Category Archives: Uncategorized

Autumn 2017 Update

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.

Cabinet in Wade Road installed in 2016, seen on Google Street View

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 “Commercial”

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.

roadworks.org schedule for FTTC cabinets adjoining Turgis Green PCPs 15 and 16 (Taylor’s Farm), September 2017

Virgin Media

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.

A multitude of phone symbols indicating planned Virgin Media FTTP trenching and other works in Chineham until January 2018 #ProjectLightning #NotLikeLightning

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.

Scheduled works by WarwickNet springing up around Basingstoke

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.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

An update on Superfast Broadband in Basingstoke

It’s been quite a while since we last posted, and in that time there has been a lot of additional work delivering superfast fibre broadband in Basingstoke and across the wider county.  However, there remain a significant “unlucky few” headed towards having the disappointment of being in “the final 5%”, with “new” housing developments at the fore of these.

On a positive front, Virgin Media have chosen Lychpit and Old Basing as one of the early stages of their Project Lightning £3Bn network expansion, and are now approaching the end of the residential streetworks which have been running since late 2016 throughout the area, so the network should be live relatively soon.  Further work appears to be ongoing to also cover the business area in Wade Road.  This expansion covers a significant number of properties, and has used the micro-trenching technique to minimise the effects of the work and damage to existing infrastructure.  The infilled trenches are almost impossibly narrow.

Virgin Media “Project Lightning” streetworks in Lychpit shown on roadworks.org, Feb 2017.

Openreach have also been busy, particularly towards the end of 2016, but their self-funded work has been geared towards adding second cabinets to areas where the initial FTTC cabinets are full rather than increasing overall footprint.  A number of upgrades have taken place in Chineham, and other sides including PCP101 in Marnell Park.

Openreach have also been carrying out further work as part of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Partnership with the county council, but these works in the current phase have focussed on industrial/business areas in this part of the county.  There does in particular appear to be an overlap here, with both Openreach and Virgin Media currently working along Wade Road, and before Christmas they both appeared to be working in Armstrong Road.  This does raise questions over the best use of public money,   as the government/county backed scheme is not meant to be subsidising BT/Openreach to deploy to areas already covered by Virgin.  However in this particular case it’s a bit like the analogy with buses, and the HCC work has been scheduled for some time;  Virgin are chasing them down the road.

On top of this good news, there are also some housing developments appearing with Ultrafast Openreach fibre to the premise.  The below for example shows the 330Mb service available in the David Wilson Spiers Meadow development.

Ultrafast fibre broadband available in Spiers Meadow

It will be interesting to see what is delivered at Croudace Homes’ new Vyne Park development (RG24 8LS) which opens tomorrow.  Initial forecasts are not promising, based on the current Openreach checker result shown below.  Openreach are currently building out, as part of the BDUK scheme, fibre to some cabinets in nearby Chineham Business Park which are connected to the Basingstoke exchange. But there is also a tiny Chineham exchange serving the northern part of Chineham Business Park which has no fibre, and Cabinet 3 on that exchange is listed as serving the Vyne Park sales office and show home!

Initial broadband availability for the Vyne Park showhome does not look promising… lets hope developer-driven improvements are on the way.

Due to the presence of nearby roadworks last year, it is thought Virgin Media may be being provided on the development, which would at least be a step up from Croudace’ last development at nearly Taylor’s Farm/Sherfield Park.  Despite being one of the most affluent areas of Basingstoke, this still lacks any superfast broadband and consequently offers one of the slowest residential speeds in the Basingstoke area.  An upgrade to FTTC was scheduled for at least one of the two Taylor’s Farm cabinets back in 2015 with planned street works appearing on roadworks.org, but the work was never actually carried out.  DSLchecker.bt.com currently states “Cabinet to be enabled between Apr-17 and Dec-17”, but the delays show a lack of commitment at best from Croudace, evidenced by our ability to have PCPs 102, 95 and 97 enabled, and progress on sites like Abbotswood in Romsey.

The other development where there has been disappointingly no sign of progress is Skippetts Gardens, which remains outside of the Hampshire County Council/BDUK scheme, and outside of the Openreach funded planned works.

Linden Homes Longacre development at the southern end of the town also appears to suffer from poor planning.  Properties on the development (postcodes RG23 7FA, 7FG & 7FT) appear to be connected to Basingstoke PCP135 which is probably the furthest cabinet from the exchange and consequently offers a massive 1Mb ASDL speed estimate, and currently no fibre.  The Openreach website does however report fibre to be in the planning so there is a glimmer of hope for purchasers there.

