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Examining Wingland’s £100k FTTP Broadband Upgrade Cost UPDATE

Wednesday, Feb 28th, 2024 (11:42 am) - Score 2,720

A new BBC News report states that BT UK quoted one homeowner in the tiny Lincolnshire community of Wingland a hefty £101,874.60 to run a new Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network to his property, which formed part of an offer under the 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO). But this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The USO, in case anybody has forgotten, is a legally binding and industry-funded obligation that falls on BT across the UK and KCOM in Hull. In short, people living in areas where they can’t yet receive a 10Mbps or faster download speed, and aren’t expected to be covered by such a network in the next 12-months, can request a service capable of 10Mbps+ downloads (1Mbps upload) from the aforementioned providers.

Most of those that apply for the USO may find out that they can alternatively take a 4G or 5G based mobile broadband connection from EE. But failing that, the suppliers will commit to contributing up to £3,400 +vat per premises to help get a faster fixed line connection via FTTP installed.

Take note that a cost sharing model also applies here, which means BT will “calculate the total excess cost of the build and divide that between the eligible premises. If that amount is below £5,000 per premises (on top of the £3,400), we’ll automatically split the costs“. But any costs above this level would need to be optionally covered by the community (optional is the choice between either accepting the quote or not building anything).

However, much as we’ve covered many times before (example), deploying new full fibre infrastructure into harder to reach locations (often rural) is an inherently slow and extremely expensive process. Sadly, some locations can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, very rarely even up to £1-2m, and the unavoidable reality is that the USO simply can’t cover those areas as it makes no reasonable economic sense.

In these cases, the result is that BT ends up putting out a quote to cover the excess costs involved, which often comes as a shock to those who aren’t aware of how costly new infrastructure builds can really be. In short, this seems to be precisely what has happened in the community of Wingland, near Sutton Bridge.

Taking a closer look at Wingland

On the surface it might seem like an easy job, particularly since Openreach, Upp (nexfibre) and LightSpeed Broadband have already managed to bring some FTTP into the much larger, directly neighbouring, Sutton Bridge community (LightSpeed has the biggest network – covering most of the area).

On the other hand, Openreach has yet build all that much FTTP in Sutton Bridge, so they’d want to do that first before even considering such an expansion. Meanwhile, Upp’s network is currently stalled and in the process of being integrated into nexfibre (Virgin Media), while LightSpeed Broadband seem unlikely to be taking much of an interest while struggling with their own issues (here).

However, a big part of the problem may be that there’s a rather large river (nene) running right through the middle of all this, with a sizeable bridge crossing. Gaining access to run new fibre over bridges can be.. tricky, even at the best of times, as well as expensive. But in this case, it may also be impossible, since it’s a swing bridge for a lot of commercial maritime traffic. Suffice to say, running fibre from the Sutton Bridge side looks unviable (even a Microwave solution would be pricey, but none of the named operators use those to feed localised FTTP builds).

The most viable solution would thus be for Openreach, which has a bit of FTTP about 2-3 miles down the road in the opposite direction (on the Wingland size of the bridge), to run new fibre up alongside the A17 road. But 2-3 miles of fibre isn’t cheap (it’s also unlikely to go as the crow flies, so keep that in mind) and hence it’s easy to see how BT ended up giving a local homeowner, Mr Mortimer (62), that £100k quote.

A BT spokesperson said:

“Although the USO has helped improve connectivity for around 8,000 properties to date, quotes reflect the cost and complexity of building in rural areas and can be high. We have reviewed the quote given to Mr Mortimer and unfortunately it is an accurate reflection of the costs of delivering a fibre connection to a small cluster of properties in the area.”

According to Mr Mortimer (62), the local broadband speeds are slow and “in a big city, you would get this [fttp service] for free, and it’s wrong.” But in fairness, he’s not living in a big city and the local area is complex, which makes any solution via FTTP inherently quite expensive (side-note: even some patches of big cities haven’t got FTTP yet).

The big industrial site over the road, which includes a power station, probably won’t be of much help either since they’ll most likely be using expensive leased lines to solve the issue. Similarly, the 4G mobile coverage in the area appears to be quite variable (most operators say they can do 4G, but it’s often only labelled as “good” for outdoor use and is of patchy quality).

On the other hand, data from Thinkbroadband appears to show that the community in question should already be largely covered by “superfast” (24-30Mbps+) capable broadband speeds via FTTC (VDSL2) technology, which makes us wonder whether the individual concerned is on such a line or even suffering from an issue with poor home wiring.

However, the fact that he got a quote under the USO would tend to suggest that he must be living even further outside the core Wingland area, which would add to the cost of any local build. But without knowing the exact property, it’s difficult to propose an alternative. Starlink may thus be the best bet for now, if he can afford it.

UPDATE 29th Feb 2024 @ 4:16pm

The government has corrected the BBC and informed ISPreview that Wingland is in fact part of the Lincolnshire and East Riding contract currently out for procurement, and therefore is in scope under Project Gigabit.

