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The competition for new customers shows no sign of slackening even if it is the height of the holiday season. Sky has re-jigged its 12 months free unlimited ADSL2+ offer so that new customers who are not existing Sky TV or broadband customers get a choice of a £100 reward in the form of a £100 pre-paid MasterCard, M&S or Tesco e-Voucher or if you desire you can swap the voucher for a free Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7" tablet.
The offer is available until 13th August 2015 and the tablet has a retail price in the range of £114 to £140 on Amazon.co.uk.
After the 12 months of free broadband the standard price for the broadband is £10 per month and voice line rental via Sky is of course payable from the start at £16.40 per month. Unlike many introductory offers the free period actually matches the 12 month contract length, leaving you free to do nothing after then and pay the standard price, negotiate a new contract lock-in with Sky or chase the best offer available at that time.
The Sky fibre offers are still going on and you can get the 25GB usage allowance product free for 12 months, or opt to not worry about usage and pay £10 per month for 12 months, then £20 month, both services on a 12 month contract.
Virgin Media which is the dominant ultrafast broadband provider in the UK may have just finished with its previous sale on broadband, broadband and phone and triple play bundles but it has replaced them with a variety of new offers.
Many of the previous offers offered a reduced price for 12 months, with periodic bursts of rewards or free gifts on the triple play products, the new offers vary a lot more in the time frame where you can get a reduced price.
The most popular triple play bundles are now half price or better for six or nine months on an 18 month contract. The Big Kahuna standard pricing has risen to £52/month from £49/month and Big Daddy has broken the £100 barrier at £104.50 for its standard price.
Broadband and phone bundles have 9 month offer periods and the standalone broadband products continue to only have the occasional offer but do carry the advantage of being one of the few broadband packages where no voice line rental needs to be paid, but you need to do the maths with the comparable broadband and phone bundles to determine which is the best value for you.
South Yorkshire when the BDUK process started was going to rely on the Digital Region project which went the way of so many other local authority projects and became a big hole for shoving public cash into. Jump forward to the end of 2014 and the project and goals were set for a BDUK project to improve broadband coverage in South Yorkshire and now some 9 months later the project has given birth to its first fibre cabinets.
As the first cabinets are only just going live, it is a perfect time to publish where we believe current levels of coverage are in the area and thus people can easily see over time how things improve and then judge for themselves whether the project is delivering or not.
|thinkbroadband calculation of fibre and superfast availability in South Yorkshire - data from 28th July 2015|
|Council Area||% fibre based||% superfast
|% cable||% Openreach FTTP||% Under 2 Mbps USC||% Under 15 Mbps|
One of the first cabinets to go live is Barnsley cabinet 19 and is in the above figures, but with a goal of 98% fibre based coverage a superfast coverage level of 95% looks achievable for some point in 2017.
Hopefully the project will develop its own website resources in time and do as other areas have and publish a list of which cabinets are live through the project.
The roll-out in South Yorkshire may be more keenly anticipated than even some rural areas, because the failure of Digital Region resulted in some people having enjoyed VDSL2 packages at speeds of 100 Mbps who when the cabinets were decommissioned only had ADSL2+ as their broadband option.
Hampshire has announced that its superfast broadband programme has now made better broadband available to some 58,200 premises as part of the £28m investment that should eventually see 97,000 premises that were outside the commercial programmes benefit.
We covered the news on 54,000 premises passed almost exactly three months ago, so we though it would be interesting to see what difference this has made, plus we also now have figures on coverage at speeds of 24 Mbps in addition to the 30 Mbps figure previously used.
|thinkbroadband calculation of current fibre, superfast and USC broadband coverage in Hampshire and its Parliamentary Constituencies - 28th July 2015 (change since 30/4/15)|
|Council Area||% fibre based||% superfast
(change since 30/4/15)
|% cable||% Openreach FTTP||% Under 2 Mbps USC||% Under 15 Mbps|
|Hampshire County||90.2%||86.1%||85.3% (+0.7)||55.3%||0.1%||1%||9.9%|
|Portsmouth (City)||98.8%||98.6%||98.6% (=)||92.1%||0%||0%||0.9%|
|East Hampshire||86.3%||77.9%||75.9% (+2.9)||18%||0%||1.4%||14.7%|
|Meon Valley||85.5%||80.7%||79.3% (+0.4)||56.2%||0%||1.4%||15.7%|
|New Forest East||85.2%||79.2%||77.8% (+0.3)||24.8%||0%||1.2%||12.2%|
|New Forest West||87%||78.1%||76.4% (+0.7)||0%||0%||1.2%||13.8%|
|North East Hampshire||90.1%||81.5%||80.3% (+3)||51.4%||0%||2.1%||14.4%|
|North West Hampshire||81.2%||76.4%||75.2% (+0.3)||38.2%||1.5%||1%||18.4%|
|Romsey and Southampton North||78.8%||74.5%||74.4% (+1.7)||54.8%||0%||1.5%||21.3%|
|Southampton Itchen||94.4%||93.5%||93.4% (+0.6)||74.7%||0%||0.6%||3.7%|
|Southampton Test||96.9%||96.8%||96.7% (=)||83.6%||0%||0%||0.9%|
We know from other news today that the national take-up of fibre broadband for Openreach is now running at 20%, which makes the ward level take-up announced by Hampshire in some areas even more impressive - Basingstoke Rooksdown 68%, Hatch Warren 49%, Beggarwood 49%, Bramley 48% and Sherfield Ward 48%. This means Hampshire will be doing well on its clawback (sometimes called gainshare scheme) and part of this may be down to activity such as its live cabinet list which make it easier for people to what is happening.
