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Yorkshire Post brands Digital Region a disaster
Wednesday 13 March 2013 16:24:03 by Andrew Ferguson

The Digital Region project that was meant to provider superfast broadband to 97% of South Yorkshire is once again in the press and unfortunately it is not good news. The Yorkshire Post is reporting that information from a council report shows the councils may have to pump another £5.2 million into the project, with the process of re-tendering expected to cost £15 million.

Only last month a preferred bidder was announced to take over the project, in the form of Bouygues Energies and Services (BYES). There is now a real question mark over whether this will happen, particularly as the 97% coverage clause attached to the £25 million of EU funding may mean if the project does not meet this goal the EU may recover its £25 million.

South Yorkshire has not been allocated any funding via the BDUK process, the Digital Region project was seen as the solution for the area, so a failure of the project will have implications for Westminster and any remaining BDUK funds.

The project when originally launched had very little competition from Virgin Media and BT, but as both of these have upgraded and rolled out faster networks a great deal of the coverage area of Digital Region is fighting against the two of the biggest household broadband names. For those castigating their own local authority for picking BT, the way the Digital Region project is progressing is hardly a good advert for the alternatives.


Posted by tmcr over 4 years ago
DR has not been an attractive option for my home, despite living in their coverage area. I put this down to price being too much, services limited, information being sparse and lack of incentive to change. The DR postcode checker system does not even work!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 4 years ago
They should have built a proper fibre network instead of replicating the incumbent's footprint in the way they have, using leased lines and not owning anything themselves. They just turned into another reseller. What a waste. BT and Virgin will knock out anyone attempting this. As it has proved. It is no way an 'altnet'. A real altnet goes where telcos fear to tread. Build outside the urban areas and let the network grow inwards. Don't go poncing about where infrastructure exists, its just asking to get your head bitten off.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
cyberdoyle, they couldn't sell what they created, how does spending billions on FTTP make their plan even better, much worse surely?
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
Oh a negative story about SYDR from the YP.. how novel; no wait... they've been doing the same thing since long before the first fibre was laid! Methinks somebody in Leeds didn't like the fact their southern neighbours were getting something better.

And as far as the network itself goes, well basically if you can get it.. it's worth every penny! However the management and promotion of the network (at wholesale level) has been a predictable joke.
Posted by Gadget over 4 years ago
Nothing was stopping the winning bidder for SYDR proposing FTTP, except perhaps the thought that there wasn't the money to pay for it and that the SYDR management might choose something else.
Posted by rayvon over 4 years ago
Yorkshire Post slagging South Yorkshire off,so what's new,they have been doing it for years
Posted by shannowdr over 4 years ago
Great idea just really poorly implemented.

Rolling out to VM / BT Fibre areas should have been a no no but they did and its come back to bite them. If they had a marketing budget and had a checker that actually worked would be a start.

Re-tendering cost £15 million ! How.
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
Just to point out... there were no BT Fibre areas in South Yorks when SYDR started rollout. In fact BT hadn't shown any inclination to installing any. it was only once the whole project got underway they decided they needed to muscle in as well. Interestingly as soon as it was announce that BT Wholesale was not the preferred bidder in the recent tender process, they suddenly announced a further widespread swathe of exchanges in South Yorks to be upgraded for Infinity.
Posted by tmcr over 4 years ago
DR is not FTTP, just FTTC with the same bit of ancient copper from there that BT and the rest use. At 1.2KM frfom cab to my home the speed offered by DR was lower than VM and BT - Fail ?
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
Considering it would be the same piece of 'ancient copper' that BT would also use to provide Infinity from the same PCP, quite how they'd offer better speeds is a bit puzzling!? And as for cable by VM, LOTS of South Yorkshire can't get it at all.. bigger Fail ?
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Swampster I'm not sure that was the case, when SYDR started (2008) BT had no fibre plans, but since then they (BT) have and included south yorkshire in their plans, why wouldn't they? As it stands SYDR got it in their first they could have made a good go of it but didn't. BT came along and rolled out quicker. They didn't decide to muscle in, just didn't exclude that area, just as well by the looks of it
Posted by tmcr over 4 years ago
I don't control the speed tests that show DR would struggle to give me a 19Mb service, Virgin 30Mb or more if I want it yet Infinity is an impressive 55.8Mb - same bit of copper underground, different technology. DR were overtaken ? I've no idea how far VM reaches, I'm not a big fan but have been cable for 16 years now, no BT line any more. Costly to change.
Posted by tikka69 over 4 years ago
"The scheme’s spiralling losses meant work had to stop at 80 per cent of the region’s properties – thus excluding many of the far-flung rural areas it was designed to reach."
This is exactly the problem I have now in that my exchage is one of exchanges that was scaled back, i.e from the original 54 exchanges to now only 34 being done. So the very exchange that are unlikely to get infinity arent getting this either.
And the problem is then as SYDR have had all the funding they have had BDUK is giving the remainder of South Yorks a wide berth and no funds.

