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Wessex Internet Win South Wiltshire Gigabit Broadband Build Contract

Friday, Mar 22nd, 2024 (11:12 am) - Score 1,000
Wessex-Internet-Engineers-next-to-fibre-drum

The latest contract awarded under the UK government’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme – worth £18.8 million – has today gone to ISP Wessex Internet, which will upgrade connectivity for “around” 14,500 hard-to-reach homes and businesses across rural parts of South Wiltshire in England.

The provider already has plenty of experience with rolling out 10Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) infrastructure across rural parts of Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Somerset in England, both as part of various commercial and state-aid supported deployment projects. Indeed, they’ve secured two other Project Gigabit contracts for North Dorset (here) and the New Forest in Hampshire (here).

NOTE: Over 80% of UK premises can already access gigabit speeds (up from over 72% at the end of 2022), which drops to 60%+ when only looking at full fibre (up from 45%) – detail.

In case anybody has forgotten. Project Gigabit aims to extend 1Gbps (download) capable networks to reach at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025, before aspiring to achieve “nationwide” coverage (c. 99%) by 2030 (here). Commercial investment is expected to deliver more than 80% of this, which leaves the government’s scheme to focus on tackling the final 20% (mostly rural and some suburban areas), where the private sector alone often fails.

The project uses a number of different methods 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 or larger regional or even cross-regional contracts are awarded to network operators and ISPs who can help to build their gigabit-capable infrastructure across the final 20%.

As part of this, the contract for South Wiltshire (Lot 30) has just been awarded to Wessex Internet, which plans to expand their existing network in the Wylye Valley area – going across the Salisbury Plain connecting villages surrounding Amesbury to the east and going as far north as Chisbury and Little Bedwyn.

The ISP said they will “immediately commence network planning” for this 5-year contract, with construction due to start in September 2024 and the first properties expected to be connected by the end of 2024.

Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister, Julia Lopez, said:

“Our record-breaking rollout of gigabit broadband is a game changer, bringing lightning-fast connectivity to the most remote locations previously stuck in the digital slow lane.

“Thanks to our Project Gigabit, thousands of hard-to-reach homes and businesses in Wiltshire will soon have the opportunity to tap into the fastest broadband speeds available, providing endless opportunities to improve lives and grow the economy.”

Hector Gibson Fleming, CEO at Wessex Internet, said:

“From entertainment to education, fast, reliable broadband is essential to modern living, and those living and working in rural communities should not be left behind. We’re delighted to have been awarded another government contract to extend our network in Wiltshire and bring blistering-fast broadband to thousands more homes and businesses.”

Based just a few miles from the Wiltshire border in North Dorset, Wessex Internet says they’ve already rolled out their existing full fibre infrastructure to more than 3,000 properties in Wiltshire in communities including East Knoyle and West Knoyle, Donhead St Andrew, Fisherton De La Mere and Corton.

Prices for their full fibre packages usually start at £29 per month for a 100Mbps (15Mbps upload) tier on a 12-month term, but this only comes with a meagre 100GB data allowance (£44 for unlimited), and you’ll have to pay £49 (one-off) for activation. By comparison, their top unlimited usage package will give you 900Mbps (300Mbps upload) for £84 per month, which is fairly expensive by today’s standards, albeit still a godsend if nobody else can supply FTTP.

Project Gigabit GIS Contract Awards History
➤ Wessex Internet for North Dorset (Lot 14.01) in August 2022 (here)
➤ GoFibre for Teesdale (Lot 4.01) in September 2022 (here)
➤ GoFibre for North Northumberland (Lot 34.01) in October 2022 (here)
Fibrus for Cumbria (Lot 28) in November 2022 (here)
➤ Wildanet for Central Cornwall (Lot 32.03) and South West Cornwall (Lot 32.02) in January 2023 (here)
CityFibre for Cambridgeshire (Lot 5) in March 2023 (here)
➤ Wessex Internet for the New Forest (Lot 27.01) in April 2023 (here)
➤ Freedom Fibre for North Shropshire (Lot 25.02) in May 2023 (here)
CityFibre for Norfolk (Lot 7), Suffolk (Lot 2) and Hampshire (Lot 27) in July 2023 (here)
Gigaclear for South Oxfordshire (Lot 13.01) and North Oxfordshire (Lot 13.02) in Nov 2023 (here)
➤ Connect Fibre for North East Staffordshire (Lot 19.01) in Nov 2023 (here)
➤ Connect Fibre for Derbyshire (Lot 3) in Dec 2023 (here)
➤ CityFibre for Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire & East Berkshire (Lot 26), Leicestershire & Warwickshire (Lot 11), West & East Sussex (Lot 16 & 1), Kent (Lot 29) and Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes (Lot 12) in Feb 2024 (here)
Connexin for Nottinghamshire & West Lincolnshire (Lot 10) in Feb 2024 (here)
Quickline for West Yorkshire and York Area (Lot 8) in Feb 2024 (here)
Gigaclear for East Gloucestershire (Lot 18) in Feb 2024 (here)
➤ Wessex Internet for South Wiltshire (Lot 30) in Mar 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
13 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    This does mean though that customers will be not be able to change ISPs, unlike when the infrastructure is provided by wholesale networks such as Openreach or Cityfibre, and now even VirginMedia – anti-competitive.

