Broadband News

Friday afternoon fact check on Scottish broadband position

Twitter can be a wonderful medium but it can also be very devisive and rather than attempt a very long thread there on how the four UK nations stand we will walk our way through a twitter thread that Nicola Sturgeon First Minister of Scotland has on twitter.

Primary bullet point numbers relate to the twitter thread, latest figures where quoted are from last analysis on 23rd November 2017 and these figures have not been pushed to the public site yet, but any variation will be minor, but the fact we need to warn about this does highlight how the picture is changing daily. Where comparisons are around superfast broadband figures we are using the 30 Mbps and faster definition, an important note the UK 95% by end of 2017 target will be using the over 24 Mbps definition.

  1. The 95% fibre based target, has been a source of confusion for some years and was covered in detail back in October. So based on two most likely definitions the standings are as follows:

  • If fibre based means any speed with VDSL2/FTTP/cable then the four nations are England 97.2%, Scotland 96.1%, Wales  96.1% and Northern Ireland 98.5%
  • If fibre based means VDSL2/FTTP/cable at speeds above 15 Mbps then it is England 97%, Scotland 94.2%, Wales 94.7%, Nothern Ireland 88.4%
  1. The Digital Scotland project was established and we covered the financial split back in 2013, when the Westminster contribution was said to be £50m, though we are not totally sure if that is £50 across the whole of Scotland or the Rest of Scotland project area in the news item. As with English local authorities the funding from Westminster was expected to be at least match funded.
  2. The most recent published Ofcom State of the Nations report is from December 2016 and is talking about the coverage levels based on data from broadband providers given in April 2016. The latest report is due any day now and is expected to be a summary of where the position was in April 2017. We look at the change for the four nations in the last 12 months.

  • England change in fibre based (any speed) since Nov 2016 +1.6 percentage points
  • Scotland change in fibre based (any speed) since Nov 2016 +4.4 percentage points
  • Wales change in fibre based (any speed) since Nov 2016 +2.3 percentage points
  • Northern Ireland change in fibre based (any speed) since Nov 2016 +1.1 percentage points
  • England change in superfast broadband since Nov 2016 +2.1 percentage points
  • Scotland change in superfast broadband since Nov 2016 +5 percentage points
  • Wales change in superfast broadband since Nov 2016 +3.5 percentage points
  • Northern Ireland change in superfast broadband since Nov 2016 +8.9 percentage points
  1. This change is a lot smaller than the First Minister is talking about but the pace of change in Scotland is high, but if we compare fibre based coverage between April 2016 and April 2015, i.e. line up with last public Ofcom reports we have a change of 10.3% in the fibre based figure. This period coincides with when the larger VDSL2 cabinets were being rolled out and thus the pace was higher, which is visible when you view our historical trend charts.

  2. The stated R100 aim in Scotland is 100% superfast broadband coverage by 2021, so in terms of delivery compared to the 10 Mbps USO yes it should give better results, but as with the USO where actual delivery has not been finalised in terms of who does it, who pays and what technology there are questions around the R100 project to the same extent.
  3. To add to point 4, the real concerns for those who may fall within either the R100 project or the broadband USO is the exact timescales since waiting another couple of years if your broadband is already inadequate is incredibly frustrating and how much of either project will rely on satellite broadband which while it works still carries a significant performance difference between decent fixed line or fixed wireless broadband access. Or put another way, for those that can get ADSL at speeds of 4 to 5 Mbps many are likely to retain that rather than upgrade solely to a superfast satellite connection.
  4. The First Minister states 'work to do', and similar phrasing can be heard from Westminster and we would add that with the new push towards full fibre even if an area reaches 100% superfast coverage pressure will soon mount for further improvements to avoid the perception gap with those areas where full fibre is available.

The situation in Scotland is such that with so many areas starting from effectively zero fibre or superfast based coverage the pace of change was always going to much more rapid given the goals, i.e. England in November 2012 was at 71.1% fibre based versus Scotland at a much lower 42.7% (November 2012 is one month before the first BDUK cabinet appeared in North Yorkshire.

If there is one recommendation we would make to politicians and any other official who is talking about what a BDUK project has delivered, please make it clear what you mean by fibre based, high speed broadband, fast broadband as there are many varied definitions and while we can usually decipher the likely meaning it is common to see local press who do not live and breathe broadband to get confused and transpose fibre based coverage targets or totals with superfast, and for example in the Unity Authority that covers the Highlands this can be a big difference i.e. currently 90.9% with anything fibre based but this drops to 76.2% with a superfast access option. We need to highlight something that has become clear when members of the public query our figures and that many presume that fibre based coverage does equal superfast broadband and at times we feel that it is an uphill battle with the constant explanations.

Comments

I think the politics mix up there terms because they don't understand the meaning of them. After being told three years ago of an upgrade about now, I'm now told I'll have to wait for the R100 project, which I have little confidence in after seeing the running of the Digital Scotland project. According to BT Wholesale I should be under 2mbs and could get the satellite voucher, but as the line is 'over performing'and giving 4mbs (largely due to BT thinking I'm 2miles from my location) which is about correct for the 4km line, I would not take satellite unless it could matched fixed line prices.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 month ago

@thinkbroadband “The latest report is due any dayn and is…” any day now?

  • @diggory
  • comment via twitter
  • about 1 month ago

Some may be interested in a debate which took place in Westminster Hall on Wednesday this week about the roll out of broadband in rural parts of Scotland.

http://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-11-22/debates/5E175FD7-C10B-4404-B115-7B859CF72961/RuralCommunitiesInScotlandBroadband?highlight=john%20lamont#contribution-BD2A27CD-40EC-45D1-9FB1-443A15C1BA7C

  • 961a
  • about 1 month ago

Much of this debate started due to Scottish Conservative having a planted question at PMQs (or the budget?), saying that SNP were to blame on what is a largely reserved (i.e. not devolved) power.

