Next step for Superfast Cymru announced with grant for 16,000 premises
The surprise around BT winning the next Superfast Cymru project is of little surprise but what is a surprise is that the grant announced today is targeting a relatively small number of premises.
A £13 million grant deal has been signed with BT which Openreach will deliver and the target is almost 16,000 premises with fast broadband by March 2021. The premises are spread around North Wales, the South West and the Valleys. The money for the grant is apparently made up of money from the Welsh Government and the European Union.
The broadband market in Wales has seen a rapid change over the last five years. Superfast Cymru has transformed the digital landscape of Wales with the vast majority of premises across the country able to access superfast broadband.
But there is more to do to reach the remaining premises. Given the scale of the task in providing fast reliable broadband to those premises currently unable to access it we are going to need a range of interventions in future. There is no one size fits all solution.
This will include publicly funded roll-outs as announced today, our ABC and ultrafast voucher schemes and support for community projects through our voucher schemes. For many a community based scheme is going to be the best route to fast broadband connectivity. We will work with communities and local authorities to provide advice and funding to bring fast broadband where it’s needed.Leader of the House with responsibility for digital Julie James
This is not the end of announcements for Wales as a further tender for East Wales is still progressing and the existing ABC and ultrafast connectivity voucher schemes, along with support for communities via voucher schemes will continue.
The release sent around to a number of news desks does not define what fast broadband actually is, the presumption is that it is not superfast broadband since they would have said and thus we are back to the confusion that has existed for years with the old Superfast Cymru project, i.e. a project title suggesting superfast but far too many announcements using a lower target speed. From our tracking of targets and milestones we believe that fast is equivalent to what some call high speed broadband which is 15 Mbps and faster.
A copy of the full statement made by Julie James has been sent over and states that the vast majority of the premises in this announcement will be fibre to the premises (FTTP full fibre) and those premises in Lot 3 will all be delivered by FTTP.
We’re delighted to be partnering with the Welsh Government once again on the continued roll out of fibre broadband across Wales.
After the successful delivery of Superfast Cymru to date, to be awarded the first lots of this next phase confirms that Openreach is at the very forefront of building infrastructure that’s fit for the future.
While the vast majority of the country – both urban and rural - can already access superfast broadband thanks to the work Openreach engineers have already completed in Wales we appreciate that there is still more to do.
This is the next step in the process of making decent broadband available for all across Wales on an open network with a choice of providers.Kim Mears, Openreach’s managing director for strategic infrastructure development
The statement from Kim Mears does not clear up the question over what is to be delivered, but the use of the phrase fibre broadband hints at a continuation of the mixed technology approach using VDSL2 and FTTP, i.e. not unlike the phase two BDUK projects for many English local authorities.
In terms of the overall Welsh picture 16,000 premises equates to around 1.1% of the premises in Wales, but a lot hinges on what the speed definition used is. Wales in our tracking is at 94.4% coverage of 30 Mbps and faster broadband options.
For those who have forgotten the phase two project in Wales was split into three different lots in an attempt to increase the number of potential bidders and the area covered in this announcement is Lot 1 and 3.
- Lot 1 North Wales
- Lot 2 East Wales - not included in todays announcement
- Lot 3 South West Wales
Importantly in the original estimates of premises needing intervention lot 3 was larger that the 16,000 premises today, so there will still be a lottery around who and who does not benefit.
If you are in Wales and desperate for superfast broadband or just something better than what you have now please don't hold your breath as in terms of timescales the first premises are forecast to be connected by the end of 2019. As for why such long a time from announcement to going live when there are people looking at part built FTTP infrastructure we are not sure, but with the commercial Fibre First and other activity for Openreach already scheduled you do run into a labour force problem and even if third party contractors are used they are often committed to other projects.
Update 6:30pm Our slightly underwhelmed write up of the announcement from the original statements seem too pessimistic now as we are told in a follow up to our previous question that 90% of the almost 16,000 premises will be delivered via Full Fibre (Fibre to the Premises - FTTP).
This update makes the contract announcement look a lot more positive, which is a rare thing these days.