It has been over a year since West Sussex County Council signed its contract with BT and undertook to reach 98% of premises in the county with a fibre based broadband solution. Now at the end of June 2014 the council and BT have announced that the project is well underway with cabinets offering a FTTC service to some 5,000 homes and businesses are now live because of the project. The project as with others has been slow to get going, but it is expecting to pass the 10,000 mark in August 2014, with the eventual aim of covering 44,000 premises in addition to those in the commercial roll-out areas..
"Our exciting project to bring better, faster broadband to the majority of the county is now gaining real momentum. We are delighted that the first 5,000 premises to be able to be connected to high-speed broadband enabled by the Better Connected project can now access the technology.
Improved broadband speeds can transform how we work, live and communicate. This exciting technology can improve our quality of life and help to grow our economy by enabling new businesses to start up and existing ones to prosper."Lionel Barnard, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services at West Sussex County Council
The project is divided up into eight phases with the first phase delivering around forty cabinets across West Sussex and importantly there are plans for FTTP to be deployed in its native form in parts of Wast Sussex. The press release explicitly mentions some FTTP for Ashington, Billingshurst, Petworth and Pulborough, plus the Sutton exchange is being considered for some FTTP and Exchange only line solutions.
As ever we like to dig a little behind the press release numbers and for the ten exchanges mentioned as being in the first phase this is the state of play as we understand it as this time.
|Exchange||Cabinets Live for FTTC||FTTC Planned||No Plans||Exchange Only|
|Billingshurst||Cabs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11||7, 9||N/A||Some EO to get FTTP but not all|
|Bosham||Cabs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10||11 with FTTP||N/A||No plans for EO|
|Fittleworth||Cabs 1 & 2||N/A||N/A||A little EO but no plans|
|Graffham||Cabs 1 & 2||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Petworth||Cabs 1, 3, 9||2, 4, 5, 6, 8, just cab 7 with FTTP||N/A||EO likely to have FTTP|
|Pulborough||Cabs 2 & 5||4 & 7 with FTTP, FTTC 1, 3, 6||N/A||No plans for EO|
|Selsey||Cabs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15||N/A||12 & 13||N/A|
|Sidlesham||Cab 2||Cab 1||N/A||N/A|
|Storrington||Cabs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 ,11, 12, 13||Cab 8||No plans for EO|
|West Chiltington||Cabs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8||Cab 1||N/A||N/A|
Of course where we have mentioned a cabinet is in the plans this is subject to change, and the same with FTTP coverage. Also those few areas and EO lines where no plans exist at this time might find they fall into scope for one of the later phases of the West Sussex Project.
The goal of 98% with a fibre based broadband connection in the county sounds ambitious, but with just 2.7% of the lines in the county on an Exchange Only line, if BT were to build fibre twins for every street cabinet it is possible and as we have seen already some cabinets and EO lines have plans to enable them, so 98% looks achievable. In terms of the superfast coverage, Virgin Media only covers around 30% of the properties in the county, but if the project ignores EO and deploys just FTTC to all cabinets our conservative calculations suggest 86% at 30 Mbps or faster and 89.6% at 24 Mbps and faster. The eventual figure will depend on how much EO upgrade work is undertaken and how much FTTP is actually deployed.
While it would be great to see a high proportion of FTTP, with a current budget of just over £20 million and 44,000 properties to cover, it was clear to anyone able to do a back of the envelope calculation that FTTP for the majority was never likely to happen, at the accepted average of £1000 per property (and maybe higher in some areas) the project could only have ever hoped to reach 20,000 premises. The superfast extension funding for 2025 to 2017 is a mere £860,000 from central Government which even with match funding is not going to do much beyond perhaps help some cabinets too small for current FTTC work to get a smaller Fibre to the Remote Node deployment.