As we head into September it’s time for another update on broadband in Basingstoke and the surrounding area.
On a positive front, all of the new housing developments in the area seem to be befitting from last November’s change by Openreach to offer fibre to the premise to all developments over 30 properties. So the focus is now very much on retrofit to existing areas.
Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme
The publically-funded Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme has been particularly targeting business parks and commercial areas in the Basingstoke area this year (whilst continuing to roll out to more rural areas across the remainder of the county). This includes the “high street” (London Road, live in July), Houndmills, and the Armstrong Road/Wade Road area, where cabinets have already gone live, and further enablement is ongoing.
Last December the council also agreed to re-invest the money returned to the programme by BT due to take up (gainshare) and underspend into extending the programme to a further 8,500 properties. Details can be seen in this report. Further such decisions are listed here. What is interesting from this report is that the average cost per premise for wave 1 of the programme was £168; for the current wave 2 this has increased to £477. And for the new wave 2 extension it’s expected to be £804 per premise. There are still expected to be around 14,500 premises without access to superfast broadband across the county however once this work is complete.
Openreach focus outside of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband scheme partnership appears to have been on adding additional capacity to areas where the initial FTTC VDSL2 cabinet has been full. A number of cabinets in Chineham have had this work completed in particular, sceptically you may suggest in advance of Virgin Media’s advance into the area. Cabinets 66, 67, 76, 77 in Chineham, and 73 (Lychpit), 82 (Beggarwood) and 101 (Marnell Park) fall into this category of expansion.
One piece of commercial rollout that does look to be finally getting off the ground is the rollout to Turgis Green cabinets 15 and 16 – better known as Taylor’s Farm or Sherfield Park, with installation due to have commenced on 1st September. For once, despite at least cabinet 15 being planned a number of times of the years, on this occasion some pre-works have been observed on the ground (removal of bushes where the cabinet is due to be sited), and it is also the first time both cabinets serving the development have been scheduled. So let’s hope once and for all the work is at last completed, making another milestone in the upgrading of recent new-build developments.
Virgin Media’s “Project Lightning” has been busy rolling out FTTP to Lychpit and Old Basing, with works also commenced in Chineham, using a relatively low-impact micro-trenching technique. However in line with general reports that the programme rollout being slower than expected, it does seem to have taken an long time to complete the work, with Lychpit and Old Basing works only just now vanishing from roadworks.org. Despite previous scheduled works also commencing in Chineham, including some ongoing this week, the main activity has now been scheduled (according to roadworks.org) for November/December and into January 2018.
WarwickNet and Cross-Over?
Something not seen before on roadworks.org around the Basingstoke area is installation of fibre broadband by Coventry-based WarwickNet. Whilst known for targeting business parks which have otherwise failed to attract affordable superfast broadband services, it’s not just one cabinet or one business park where the works are planned…. you could call it a deluge. Works planned for September and October include at least 9 cabinets across Houndmills, Lister Road/Wella Road/Winchester Road, Wade Road/Kingsland Business Park, and part of Chineham Business Park.
What is perplexing is that the work appears to be adjoining Openreach PCPs which have recently been had FTTC installed and funded by the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme, for example the works pictured above clearly show work adjacent to PCP 47 –
– which is proudly listed as newly live for FTTC in the August 2017 Hampshire Superfast Broadband Update (from 18 July according to industry data). Worse, as the HCC work initially got underway in this area, Virgin Media also jumped in and installed their FTTP as we reported back in February.
We shall endeavour to investigate with the HCC Superfast Programme and WarwickNet what is going on here, as it looks like extremely poor use of public funds if the new cabinets are being overlaid with a similar service. Take up would of course also be impacted by the new competition meaning little chance of future gainshare from these cabinets. However it may be the cabinets offer enhanced ultrafast service, akin to Openreach’s G.Fast pods or even locally distributed fibre.