Broadband News

Frustration in Wales over part completed full fibre broadband

The Superfast Cymru project is generally unnoticed by hundreds of thousands of people across Wales who can order services and have upgraded, but for those missed out it may as well not have happened and the most frustrated group is those who have seen the upgrades actually start but for work to be halted when the contract hit its hard stop date.

BBC Wales has looked at one small village West Williamston in Pembrokeshire where ASDL/ADSL2+ speeds are below 3 Mbps and the frustrating part is that fibre (or fibre ducting) is hanging on a number of poles in the village.

FTTP infrastructure hanging unused in West Williamston
Screen grab of what FTTP kit is on poles in West Williamston

The site of coils of the tubing (1 inch diameter with a yellow stripe) or even connectorised fibre hanging from poles in Wales was not a uncommon site in the summer of 2017 and while a lot of this did see all the components added and services went live there are places like Williamston where they are left in limbo. The limbo exists because Openreach if they went ahead and completed would be paying for it themselves, since the deadline for submitting new infrastructure invoices as part of Superfast Cymru has passed. In a number of the situations we have stumbled across in our travels you will find the coils sat on a lone pole and no sign of any run of fibre or tubing back to the most likely location for the aggregation node, for West Williamston we do not know what the state of the run between the village and suspected aggregation node a few kilometres away is in.

One confusing part within the contract of Openreach is their own checker, which shows the following message in situations like this, i.e. the Superfast Accepting Orders box is highlighted, but once you read the further text it warns about line length and the key part is that the Technology line is showing just a dash. The accepting orders message is appearing because cabinet 1 has a VDSL2 twin but at over 2 kilometres away the speeds are going to be slower than ADSL/ADSL2+.

Openreach checker for premises too far from VDSL2 cabinet
Example of a very long line message on Openreach broadband checker

So what is the future for villages like this? Well if BT and Openreach win the contract for Pembrokeshire it is likely the work will be completed, but if another company wins the contract it is almost guaranteed that the part built infrastructure will be ignored.

Other areas of the UK have had similar issues and in many cases this sort of thing has been resolved by quick turn arounds on aggreements to continue building utilising the gainshare mechanism, hence the drop feed of a couple thousand premises from various councils in the last year or two. Wales did squeeze some additional VDSL2 cabinets that were part built and some FTTP areas during 2018 but clearly plenty more left in limbo.

ISPreview has covered another area, Blaenffos which is on the Boncath exchange and in that case some premises are actually able to order a FTTP service but for those living locally the actual coverage makes no sense to actually have the service live for so few when more are very close. The reality is probably sat in a spreadsheet run by an accountant, i.e. the cost per premise was outside the budget the SuperfastCymru project was working to and rather than absorb that they stopped work and by March 2018 Openreach was confident it had delivered enough that expensive penalties from the Superfast Cymru project would not be enacted.

The next 15 years are going to through up lots more problems like this since as full fibre roll-outs scale to reach ever higher levels of coverage there are going to be areas that hit delays and at times it may be that many kilometres of work has been done and just one small stretch of blocked ducting under a busy junction is holding progress up. Remember that the all of the UK with access to full fibre broadband may be the gold standard now being aimed for, but it is clear that there is no big pile of gold to pay for the roll-out and problem areas are going to be bypassed to be dealt with later.

Comments

I think most of rural wales is frustrated with the slow progress of AM Julie James and her portfolio team. BT are the only company who have the resources to complete the infrastructure in these parts of Wales, so why delay awarding New contracts.

  • withoutfibre
  • 2 months ago

I live in Rhydtalog Flintsfire CH7 4NU and I am connected to the Llanarmon Yn Ial exchange. Speed 1/2 meg BB. The roll out for FTTP ended in December 2017. Got as far as Graianrhyd just a mile short. The infrastructure is in place but Open reach stopped with ducts hanging from the telephone poles leaving the final 25-30 houses fibreless. Even Julie James who visited Llanarmon was unable to help. Superfast FTTP is also available from Wrexham exchange but also stops less than 1/2 a mile away in the opposite direction.

Is anybody in authority in charge of this circus? If so please help.

  • nofibreman
  • 2 months ago

@nofibreman

If you're & others are willing to contribute financially perhaps go down the Openreach Community Fibre route? The costs may be signficantly less than going for a fresh FTTP build.

https://communityfibre.openreach.co.uk/

  • baby_frogmella
  • 2 months ago

Not so very far away people have found an alternative to waiting for BT.

www.westerntelegraph.co.uk/news/16380138.pembs-wifi-brings-superfast-internet-to-castlemorris

  • warweezil
  • 2 months ago

'Withoutfibre' is absolutely right about the Welsh Assembly inactivity - emails about the issue are now being ignored!
The small Llanynys exchange in Denbighshire is one which suffered from the abrupt cut off with cable left hanging

  • patches
  • 2 months ago

My local exchange (Pontrhydfendigaid) is fibre-enabled, but the cabinet I'm connected to (No. 1), isn't, so I'm stuck with ADSL. The annoying thing is that during the 'Superfast Cymru' project, my property was to get FTTP, but it never happened and the project ended. OpenReach got as far to put the fibre on poles down my road, there is actually one of them in my front garden, but now any enquiry is met with "we are still looking for solutions" meaning we won't do anything until we get more public money. My local MP and AM are good and supportive, but they have been unable to get anything done.

  • LeonKennedy
  • 2 months ago

Live in mid-Wales, 400 yards from poles carrying the new service. We are in a small valley, we are not on the previous schedule for connection to that service and a local alternative cannot get into our valley.
We have satellite at high cost but that is limited in many ways, not least clipping the top of a hill to see that satellite.
It would be great if we could join the 21st century, it seems that the Welsh Assembly Government and others have no desire to see that happen.
I am sure BT have made their money and WAG are patting themselves on a job well done, even though it’s only half a job!

  • Cwmrhos
  • 2 months ago

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