Broadband News

Six UK areas to pilot roll-outs for Gigabit full fibre broadband

Fibre to the press release is an all too present danger and hopefully with the launch of six pilot areas to test the roll-out of fibre fingers crossed it will become a reality for many thousands more people and businesses.

HM Treasury has accounced that Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol (including Bath and North East Somerset), West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester will get something like £10m to test ways of delivering full fibre to businesses, public sector and homes. The £10m is split six ways so the potential is to deliver some 10,000 to 20,000 premises extra coverage, until commercial partners and the amount they are contributing plus precisely which areas they are connecting its difficult to know what the resulting footprint will be.

The £10m for the pilots comes from a much larger £200m fund that is intended to get a lot more full fibre across the UK and this is due to be spent by 2020 to 2021. So the pilots need to be up and running quickly if analysis and choice of winning techniques is to lead to much larger roll-outs.

"We want to see more commercial investment in the gold standard connectivity that full fibre provides, and these innovative pilots will help create the right environment for this to happen. To keep Britain as the digital world leader that it is, we need to have the right infrastructure in place to allow us to keep up with the rapid advances in technology now and in the future."

Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock MP

The momenutum for a much wider roll-out of fibre to the premises (full fibre) has been building and the pilots may go down in history as the turning point at which roll-outs of full fibre accelerated, the signs of this are already appearing e.g. we have started to spot some of the commercial Openreach FTTP roll-out restarting in cities, particularly around business parks and aims for 2 million premises by 2020, Virgin Media is also looking at a million or so premises via its Project Lightning, Hyperoptic continue to expand to blocks of flats and City Fibre is talking of starting in 5 to 10 cities in the next year with Fibre to the Home rather than just a metro fibre network, and the list goes on.

The headline message from HM Treasury is all about full fibre delivering the UK's fastest broadband, but until we know about operators and products its impossible to say much more beyond it is likely a range of speeds will be available, or alternatively everyone might get a Gigabit connection but the amount you pay will control shared the capacity is e.g. consumers paying £30 to £40 per month might have a Gigabit connection with a 5 Mbps guaranteed peak throughput, but a business needing consistent symmetric Gigabit speeds might spend £600 per month to guarantee throughput at all times. The key difference with full fibre is that the lottery of distance causing drops in speed and interference from errant electric devices vanishes, thus it should be more reliable, but the actual quality of experience is not immediately guaranteed unless operators scale the network appropriately.

How this fits in with the ongoing superfast roll-outs is a big unknown since will it mainly overbuild those networks or try to fill in the holes, e.g. business parks where speeds are very variable to due distance. With the date for the Universal Service Obligation rapidly approaching and nothing set in concrete in terms of delivery there will clearly be plenty of people hoping the pilots will deliver to those areas that have been ignored to date.

One concern we have is that the press release talks about hospitals, schools and other public sector buildings a lot more than the home and the SME market, this may mean we see more metro fibre networks as options and these don't count in the globally accepted definition of premises passed by full fibre. There is a suggestion that the hope is that by bringing public sector anchor tennants along that the future will see a roll-out to homes and this is precisely what areas like Southend and others who have City Fibre building in their area are gambling on. The difference between a metro fibre network and full fibre (FTTP) is the metro network is generally within a couple of hundred metres of premises when you order, but for FTTP coverage the fibre needs to be installed to the kerb outside each property so that only the final 10 to 15m needs connecting when you order (in some FTTP cases its not even that far when you order the service, just plug in the router to a pre-installed socket in a property).

The announcement makes no distinction between rural and urban areas and until details of each area are announced it will remain unknown what label to attach to the pilots. 

For those confused by the many definitions using for broadband here is a quick summary:

  • high speed broadband - generally 10 to 15 Mbps speeds
  • superfast broadband - faster than 24 Mbps (EU definition 30 Mbps and faster)
  • ultrafast broadband - 100 Mbps and faster (Ofcom uses a 300 Mbps definition)
  • partial fibre - VDSL2/FTTC services from a cabinet in the street
  • full fibre - fibre optic into the property (fibre to the premises), in apartments some Gigabit CAT5e or CAT6 ethernet cable may be used to take fibre from a utility cupboard on each floor to each flat.

Update 8am We believe that the pilot in the West Yorkshire area is focussed on a voucher scheme for businesses, with up to £3,000 available for firms to install full fibre to the business premises. Full details are not available but we presume this is intended to cover providers selling the Fibre on Demand products from Openreach, connecting up to the CityFibre network via a local ISP partner or using a full fibre Ethernet/leased line service that should be available almost everywhere but due to the high costs and for the custom build each usually requires many businesses tend to avoid currently.


"Fibre to the press release" Love this,great expression.

  • pipcoo
  • about 1 year ago

@thinkbroadband In areas where there is less than 2Mbps? 《Waits hopefully》#tooruralforbroadband

  • @witchynic
  • comment via twitter
  • about 1 year ago

I think UK Broadband market is a right state, one minute it's about competition, then it's availability and then it's speeds...

Result, some areas with all three of Hear qualities, some areas with with only one....

I'm in an area with no competition but has has a high availability figure from that one provider, headline speeds are high but unreliable.

