffordshire, West Berkshire and Hertfordshire. The total value of the allocated public investment is £149.7 million (i.e. a subsidy of £2,603 per premises).

➤ Call-Off 2

This covers 47,700 premises across parts of West and North Devon, North West and Mid Wales and South East Wales. The total value of the allocated public investment is £139.7 million (i.e. a subsidy of £2,928 per premises).

The catch with a “single supplier framework” is that there may only be very few operators that could tackle such a large commitment, which would tend to favour the likes of Openreach (BT), nexfibre (Virgin Media) and CityFibre, and not everybody is happy about that (here).

On the other hand, if there are no other viable alternatives left at-scale, then the Type C approach may be the only option left for some areas. Voucher schemes are good for filling in some of the same gaps, but most of the individual voucher projects are also small and slow to deliver, which could make hitting that “nationwide” aspiration more difficult if that were left as the only alternative to Type A/B.

Otherwise, the new procurements will be open for interest until 27th August 2023 and, assuming all goes well, then the first of the Cross-Regional Supplier Framework contracts could be awarded by around June 2024.

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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
8 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Obi says:

    The Type C contracts hold a lot of potential, great that they can include areas descoped.

  2. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Has the cost per premises served been calculated in each area? No point in this investment if high-quality alternatives such as LEO satellite are cheaper.

    Incidentally Saint Helena in the South Atlantic has recently seen fit to threaten users of the Starlink service with having their equipment confiscated, presumably to protect the monopoly of the incumbent telco and the recently=installed undersea cable.

  3. Avatar photo David says:

    This is great for rural communities, but what about MDU in the cities and towns that have been by passed? When are the going to be focused on?

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Urban areas are complex due to the legal limitations of state aid and the potential for legal challenges (if state aid were to be used directly) in areas deemed to be competitive.

      But BDUK did recently complete their initial analysis of the major English metropolitan areas, which has helped them to identify the “small pockets of poor urban digital connectivity [that] will remain unserved by the commercial market without government intervention.”

      In order to accurately ascertain how to best serve these premises, BDUK has chosen to pause their procurement timeline in related areas and engage the market, councils and other local stakeholders on the most suitable solutions. So the solutions are still a bit up in the air.

  4. Avatar photo Michael Hardy says:

    Hello,i am in lot 4, newton aycliffe to be precise, im finding this so frustrating, i am desperate for the service but its going to be years isnt it

  5. Avatar photo Damo says:

    Urgh! lot 36 not even numbered on the map but listed as ‘other interventions planned’

    So frustrating when VM are up the road and Openreach dotted around too..We’re literally a stones throw from Manchester City Centre and a newish housing estate (built 2017) but we’re being ignored or delayed..its all very well to say Starlink is an option but it’s not when it cost a fortune per month to the end user!

    1. Avatar photo Michael Hardy says:

      Dont think starlink is the answer to be honest, doesnt it have the same issues as the 5g wireless hubs from ee and others? NAT issues, unsuitable for online gaming etc. Could be wrong but i think its fairly useless for some people.

    2. Avatar photo Damo says:

      Definitely not , my neighbour has it and raves about it , but I can’t justify the £75 per month not to mention the upfront cost , 5G is hit and miss and I got rid and went back to FTTC as I needed a stable line , just about manage to squeeze 30mpbs but upload is obviously rubbish and working from home and sharing my connection I need way more. And you’re right the cgnat is no good either from online gaming without coughing up extra for static ip or vpn. I wish BDUK would speed up their procurement process so we have an idea of when FTTP will happen around here

Comments are closed

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