The latest performance indicators for the BDUK phase 1 project have been published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with the headline statistic that up to the end of September 2015 some £372,153,178 of central Government money has made superfast broadband available to 3,311,843 premises. The money spent will be higher as there is the contributions from the local authorities and in some areas EU money, plus as the whole project is built around a gap funding model there will be money spent by BT who won all the phase 1 projects (Some phase 1 areas did fund small amounts of additional wireless work to supplement the roll-out). The BDUK figures only take account of premises where broadband at faster than 24 Mbps is available.
|Cumulative to end of:||Premises with superfast broadband service made available||BDUK funding (£)||Number of premises covered per £million of broadband delivery programme expenditure|
The subsidy from Westminster works out at £112 per premise and it will be interesting to see if this changes as projects finish most of the easy low hanging fruit and embark on the harder to reach areas where the number of premises per cabinet is lower and more native FTTP may be involved.
We are of course over six weeks past the end of September and we believe the project has passed some 3.7 to 3.8 million premises to date, with the result that superfast broadband is available to 87.9% of UK premises at 24 Mbps or faster (drops to 87.1% when a 30 Mbps threshold is applied). The rate that new areas are going live is such that we expect the end of 2015 deadline to be missed, but only by a few weeks with the headline grabbing 90% mark being hit in January or February 2016. England at 89.1% 24 Mbps or better coverage though should break the 90% barrier before the end of the year.
Some source may quote figures for fibre based coverage that is already beyond 90% and this is because they are not applying any speed qualifiers and if we remove that the UK has something vaguely fibre based available to 91.8% of premises - the difference down to the 87.9% superfast figure covering those who see no benefit from FTTC to those who have seen some benefit e.g. a jump from 4 Mbps to 14 Mbps download speeds.
The value for money debate will no doubt run for a long time, but the scale of the change is apparent if you compare FTTC and ADSL average speeds in an area like Scotland where for the last two years ADSL/ADSL2+ has delivered mean speeds in the 5.6 to 6.5 Mbps range and FTTC is delivering an average speed of 26.5 to 32.8 Mbps in the same period. Critics often highlight the lack of symmetry in the superfast specification but the FTTC roll-out is delivering a mean upload speed of between 8 and 9 Mbps beating the ADSL download speeds. Before critics jump to say the average speed seems very low, remember we will be seeing a wide profile of people speed testing and not just those closest to the cabinet and even amongst those close to the cabinet we see many elect to save £5 to £10 per month and buy the slower up to 38 Mbps service.