Worcestershire signed its BDUK phase project back in the summer of 2013 and the project is saying it has made fibre based broadband available to an extra 40,000 premises so far and is expecting to reach a figure of 60,000 premises which will mark the official end of the phase 1 roll-out.
The phase 2 extension work which is set to add another 8,000 premises of coverage is set to deliver during the summer of 2016 through to early 2017 and means delivery should be nine months ahead of schedule.
The original aim announced when the phase 1 contract was signed was for 90% of Worcestershire to have access to high speed fibre broadband, which can be interpreted several ways, e.g. FTTC is available at any speed or the preferred method that does appear in a couple of contracts is a speed minimum of 15 Mbps. In the past people have accussed the projects and BT of redefining superfast as just 15 Mbps, but that is not the case, superfast still exists at the 24 Mbps or 30 Mbps definitions. So how close has the county made it?
|thinkbroadband calculation of Superfast, USC and Fibre
Broadband Coverage across constituences that comprise Worcestershire
- figures as of 8th October 2015
|Area||% fibre based||% superfast
24 Mbps or faster
30 Mbps or faster
|% cable||% Openreach FTTP||% Under 2 Mbps USC||% Under 15 Mbps|
The figure of 89.6% with access to anything more fibre based than ADSL2+ is close enough to 90% to be within our margin of error. Of course access to FTTC is no good if you are 3km from a cabinet, hence why we also include the numerous other columns so that people can see how distance affects the coverage levels. If the continuing work delivers the next 20,000 premises that will add around 8 or 9 percentage points to the coverage levels and thus the target of 94% superfast looks very achievable, particularly when you account for the extra 8,000 premises in the extension project. Hopefully West Worcestershire where just two thirds are able to get a superfast service will see the bulk of the extra deployment, already in 2015 it has gone from 52.2% with access to a 30 Mbps or faster service to the current 62.6% which is a significant improvement.
The project is one of the better ones in terms of information, with a list on which exact cabinets are currently live and estimates for when other cabinets are likely to go live and even though planning is not finished for the extension project does at least give an indication of which exchange areas are likely to see further work.
Some of the exchange only lines in the county have seen cabinet interventions to bring FTTC to them and we are expecting more of this as time marches on and one reality is that the longer we spend checking coverage and comparing with where people are recording superfast speed tests the more we generally find.
The difficulty facing all the projects is that there are three big factors, pressure to deliver as soon as possible, pressure to deliver for maximum value for money and pressure to use as much FTTP as possible. The general rule has been that the first two factors have outweighed the last by a large margin and a reality of a FTTP deployment is that while much more future proof it either needs a lot more resources in terms of labour and duct clearing, subsequent to this when people order a service it is also more labour intensive to install the last few metres to a property. While many are happy to pay the extra £5 to £15 premium for a faster connection, there is a ground swell of people not willing to extra and wanting the speeds they feel their existing package already should be delivering and even in cases where Gigabit is available we have seen complaints about the limited provider choice and why is the price not the same as what firms like Sky and TalkTalk are planning to sell at in York.
A lot of doubt is cast on the speeds people get from the projects and looking at just some of the speed test results for October so far, here is a small sample of three tests from across the county, Upper Welland - 48 Mbps, Holt Heath - 71.8 Mbps and Martley - 51 Mbps. Of course not everyone gets these sorts of speeds and we make that clear with our FTTC speed table, which while originally based on an expected worst case cross talk scenario has been tweaked with input from speed test observations with the aim that the majority at the distances quoted should match or exceed the speed shown.
We will of course keep tracking coverage as the Worcestershire project continues to its goal of 95% fibre based broadband and 94% being able to access superfast broadband in 2018. The very small gap between fibre based and superfast suggests that we may be seeing more FTTP or maybe some G.fast if the roll-out gets well underway in 2016 to plug the existing gaps between fibre based and superfast coverage.