The Connecting Devon and Somerset team will be hoping that the third time is a charm after they awarded £80m worth of contracts for Phase 2 of their delayed “superfast broadband” (30Mbps+) rollout project, which sees 6 LOTS being split between three suppliers (Airband, Truespeed and Wessex Internet).
The existing CDS scheme has already helped 300,000 extra premises gain access to “superfast broadband” connectivity and take-up in those areas has reached nearly 70%. The vast majority of this was delivered via BT’s (Openreach) earlier (Phase 1) state aid funded contracts using FTTC and a little FTTP (plus a new extension), while a fixed wireless access (FWA) and fibre network from Airband is working to cover c.23,000 premises.
NOTE: Total “superfast” coverage across the Devon and Somerset area, including a majority of commercial build, is around 90% (c.1 million premises). Below the UK’s figure of 96%+.
More recently CDS has been busy hunting for suppliers to deliver their rehashed Phase 2 scheme, which followed the failure of their earlier contract with Gigaclear (here). Sadly, that contract was scrapped last year due to a lack of FTTP build progress, which in turn also followed an earlier failure to reach a Phase 2 deal with BT all the way back in 2015 (arguably CDS wanted more than BT were able to deliver within the tight time-scale)
Meanwhile last year’s Open Mark Review (OMR) identified around 115,000 premises that still couldn’t access or won’t be able to get superfast speeds for years, but the new contracts won’t be able to resolve all of that.
Summary of the New Contracts:
The new Phase 2 contracts divide around 56,396 premises (mostly rural areas) between six LOTS and these should all complete by around 2025 (here). The combined public and private sector investment for these equates to around £80m, which includes £18.43m from DCMS (BDUK), £2.98m from the England European Regional Development Fund and £2.15m from the Heart of the South West LEP’s Growth Deal with Government.
— Airband will be expanding its full fibre coverage into rural areas of Somerset West and Taunton, parts of Sedgemoor, East Devon, as well as areas of Mid Devon, South Hams and Teignbridge. This reflects about 37,500 premises and includes roughly £25.5m of public investment.
— Truespeed will be working in B&NES (Bath & North East Somerset), North Somerset, Mendip and part of Sedgemoor. This reflects over 15,000 premises and includes roughly £6.7m of public investment.
– -Wessex Internet will deliver in rural communities of South Somerset. This reflects a little over 3,600 premises and includes roughly £4.7m of public investment.
As predicted, the CDS team haven’t awarded any of the new LOTS to BT or Gigaclear (BT didn’t bid). Instead, they’ve opted to harness some increasingly familiar local suppliers, which are already busy deploying a mix of wireless (FWA) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband connectivity solutions in the area (the three ISPs have already covered nearly 41,000 premises in the CDS region).
The new contracts will extend the aforementioned work by ensuring that all of the 56,000 premises being targeted are covered by a new gigabit-capable FTTP network. Work on all this is due to start next year and they will aim for completion in 2024 (we’ll assume they mean the end of 2024).
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