A DSIT spokesperson said:

“Our plan for better broadband is delivering for Lincolnshire, with 62% of homes and businesses in the area now able to access lightning-fast gigabit broadband – up from 2% five years ago.

We are stepping in to accelerate rollout in rural Lincolnshire, with our investment already delivering faster broadband to more than 146,000 premises. This month we signed a £58 million contract to bring gigabit broadband to thousands of hard-to-reach premises in Lincolnshire, and around 48,000 more will benefit from another £118 million contract in Lincolnshire and East Riding to be signed later this year.”

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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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37 Responses
  1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    Send those “excess cost” quotes to folk insisting on underground ducting lol.

  2. Avatar photo FFF says:

    If he can informally share starlink with a neighbour, £37.50 pm is not bad given the location. Cheap refurbished dishes are available atm too.

    1. Avatar photo ramzez says:

      that’s what I came here to write 🙂

  3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    Have they got FTTC in their area currently? BT would have had to run fibre to the cab for that already. 2-3 miles of cable isn’t really much, about time the government looked at non-violent minor prisoners doing some community work trenching or community service offenders. May act as a deterrent instead of 3 meals a day, heated cells, snooker tables and TV whilst others die of cold. This rubbish of private company work only isn’t working if it’s ridiculously priced and stops causing stuff being done for the greater community good.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      The issue seems to be the river in between. I’d assume there was a bridge with no scope for ducting and/or the suitable land for poles being too far apart.

    2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      An opening Swing bridge if I read correctly.

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      They get 80mbps VDSL and 17mbps ADSL (the exchange is just over the bridge).

      The FTTC and PCP cabinet are on the Wingland side of the bridge, I’ve annotated it on this map https://imgur.com/a/l8YASoS . Openreach runs FTTP directly from the aggregation node, which I do not know the location of. If this is the other side of the river then the FTTC cable is not useful for a ‘normal’ deployment.

      Alternatively, Openreach can use a subtended headend, which is where they place a small OLT within an FTTC cabinet. This is potentially an option if the ducts are blocked but I’ve only seen it trialed in Huawei areas.

      £100k sounds like a desktop quote, if one of the 3 ducts (on the PIA map according to another poster, I do not work for an ISP so I do not have access to this) is not blocked then pulling through a fibre cable to a splitter node this side of the river is not particularly difficult.

    4. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Note that the property getting 1mbps ADSL is one further down the road from Wingland itself so has a long copper line.

      @anonymous correct it’s a swing bridge, otherwise, BT can quite easily run ducting along it. There are already a few ducts under the river though concerns that they may be blocked.

  4. Avatar photo Frank says:

    According to the Openreach portal there are 3 separate ducts going under the river. Looks like there may be blockages in two of them, but doesn’t seem impossible to use.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Where on the portal are you seeing that or this a members-only thing via the PIA map tool?

    2. Avatar photo Frank says:

      Openreach PIA portal 🙂

  5. Avatar photo Cognizant says:

    Ha, I can beat this quote, £130K and full fibre is in next street!

  6. Avatar photo D.I.G. says:

    The houses look to be below the level of the river. How resilient is an underground installation of fibre to flooding where it feeds houses ?

  7. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Well they managed to get the telephone cable there so how difficult can it be? If the telephone cable is direct in ground for miles and there is no ducting to easily deploy through, then Openreach at some point will find they need to sort that out anyway because it gets damaged and stops working.

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      Copper (or aluminium) are easy to repair in situ. Don’t need to install miles of cable for a repair.

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Replacing 5 metres of damaged cable is very different to running 3 miles of new cable.

  8. Avatar photo John says:

    I also live in this area (near the power station, on the Wingland side of the river) and was also quoted >£100k for full fibre. The FTTP build at our exchange (Walpole St Andrew) is marked complete and houses at the end of the road have full openreach FTTP, but nothing for us.

    I’ve reached out to Openreach and several altnets (i.e. UPP, Lightspeed) but we’ve been completely abandoned. We have Starlink which is fantastic, but our postcode desperately needs better fixed line options.

    1. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      Interesting that the articles refer to the Openreach quote and not that Lightspeed, who have built nearby in Sutton Bridge and Terrington St Clements, are not interested.

    2. Avatar photo GNewton says:

      @The Facts: Why is that interesting? LightSpeed uses PIA, hence will face similar issues. But then again the reason for your post here is to express your pro-BT bias, isn’t it? Perhaps you can come up with some constructive ideas how Wingland could be served with better broadband!

    3. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      @GN. Hello again. Because other suppliers, even using PIA, might be cheaper than Openreach. But do not want to quote. As mentioned Starlink is the solution.

      How do you detect I have posted here?