Posted by tikka69 over 4 years ago
I'm afraid YP are right in what they say and I should know as I worked on the network.

The people at DR have not got a clue about how to do this kind of network. It was only ever destined to fail in my opinion...

It would have been far better for all of S Yorks and the councils if BT had just been awarded this in the first place instead of Thales/KCOM
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
I'm sorry but BT and DR use the same technology to provide their 'Fibre' services. If they were to put their respective broadband services onto the same line into your house the 'speeds' would be similar..
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
@GMAN99 I'm pretty confident that had SYDR not existed, aside from a select few areas in Sheffield, most of the rest of SY would still be waiting for FTTC under the auspices of a BDUK rollout. As for rolling out quicker? That's simply not true, even now BT's reach for Infinity in SY is way more limited than that of SYDR, my 'Market 2' exchange recently announced for rollout sometime in 2014.. one of the several announced around 2 days after losing the preferred bidder status.
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
@GMAN99 cont... I do agree SYDR hasn't capitalised on the market, and that commercial planning has been terrible; but the network as it is itself is first class.

Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
Edit: sorry my exchange is actually Market 3
Posted by rayvon over 4 years ago
For thousands of users in South Yorkshire DR is a Godsend(me included).BT has no plans to upgrade my exchange(even though there is a customer base of over 26000 homes and businesses that pull off it).There is no Virgin cable either where I live.I was getting 2mb with O2 before DR,now I get just under 24mb down and 10mb up on Origins basic package.
Posted by shannowdr over 4 years ago
For 20% of south yorkshire DR is a huge white elephant of a tax bill for a service we will never get.

Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago
People sound surprised that a council run project is poorly run and wastes money.

I thought that was the norm for councils.

Our CC has decided rather to fix the roads around here to waste £17 million on signboards saying if there is congestion. in our small town.
Posted by KarlAustin over 4 years ago
@Swampster - technically it isn't first class. They've only just got some things right. It was a poor technical implementation, that's what put off ISPs in connecting to it. That and some laughable costs when added on to the costs associated with dealing with a network that is working in a non-industry-standard fashion with no API (which has now been solved after many years).
Posted by tmcr over 4 years ago
Sorry, DR must be giving me duff info then. Their checks show 19Mb is all they could offer. I was giving my home case, it's not my fault that cable does not cover the entire area or that DR and their ISP's have proved pretty hopeless at marketing their offering.
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
@KarlAustin - So what 'technically' is wrong with it? Where it's accessible it is more than a match for Infinity, uses the same underlying technology as Infinity, has a lot more PCP's covered than Infinity ever will.

Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
@KarlAustin cont.. - The overriding factor that I've heard as being the stumbling block for most consumer ISP's has been cost and lack of automation with respect to customer management.. and again that's down to poor management, and a foolishly misjudged gamble on the regulator siding with them.

As for 'industry standard'.. when this network was conceived and rolled out.. there was no such thing as standard!
Posted by Swampster over 4 years ago
@tmcr.. or BT was giving you duff info! Who knows. The speed for FTTC is basically governed by the distance and quality of line between you and the cab. The VDSL cabs will be in the close vicinity of the old BT phone cab which is where your line is connected to.. and it would be this same bit of line that both BT and DR would have to use to provide your service.
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