Mind the gap in Wales as current BT project ends
The size of the gap for those not having decent broadband may have shrunk considerably in Wales since the start of 2013 when just 44.1% of the nation had access to a superfast broadband service to the situation now where 93.2% have access to a 30 Mbps or faster service, but with the BT Openreach roll-out now shutting down there is going to be a raft of complaints from those who thought they would be covered and some who have proof of a promise that they would be covered. There are even people with coils of fibre ducting on poles in their villages where the roll-out stalled for one reason or another.
The target in Wales was to deliver 690,000 premises of superfast coverage via the project and we believe that 670,000 to 690,000 premises have been delivered, the range is down to things like additional Virgin Media roll-out since the project started. In short we think they are very close to the 690,000 figure and if the works that are still showing as in progress are delivered very quickly then it should hit targets just as with the other projects across the UK, an additional 6,500 premises would have us saying the target has been met rather than talking of the range.
In December 2017 there was lots of areas with FTTP marked down as on the way, and while a lot of those areas have gone live, there are some that are still marked as in build and others that we are finding as live and able to play an order. The problematic areas are those that had previously been marked as FTTP on the way and now appear to have vanished from the checker, this is not unusual and has happened with other projects but usually for VDSL2 where a cabinet might even have been placed on the ground but when trying to get power connected an expensive problem was met so cabinet has been left but another cabinet enabled elsewhere to meet the targets. In some cases areas such as this do get tidied up and resolved eventually, but that is usually where additional contracts or gainshare work via Openreach is underway - in this regard Wales is a bit different.
We had hoped that January would repeat the 0.4% of additonal FTTP coverage in Wales, but to date we have found only an additional 0.11% and as of today we know of 57,029 premises with access to Openreach FTTP in Wales. A figure of 80,000 premises of FTTP was talked about three years ago which now looks unlikely but a final figure in the 60,000 range looks achievable.
For the 86,000 premises in Wales who do not have a superfast broadband option yet then the big question now is when we will they know what the next £80 million contract will bring, it has the snappy name Next Generation Access Scheme but as yet we don't know who or whether it may involve multiple firms has been awarded the contract and the work was meant to start in early 2018.
BT is the easy target and leaving half built networks, even if it was the easier part of the FTTP roll-out i.e. attach some tubing to an existing telephone pole is not a way to win the hearts and minds of residents BUT there is no incentive for BT and Openreach to over shoot the project target, the terms that govern the spending is such that if the money had run out on the way to 690,000 premises BT would have been liable, but if they delivered 690,000 premises for less money they need to wait for the public partner - Welsh Assembly to confirm what should be done with the spare money.
Other parts of the UK have gone for much for FTTP heavy roll-outs with their later phases so we hope that whatever the Welsh Assembly does push forward with is FTTP heavier than the original contract. There is now plenty of full fibre in Wales and farms with access to it that the much talking about economic benefits of full fibre versus VDSL2 should be easy to measure.
Update 5:45pm We have sifted through the landscape of Wales and believe there are some 63 cabinets where the FTTP roll-out is still ongoing, this is a drop of around 50 to 60 cabinets we had previously marked up as believing FTTP was on the way. Some of those dropped from the list have had partial roll-out to the cabinet area, which may have been the original plan.
The number of premises that the 63 cabinets with work ongoing and currently have no superfast broadband option is 7,348, which given the location of most of these premises should take Wales to the magic 96% with access to a 15 Mbps or faster connection (15 Mbps is often referred to as high speed broadband).
Update Wednesday 17th January Another 740 premises with the ability to order native GEA-FTTP were found on Tuesday, taking the change since 7th January to 0.16%.
Update Thursday 18th January Openreach has been in touch and supplied their own view of the premises figures.
Superfast Cymru has been an overwhelming success. Openreach has invested tens of millions of pounds more into the project than originally anticipated, and the result is that superfast broadbandi is available to more than 720,000 homes and businesses across Wales - far more than was ever envisaged in 2012 when this project began. ThinkBroadband’s figures show that more than 93% of Wales can order a superfast service today – a greater percentage than France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Given the project had an end date of December 31, 2017, we weren’t able to complete all of the upgrades we had hoped to. The Welsh Government is working on further phases of the programme to cover remaining not-spots, and the UK Government has outlined plans to introduce a universal broadband obligation.
We have always been clear that the programme would not reach every premises and some areas that were in the original plan have unfortunately dropped out because of the time and the complexity involved in reaching them.We understand the frustration of those people that are currently unable to access superfast broadband and we’re looking at ways to address this.For those that want certainty, there is also the option of a Community Fibre Partnership scheme, which has proved successful for more than 300 communities across the UK.Openreach spokesperson
We got this statement on Wednesday, but waited to update until the follow up question of how many premises do you have in Wales and the answer was 1,589,056. This is 13% higher than our count of 1,386,641 and if this difference was applied to the UK wide total we arrive at a UK business/residential property count of 32.6 million which seems far too high (Ofcom have a premises count of 29.3 million and we are at 28.9 million).
Some of the reasons for the gap may be if Openreach are including postcodes with just a PCP or telephone box in them, ice monitoring equipment, counting every room of residential care homes (if all in a single building we count as 1, if an estate of retirement apartments each one counts in our date), builders huts which seem to persist in some datasets years after the portacabin has been removed from a site. Caravan parks is a potential skewing factor too in Wales, where they are residential then a number of units will be included.
We have updated our analysis on the delivery via the BDUK project and we know of 683,881 premises covered, which with the 7,348 premises of FTTP to still potentially appear does give the BDUK target by our measure too.
We do expect our Welsh premises count to increase by perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 as in addition to new build premises, there have been some coastal towns in particular with premises counts greater than the various data sources we have used.