So… some ups, but still, despite Openreach’s change of policy towards new-builds last year, that they would provide fibre to the premise where possible, things don’t seem to have been sorted just yet.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

PCP102 returns to Available

Following news on the 30th April that fibre was once again unavailable from PCP102 and a “Waiting List” was in place, the cabinet status was updated again on the 5th May to show it as “Available” again, a quick turnaround.

This means the cabinet is now almost certainly half full (144 lines from a total of 288), and over 35% of properties have taken out a fibre broadband package, a great result.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Hants Superfast Programme Opens New State Aid Public Consultation

Hampshire County Council, under the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme, have opened a new public consultation on how to use £1,772,000 which BT is returning to them under the gainshare clause of the Phase 1 BDUK contract.  Nationwide BT has committed to return £129M under the gainshare clause so far.

State aid funding for Phase 1 in Hampshire was just over £11M, £5M of which came from the County, Borough and District Councils, £5M from BDUK, and presumably includes the £1M from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, so this represents around a 16% return.  BT invested £3.8M themselves in this initial phase.

The good news on Phase 1 is that it initially targeted 59,500 properties but over 80,000 properties have now been covered.

State aid funding for Phase 2 is £18M, again with £3.8M from BT, and when announced was looking to reach 34,500 homes.  It can quite easily be seen how the costs spiral upwards as properties get harder and harder to reach; £631 per property on average for Phase 2, vs somewhere between £185 to £232 for Phase 1.  At Everest Park we estimate it cost BT around only £75 per property to commercially enable our cabinet.

Our view is that the gainshare return should be used to go back to the beginning and re-analyse the county as it stands today;  and target the new cheap-to-reach, higher property count areas which up to now have been excluded – mainly new-build sites completed since 2010.  As these are likely to generate higher levels of BT funding leaving less ‘gap’, this would reach another large number of people at very good value to the public purse.

There is a concern Hampshire County Council are trying to ignore these areas, as they currently seem to be excluded from the “final 5%” figures and therefore if now included would make their coverage calculation worse then previously declared.

Taking Skippets Gardens which we recently reported on as an example, and assuming the best estimate of £30,000 to buy and install a VDSL2 cabinet, its 162 properties would cost approx £185 each to enable, which certainly seems to be near the average actual cost spent per property under Phase 1.

Looking at the postcodes included as the proposed intervention area, for Basingstoke they map as follows:

Proposed Intervention Areas
Proposed Intervention Areas

…. which mainly includes business parks and an area in the town centre, as well as parts of Chineham, Taylor’s Farm, and Old Basing, as well as a lot more rural areas.  What it notably excludes is Skippetts Gardens.

Purpose

The stated purpose of the new public consultation is to confirm the areas which do not have Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband infrastructure delivering at least 30Mbps, or where there are no plans to provide such infrastructure over the next three years. These are described as “white NGA areas”. This is to enable all interested stakeholders – the public, businesses and telecommunications providers – to comment on the proposed white NGA areas before further coverage is committed.

Hampshire County Council will then submit its final proposals for the NGA white area, taking account of the outcome of the public consultation, to BDUK’s National Competence Centre for clearance.

However reading further down the consultation they are mainly calling on broadband providers to provide information on areas they are due to enable, but with a focus on ensuring these areas in the white list.  Crucially and worryingly, apart from as a result of public comment, there doesn’t appear to be a mechanism to identify missing white areas.

It’s therefore highly recommended to any residents living in an postcode which doesn’t have superfast broadband, and doesn’t appear to be getting it when you check the BT Wholesale DSL Checker, and whose postcode isn’t currently in the white list, to respond formally to the consultation, and ensure their neighbours and county councillors do too.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Government brokers HBF/Openreach deal for new builds

The government has announced a new deal between BT Openreach and the House Builders Federation (HBF) which attempts to overcome the madness of new homes often being the worst served for broadband – as of course affected us in Everest, Marnell and Limes Parks.

The deal means Openreach will make FTTP the default for new build developments over 250 properties, and provide it for free in that instance.  For smaller developments developers will only pay the gap funded amount (presumably against the completed development), where previously it appeared Openreach were ignoring the planned property total, and were basing costs on a green field.

There is the odd catch, including requiring developers to give at least 9 months notice via an online planning tool, so don’t expect to see anything change overnight. Existing developments don’t seem set to benefit directly either, so this is unlikely to make and difference to the current developments in the Popley and Rooksdown areas.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

One Up, One Down – PCP102 back to Waiting List

Following the return of availability on PCP92 (Marnell Park) at around 4pm on Wednesday 20th Jan (indicating the addition and commissioning of another 48 port line card), less than 2 days later at around 11am on Friday 22nd Jan, PCP102 (Everest Park) has returned to a Waiting List status.

This implies the second line card, added just a week after the cabinet went live due to the first card selling out in just over 2 days, is also now full – 96 ports in total.  This is great news and proves the demand that our campaign demonstrated, which is significantly ahead of the national average.

