Lancashire County Council (LCC) is set to be the first to benefit from the government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) funding, after it agreed a £62.5 million rollout project with BT.
The project will bring fibre technology to 97 percent of residents and businesses in the area by the end of 2014, although this is largely going to be made up of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC), rather than the much faster Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) offerings.
FTTP speeds reach up to 300Mbps, whilst FTTC delivers download speeds of up to 80Mbps and uploads speeds of up to 20Mbps. BT could not clarify what proportion of residents and businesses would receive the FTTP option.
Ofcom estimates that approximately 15 percent of premises in Lancashire currently receive less than 2Mbps, but this will fall near to zero after the project is complete.
However, BT has said that the rollout will boost the local economy by creating approximately 2,500 jobs and protect more than 1,200 jobs over the next few years.
BT will contribute £30 million to the rollout, whilst £10.8 million will come from BDUK, £16.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £4.7 million from LCC, £300,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council and £230,000 from Blackpool Council.
“Today our ambition to provide Lancashire’s citizens and business with a world-class broadband service turns into a reality,” said Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council.
“It is important that as many areas as possible benefit, and that is why we have ensured that even the more remote areas of the county see a significant improvement in their speeds.”
Lancashire, however, also has a community project underway that began its inaugural dig last weekend, called B4RN, which brings into question whether there is going to be an overlap between BT’s rollout and its own coverage.
B4RN plans to deliver a gigabit FTTP service to 100 percent of properties across eight of the county’s parishes, with partial coverage across two more, which equates to near 1,500 properties.
Martyn Dews, member of B4RN’s management committee, told Computerworld UK that although BT’s rollout is great in that it provides customers more choice, it and LCC need to be clear about what services are being offered and where.
“It’s still not clear how LCC and BT will deliver to rural properties. Most in the B4RN area are more than 1km away from a cabinet, so FTTC speeds would be low,” said Dews.
“There’s currently not enough detail for the customer to know what to expect,” he added.
BT and LCC will also have to be cautious that rollout to any area that overlaps with B4RN does not receive any BDUK funding, as this would conflict with state aid rules, according to Adrian Wooster, an expert in broadband rollout.
He explained that if an area already has a “viable Next Generation Access service, an alternative can’t be subsidised in the same area.”
Computerworld UK asked LCC what overlap Lancashire can expect between the two projects, but had not received a response by time of publication.
The B4RN project’s business plan outlines how the cost of digging to lay the fibre, which is typically what makes up most of the cost of rollout, is drastically reduced by not laying the duct on the highway, but across the farmland on the other side of the wall.
This will allow workers and farmers to carry out a large proportion of the digging themselves and reduce the cost of delivering fibre from £10,000 per property to £1,000 per property.