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Digital Region search for new operator nearer conclusion
Monday 07 January 2013 13:05:51 by Andrew Ferguson

Digital Region started at the time that Openreach and their fibre roll-out was just a dream, but now in 2013 while Digital Region covers some 80% of premises in South Yorkshire it faces stiff competition from providers using the wholesale Openreach FTTC network and the cable operator Virgin Media.

In this landscape it should be no real surprise to hear that an operating loss of £14m was posted for the year ending 31st March 2012. We have known that Digital Region is looking for a new operator to takeover the network and thus remove the financial weight of running the network until it will return a profit. This process is apparently ongoing, and is expected to complete in early 2013.

"A total of 29 expressions of interest were received in the initial stage of the procurement process and we are now working with two shortlisted bidders in the final stage.

A world class superfast broadband infrastructure is now in place, and we’re working to ensure that the people and businesses of South Yorkshire benefit from the transformational potential it offers."

Extract from Digital Region statement

Even in areas where Digital Region is competing with Openreach fibre services, the operator can sometimes offer faster speeds and is set to boost speeds further (as with all FTTC solutions distance to the cabinet is the key). A comment from which is one of the more well known providers on the network sums the situation up nicely.

"There is significant cost associated with creating something as complex and cutting edge as Digital Region’s superfast internet infrastructure, and – thanks largely to European Union funding – more than 80 per cent of households and businesses in South Yorkshire now have access to some of the fastest and most resilient broadband connectivity available in the UK."

Comment from

Openreach has indicated its own fibre network has a 12 year pay back period, showing that Digital Region is likely to be some time away from making a true profit. Smaller altnet operators have managed this by only rolling out where clear demand has been shown, but this can result in patchy coverage, which was something that the Digital Region project was originally designed to avoid.

The project in South Yorkshire has been criticised for the halfway house approach that FTTC represents, but roll-out would have been slower and more costly if it had commercially deployed full FTTP. In Europe where local authorities have built their own full fibre networks, a similar sale to the private sector is not uncommon the question really is whether these deals represent good value for the tax payer.


Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
In the time scales that DR took and for the money they spent it should have been FTTP. The 80% was only reached in March/April of last year for goodness sake! That and they ignored ISPs who were telling them, "We can get you 100+ connections on this cab if you get it sorted right now". Thales were out of their depth.
Posted by unobroadband over 4 years ago
Some would argue they still are.
Posted by joe_pineapples over 4 years ago
"Even in areas where Digital Region is competing with Openreach fibre services, the operator can sometimes offer faster speeds".

This is true, at least on paper. I've checked both speed estimates on BT (and incidently Sky too) & Origin Broadband (DR) that I could expect to get, which are 23meg and 31meg respectively. The bit I don't understand is that they are both from the same cabinet. How could OB achieve the extra speed (not that I would complain).
Posted by acpsd775 over 4 years ago
@joe_pineapples with the digital region they base it on distance from cab only i think OR will try to take into consideration line length to make it a bit more of a better estimate, That said my estimate on OR is 56 and my estimate on DRN was 69 in reality when i was on the DRN i used to get about 55-60 anything more and the line would become unstable this was also with interleaving turned on (i think its to do with the cards they use in the cabs not right good lol) i also had to pester my ISP LBO to even get me to that speed as it was only syncing at 44 on its own,
Posted by acpsd775 over 4 years ago

But now im on plusnet with via OR on the same line and i get a 71meg sync with interleaving turned off and its 100% stable and that was automatic straight to that speed, moral of my essay the estimate meant squat for me as the company with the lower estimate actually turned out to be the fastest lol
Posted by acpsd775 over 4 years ago
oh and there not from the same cabinet DRN have there own cabinets and equipments for The VDSL completely different to the open reach ones although are usually sat next to each other so do have same distance here are the differences between cabs
Posted by joe_pineapples over 4 years ago
Thanks acpsd775. Some interesting findings there. If all ended up getting was 23meg, I wouldn't bother. If however I could get 30-31meg, it would be worthwhile. And your examples highlight the fact it could possibly be a complete lottery till I was actually tied into a contract.
Posted by acpsd775 over 4 years ago
yea it dose seem that way only thing to do is maybe ask a neighbour that has FTTC and see what speeds they get but even then your line could take a diff route and still be completely diff if you decided to go on the DRN origin do a slower package at 18.50 that's 24/10 and if you sign up for 40/10 and cant get near that they do allow a downgrade but i suppose it depends how much you pay for your internet now and how fast it is as to weather it would be worth it
Posted by New_Londoner over 4 years ago
IIRC new rules mean that the ISP you approach has to provide you with a speed estimate before you sign, and you then have the right to cancel if it is way under. Worth checking but I think its something like that.

BT's line checker has a reputation for giving very conservative estimates so you'd be very unlucky to only get 23Mb from Sky, BT, Talk Talk etc. Not sure about DR's software.
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