The clawback news in the BT financial results and a statement from DCMS over some the reinvestment of some £129m to extend the reach of superfast broadband might mean that a broadband levy might be put back on the shelf, especially if take-up of fibre based services continues over the next few years.
"The Government welcomes BT’s news today that the company will make up to £129m available to extend the Government led roll-out of superfast broadband.
The funding will be made available to local authorities to reinvest the money in providing further superfast broadband coverage to even more homes and businesses and much earlier than originally planned.
The money is being made available as a result of a clause in the contracts BT agreed with governments and local authorities that allows the funding BT has received to be returned or reinvested into further coverage if take-up is better than the 20 per cent* expected in BT’s original business case. The high take up rate to date has resulted in BT making a new business case assumption of reaching 30 per cent take-up in these areas."Part of DCMS statement
We don't think that the £129m will actually change hands in a nice attaché case, but we believe this means that gap funding already invoiced and paid to BT that now is payable back will be held onto by BT for re-investment in the continuing phase 1 and phase 2 projects. The amount will vary from project to project as each local authority area has an individual contract and one hopes that the local authority will have some input on where this will be invested, but as we have found some projects work closely with BT and others seem to have no input at all.
"BT will work with local bodies over the coming months to identify where these funds can be provided early to enable the local bodies to invest in increased fibre coverage sooner than would previously have been the case."Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT
It will be interesting to see how far further claw back sums will help to push the 95% superfast broadband coverage, the current funding in theory should see 95% coverage by the end of 2017. In areas like Northern Ireland already, onesie style cabinets are appearing in areas that were too far from their existing VDSL2 cabinet to benefit smaller clusters and in some parts of the UK FTTP is available to those who are on long VDSL2 lines and not getting superfast speeds. Another option might be to not increase the coverage footprint, but a project to opt for a higher proportion of native FTTP in its phase 2 roll-out.
Leeds may already have cable broadband coverage from Virgin Media of around 66% making ultrafast (over 100 Mbps) an option for those covered, but a further £40m investment has been announced to increase coverage across the city.
Some 11,000 homes in the Middleton area of Leeds are set to be the first to benefit and the signs are clear for other cities wanting better coverage make things easier for Virgin Media.
"Local authorities have an important role in getting ultrafast broadband to more people, more quickly. Virgin Media is investing £3bn to improve the UK’s digital infrastructure. We need more local authorities, like Leeds City Council, to work with us to cut the red tape and secure investment for their residents."Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media chief executive officer
There press release is now on the Virgin Media site, and it seems the eventual goal is to increase the footprint in Leeds by around 80,000 premises. Working from our own data this should increase ultrafast coverage in Leeds from 66.4% to around 91%. With 92.7% of Leeds already able to get superfast at 24 Mbps or faster there will clearly a big large overlap with the Openreach FTTC network, but with such a large expansion would not surprise us that even if Openreach enable no other cabinets in the city that the expansion by Virgin Media will push Leeds well past the 95% superfast 2017 target.
BT seems to be providing more detail in the latest first quarter results in relation to the capital expenditure by Openreach. This is largely driven by the increasing popularity of the GEA-FTTC and GEA-FTTP services which with a BT Group declared 80% UK coverage at the end of June 2015 (on 28th July we made is 81.3%) and take-up that has now exceeded 20% the fibre wagon is starting to roll down the hill at ever faster rates.
"Capital expenditure was £402m, up £144m or 56%. This was after £99m (Q1 2014/15: £73m) of gross grant funding directly related to our fibre broadband network build in the quarter. This was offset by the deferral of £100m of the total grant funding we have accrued to date. This is primarily because we have increased our base-case assumption for take-up and under the terms of the BDUK programme, we have a potential obligation to either re-invest or repay grant funding depending on factors including the level of customer take-up achieved."Extract from Openreach results section
In the last quarter some 389,000 new fibre connections were activated (14% of 4.6m now with a GEA service) and now the UK is 20% of those passed. With BDUK contracts usually carrying a clause to allow for clawback of some public money at 20% take-up this is an important point for those making assumptions about how much the phase 1 BDUK process is costing.
