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European Commision approves UK wide state aid plan
Thursday 26 May 2016 12:33:39 by Andrew Ferguson

While the vast majority of the Superfast Extension Projects that are the core of the Governments aim to reach 95% superfast broadband coverage had their contracts signed before the expiry of the previous EU State Aid rules some have been waiting since June 2015 for new a new scheme to be approved.

The Government has now announced that the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) which will operate as the umbrella scheme for contracts that are to be awarded between now and 2020 has had approval granted by the European Commission.

One of the most urgent areas to be dealt with is Devon and Somerset who rejected the original BT phase II contract and this meant delays in getting any procurement process completed and thus while it is one of the largest phase II projects we are still waiting to see what will happen. Current understanding is that CDS may actually award seven smaller contracts to cover the phase II roll-out, so there may be between one and seven different platforms spread across the two counties.

The new umbrella scheme may have taken longer than originally planned as there are changes to how the scheme operates, those bidding have to provide more information about elements of the infrastructure that can be shared, and other bidders with appropriate confidentially clauses can see this and thus use the knowledge gained to help improve their bids, ie. gain knowledge of ducting or existing masts in an area. While this is meant to help smaller operators expand by reducing the costs, it may actually dissuade some from entering as the full and open access requirements may be felt to be too onerous for operators used to operating in a vertically integrated environment. As has been the case in the past those providers (mainly BT Group) with years of expertise in dealing with complex legal matters and red tape will probably be least phased by the changes.

As with the previous EU State Aid Approval while going with the BDUK approved template will be the choice of many, some may choose to go their own route, certainly there is no absolute requirement to use the NBS but given the time scales of getting individual projects approved we expect any new contracts to be under the NBS.

If we see a new mixture of operators winning the remaining contracts and any new ones where counties choose not to extend existing contracts with BT it will be interesting to see what speed templates are used. While VDSL2 which has been the dominate BDUK technology deployed to date does not deliver 76 Mbps download speeds to all, it does deliver a lot more than some of the alternate options hawked around where the superfast definition is only just about hit, i.e. a product where maximum connection speed is 30 Mbps.


Posted by PaulKirby 5 months ago
What about all the commercial FTTP projects that was started back in 2011 but was never went live, all the hardware has been installed and is all ready, its just BT/BTOR don't want to pay their half towards it, yet they are happy to take the tax payers money for it.

Come om BT pull your fingers out of your backsides and complete what you was suppose to of completed back in 2011.
Posted by TheEulerID 5 months ago

Are you referring to the OR intention to roll FTTP out to a subset of lines announced for 2011 before the investment plans were rethought to concentrate on FTTC (as it was much faster to deploy and could be delivered to many more properties). I'm not aware of any hardware installed (at least not on a significant level), much less that taxpayer's money was spent to do it.
Some links and reference please.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
Unfortunately this looks rather heavy handed and much to bureaucratic.
Sorting out the final 5% will involve a real mix of small scale schemes - for example a project may only be a repeater for a few properties.
The voucher scheme for businesses worked very well. Why not simply fund vouchers for the final 5% and let the market do the rest.
Posted by PaulKirby 5 months ago
Don't know, back in December 2011 they was down my road installing FTTP, sadly only the top half of our road went live leaving the rest with all the FTTP Hardware installed and has been since Dec 2011, all engineers that take a look at the hardware says its all live and keep moaning at BT/BTOR.
Posted by TheEulerID 5 months ago

A voucher scheme for the final 5% (it may only be 3%) is only going to work if there's some way of aggregating these in localities as one-off premises are very unlikely to be cost effective for any operator to serve.
I think voucher aggregation is a bit of an issue under EU rules are is looks a bit like infrastructure procurement and then we ae back into tendering.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
For really small schemes if actually truly individual e.g. parish council working on its own then if under £50,000 no need for EU State Aid procurement process.

Also the changes on open access/infrastructure sharing were applauded by plenty of campaigners when originally announced as ambitions some time ago.
Posted by chilting 5 months ago
I suggest vouchers because it is an easy concept for people to understand and it should be easy to administer by the county councils.
People in a not spot could get together with their vouchers and create a demand that, for example, a fixed wireless operator could fulfil.
Most of these schemes would come in at well under £50,000.
Posted by Gadget 5 months ago
one of the issues with vouchers is that they COULD be represented as a way of getting around the tendering rules ie as Andrew said if under £50k it's not a State Aid issue but if 51 people all presented their £1k voucher it looks like the overall project was £51k and the vouchers were a way of avoiding a procurement exercise.
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