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Openreach Finish Final Essex UK FTTP Broadband Rollout Contract

Tuesday, Oct 17th, 2023 (8:20 am) - Score 2,104
Openreach, Aberdeen…

The Essex County Council (ECC) has announced that Openreach (BT) has officially completed their state aid supported Phase 4b contract under the Superfast Essex (SFE) project, which helped to extend gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband lines to another 3,559 premises in hard to reach rural areas.

The contract – supported by a grant of £5m from DEFRA’s Rural Development Programme for England – was first announced back in August 2019 (here) and at the time it pledged to cover 3,700 premises – split down to an additional coverage of 1,000 rural businesses and 2,700 homes. Interestingly, the original contract aimed to be completed by March 2021, although that target was set before disruption caused by the pandemic.

Phase 4b consisted of three separate contracts, which were split across the following areas.

Phase 4b Contract Areas

4b.4 will include parts of Brentwood, Chelmsford, Harlow and Uttlesford.
4b.5 will include parts of Castle Point, Colchester, Maldon, Rochford and Tendring.
4b.6 will include parts of Thurrock.

Since 2012, more than 160,000 Essex addresses have been upgraded to “superfast broadband” (24 – 30Mbps+) speeds under the SFE project, albeit mostly via Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) technology. The exact split for FTTP, including contracts with other operators like Gigaclear, remains unclear, but Openreach’s own commercial investment has already helped to expand full fibre to 320,000 premises across Essex.

Kieran Wines, Openreach’s Partnership Director for the East of England, said:

“We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved in partnership with Superfast Essex and we welcomed the opportunity to give Ms Badenoch a step-by-step demonstration of our technology. Our engineers work hard every day to keep communities across Essex and the wider region connected, and it was great to be able to share the challenges and realities of delivering this technology. I encourage anyone wanting faster, more resilient broadband to check their address on our website.”

Councillor Lee Scott said:

“The completion of the final Openreach contract is a huge milestone for Essex. Digital connectivity is key to achieving our Levelling Up aims in Essex. Homes and businesses in the hardest-to-reach locations in Essex will be able to unlock the benefits of this improved connectivity, fostering economic growth and enhancing the quality of life for our residents.”

At this point we’d normally highlight how the focus in Essex has since switched from SFE to the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme, but there’s a bit of a catch this time. Project Gigabit initially planned to tackle Essex under LOT 21 of the new project, but this has been paused after Building Digital UK (BDUK) found – via market engagement activity – that significant commercial activity was planned across the county, “leaving only a limited number of premises eligible for subsidy” to get gigabit-capable networks.

The market has typically shown limited interest in bidding for what would be smaller-sized procurements in these areas, and so BDUK are currently considering alternative interventions to tackle the remaining gap. Next year should bring more details on the future plans for Essex.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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2 Responses
  1. Avatar photo SFE says:

    Mark, just a correction to your article about the funding for this project, it was initially £5m from DEFRA in 2019 but an additional investment of £2.5m from The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and the Getting Building Fund was added in 2021 due to increased costs.

  2. Avatar photo Benjamin G says:

    And here’s me in Witham, Essex struggling to get 40Mb/s on a good day. Openreach don’t plan to do a rollout in Witham till 2026 And Gigaclear are only rolling out in parts of Witham the other end to where I am sadly.

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