The strong take-up is allowing BT to change its base case assumptions on take-up to 28% or 30% in BDUK areas, which will effectively shorten the expected payback period on the investment though it will still be a long time to pay off the FTTC roll-out.
The number of landlines shrunk in the last quarter by some 6,000 but since the increase in the last 12 months is 196,000 the evidence for people giving up on fixed line telecoms is weak. An extra 149,000 broadband connections (fibre or ADSL/ADSL2+) were made in the quarter increasing the UK overall broadband take-up too.
In terms of the service level performance of Openreach, apparently Openreach is already meeting the levels for 2015/2016 which are even more difficult than the 2014/2015 set. Of course meeting the required levels is no good for those falling outside the metrics and it is these edge cases that are fairly easy to find if you look hard enough on social media.
BT Consumer (Retail) remains the number one provider and with its commanding lead there is no sign of this changing and added 85,000 new customers in the quarter. The number of new fibre connections was 217,000 (a mixture of new customers and upgrades) which means 41% of BT Consumer customers are now on a fibre based connection (3.2 million).
BT TV grew by 60,000 customers to 1.2 million and BT Sport audience figures are growing (no exact figures other than viewing up by 51%) and the launch of the Ultra HD sports channel at £15 per month has the potential to drive the top-end of the market. BT Mobile in its first three months has added 100,000 customers.
The BT Wholesale section contains a hint as to why voice line rental may continue to rise each year in the face fairly flat wholesale line rental (and MPF line rental) and that is call revenue is declining over time. This will be a mixture of some people shifting to VoIP but for the great bulk of the UK population most likely their calling habits evolve to fit whatever fixed price call bundle they have on their line.
Remember the headlines over BT having to turn off DLM - in reality just some features had to be tweaked, now some 8 months after that original item settlement terms have been reached between ASSIA and BT in a case that actually dates back to 2011.
"The settlement provides that the parties will cross-license portions of their patent portfolios. In addition, the parties will each stipulate to the dismissal of all pending matters in the UK High Court and associated appeals, termination of several proceedings in the European Patent Office in which the parties had challenged the validity of each other’s patents, and dismissal of patent infringement litigation brought by BT against ASSIA in the United States."
'We are pleased that we have been able to resolve the issues with BT' said ASSIA Chairman and CEO John M. Cioffi.
'Both BT and ASSIA are pleased to end this long running dispute to the mutual satisfaction of both parties' said BT’s Managing Director of Service Strategy & Operations, Mike Galvin.Extract from press release on Litigation Settlement
Once we have figured out what the changes might mean for the average user we will let you know.
The summer holiday season seems an odd time to launch your best offer for a long time, but BT fighting back strongly against likes of Sky who have had free ADSL2+ offers for sometime. The highlights from the latest set of BT offers follow with the 6th August being the date when the current voucher offer will expire.
As usual don't forget to factor in the cost of the voice line rental, currently £16.99 per month rising to £17.99 on 20th September 2015. There is also the £6.95 delivery charge for the Home Hub and Infinity and TV services often carry an activation fee, though this is free on the premium packages of Infinity 2,3 and 4.
While many visitors are keen to find the best fibre deals, the £5 ADSL2+ offer is important to those in areas where Sky and TalkTalk LLU services are not available as the BT pricing is often the lowest available in that case.
It is no secret, but while the prices once out of the minimum term contract may look high, a good number of people manage to negotiate retention deals in return for agreeing to stay another 12 months. So for those just coming to their end of a contract, chase for a better on-going deal or make use of the simpler migration system and chase down one of the many other offers.
Love or hate Sky they are clearly doing something right as in the highly competitive retail broadband sector they have managed to add 96,000 broadband customers as revealed in the results for the 12 months to the end of June 2015.
The growth is slightly less than the previous quarter, but is 92% up compared to the same quarter 12 months ago and once you add the growth in TV customers you can see why there has been an 18% increase in operating profits at Sky.
This performance is better than TalkTalk who somehow managed to publish results that did not show the last quarters additions/loses and just reported flat performance in terms of additions. The Sky results though seem to have dropped several useful snippets like the ratio of on-net to off-net customers and how their fibre sales are performing. The York joint venture with CityFibre gets no mention in the results either.
NOW TV which offers Sky Movies, Sky Sports and core Sky TV channels over IPTV with any broadband connection has always been a tough beast to find out how popular it is but the number of transactions is said to be 1.5 million in the last 12 months. Whether this includes people signing up for the free 30 day trial or buying passes we are not told but Sky Sports passes are three times more popular this year, helped by the introduction of Sky Sports Weekly and Monthly Passes at £10.99 and £31.99 per month.