David Mundell (Conservative MP and SoS for Scotland) and other Tories did likewise via Twitter.

There was also an attack on Ian Blackford (SNP MP - Ross, Skye and Lochaber) for a lack of progress, in one of the most rural constituencies in Scotland. It's all a bit pathetic really, given the remits.

That's the House of Commons for you.

  • camieabz
  • about 1 month ago

Would it not be nice to get a straight answer to why phase 2 has not started when the money for it was given in 2014. The priorities for the roll out would have been whatever was in the contract with BT, unfortunately it seems to have been to seek numbers, not need.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 month ago

Ah, politics. That Hansard page is a delight.

@brianhe
You're mistaking the public announcement of money to the actual availability of that money.

In projects like this, the public might hear that £100m is being spent on broadband. Meanwhile the council might hear that they're being allocated £25m in 2016-17, £25m in 2017-18, etc. Real plans have to be built around the real budget. Cashflow matters
...

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 month ago

Also, even if money were available on day 1, doesn't mean there is the engineering staff to put it in place. A lot of local authorities have gone with BT for phase 2 ... and none of those can start until phase 1 is finished because they use the same staff.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 month ago

https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7510-scotland-starts-ball-rolling-on-100-superfast-coverage-procurement

One presumes that with the R100 starting its journey over a year ago they have chosen that route, rather than phase II etc

Maybe its time to re-visit that table that splits Scotland into its urban/rural sectors

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 month ago

@Andrew
Yeah - an up-to-date addition to the table in that article is probably a good idea.

As for R100 ...
a) I don't recall any announcements that R100 procurement has actually resulted in any contracts.

Perhaps they are hiding in the same place as North Yorkshire's phase 3 procurement results.

I do assume, though, that it has had difficulties with the new EU regulations.

b) Good question as to whether R100 is instead of phase 2. I don't recall that being the case, but every region has its quirks. BUT ... Scotland does have a notional 95% target at the moment, doesn't it?

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 month ago

Have never said R100 has had any contracts signed, just that its on its procurement journey. In that sense its going down same sort of journey as USO.

The new funds which largely revolve around vouchers and sub state aid subs side step a lot of the rules.

The Scottish 95% target is 95% fibre, but getting an answer to precisely what that means is hard and causing confusion for the politicians too. Already past it for VDSL2/FTTP/Cable so presume its a 10 or 15 Mbps qualifier too.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 month ago

Good to know I hadn't missed an R100 announcement!

The Commons discussion took on a couple of forms, but especially comparing Scottish coverage vs English. I took the liberty of combining the England and Scotland coverage-over-time graphs from the TBB labs/local page. Here's the result:
https://postimg.org/image/6bmajdtbf/

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 month ago

In the graph I just posted ^^^, I was interested in seeing the difference in coverage, over time, between England and Scotland as a whole.

That got me thinking about the individual regions (as a similar size to Scotland), so I added a section on Yorkshire into the graph, as one of the worst performing regions that also happens to include KCOM's rollout.

The outcome is in this new graph, coloured differently because it was getting tricky to follow. Scotland has gradually been catching Yorkshire in Superfast, but not Ultrafast:

https://postimg.org/image/jevp7odcb/

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 month ago

section 5 in this doc has the timescales: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/digital-scotland-reaching-100-programme/documents/00522212.pdf?inline=true

  • Gadget
  • about 1 month ago

Can I please make an impassioned plea for a greater focus on clarifying that the percentages are "... of the population"?

The reality across huge swathes of rural Scotland is complete market failure ("White" postcodes) where small communities only have ADSLMax (up to 8Mbps, and frequently no broadband at all) and there are no plans whatsoever in the next three years to change that situation. Satellite users are dissatisfied because of high cost, small quotas, high latency, or all three, and R100 is simply "more of the National Broadband Scheme 2016 plus satellite", which doesn't really help.

  • NorthSkye
  • about 1 month ago

The percentages we produce are NOT of the population, they are of premises, I'd have thought that the numerous tables were clear on that, and also Ofcom, Governments and Councils are working on premises rather than population.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 month ago

@North Skye
Are you saying that Scotland doesn't follow the average number of people per home as the rest of the UK (2.3)? Or that there is a significant different in the number of business premises (around 10%)?

For places close to the norm, the percentage of population is surely == percentage of premises.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 month ago

@North Skye
Is satellite broadband still being considered as a viable BB solution? In this exchange area those that did try it are now regretting/scrapping the installation.
There are still a significant number of Scottish exchanges on Exchange Only BB connections (0.5 Mbps) that still have no definite upgrade plans -see

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5W-12545&ResultsPerPage=10

Marrburn is in SW Scotland, it's not a remote district yet BB is almost impossible to use. Especially with automated 4Gb Windows 10 downloads.

  • rhum
  • about 1 month ago

Terminology is important. My inner conspiracy theorist wonders if there has been a deliberate fudging of the difference between “fibre” and “superfast”.

The programme in Scotland was called Digital Scotland SUPERFAST Broadband for a reason. But, when our line was “upgraded” it was not superfast and, thanks to more than 1,200 of aged copper cable from the fibre box, it was actually no faster. (Hence my use of inverted commas, as my dictionary is quite clear that “upgrade” means improvement.)

Rather than being part of a superfast programme, it seems the aim was a nominal fibre connection.

  • Garioch
  • about 1 month ago

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