Following the broadband money

UK next gen broadband slips to 2017

with 7 comments

The deadline for Britain’s national next generation broadband service has slipped to 2017.

This emerged the day after the European Commission agreed to approve the government’s controversial £1.5bn procurement plan after nearly nine months of argument.

Asked to clarify the amount at stake, a commission spokesman said, “In the notification we received from the UK, the £1.5 bn (is) planned for the period until 2017.”

The previous Labour government had set a 2013 target for a universal 2Mbps service. The coalition soon changed that to “the best broadband network in Europe by 2015”.

The deal negotiated by culture secretary Maria Miller a couple of weeks ago leaves Britain targeting a minimum 2Mbps universal service, with 90% of people having access to a 24Mbps service.

On the same day that it announced its approval for the BDUK scheme, the commission approved a €2bn (£1.6bn) scheme to support rural areas in Bavaria, Germany. This plans a minimum 50Mbps network for “commercial and accumulation areas”.

Neither DCMS, the government’s responsible department, nor the commission were prepared to give details of where the UK’s £1.5bn is coming from. The official statement says the amount is £530m.

Pressed on this, the DCMS said the £1bn balance will be met by local authorities. It is unclear whether it includes £150m each for the Superconnected Cities initiative and the extension of mobile broadband to rural areas. However the commission said “EU funds” were part of the package.

This detail may be included in the agreement between the government and the commission. A commission press release yesterday said that a redacted (censored) version of the agreement would be made public in due course. Commission sources say the British government is now making the cuts.

It is unclear what will be kept secret. It is believed that Brussels was unconvinced by British claims that the resulting networks would provide “open access” on a “competitive” basis. This is because only BT and Fujitsu qualified as suppliers under the framework. The Cabinet Office later labeled Fujitsu “unreliable”, effectively blacklisting it.

It is believed that there are still disagreements over the headline download speeds deemed acceptable. The commission told Br0kenTeleph0ne, “The 30 Mbps universal coverage objective in 2020 is the objective of the EU’s Digital Agenda. We consider the (BDUK) scheme will help the UK reach this objective.”

That gives the UK eight years’ breathing room. Well, not quite. Part of the deal is that DCMS will have to report to the commission on progress by March 2015.

It is unclear what sanctions the EU can impose if the UK is behind target. That will probably be a issue  for the next government.

7 Responses

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  1. If you recall the original figure just for BDUK was actually £830m, with the additional £300m coming from the BBC and that would be used for any extra work or additional schemes in the post-2015 to 2017 period.

    So the 2017 date isn’t new but we don’t yet know what strategy the government plans to set for that period. It may be that they aim for 100% coverage and or use it to match the EU targets before 2020.

    As to the £1.5bn, well we know roughly all of the MIP/UBF/BDUK etc. plans to reach the first £1bn or so and maybe put it closer to £1.2bn or £1.3bn (if you factor all broadband related commitments) but there’s roughly £300m that seems of have crept in without being invited. Not quite sure where that came from. Could we be in for a funding boost or is it just being matched by councils? The latter makes sense but we don’t have the final spending figures yet.

    Mark (ISPreview)

    2012/11/22 at 08:00

  2. I too do not see any contradiction in ‘sums’ here, since LAs are required to match fund the £530mill for starters, so as said above, add on the £300mill plus ‘inner city schemes’ and RCBF and any other expenditures (all ‘state aid’) and I am not sure £1.5bn is enough! Do we mention consultancy fees………?

    What I see as more of an issue is the time scale for the UK to move to a real NGA solution (refer Peter Cochrane/HOL) by 2020, ‘reporting’ in 2015, and I await with interest the HMG details to be ‘published’.(with redactions…) and look forward with some scepticism to the 2015 ‘report’ on progress to the EU. I think all accept that the feeble FTTC roll-out will not achieve the required ‘universal’ 30mb by 2020 and is now unlikely to ‘complete’ 24/2mb by 2015 with the EU delay further compressing the time scale, so are we about to see a re-write of the framework/HMG policy to concur with Brussels expectations? Do we await a ‘bad news day’ for the announcement? Are BT being ‘knobbled by Brussels in this process? Answers on a postcard?

    I recall an INCA seminar a while back where some good folk were aiming to form a group to ‘guide’ HMG on the path to 2020 post the ‘framework’. Did it happen? .Are HMG listening?

    Mike Phillips

    2012/11/22 at 11:12

    • Some are attributing too much to the EU targets. They have very little definition behind them as things stand now.

      Vectoring will probably mean 90% of the 90% with FTTC access can beat 30 Mbps. The rest might see VDSL type regenerators or 4G/5G providing service, or if the altnets deliver then the problem is solved as all rural areas will get FTTH anyway.

      The situation with Fujitsu if it won all the BDUK projects was such that it would be 80% with FTTH, i.e. 16% of UK properties, and the last 20% on a mixture of tech still.

      Be interesting to see the reality of other EU countries, like Finland where its pay the cost or dig it yourself for the last 2 km to the fibre. Easy if its just your field, but for those with roads/pavements in the way less so.

      Andrew Ferguson

      2012/11/22 at 11:36

      • @ Andrew Ferguson

        Not sure about the Huawei cabinets, but I’m sure that the ECI ones don’t support vectoring on the shelf (I know the line cards don’t). Vectoring on a line card basis is not as good as a shelf basis, so vectoring would mean compete replacement of many of the VDSL shelves across the country. I don’t see BT doing that any time soon, certainly if there is not any competition – which shall be the case for BDUK supported areas.


        2012/11/22 at 12:28

      • Vectoring does appear on the Openreach timelines, but yes is a beyond 2015 timeframe.

        Vectoring in areas with sub-llu is also difficult, as Germany is finding

        Andrew Ferguson

        2012/11/22 at 16:58

  3. Vectoring (aka Dynamic Spectrum Management 3/DSM3) in areas with fully unbundled SLUs is impossible. How can anyone guarantee that the Vector Manager ( the incumbent) will not set an SLA in the Vectoring software. The only exception is where Vectoring Management ( human and software) is itself split off to a third party ….as Wholesale and Retail once were.

    This is because the Spectrum Manager must manage all of the bundle of cables exiting the Cabinet on the D or Customer side to mitigate interference.

    Vectoring will be a must when 100mbits + speeds over copper pairs or bonded copper pairs is launched as a product. VDSL can go to 300mbits if 2 pairs are used and Vectoring is in place to mitigate interference from one pair to another.

    Nor can the EU Digital Agenda 2020, which GUARANTEES 30 mbits for all, be delivered absent a generous dollop of pair bonding and Vectoring …..and more cabinets than are now proposed obviously.

    See > ( FEXT = Interference)

    “The downstream rate-reach plot for 48
    non-vectored VDSL2 lines shows that 100 Mbps can be
    achieved only out to 150m for 50% of subscribers. Furthermore,
    the VDSL2 lines exhibit a wide range of achievable
    data rates especially for shorter loops (note the wide variation
    between the 1% and the 99% data rate percentiles)
    thus confirming the non-uniformity of the effects of FEXT
    which depends on a large number of factors, e.g. loop length,
    frequency, cable geometry, density of active lines, etc. If all 48
    lines were vectored, then all lines would ideally1 achieve the
    same “FEXT-free” performance and it would then be possible
    to offer 100 Mbps to 100% of users out up to 550m.”

    Tom Parlon

    2012/11/23 at 13:02

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