UK Digital Minister criticises Scotland while praising Wales
On Friday we presented our data as part of a fact check on a sequence of tweets the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and today an article in The Telegraph has the Digital Minister for the UK Matt Hanock MP with further criticism of Scotland particularly around the fact it has not signed a contract for a phase II superfast broadband project.
What is interesting is that while Scotland is under attack there is praise for Wales where based on our latest public data the two countries are actually very close when you look coverage at 30 Mbps and faster. Of course the coverage figure for both countries, just like the UK figures does hide variations and if you want to view a list of all the UK local authorities which shows both superfast and ultrafast coverage along with Q3/2017 observed speeds (to filter and show just Scottish authorities search for S0, Welsh W0 and English E0).
The coverage figures when rounded to 1 decimal place are currently identical for Wales and Scotland based on data of 20th November 2017 at 92.1%, if you show two decimal places then its Scotland leading at 92.11% and Wales at 92.05%.
It is possible that Matt Hancock based his statements on the levels of full fibre coverage where Wales is ahead at 3.58% versus Scotland at 0.62% as of 20th November. The Scottish figure is interesting as the 0.62% has only 0.22% from Openreach but this is starting to grow more now, and the observation we would like to voice is that a pattern exists in the BDUK projects which is that the FTTP roll-outs tend to only happen after the bulk of the VDSL2 has been delivered and in terms of transparency we should add that some of the growth in full fibre in Scotland and the rest of the UK is not the new full fibre position from Matt Hancock but a reality that in the last 3 weeks we have been processing all the new build postcodes, so once that task is complete we may see the growth in full fibre level off again.
Our understanding of the situation in Scotland with regards to contract extensions is that the R100 which is following the normal procurement procedures and is intended to deliver 100% superfast coverage will be the next set of contracts to be signed. If there is to be criticism over the time that is taking, then the same should be directed at Westminster and Ofcom over the delays in getting an absolute deal sealed on how the 10 Mbps and faster broadband USO will operate. The last week has seen criticism of the BT USO proposal with talk that the 100% is to be watered down to 98.5% but that is another thing to look at in more depth, but in a few words if the UK does hit 98% superfast as the current ambition is, we expect that fixed line coverage at over 10 Mbps to already exceed 98.5%.
Of course full fibre is the gold standard and Matt Hancock is very much to be praised for working to see more of this rolled out across the UK, but at a time when people want something better than they have now delivered yesterday there is a very fine line to be walked between chasing goals so you can look good in international league tables versus delivering a baseline service that will means people who have may have seen no speed improvements for over a decade can get on board and successfully contribute to the digital economy.
Update 9:20pm A coverage update has been uploaded to labs.thinkbroadband.com/local and at 30 Mbps or greater Scotland is now at 92.22% and Wales at 92.09%. In terms of full fibre the change is smaller with 0.64% and 3.60% respectively.