Deadline danger for Superfast Cymru
The Welsh government and BT have promised to start work on delivering fibre to the cabinet in every Welsh exchange by this time next year, but it may be too late to meet its deadlines.
Today’s official statement by deputy minister for skills and technology Julie James says “Work is planned to start in every telephone exchange in Wales by the end of September 2015 bringing superfast internet speeds to even more villages and towns across the country.” The finish date is Spring 2016. That gives BT, the sole contractor, six to nine months to fibre up some of the most difficult terrain in the UK.
The statement goes on to say “approximately 400 engineers (have) worked more than 400,000 hours on the project”. That’s about 25 weeks each to pass 230,000 homes and businesses. According to Welsh government statistics, there are about 1.3 million homes in Wales. Assuming that the initial 230,000 are the “low-hanging fruit”, the rest should take them at least 120 weeks. Starting this month, that makes the finish date early 2017, assuming the squad stays the same.
The £425m Superfast Cymru project, which will see 17,500km of fibre installed to connect around 3,000 new green roadside cabinets, is already under government scrutiny over value for money. The Auditor General for Wales is expected to deliver his report by the end of the year.
According to the statement, £205m of funding has been provided by the Welsh government, the UK government and the European Regional Development Fund, with BT contributing £220m via its commercial roll out and the Superfast Cymru programme.
Even if BT his its deadline, there are likely to be questions over the broadband speeds delivered. The contract (obtained under a Freedom of Information request by broadband consultant Richard Brown) commits BT to the following targets by 30 June 2016 or at the latest by the ‘Drop Dead Date’, which was redacted:
1. 90% coverage of all premises in the ‘intervention area’ at >30Mbps PPiR and a minimum of 2Mbps CIR (committed information rate)
2. 95% at >24Mbps with a minimum of 0.5Mbps CIR
3. 40% coverage with >100Mbps with a minimum of 10Mbps CIR.
Whether this will ignite the white-hot digital inferno that the government hopes for remains to be seen.
Communities scheduled where work is set to begin by the end of September 2015 are:
Conwy: Capel Curig, Dolgarrog, Dolwen, Llanfairtalhaiarn, Llangernyw, Penmachno, Pentrefoelas
Denbighshire:, Llannefydd, Nantglyn,
Carmarthenshire: Brechfa, Dryslwyn, Gwynfe, Madox, Rhandirmwyn
Monmouthshire: Crucorney, Dingestow, Ponrilas, Shirenewton, Skenfrith, Tintern, Trelleck, Wolvesnewton
Pembrokeshire: Angle, Castle Martin, Clarbeston, Cynghordy, Llanteg, Llawhaden, Maenclochog, Martletwy, Puncheston, Rhos, St Nicholas
Powys: Beguildy, Llananno, Llangunllo, Llanwddyn, Painscastle, Pantydwr
Wrexham: Llanarmon Dyffryn-Ceiriog