Broadband News

The race to bring FTTP to Dolphinholme in Lancashire

A small village in Lancashire has been in line for versions of FTTP for some time, with BT via the Lancashire County Council BDUK project talking of roll-out and B4RN the rural community broadband solution working on their own independent solution.

BT pavement chamber being built
Click image for larger version

To date these behemoths of the FTTP world have not clashed but now that BT has been spotted in the area installing pavement chambers and upgrade work on poles in road verges it seems that the race will actually be to see who can win battle for the actual customers.

What makes things more complicated is that the BT roll-out is part funded by the BDUK and LCC, and the knee jerk reaction is that this must break EU State Aid rules, but the published maps by LCC show the area as a superfast intervention area, and we have previously asked whether B4RN submitted its plans to the Open Market Review but have received indeterminate answers, the belief we have based on previous conversations is that LCC was made aware of B4RN plans but a formal OMR submission was not made. Certainly B4RN has had plans to cover at least some of Dolphinholme as 150 premises are mentioned as part of phase 2. We believe the number of premises has since expanded.

So one the one hand we have the predatory evil vampire death squid that is BT (title courtesy of Public Accounts Committee session) and the plucky English underdog in the form of B4RN. As an exercise for the BDUK/PAC/NAO to assess whether the cost of the BT solutions are value for money this overlap is a perfect opportunity to gather costing information from both BT and B4RN once the builds are completed. Though it is unclear how well the ability for B4RN to negotiate wayleave rights across farmland would translate to a commercial operator.

Cluster of vehicles involved in building pavement chamber
Click image for larger version
NOTE: Pavement chambers are also used in FTTC areas, so similar work will be seen in those areas.

While at this time it may look like Dolphinholme is the only area of Lancashire getting FTTP via the BDUK project, the current BT plans we are told is for around 10% of the properties in the intervention area to be served by a native FTTP network. The BT network in Dolphinholme is likely to cover around 160 premises in the village with another 140 outside the village and until both BT and B4RN finish and publish final coverage maps we will not know how many properties have the choice of either network.

In a perfect world there would be no overlap between the two networks, but rather than having a massive slanging match, why don't we celebrate the creation of a new start-up community village just a couple of miles from the M6. If B4RN is to expand to its eventual goal of 15,000 properties in rural Lancashire it is likely to overlap other FTTC and FTTP areas.

It is going to be interesting to see who wins the take-up battle in Dolphinholme. Past experience has shown the UK public often votes with its wallet rather than chasing the best product in a particular product area even when long term this may prove to be a false economy.


I see FTTC fibre RFS dates are still slipping down their usual 3 month hill for areas in Lancashire.

I'm in Lancashire here, my exchange FTTC RFS was originally Sept 13, then Dec 13, now Mar 14. I'll believe it when I actually see it!!

  • mitchja
  • over 6 years ago

I think you mean the M6 :-)

Seems the provisional wing of B4RN has engineered the confrontation it wanted. It's Nextgen White so bring it on.

  • herdwick
  • over 6 years ago

Now there's one hell of a coincidence. Openreach doing native FTTP in a non-descript village that B4RN just happen to have announced plans for.

I guess it'll have to join those various other coincidences from the original ADSL rollout through to earlier in the FTTx rollout where BT suddenly took an interest in areas when the prospect of competition arose.

  • Dixinormous
  • over 6 years ago

I did mean M6, blames dirty glasses rather than age.

On the coincidence, if the goal of 97% in Lancashire is to be met under contract then some overlap is almost inevitable.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • over 6 years ago

herdwick - perhaps you'd like to explain the finer points of the B4RN engineered confrontation to those BDUK areas that have FTTC serving very long d-sides or are even getting nothing more than USO.

I am guessing it doesn't strike you as perhaps a bit of a coincidence that Openreach just happen to be deploying FTTP to a village in B4RN's rollout plans.

I wouldn't be that bothered normally but this is being partly funded by a very limited pot of public money. The 3% of Lancashire getting USO should be pretty annoyed at this.

  • Dixinormous
  • over 6 years ago

I'm referring to the choice of technology, not that the overlap is there full stop. It'd be naive to expect there to be zero overlap.

It's far from cynical to raise an eyebrow at the choice of FTTP especially given BT's long and not especially distinguished history of pre-empting or overbuilding altnets with their own funds.

BT are given considerable freedom in return for maximum coverage. They are going to need to give some quite good explanation for the coverage lost to overbuild B4RN with FTTP.

  • Dixinormous
  • over 6 years ago

There is a primary school in Dolphinholme. The council will prefer such locations to at least have the option to be part of the county's main network and not just supplied by a privately run network. What happens if the county's schools are told to contract their IT services privately, as has already happened elsewhere, and the privately run network is no longer in business? The county would have to go in with its own money.

  • lessthan1mbps
  • over 6 years ago

'..The 3% of Lancashire getting USO should be pretty annoyed at this..'

The 3% of Staffordshire are in the same boat and are annoyed. I have been told not to disrupt the rollout with questions as it places the economics in jeopardy!

  • PhilCoates
  • over 6 years ago

Maybe all the ISPs are pushing Openreach to do this.

  • Somerset
  • over 6 years ago

^ for such a small area? Doubtful

  • GMAN99
  • over 6 years ago

Isn't the bottom-line question "Did the Council receive a credible submission for those postcodes when conducting the Open Market Review, and did they subsequently go out to tender showing the area as white"?

  • Gadget
  • over 6 years ago

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