Broadband News

BT only bidder in 2 out of 3 Scottish R100 contract areas

One of the old complaints that BT tended to win the first phase of BDUK contracts by default has resurfaced with an update from the Scottish Government on the progress of the R100 procurrement process.

BT is the only bidder in the Central and Southern lots and any detail about the bid is expected to be released later in the year once the contract is signed. The remaining Northern lot has multiple bidders so until the winner has been decided everyone can continue to play guessing games.

Our £600 million R100 programme is a vital investment in Scotland’s infrastructure, given that the UK-wide telecommunications market has failed to deliver coverage to large areas of Scotland. Our commitment is despite regulation and legislation for telecommunications being reserved matters that are the responsibility of UK Ministers and this commitment is unmatched anywhere else in the UK.

It will help to deliver a future-proofed superfast broadband network, making Scotland one of the best connected places anywhere in Europe.

I am pleased that good progress on tender evaluation has been made and look forward to the process being completed, and contracts signed by the end of the year. More than one bid was received for the North and an announcement of the preferred bidder will be made in due course.

The Scottish Government has committed £579 million, or 96.5%, to the total cost of the programme, even though broadband is a UK Government responsibility. The UK Government will contribute just £21 million, or 3.5%, despite the Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee suggesting UK Ministers should contribute more.

Scotland’s Minister for Connectivity Paul Wheelhouse on R100 update

One part of the update outside the quote might surprise some people i.e. "Ofcom’s most recent Connected Nations report showed Scotland outperforms the UK as a whole when it comes to new broadband deployment.", this is referring to pace of the roll-out i.e. change in a 12 month period between the Connected Nations Reports rather than absolute coverage percentages which we believe the majority of the public will take this statement to mean. Our monthly graph of our tracking of the roll-outs shows how things have progressed in Scotland since 2012.

Latest Gigaclear FTTP deployment in South West
Broadband roll-out progress in Scotland 2010 to 2019

As you can see the pace slowed down substantially at the start of 2018, reflecting that by early 2018 all the easy to deal with low cost higher density areas had been covered and from that point on the size of cabinet areas for new VDSL2 cabinets was substantially smaller and the focus also shifted to FTTP.

The standard battle of words between Westminster and Holyrood continue, with the attack that Westminster is only putting 3.5% of the cost towards the R100 scheme compared to 96.5% (total commitment £579m). This does seem unbalanced but then phase two contracts in English Local Authorities have tended to have smaller input from Westminster  compared to the local authority and the intervention costs being made available as part of R100 pretty much drawf any of the other contracts we have seen. A reminder of what was given as the project size and funding in 2017 is worthwhile.

The two lots BT is set to be the builder on are:

  • Central, formed of the central belt and Fife with £83 million of funding and an expected size of 53,570 premises.
  • Southern, comprising Scottish Borders and Galloway and is 26,090 premises expected to need intervention with £133 million allocated

Until the contract is signed and basic details made public we won't know what the planned contribution from BT is, but the basic maths gives an average intervention cost of £1,549 per premises in the Central lot and £5,097 per premises in the Southern lot. If BT cannot deliver full fibre connectivity to every one of the premises in these two contract lots then there needs to serious questions raised about the costs and how BT is building its full fibre network.

The remaining Northern lot where bidders are fighting it out covers some 99,288 premises with £384 million of funding. The area being Highlands and Islands, Angus, Aberdeen and Dundee and the maths gives an intervention cost of £3,867 per premises.

The three lots comprise a total of 178,948 premises and based on our latest figures from the night of 10th October 2019 we believe there is 168,294 premises in Scotland who cannot receive a 30 Mbps or faster service. If we roll the clock back to the end of January 2018 the number without access to a superfast service was 188,400 premises. 

Comments

Finally some news about R100! I have recently cancelled my BT 5Mbps down, 0.8Mbps up and have moved over to 4G EE while I waited for any news.

Being sensible, I would assume another year of working out how they might handle the rollout followed by perhaps another year before it is ready to sign up should be a reasonable finger in the air guestimate?

  • DanielCoffey
  • about 1 month ago

Also nice to here news, but of course no details. Reluctant to go to pure mobile, due to the number of multi network mobile failures that have taken place in the area in the past, but looking at using Three with load balancing against the ADSL2+ 4.0/0.5.

  • brianhe
  • about 1 month ago

Has Perthshire been wiped off the map of Scotland?

  • jimwillsher
  • about 1 month ago

Given the zero roll-out of fibre under the gainshare agreement announced for the West Coast from August 2018, I wouldn't expect to see any R100 progress from OR until 2022, at least.
Possibly the best news ever is that alternative bidders are in the frame for the Northern lot. This might mean a faster deployment than is possible (or usual) for OR. It's sad. all the same, that the Community Broadband Scotland scheme was used to squash many of the local initiatives that could have partnered with these alternative service providers.

  • p6resthome
  • about 1 month ago

@jimwillsher was thinking the same! Where does Perthshire (Perth & Kinross) fit in?

  • myqal
  • about 1 month ago

There is a map on the government website that shows the three lots.
https://www.gov.scot/publications/reaching-100-superfast-broadband/

  • craski
  • about 1 month ago

Aware of that map but it does nothing to show where they are not going to build e.g. what is considered commercial or already covered with superfast. Good enough to probably identify which local authorities are in each lot but that is it.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 month ago

@Andrew - Understood. Primarily linking to map for the queries above on which lot Perthshire was in. It looks like it falls close to split between Northern and Central so may be parts of that shire in either lot?

  • craski
  • about 1 month ago

How are they handling properties close to the border between lots, traditionally you'd have thought the borders would follow physical exchange coverage, but at some point you'll have neighbours fed from different exchanges in differ rent lots. Then for what's hopefully a lot of fttp the traditional connection locations become broadly irrelevant as it should be the best network topology dictating deployment not the archaic pots locations.

  • Swac3
  • about 1 month ago

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