Having taken around a month to add the new card for PCP92, but only a week for PCP102s first addition,  we shall ask Openreach to chase up provision of the next card, and will advise when it has been installed!

102_full_jan16

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Progress on PCP95

Good progress was made on the VDSL2 twin for PCP95 in the first week of construction;  contractors installed the main cabinet shell on Thursday, and below is how the cabinet looked on Friday.  The site is very compact, with only minimal ducting required to the nearby pavement chamber, and for power.  When the pictures were taken, the power cable was still awaiting connection.

It is likely that the remaining connections will be made in the next week, and the cabinet ready for service in mid to late February.

2016-01-22 15.42.57
VDSL2 cabinet for PCP95 installed 21/1/2016

2016-01-22 15.43.11

2016-01-22 15.42.19

2016-01-22 15.43.34

2016-01-22 15.42.46
Blue pull rope for power cable can be been in the hole under the barriers
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

PCP92 LIVE!

Cabinet 92 serving parts of Marnell Park has, as of about 10am today, gone live (accepting orders). This is great news for residents, who can now boost their broadband speeds by up to 20x previous ADSL rates.

2015-12-04

We hope PCP102 will follow in the next day or so, and will keep tabs on PCP95.

Unfortunately the Black Friday offers (such as £100 gift card and fibre for £10/month) have ended, but for those looking to upgrade immediately the current promotions from BT Broadband continue to run until midnight on the 7th. This link offers up to 38mb fibre for £12.50/mo (normally £15/mo), plus standard line rental charges. Sky, Plusnet and other providers also have various promotions running. The good news is anyone signing up now will hopefully have the service in place for Christmas.

PCP92 VDSL2 cabinet with new lock fitted
PCP92 VDSL2 cabinet with new lock fitted
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Further updates – PCP95 (Basingstoke), PCP7 (Bassett) and PCP60 (Southampton)

Openreach have supplied further detailed updates to the information provided last week on several cabinets, including PCP95 in Rooksdown, Basingstoke.

Basingstoke 95 – the civil engineering supplier is awaiting the power connection fee to be processed;  they will then be able to obtain a date for the power connection from the power supplier, and plan the cabinet build around that date.

Bassett 7 – We have been following this fairly closely due to contact from several residents, and therefore queried its status with Openreach.  It appears the physical FTTC VDSL2 cabinet was installed over 18 months ago, shortly followed by a new PCP cabinet itself.

Bassett
Bassett 7 where the PCP is in the process of being moved through “copper re-arrangement” – © Google Street View

Openreach have now confirmed that the cabinet upgrade was previously released back from the supplier due to complexities in completing the work [which requires copper re-arrangement, moving the PCP formed of two old cabinets into a new modern adjacent cabinet].  However recently they have been able to progress this work again, having managed to get an early start on major lane closures of the A33 Bassett Avenue to enable access to underground chambers in the carriageway to perform the necessary re-arrangement.  This was completed 2 weeks ago.

Southampton 60 – This PCP is located next to a potential development site (the former East Street Shopping Centre in central Southampton, which was demolished several years ago).  Like Bassett 7, the PCP is formed of a pair of older cabinets, and a VDSL2 cabinet was sited in 2012 (before the demolition) but has not been able to be brought into service.

Openreach have stated the development site has changed hands several times over the last couple of years, causing delays.  However our approach appears to have prompted Openreach to restart works on this cabinet as it doesn’t appear any nearby development will be taking place soon.  As of this week they are therefore now progressing planning for the power, copper and fibre, and will provide a further update when details are confirmed.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail

Hampshire Superfast Broadband “Wave 2” Launched

Hampshire County Council have published details of “Wave 2” of their superfast fibre broadband programme across Hampshire, which gets formally underway in January in partnership with BT Openreach.  This should take superfast coverage across the county to 96% – but of course only when the commercial programme of work is also completed.

Hampshire County Council and Central Government have provided funding of around £18.4 million for Wave 2, which will connect 34,500 properties over the next 3 years.  According to detail here, BT will add £3.8m to this.  Investment in Wave 1 was £10m from Council and Government (BDUK) funding (£5m from HCC and district councils, and £5m from BDUK), and  £3.8m from BT, and entering the final few weeks has reached over 72,000 properties.

Costs per property are therefore increasing significantly as the challenges to reach each property mount.  Simple maths on the above shows a wave 1 cost per property of around £192;  and a wave 2 cost per property of nearer to £645.  We anticipate BT’s commercial programme costs would have been nearer to £100 per property.

Whilst the “final 4%” did get a mention in Hampshire County Council’s announcement, it was disappointing they did not address the issue of completing the commercial rollout programmes.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail