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Rural broadband projects behind schedule.
Friday 09 December 2011 09:28:56 by Andrew Ferguson

The BBC has covered a release from the Countryside Alliance, where they are calling for the current BDUK and local authorities procurement system to be simplified because of the problem of the Digital Divide widening every month.

The state of the Superfast Pilots is not really a big secret, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport did release an update on progress for the Superfast Pilots. Alas the summary is pretty much that no actual ground work has commenced, but lots of paperwork has been consumed in meetings. Alas this is all part of the procurement process, which can include points in time where nothing happens as they wait for objections to plans and potential bidders try to formulate plans.

So does the fact that we are probably only going to see actual connections late on in 2012 from the pilots mean the UK will miss its broadband target? Probably not, as assuming the firms that win the process can roll-out quickly it will be feasible to get things moving. BT Openreach is rolling out its FTTC/FTTP network to the commercial two-thirds of the UK fairly rapidly now, and the recent acceleration of this, means that by 2014 there will be lots of capacity for them to work on local authority projects where BT has won the bid. Fujitsu is building its experience of PIA in the Wirral, so should be ready to get going, as for other potential bidders, we know of the high profile withdrawals by Geo and C&W, but there is still possibly others out there.

So it is not time yet to man the lifeboats, and ignore what at time are annoyingly slow procurement processes, to some extent a fast track approach would lead to BT being the most likely candidate to win the majority of bids.

Of course there is another way to approach the Digital Divide, and we report on small initiatives regularly, B4rn which will launch its shares next work, and is basically starting in an area that even with BDUK funding would probably see only the 2 Mbps USC being met. Some local authorities are also using funds from non-BDUK sources to fund wireless projects and the largest is the Cornwall project, that some 15 months after its announcement is connecting customers. Though while Cornwall appears to be moving very fast, there was a couple of years of work to reach the point where they could announce the project.

Compared to many infrastructure projects, the broadband projects are actually moving fairly fast. Consider the length of time it takes for a town road bypass to go from an idea that is thought about, to the first vehicles travelling down it.

Comments

Posted by jumpmum over 2 years ago
As you say once a bid is accepted things may start to move much faster. I saw earlier this week that another 9 Cornish sites had gone live 3 months earlier than forecast. see http://www.superfastcornwall.org/news/2011/12/06/superfast-broadband-goes-live-in-nine-more-cornish-communities--three-months-ahead-of-schedule.html
Posted by stxsl over 2 years ago
"launch its shares next work, and is basically starting"

sed 's/work/week/'
Posted by Bob_s2 over 2 years ago
Even the MOD works faster than this. First stage is Invatation to bid. Second stage is downlisting, third stage Contract award. This should all take 12 months at the very most 6 months is more the norm
Posted by RandomJointer over 2 years ago
Openreach should hoover up this BDUK work. By the time the councils get to go, Openreach will have the experience which will lead to high productivity which will lead to lower install costs.
Posted by themanstan over 2 years ago
@Bob

you're being unduly harsh on Local Gov.... they simply don't have the legions of whitehall mandarins or the years of experience at bringing projects in 5 times over budget and 10 years late...
Posted by desouzr over 2 years ago
Living in a rural North Yorkshire market town I'm expecting to benefit from the project here. It has been and continues to be a long wait but hopefully just another 6 months until a contract is signed and work can begin. Hoping roll out will be fairly quick as much of the core infrastructure is already in place in the form of the NYnet WAN.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 2 years ago
None of this is rocket science. It is al established and proven technology

Simple approach is Fibre to the Cabinets and then a Wireless Mesh or WiFi Network

Posted by New_Londoner over 2 years ago
@Bob
Don't forget that power is needed for the kit used in the mesh / wi-fi network, its not simply a case of sticking in a single transmitter and the area is sorted!
Posted by themanstan over 2 years ago
@New Londoner

At least Bob appreciates technologies which can be rolled into in a few years to a large number of people! As opposed to those who insist in using the most labour intensive, albeit future proof, but would take >15 years to rollout at the same scale... but still expect the timelines to be short and with the same budget.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 2 years ago
@New Londoner

Yes power is needed but mains power is readily available even in rural areas.

You may or may not need more than on tranmitter. This would depend on the local topology and how widely the homes are scattered

Using wireless is the lowest cost and cheapest means of deploying Broadband to the very rural areas and would provide a perfectly acceptable service & speed.

Given the small number of users a WiFi network would provide ample bandwidth.

Remember as well that this wil not be an Open WiFi network so only subscribers would be using it.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
Any delays are not technical. The reality is that it is normal for procurements to take this long.

The varying sources of money bring with them various rules on implementation, and demonstration that the money has not been wasted.
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