While the Superfast roll-outs have brought reasonable speeds to many millions more than would have happened if nothing had been done, the race is now on to plug the perceived gap between the expensive leased line and SME/consumer grade services.
Herefordshire Council has signed off a joint venture bid at the cabinet level that aims to ensure ducting they've already installed as part of the Herefordshire Enterprise Zone does not sit dormant and provider businesses on what will be a 170 acre site with access to ultrafast broadband.
Current speeds to the Rotherwas and Enterprise Zone sites are around the 30 Mbps and 5 Mbps up apparently, but the aim is to now try and make the site competitive with areas where ultrafast services are already available. The first two phases are complete and has costed around £300,000 which seems to cover the cost of installing ducting alone.
Various options exist for how the joint venture will run, key considerations are the risk to the council and also avoiding costly and length EU State Aid rules. There are apparently two unnamed commercial operators interested with names like BT, Virgin Media, Airband, Gigaclear, Broadway Partners, Hyperoptic, ITS Technology Group and WarwickNet all mentioned as potential partners.
Traditional leased lines and Ethernet lines are so expensive because they are usually installed as custom installs to each property and generally offer uncontended access to the Internet thus ensuring a business needing to upload large datasets is not hindered by consumers and things like 4 hour fault repair agreements (SLA). Installing a middle ground between existing GEA-FTTC and leased lines should be popular and even more so if services offering slightly better speeds than FTTC can be offered for the same price as the existing FTTC services, ensuring high take-up.
It is interesting to see how the BDUK projects are playing out, as there are some industrial estates actually getting native FTTP as a solution from some of the projects. Exactly why there is such a large degree of variation from project to project when in theory the same BT is involved in them all is a bit of a mystery, we suspect that a lot depends on how well the local authority/BT interface for the BDUK projects is managed.
Critics of BT and the whole BDUK process will use upgrades like this Herefordshire Enterprise Zone to highlight how wasteful the system has been with cabinets being delivered using a chunk of public money only to be made obsolete by more council spending in a very short timeframe.