  9. Avatar photo Orbith says:

    I would say Starlink or 4G/5G if possible. Some areas are expensive to provide infrastructure to, not just rural but EOL lines in cities, private estates and many other examples. The costs are well over the USO provision. Unless it gets government funded or a 3rd party provider steps in, it is probably never happening (from experience).

    If they are in a 4G/5G area that is remote, at least they won’t suffer too much local contention on the mast. Add an external MIMO antenna to your house and you can get good results.

  10. Avatar photo Mr Derek Pullem says:

    No where near Wingland but we live in a hamlet 1.5 miles from nearest fibre cabinet in rural Scotland. We have also had our road closed whilst BT run a dedicated line to the new SSEN transformer site 300m away.

    Before and after the road closure BT quoted > £100k on USO requests. Fortunately the mobile phone operators saw a gap in markey and we can get 40-50 MB on 4G.

    Point being that USO is a bad joke if it is being used to create “national infrastructure”. Same as the postal service and electricity distribution (we will be struggling with EV and heat pumps if all the hamlet converts). Victorians understood the idea of services infrastructure – modern day capitalism couldn’t give a damn.

    1. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      How do you plan ahead for future technology that hasn’t been invented yet?

      No doubt you’ll be first in the queue asking your local MP for flying car parking bays long before they ever become a reality.

    2. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Electricity consumption has been steadily falling in the UK, so no, heat pumps and EVs will not give your village a problem. It’s dropped by 23% in the last 20 years.


    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘Victorians understood the idea of services infrastructure – modern day capitalism couldn’t give a damn.’

      Mr Mortimer’s property almost certainly has neither mains gas or sewage, presumably due to cost and availability of alternatives. As far as full fibre goes building it would be really expensive and there are alternatives.

  11. Avatar photo john says:

    Build a few thousand much needed new houses in the area and have the developer pay for the fibre provision.

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Doesn’t work that way. Developer will pay for their estate only. BT still cap in hand asking for 100K

  12. Avatar photo Name says:

    Let’s say someone in the village paid that £100k to get the fibre. How much will it cost if another person in the same village potentially on the same street 0.5m away ask for quote?
    I bet it will be again £100k. This is literally a scam. I am wondering if you could rent a duct from OR and pull your own fibre to the nearest BT cabinet or this is something only BT can do to cover £100k quotation.

    1. Avatar photo Peach says:

      It would be more not a lot more, road closures, civils, poling, spine, etc is all expensive. If the quote was spread across more properties the cost per premise would be significantly less

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      is this “bet” based on no information at all? clearly there’s a disadvantage to being the first mover, but OR isn’t going to charge the neighbours anywhere near as much as the unfortunate who stumped up the cash.

      which is probably why, if you’re going to do this, it’s better to organise a group scheme (and get the vouchers if available)

      or wait a few years for OR to need to retire the copper.

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      FTTPoD enables the whole pole. Other poles can be enabled by commercial build or subsequent near-to-network FTTPoD.

      A better build for this would be a community network build, there are over 20 premises which should be enough to fund it with gigabit vouchers.

    4. Avatar photo 125us says:

      No. The quote is legally based on the cost of providing the service. If the infrastructure is now closer, the quote will be lower.

  13. Avatar photo Spotify95 says:

    I read this before on the BBC article, apparently the owner in question has 1Mbps ADSL. 1Mbps is pretty much useless. If at least FTTC isn’t available, I’d be looking at either a 4G modem/router, an outside roof aerial pointing at the nearest 4G base station (if the 4G signal is weak), or if all else fails, Starlink. Chances are a lot of these properties in rural areas will get Starlink, until Openreach get their act together and deliver FTTP.

  14. Avatar photo Thomas Sully says:

    This seems really reasonable to me give that Openreach just dropped me a quote of £100k for FTTPOD when there is a CBT and a spine running past the bottom of my garden and houses at the edge of the village already have it.
    They have said there’s no plans to do the rest of the village despite the core infrastructure being there and done a no bid price for install here leaves my thinking starlink is the only option

  15. Avatar photo Oli C says:

    The map image accompanying the article is a bit misleading as a search for the person written about by the BBC, on the Directory Enquiries website, implies they live a lot further out into the countryside, on a very rural road with no telecom poles either.

    The area circled in the image, conversely, seems to have 60-80 Mbps FTTC available, according to the Openreach checker, and as mentioned by someone already in the comments regarding the FTTC cabinet location.

    Having looked at the road where it appears the person lives, I guess I’m not so surprised at their situation, and it would equally probably be quite hard to club together with neighbours as the houses look to be mostly hundreds of meters apart.

    1. Avatar photo The Facts says:

      A property with a few others in the middle of nowhere. 2M download. Cabling to the pole underground, either directly buried or in blocked ducts. Hence the cost.

  16. Avatar photo XGS says:

    Eye-catching by the BBC but Mr Mortimer is not in that village.

    Costs to premises in the village would be way lower.

Comments are closed

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