Any other providers are lacking in availability and where available lack speed.

Yet not a scooby do of a care has been given by any government or local government, (urban areas suffer too)

  • mlmclaren
  • about 1 year ago

Full fibre has been done elsewhere so not sure what they are trying achieve. If it was a project to upgrade rural properties on slow ADSL Max, and see how it could be done without the standard BT 900% markup, that would be a different matter.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 year ago

Full fibre has been done elsewhere so not sure what they are trying achieve. If it was a project to upgrade rural properties on slow ADSL Max, and see how it could be done without the standard BT 900% markup, that would be a different matter.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 year ago

As per usual the North East doesn't get a look in, typical Tories.

  • Kareha
  • about 1 year ago

It is all part of the superfarce. More trials, more time wasting, more waste of public money. The aim is to delay, so that BT can continue to leach the assets of their obsolete infrastructure a bit longer, continue to pay fat cat bonuses, continue to pay shareholders, continue to hoover up the content market and mobile with the profits, and not invest in their assets. Once they have what they want then openreach will be slung out and the government of the day will have to pick up the pieces. At some point copper phone lines have to be retired and replaced with fibre.

  • cyberdoyle
  • about 1 year ago

Interesting comment from the B4RN spokesperson. Company pays shareholders, wow!

How does this achieve full fibre to a significant area?

  • Somerset
  • about 1 year ago

Another £10m wasted on the wrong end of the broadband infrastructure

Hancock needs to get off his butt and go listen to the rural end of the market who are still below 2Mbps


  • 961a
  • about 1 year ago

If the BDUK projects were aimed at BT Group and Openreach, this funding round is much clearly aimed at the likes of CityFibre who have been itching to increase their full fibre influence for some years.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

Give some money (or even just permission to use council dark fibre in more places) to companys like RuralBB - they don't care if BT are there or not - they need 75 people and it will happen.

  • ZenUser27
  • about 1 year ago

In Aberdeen this will be squarely aimed at CityFibre not BT/OR.

As for rurally in Aberdeenshire it will be interesting to see where it will end up? Is there any more locational details other than a massive Scottish Shire?

  • brusuth
  • about 1 year ago

Ofcom set up the rules for the new competitive environment. Government now using money as the carrot. Something to counter the overhead of learning to use PIA, and to reduce the risk of there being low takeup.

Gov & Ofcom hope that takeup will be high enough, and this seeds self-funded rollouts elsewhere. BT and VM will hope that takeup is low enough to not seed that.

Consequence: Firmly aimed at urban, firmly aimed at non-BT nets trying to make use of PIA.

The word "trial" is used to make sure that government is allowed to subsidise this work, without BT or VM starting a legal case.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

Prediction: BT and perhaps VM will need to head this off at the pass. We'll see BT target their G.Fast rollout in these locations, to shave something off takeup rates. VM might direct some Lightning work.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

Meanwhile my good friend, with whom I would like to communicate with more gets a 256k connection (at full price) and nobody gives a monkey's whatsit for it.....

  • meldrew
  • about 1 year ago

The UK is sorely behind other parts of Europe. Gigabit connections should be commonplace for homes in urban areas by now.

  • PTHD
  • about 1 year ago

I live in the largest city in W.Yorkshire my download 1.29 Mbps. No F.T.T.C. No F.T.P.

No cable just stuck with E.O. line.

  • Brunel
  • about 1 year ago

Someone I know has a smallholding in West Yorkshire. Their broadband struggles to reach 300k download speed. I lent them a 4G mifi with an EE sim in it.
They were rather taken aback to run a speedtest that indicated 5$MB download, 34MB upload speed.
With that sort of speed using 4G, paying for FTTC seems silly, let alone full fibre.

  • hoopla
  • about 1 year ago

Make that 54MB, not 5$MB

  • hoopla
  • about 1 year ago

It mentions West Sussex so what about East Sussex?

  • ethicalme
  • about 1 year ago

@etchicalme - what do you mean? West Sussex and East Sussex are separate administrative authorities, you might as well say "they mention West Sussex so what about Cornwall"... East Sussex for whatever reason aren't one of the 6 so presumably may be part of the spend of the other £190M. These appear only to be pilots and at present we have no idea of what those pilots will even do.

  • ian72
  • about 1 year ago

Full Fibre-Will this mean the end of line rental? Which is suppose to be a charge for the pair of wires that the customer (exclusively uses) from their premises to the exchange? or will the Quango that is Ofcom allow the continued behavior of these companies of "we know how to legally mug you" persist.

  • NarvickDevil
  • about 1 year ago

I anm in the middle of Aberdeen city and suffer <1 MB/s performance because of antiquated EO infrastructure. It was so woeful that we notified the local MP and through him the relevant Parliamentary debate that then involved the execrable Openreach. There seemed very limited understanding of this major cause of lamentable internet performance. There are tens of 1000s of such Openreach EO lines distributed throughout the UK in both rural and city areas and Openreach could not give a care.

Months later... no plans are evident for this situation changing here. It really is beyond pathetic.

  • maxiedog
  • 9 months ago

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