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More detail on Welsh Access Broadband Cymru scheme
Thursday 03 October 2013 11:55:11 by Andrew Ferguson

Richard Brown of Wispa Ltd sent out an email on Wednesday alerting many people to an event that otherwise would have slipped under the radar and some significant issues with the criteria for the Access Broadband Cymru (ABC) funding designed to help those with speeds under 2 Mbps across Wales. The meeting itself is for stakeholders wanting to be involved in the ABC scheme.

To some extent one can understand a desire and a legal reason (EU State Aid) to avoid spending money twice on a specific property, but the ABC scheme has such a wide definition of where the project with BT is considered as covering that prospective providers looking to offer a product may see the scheme as a waste of time, or preload their prices to make the small number of potential orders worthwhile.

"The Welsh Government reserve the right to request a copy of your Council Tax for the installation premises.

The premises must not be in the published roll-out for Superfast Cymru.

You must demonstrate that the premises cannot achieve a broadband connection of 2Mbps or above.

Some criteria for residential claims under ABC scheme

The FAQ's for the ABC website reveal that a property is considered part of the Superfast Cymru rollout if the exchange is already accepting orders or considered a future exchange, which means that after a recent update to the Openreach Where and When website many more areas of Wales are excluded, there is still a good many in the Under Evaluation list, but who knows how many will move up the stage. The clever will have noticed that the the FAQ misses out the all important Coming Soon stage, which is the stage when Openreach has actually started building or is about to start work in an exchange area.

In the commercial roll-out it has been very rare for all cabinets in an exchange area to be upgraded, perhaps Wales will be different, and with a target of 96% getting faster broadband (sometimes called high-speed fibre) this may be the case. An important observation the Welsh websites do not talk about 96% receiving superfast broadband but rather bringing faster broadband to 96% of homes, the 96% target should mean that Wales will be close to the 90% getting superfast speeds.

One problem with subsidies and grants can be abuse of schemes, and the ABC scheme is attempting to avoid some of that by seeking proof at various stages, but we are disappointed at one aspect and that is that it insists on a website for speed testing that would be unable to answer any questions that people have about their speed test and the Welsh Government is thus missing out on the ability to gather data about actual speeds at the postcode level via our maps. Also depending on which Ookla server is used some may be configured to show peak speeds, rather than the full set of figures and throughput graphs like our tester.


Some South Wales Exchanges still eligible under ABC scheme

Our expectation is that almost every Welsh telephone exchange will be needing to have upgrade work if the Welsh Government is serious about hitting the Westminster target of 90% receiving superfast broadband, and even their own lower speed vaguely defined target of 96% receiving high speed broadband will need a lot more exchanges placed into the Future Exchange lists.

Critics of the BDUK schemes have repeatedly complained about issues the small percentage of long cabinet to premises lines, and if the Welsh project is going to rely completely on exchange level mapping then it will truly be a farce.


Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
I actually wonder if the people who devised this grant understand the difference between an exchange and a cabinet and that the fibre rollout doesn't work in the same way as the ADSL rollout.
Posted by wispaltd over 4 years ago
pretty much guaranteed that they have little understanding.
Posted by welshwarrior over 4 years ago
So what happens to the unfortunate people who just about manage to get 2Mbps but aren't going to get Fibre?
Posted by wispaltd over 4 years ago
They get left behind. They aren't important - they have a nice view.
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
That's why I'm fidgety! 440kbps at the moment, exchange accepting orders, no sign of our cabinet being done, don't come under grant scheme. But yes, I have a nice view.
Posted by wispaltd over 4 years ago
And your AM is not allowed to look at the BT contract, and predicted this ages ago.
Sadly, I feel for you - I just cannot offer any words to make you feel more confident.
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
I have one little bit of comfort! The latest reply from SF-C says "we confirm your postcode area is covered by SF-C" but then goes onto say the and surveying is ongoing, cannot give any details etc. But the phrasing "your postcode area is covered" tends to suggest yes, our village is going to be fibre-enabled, not just the exchange, even if it's just the cab that's 3 miles away.
Posted by wispaltd over 4 years ago
I'll leave it to Andrew to explain why your comfort may be temporary...
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
If it is just the cab 3 miles away then I would predict no benefit.

Now in theory the project does talk about limited FTTP, and there is a possibility of a sub-FTTC cabinet. But given the planning mess of the ABC, not sure the Welsh project understands it.
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
Yeah, I guess if they leave us with that cabinet then it'll only give us very average ADSL speeds. but even that is 10 times more than we are currently getting and it's likely to be more stable! Just a shame that we'd have to fork out FTTC prices for it though. But still no info forthcoming - the area is "covered" but TBH that could mean anything, something, or nothing, and the current wording of grant indicates that we wouldn't be eligible even if we get nothing from the rollout.
Posted by wispaltd over 4 years ago
To expand on what Andrew has put - if you are 3miles from the cab then
a) You are doing well to get the speeds that you are
b) Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) wont make your speeds any better. Physics is the governing factor here, and 3miles of copper resistance wont improve significantly if the 'pipe' at the other end suddenly improves.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
The ANFP rules that avoid VDSL affecting existing ADSL/ADSL2+ services actually mean on the longest lines (>2km) VDSL2 might perform slower than ADSL2+ operating from the telephone exchange.
Posted by wispaltd over 4 years ago
Sorry to make your comfort last so little time...
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
We're actually 5 miles from exchange, the cab is sort of halfway. I assume FTTC would take out half the copper?
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
I suppose the question is, is 3 miles on VDSL better or worse than 5 miles on ADSL?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
I would not place any money on the outcome in that case

You need another solution to go faster
Posted by fastman over 4 years ago
if that is the case and the cab is 3km from you it may be worth speaking to openreach get a indication of what it would cost to for the community to fund a new a new cabinet in the village (once the exchange is enabled). i understand there are a couple of communities already looking at that
Posted by endaf over 4 years ago
Up until we got 8MB broadband my exchange always had the latest tech, it was used a lot as a testing hub for BT, now it's still being evaluated for fibre !!!! How times have changed.

BUT ... having been talking to the engineers down at the exchange (always 2 - 4 vans per day at the exchange) they have said that we wont get the fast fibre, but the super fast fibre network, they wont tell me the date's still testing it...

So seems BT are still using the exchange as a test bed, just not letting the public use whatever they are testing.

Oh and my exchange is listed above.....
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
I've obtained some sort of clarification about ABC... "Where a basic 2mbps still cannot be achieved following the upgrade of an exchange then that premises would be eligible to submit an application under ABC. However, because we will be revisiting areas throughout the life of the programme to address issues such as the premise is too far from the exchange, is on an exchange only line or the cabinet serving the premises has not been enabled, we will not be able to assess eligibility until after the Superfast Cymru programme has been completed."
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
Therefore even though the scheme has been open since October 1st, you can only apply at the moment if your exchange is not going to be enabled. Any others will have to wait until 2017!
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