Progress report from North Yorkshire
The BDUK process and the concept of a Superfast Britain is almost one of the modern topics to avoid around a dinner table if you want a polite sociable evening, but the figures and details still need to be discussed, rather than just label it a disaster and waste of money.
North Yorkshire as one of the first pilot projects signed a contract with BT back in July 2012 and a progress report to the North Yorkshire County Council includes some good news. The project in its first version will in the intervention area be offering superfast broadband (25 Mbps and faster) to 77% of premises (149,944), which when combined with the commercial coverage brings us a to a figure of 87%. Three percentage points down on the target levels, but for a Government inspired procurement project 3% is a small gap. The other 44,788 premises are to be guaranteed a minimum of 2 Mbps, and £5 million is set aside to ensure this, a good many of these will probably be seeing speeds of 10 to 24 Mbps from the deployment of FTTC to their cabinet, but as they live beyond 1km from their cabinet. For those chasing performance data you cannot presume this means 23% of lines in North Yorkshire are too long, as there will be some small cabinets not enabled at all via the project plus the old issue of exchange only lines. It is worth mentioning that phase 1 included a contractual obligation on BT to limit USC satellite coverage to 3,895 premises.
In terms of actual delivery 399 street cabinets are live via the project already, which cover 106,460 premises so those with calculators can do their value for money calculations.
The future is where things get more interesting as the council now knows what money is available for Phase 2 and it looks likely that this will go to BT who are proposing to bring superfast to another 11,100 premises and deploying smaller fibre systems (FTTRN - fibre to the remote node) to bring superfast speeds to another 5,000 premises. Fibre to the Remote Node, revolves around deploying small VDSL2 nodes on telephone poles or in pavement chambers. A likely candidate would be the ECI minicab which can provider VDSL2 to 64 lines in a waterproof unit and if the spec sheet is correct the option for powering over telephone lines (this may be when just running in ADSL2+ modes). We know that similar ECI modules have been looked at by BT in the past and ECI is one of the firms supplying existing street cabinets.
For now a pilot project using FTTRN is set to take place in the Leyburn area, where the results will be important for not just North Yorkshire but all of the UK.
Phase 3 is looking further into the future with the aim of heading towards 100% superfast coverage and the suggestion seems to be that they want to see how the remote node hardware performs in the real world.
Of course all this technology debate could be consigned to the rubbish heap if FTTP was not so expensive to deploy to every property in an area, the desired outcomes from both the current and previous Government never ensured FTTP would be the only option, and the sums of money always fell well short of doing a FTTP roll-out to 10 million or so homes within a four to five year period.