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Better broadband for Suffolk starts second State Aid Consultation
Tuesday 29 April 2014 10:16:22 by Andrew Ferguson

Occasionally it looks like politicians and councils listen, but the outcome is not always want people want. Westminster has the vision of 95% of the UK having the option of a superfast broadband connection in 2017 and the money has been allocated and the various counties are starting to decide what to do, and with Suffolk having published the results of its Open Market review the State Aid Consultation is underway and people have until 15th May to respond and attempt to get their feedback taken on board.

Suffolk was one of the early projects to sign with BT and there has been some anger as the reality of 85% getting superfast broadband meant that 1 in 6 of the county were going to get a slower speed and the level of funding for the original project meant that a lot of the areas were not the most rural areas, but rather those cabinets that needed the least funding to get them enabled.

What is striking about this consultation is the definition of how an area is defined as grey (some degree of coverage) or black (covered) for Next Generation Access (NGA) and this may be partly due to the complaints that the existing project is delivering better speeds to those that can already get good speeds. Though we can see the anger now, as some may see the new 15 Mbps figure as being a re-definition of what superfast broadband actually is.

For NGA, each post code (or partial post code) is turned Grey if:

  • BT has upgraded the network infrastructure serving the area AND premises within the post code (or partial post code) have an estimated (VDSL for FTTC) Access Line Speed of >15Mbps AND it is not an ‘exchange only’ (EO) line OR the premises current ADSL speed is estimated at >15Mbps;
  • OR if it is in a Virgin Media area;
  • OR if it is an area served by an alternative fibre-based infrastructure provider with Access Line Speed of >15Mbps;
  • OR if it is in an area that is served by wireless or other qualifying technology that meets the requirements of the BDUK NGA Technology Guidelines1;

and each post code (or partial post code) is turned Black if it satisfies two of these conditions. All other post codes (or partial post codes) remain White.

Having due regard for the EC Guidelines (which would enable NGA areas getting less than 30Mbps to be classified as NGA White), and the DCMS policy objective of delivering Superfast Broadband (>24Mbps) (which would similarly enable NGA areas getting less than or equal to 24Mbps to be classified as NGA White), we have set the above speed criteria for NGA White to be less than or equal to 15Mbps. We have set the NGA White speed criteria at this level having regard to the requirement in the EC State Aid Decision that public funding granted under the scheme shall ensure a ‘step change’ in broadband capability (typically provides at least a doubling of average access speeds) – our priority for targeting NGA interventions is to use the available public funding to provide a ‘step change’ in broadband capability for premises currently getting relatively slow broadband speeds (< 15Mbps), rather than using the available funding to provide more marginal increases in broadband capability for premises already getting higher broadband speeds (>15Mpbs).

Extract from Suffolk 2017 project State Aid Consultation

Ignoring the figures published by the County Council as part of the current project our own analysis based on speed tests from those in Suffolk and thus reflects the take-up of what is available in the county shows a median download speed of 9.5 Mbps (upload 851 Kbps) and 25.7% of speed tests were at 30 Mbps or faster (i.e. superfast) and 16.5% are still under 2 Mbps.

Update 12:15pm We have ran the numbers for Suffolk and our estimate for superfast coverage at 30 Mbps or faster is 79% if every Openreach cabinet was to offer FTTC and Virgin Media cable coverage (21%) is taken into account. The estimate includes the physics that affect VDSL2 speeds over distance and assume high levels of take-up and hence cross-talk. Addressing exchange only lines, deploying native FTTP to areas a long way from the cabinet and deploying vectoring could push superfast coverage a lot higher.


Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
I understand the reason behind the 15Mbps threshold: they'd rather target premises where the "bang per buck" is bigger.

But surely the way to do this is in prioritising which areas should be targeted *after* finding the white areas, rather than limiting the definition of the white areas.

That way, they can fine-tune the threshold, say, to 14 or 16Mbps as befits the funding.
Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
I think the point of the 15Mbps threshold is to get over the complaints that SCC are getting that they upgrading towns with reasonable service whilst many of those to whom getting 15Mbps would be a step change are being left out of the roll out. ie it is morre likely to address the sub 2mb lines than phase 1 did
Posted by cyberdoyle over 2 years ago
The only way to do the job is to give the money to altnets who will deliver a real fibre solution. FTTC is only a stopgap. FOD is a farce. If bt want to do FTTC then let them, but don't fund it. You only need a couple of altnets in a county to set in motion a chain reaction, where everyone would win, and BT would find some much needed competition and up their game instead of tying everyone to an obsolete copper phone network.
Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
@andrew It would be interesting to see the resuls if you extended your full FTTC analysis as you did for Surrey. Map 1 of the OMR suggests 7% will get less than 2Mbps compared to only 1% in Surrey.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 2 years ago
So long as people note the caveats from eo and fttp that used right may solve 2Meg issue
Posted by gerarda over 2 years ago
Can you really see FTTP being uses to solve 2Meg issues when these are going to be mainly lines of a kms in length? in their commercial roll out BT wont even install extra cabs to shorten cabinet distances which be a fraction of the cost of FTTP
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
I reckon the issue is financial, but not solely focussed on the cost of the fibre deployment.

Noticeable in the BDUK rollout for North Yorkshire is the fact that FTTP is mentioned much more for the very smallest exchanges, but by no means all of them.

I suspect the economics play out in a considerably different way in those locations. It may be related to LLU factors, or the potential to convert the exchange to FOX.
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