thinkbroadband :: Welsh Government talks of plugging BT gaps
The Welsh Government has started the process of tendering for firms to partner to deliver superfast broadband to 100% of the country. The tender is described as being in the range of £1 million to £3 million and will have a duration of seven years.

"It is expected that the current Superfast Cymru contract with BT will not provide Superfast Broadband services to 100 % of premises in Wales by 30.6.2016 due to combinations of the following BT-reported issues in some locations:

  1. Legacy network architecture, such as ‘exchange-only lines’ preventing standard product deployment.
  2. Relatively low forecast revenue density for standard product development, such as business parks where investment may be more involved than in residential areas.
  3. Relatively high-cost of deploying non-standard products, some of which may exceed cost per premise expectations.

The Welsh Government accepts these issues are real and to address the resulting gaps in service provision. To this end, the Welsh Government has decided to establish a project to procure a service/s that:

  1. Provides Superfast Broadband services to these areas (as identified by the latest Open Market Review).
  2. Meets the necessary and sufficient requirements for compliance with the EC State Aid Decision as interpreted by latest BDUK Guidance.
  3. May use additional grant aid funding over and above that secured for Superfast Cymru.
  4. Promotes maximum possible competition from across the market and the various technical solutions.

This procurement will cover infill requirements for business and industrial parks (not residential) only and will be divided into 2 by geography (South Wales and North Wales).

Key part of tender document
Reading the description it sounds like BT have had an epic fail and are about to fail on their Superfast Cymru contract, but it must be emphasised that the contracted target was 96% coverage with fibre based broadband. So there was always going to be 4% who had no boost in speeds available to them and also those in areas with FTTC where speeds were less than superfast. The performance of FTTC means that the expected coverage at superfast speeds based on our analysis is in the 90 to 91% region.

Looking at the tender, if it is meant to help the 4% who got nothing from the existing BT contract then it needs to help some 60,000 premises and £3 million of funding equates to just £50 of funding per premise. If this is about getting the final 9 to 10% up to superfast speeds the public money is just £20/premise.

So maybe there is a different story, that cost savings in the current BT project are looking like they may be able to extend beyond 96% fibre based coverage and that the number needing intervention is going to be much smaller and for the tender to make sense this suggests a figure of under 10,000 premises. Though if the number of premises is so low why is this contract being given a seven year life span?

The uncertainty perhaps explains why in other parts of the UK firms shown initial interest and then hardly anyone bids for the work once they get to find out some more detail.