    1. Avatar photo Fibreforeveryone says:

      That is not correct, all contracts are awarded to suppliers who have to prove they can build an open access network. All suppliers therefore have to have a wholesale offering.

    2. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

      Regional procurements come with a wholesale obligation.

      There is a wholesale page on the Wessex Internet website.

    3. Avatar photo Taras says:

      this is their wholesale page

      https://www.wessexinternet.com/wholesale-and-partners/

      looking rather blank!!

      Project gigabit is great for large areas with no planned gigabit internet. It becomes poor value for money with overbuild when theres a few properties without planned gigabit net, and the award winner gets funding for all of that postcode.

    4. Avatar photo Optimist says:

      Ah, OK, thanks for the correction! I was misled by the lack of links on their website to participating ISPs.

    5. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      The trouble is even if they are open for wholesale unless they have reached a certain scale it’s not worth many retail ISPs signing up as wholesale customers.

    6. Avatar photo . says:

      Technically they do but practically the wholesale offer is more expensive than the retail one, even before factoring in support , bandwidth and so on

    7. Avatar photo Me says:

      @Taras The problem with that page you linked to is it it is an equity form form wholesalers, it provides no information for customers or end users. So pretty useless, they may provide a wholesale feature but if no one is using it it’s worthless, then again with Wessex’s pricing I doubt any Wholesaler will use them! They are not good for the consumer.

    8. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      the classic of the genre is KCOM and the Hull area. Theoretically they have to do everything BT has done in respect to wholesaling and open access, but in practice no one has used it because it’s too expensive / too small an area to spread the costs over.

      I suspect for the lower tier altnets it’s even more of a tick box exercise – you have to be Cityfibre scale for other ISPs to be remotely interested, and even then there are compelling reasons to stick with Openreach.

  2. Avatar photo Bob says:

    Project Gigabit seems to be a very expensive very slow and very inefficient way of delivering full fibre

  3. Avatar photo Me says:

    I think it’s about time Wessex Internet reduced its pricing, if it is being awarded tax payers money to build infrastructure, it should match the prices of the competition, £80 for gigabit fibre on a fixed term contract isn’t matching competitors charging £50. Then maybe they will not scrap roll outs due to it not being ‘commercial viable’.

  4. Avatar photo Peter Delaney says:

    A regional procurement contract obliges the contract winner to offer the wholesale terms and pricing on their website. It looks like Wessex Internet doesn’t (although they do publish inquiry details) but Fibrus, who won the Cumbria contract (for example) do.

    Taking Fibrus residential products in Cumbria as an example.

    The current standard pricing (less the VAT and rounding by the odd penny) compared to their wholesale pricing is as follows:

    100/150Mbps  Retail £25, Wholesale £26
    300Mbps Retail £29.16, Wholesale £30
    1000Mbps Retail £50, Wholesale £55

    Note, the wholesale pricing is on the HyperfastGB website as a PDF. 

    Fibrus, like any other providers, often runs promotions reducing the retail cost still further.

    There doesn’t seem to be much room for potential retailers to make a buck here.  I’m not having a pop at Fibrus, Wessex or any other provider. Rather the unreasonable expectation that pushing a wholesale/retail model as part of the bidding process was going to always work and was the only way to go.

    If the wholesale pricing level on a regional procurement is such that a potential retailer’s products can’t be competitive with the network builder’s own retail offerings then isn’t this, effectively,  a de facto monopoly despite the wholesale obligation ?

    Building in sparsely populated rural areas consumes a lot of money that takes a long time to recover even with the subsidy. It’s perhaps not surprising then that some builders are less interested in wholesaling than others. The likes of CityFibre have it as the basis of their business model but then they cover 8 million properties meaning they can attract the bigger retailers and maintain higher wholesale charges.

    This may not be an attractive option for smaller AltNets who can make a profit by controlling their data and costs from core-network to front-door rather than ceeding profits to another retailer. It doesn’t necessarily mean customers get a bad deal, however. Although rural broadband charges tend to be higher than urban, they still have to be low enough that enough people sign-up. 

    In the non-regional procurement domain, a non-profit like B4RN can retail gigabit symmetrical for £33. 

    If the government had wanted to replicate the Openreach model then the regional contracts would all have been wholesale ones. That they didn’t do this is just the reality of trying to get potential contract bidders interested enough to actually bid.

  5. Avatar photo Jonathan Lewis says:

    Interesting that a lot of the talk here is on pricing and wholesale – which from the perspective of someone affected by this new award are the least of our issues. BT’s fixed “solution” in my area is an aluminium twisted pair which manages (when working) to wheeze up to the heady heights of 1.5Mbps, or an FTTPoD service at £17K despite Ultrafast FTTH being less than a mile away. We do have options on 4G but it is patchy and offers a maximum of 25 mbps on a good day. No other infrastructure is available outside of Starlink (and yes I have tried conventional satellite which was truly awful) so from my perspective I am over the moon that we will get a full fibre service, even if it is from a single supplier.

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