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What next for Herefordshire and Gloucestershire?
Tuesday 08 December 2015 10:59:58 by Andrew Ferguson

The behemoth that is the BT Group that some say are sucking up every pound of public money to subsidise its aging copper network has actually just gone and said no to bidding for the next phase of the Fastershire project.

Update 5pm BT has sent out a statement on the situation, which seems at odd with has been apparently been said by Herefordshire council.

"We are committed to taking fibre broadband to as many homes and businesses in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire as we can, and our existing BDUK project there is progressing well.

We are constantly exploring the options to extend coverage further, but there has been no formal public consultation on a potential contract extension.” "

BT Statement on Fastershire

Fastershire is the BDUK project that has Herefordshire and Gloucestershire working together to improve superfast broadband coverage in the two counties, the current roll-out contract which was signed in 2012 aimed to reach 90% fibre based coverage by the end of 2016 (i.e. anything FTTC or FTTP counts, so superfast coverage will be lower) and there was meant to be a subsequent phase to this with another contract to extend coverage further. It is this extension that BT are saying they will not bid on according to information ISPreview has seen.

A contract for a later phase has already been won by Gigaclear which should see Gigabit FTTH delivered to over 6,000 properties. The refusal by BT means it is likely we may see more smaller bids like this and a wider technology mixture that may include fixed wireless.

Postcodes under 10 Mbps in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire
Map of postcodes in Fastershire currently under 10 Mbps
Postcodes under 2 Mbps in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire

The two maps above show the state of play as of 5th December 2015, and therefore some of the postcodes shown that are under 2 Mbps and 10 Mbps will get helped by the existing roll-out and another set will also be covered by the Gigaclear project set in the Cotswolds. The picture in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire does not look as difficult as areas like Northern Ireland or the Highlands but simply seems to be suffering from a very low superfast coverage starting point for even the phase 1 contract i.e. commercial roll-outs appear to have largely ignored the two local authorities.

What no one knows precisely is why BT did not bid on the next round of tenders, there tender may not have been attractive enough or had too tight a timeframe. One of the reasons the council rejected a bid by BT in the Devon and Somerset area was the BT bid timeframe was too long and the council wanted it all done sooner for the same money.

The phase 1 BDUK contracts suffered from the lack of competition and rather than being a failure the fact that BT are not bidding should be seen as a good thing, since there is an opportunity for alternate operators and those making a case for the break of Openreach and BT to show what can be done and if all the armchair accountants are correct at a faster roll-out speed, with less public money than BT and much more future proof technology.

The difficultly is that with the existing phase 1 BT project progressing and another 6,000+ premises already handed to Gigaclear remaining premises are not in a nice compact area.

It should be noted that South Gloucestershire is actually part of the Wiltshire BDUK project so not included in any of the above problems.


Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
In the comparison with CDS: One report from this project (not long before actual tendering) showed the councils wanted phase 2 to be focussed on the worst remaining 5%, not the best 5%. If that desire went forward into the tender, then no wonder the timescales extended.

Is there any indication of a similar play here?
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
Be a good test of the open market alternatives, at least for those of us not directly affected.
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
@WWWW doesn't mention an "outside in" approach
Posted by zyborg47 about 1 year ago
It have to be about money, it is BT after all and they only do things if it gets them money. i never agreed with Bt getting the contract in the first place. The sooner BT Open reach is separated from the rest of BT the better.

Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Thanks Herdwick

That strategy might not mention an "outside-in" strategy, but (at a quickish glance) it seems to be saying that an "inside-out" strategy is no longer enough.

That suggests they want to treat the remainder in an integrated manner, before inside-out splinters "the remainder" into something too sparse and widespread to be able to work with any solution at all.

I'd say they're after a Cotswolds broadband solution, akin to West Oxfordshire, or hoping for more Gigaclear participation.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
And a separated Openreach will only do things if it gets them money. That's how business works.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
zyborg amd you think that will benefit who exactly
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Zyborg.
If you were BT would you speed money on the above locations showing blue covering the two speeds 2 and 10 meg which may only get a return after 20 years. I would be surprised if Openreach would give a price at the moment due to much work covering their existing contracts ( time frame) or are they playing (me know nothing).
Posted by mjl123 about 1 year ago
The revised fastershire strategy document stating BT have decided not to participate:

I don't understand how they can make that statement and BT claim they weren't even asked!
Posted by zyborg47 about 1 year ago
BT Openreach should be separated from BT and made into a non-profit making company, in fact all three bits of BT should be separated, Wholesale, retail and Openreach and they should not be allowed to buy EE either.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

If OR are to be made into a non-profit making company (like Network Rail - hardly a good advertisement) then who is going to pay compensation to the shareholders? OR is reckoned to be worth about £20bn. The government can't just seize assets belonging to shareholders like pension funds.
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
NR -- funded by governed quadrupled its costs over the last years-- can only get things done in a 5 years cycle in called controlled periods -- -- the next one is CP6 in 2019 - 2024 !!!! crazy
Posted by PhilipVirgo about 1 year ago
If every county went out to competitive tender would BT refuse to bid for any of them? And would its competitors have the resources to take up the slack? The answers are probably YES and YES given the challenges BT will have in delivering the infrastructure investment commitments it will inherit from EE. It has probably worked out that it does better walking away from rural broadband than from trying to compete with those who can bypass its overheads.
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