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When Open Market Reviews go bad...
Wednesday 25 May 2016 15:42:01 by Andrew Ferguson

The Open Market Review process that is part of the BDUK projects has been attacked in the past for ignoring smaller providers, but it seems for at least one part of Cumbria because the County Council listened to a fixed wireless provider (who also claims to provide FTTP) that some areas are missing out. Solway Communications claim to be able to provide service to 90% of premises in its coverage area which stretches from Southerness to Brampton with Carlisle close to the centre.

Hayton Parish Council has sent out a press release to various outlets highlighting a problem with cabinet 3 on the Hayton exchange, cabinets 1, 2 and 4 are live and were delivered as part of the first BDUK project and the Parish Council is now keen for cabinet 3 to be included as part of the phase 2 roll-out. The issue appears to be that Solway as part of one of the Open Market Reviews have said they are able to provide a superfast service to postcodes on cabinet 3 (no idea what the response was for other postcodes in the Hayton area, the Solway postcode checker claims that service is likely for a number we checked). It may be that Solway was originally looking to expand its FTTP which serves Kingmoor Business Park, Parkhouse Business Park, Crindledyke Farm Residential Estate with an up to 500 Mbps FTTP service or add extra masts and this has not happened.

There has been at least one meeting in Cumbria where the Managing Director of Solway Communications has said he is happy to rescind claim to be able to serve those postcodes given evidence and the Parish Council release claims to have presented evidence and want Solway Communications to inform Cumbria County Council of a change in their service footprint.

Solway Communications does have a 'superfast' package, which offers up to 30 Mbps downloads and 1 Mbps upload for £45/month and a £200 install fee. This is claimed to match the performance of FTTC services, but the upload speed clearly is a lot slower and a product cap of 30 Mbps means many would be getting faster from VDSL2. Other wireless services are available with better upload speed, but download seems to suffer e.g. Home Plus 5 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload at £52.80/month.

As with most UK providers we are seeing speed tests and small sample for Solway Communications is 68 Mbps download, 31 Mbps upload (location and latency suggest this is the FTTP service) and 9.2 Mbps download and 2.6 Mbps upload fairly close to Hayton.

At the end of the day, it looks like cabinet 3 may be the exception to the often quoted myth that if you start to operate in an area BT will be very quick to decide an area is commercially viable and deliver a service ahead of the alternate operator.


Posted by kijoma 5 months ago
"attacked in the past" , you want to see the stack of bizarre things LA's ask of us as one of these operators in order to try to find a way to exclude us completely.

So far they have managed this 100% by placing dubious hurdles in the way that i very much doubt they as Openreach to provide.
Posted by WWWombat 5 months ago
The 'digital region South Yorkshire' effect, I guess.

They don't expect BT to go bust and pull out. They probably believe it to be possible and imminent for anyone else.
Posted by TheEulerID 5 months ago
On a smaller scale there were also the issues over Fibre GarDen. Dealing with smaller operators sounds attractive, but it's also complex to deal with multiple suppliers, and some are bound to fail and require rescue.

Digital Region was a different issue. It wasn't the failure of a small operator, but a demonstration of how spectacularly things can go wrong when local authorities seek to operate in a commercial market which they are ill-equipped to understand.
Posted by New_Londoner 5 months ago
I'm pretty sure there are communities in Sussex listed as having fixed wireless coverage and therefore excluded from BDUK where no such services are available. You can imagine how frustrating this is to residents that want fibre broadband.
Posted by fastman 5 months ago
no view on sussex but certainly exchange / Cabs in other counties in exactly the same boat / predicement

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