BT has announced that it plans to extend its £2.5 billion commercial fibre roll-out to an additional 163 exchange locations, which will add more than one million homes and businesses to its final footprint.
It has also been revealed that it has won yet another local government broadband contract with Suffolk County Council, which will once again add to the mounting concern around future competition in fibre.
The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework for rolling out superfast fibre in hard-to-reach areas has been heavily criticised by the House of Lords Communications Committee after a number of ISPs pulled out of the bidding process and has to date only seen BT win public funds.
BT’s commercial programme to roll-out fibre, which isn’t being supported by any public funds under the BDUK framework, will reach approximately two-thirds of the UK by the end of 2014. However, this will be extended further once it has procured in areas where it has won public funded BDUK contracts.
“This is great news for 163 communities across the UK where fibre will bring huge benefits by helping to create jobs and boosting local economies. Our roll-out of fibre continues apace, with more than 11 million homes currently having access to the many benefits this technology can deliver,” said Mike Galvin, Openreach MD network investment.
“Today’s announcement shows that we are well into our journey to bring fibre to two-thirds of the UK by the end of 2014. We have now announced the bulk of the exchanges we will be deploying fibre to under our own steam but we are keen to go even further with the help of BDUK funding.”
Suffolk’s selection of BT adds to a list of councils that have opted to choose the incumbent provider over Fujitsu, who is the only other player competing on the BDUK framework. Fujitsu is yet to win any contracts.
BT’s roll-out in the region will result in 85 percent of premises gaining access to superfast broadband (24Mbps of more), with 100 percent of premises getting at least 2Mbps by 2015.
The government has outlined its ambition to get 90 percent of premises in the UK connected to superfast broadband.
Suffolk County, district and borough councils will be investing £11.6 million, which will match £11.68 million from the government, with the rest coming from the private sector.
It expects to achieve £49 million of efficiency savings within 15 years as a result of better access to broadband.
“Improving access to broadband is going to help Suffolk’s economy grow by as much as and create up to 5000 new jobs. There's a digital divide between Suffolk and the rest of the country but an even more acute disparity between urban and rural Suffolk,” said Councillor Mark Bee, Suffolk County Council’s leader and chair of the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme.
He added: “The Better Broadband programme is going to close those gaps, boost school attainment and help the public sector to deliver services more efficiently and cheaply.
“Since I became leader of the county council, I have been determined to get Suffolk's broadband aspirations back on track.”
A contract between Suffolk County Council and BT is expected to be finalised by mid-October 2012 and to be formally awarded by the end of October.
The UK government has said that it hopes to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015, and has committed a minimum of £730 million up until 2015 to support the rollout.