Broadband News

Gigaclear signs £90m contract to deliver 70,000 premises of full fibre

Herefordshire and Gloucester look set to have a big jump in the amount of full fibre availability as Gigaclear has signed a contract worth some £90m with Complete Utilities where the utility firm will do all the dig work to connect 173 cabinets with ducting leading to some 70,000 premises across Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

70,000 premises is some 19% of the premises in the combined footprint of the two counties and 8,000 (representing 10% of Herefordshire) was already announced earlier in 2017, Herefordshire has currently 10.5% of premises with a full fibre option and Gloucestershire 5.2% of premises and by our reckoning delivering full fibre to 70,000 premises has the real potential to push both counties to beyond 100% superfast coverage.

As a business based in rural Gloucestershire ourselves, we take great pride in playing such a key role in the delivery of a completely new broadband network in the area. We’re also really pleased to have an opportunity to demonstrate the positive impact that the latest methodologies will have on the future of network delivery in the UK. Combined with our rapid reinstatement process, we’ll be able to work more quickly, reduce waste and cut costs, resulting in a win-win for local communities, local authorities and our commercial partners.

Steve Chaplin, Complete Utilities Managing Director

Complete Utilities will use narrow trenching, an innovative construction technique, to lay multi-way ducts giving homes and businesses access to Gigaclear’s network. As customers request connection to the new ultrafast network, the full fibre cables will be blown through the duct to their property.

This methodology not only increases the build speed and minimises disruption to the local community during construction, it also facilitates future expansion of the network by allowing new fibre to be added without the need to dig and lay new cables - thus enabling Gigaclear’s network to reach more rural homes and businesses, more quickly.

Extract from press release on construction technique

The press release talks of a deployment method that is slightly different, some may be wondering why 173 cabinets, well even on GPON networks you need somewhere to combine the optical signals which is usually in the ground or a pole and for point to point fibre networks you need a cabinet to terminate the individual fibres to each property, the difference with fibre optic cable is that the distances involved do not cause any significant drop off in the light levels so cabinet locations are more about aggregation locations where the local network connects up to the backhaul. The change in technique appears to be that Complete Utilities will be deploying all the ducting and cabinets, but the fibre will not be blown through to the edge of the property until they order. Our understanding of the existing Gigaclear deployment method is the fibre is blown to the edge of the property during the deployment phase and customers connect using connectorised fibre they can plug in themselves on the edge of the boundary. A question has gone into Gigaclear to check this change, as there might be implications in how the footprint is measured in terms of premises passed by fibre to the premises (usually FTTP is only counted when the fibre is at the DP or boundary of a property).

The picture of Brett Shepherd (Gigaclear's Chief Operating Officer) and Steve Chaplin from Complete Utilities does have a small amount of artistic license involved (yes its been edited), since fibre cables do not glow like that in reality and you should never look directly into a lit fibre due to the potential damage from laser light on the eye.

Compared to the news at the weekend of full fibre pilots this announcement of 70,000 is actually much bigger and does not involve any complex voucher systems and is open to both residential and business premises.

The query over the construction technique may sound pedantic, but if the distances involved when the customer orders are not unlike those from Openreach Fibre on Demand (FoD) all Openreach will need to do is reduce the lead time to install and installation costs of its Fibre on Demand service in VDSL2 areas to be similar to Gigaclear and the UK could jump from 2.7% full fibre coverage to more than two thirds in a matter of weeks.

Update Tuesday 5th September The changes in deployment method will mean no change to lead times for individuals when they order, but Gigaclear has highlighted that the new methods are seen as more robust and quicker to repair should a fault occur. The traditional pots on the edge of the property boundary will still be installed with the fibre pre-installed to the closest drop point, which means it stays within what people would accept as a premise passed by fibre to the premise. The fibre from the drop point to the boundary pot is described as a pre-terminated blown fibre.

Update 5:15pm We have had it confirmed the self install option where the standard setup fee gives you fibre you can install as you wish across your properties drive/garden are unchanged by the new roll-out techniques.

Comments

The bids for these Fastershire lots went in a year ago, were awarded last December, contracts signed in February, and now in September they have a contract with subcontractors for the construction. It will take years and years for the roll-out to be completed. What isn't clear to me is whether they are now intending to also cover the 37% of remaining properties in Gloucesterhire that weren't included in the Fastershire phase 2 contracts.

  • sheephouse
  • 3 months ago

So Gigaclear are changing their methods. For the Underriver project, the cable to my house does not use blown fibre and I did not see any blown fibre used elsewhere. The final cable to the pot on my property boundary was 4.5mm in diameter, black and fairly stiff. It contained two fibres only one of which has a connector on the end. For final connections they also used a 7mm orrange coloured cable which looked about as stiff as foam filled coax. The installation work was done by WingNut who dug the trenches and layed the cables, and Boxcom who installed the cabinets a did all the joints.

  • Michael_Chare
  • 3 months ago

Not sure if the self install option will remain or not, hence waiting on a couple of answers to questions.

The £100 activation and do it yourself install is reasonable price wise, but if the £129 (or higher) approved installer fee becomes the norm then the £230 to get up and running becomes a hurdle, particularly for those in BDUK areas where it was not a local demand scheme that brought service to the area.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 3 months ago

£1200+/premises for civils - rural fibre has its costs!

  • Gadget
  • 3 months ago

The installation costs are much higher for a business connection although the work required is exactly the same, and self-install isn't available for business connections. And if you factor in the contention ratios and QoS charges, it works out cheaper to go for a leased line (I have the costings for this).
They also charge residential users £2 per month for a static IPv4 address. IPv6 isn't available - which to my mind isn't the advertised "future proof" broadband.
So although I'm desperate for better broadband, I'm afraid Gigaclear isn't the solution (even if it does ever become available).

  • sheephouse
  • 3 months ago

@sheephouse. The Gigaclear customer IP addresses don't change very often. You end up with the same IP address if you power cycle the router. (IME)
Retail installation cost depend on the work required. Hard ground such as concrete, tarmac or paving stones are harder to dig than grass and so the cost of digging a trench and then covering it again is higher.

  • Michael_Chare
  • 3 months ago

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