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Mobile operators asked to pitch in for rural broadband Final 10%

Mobile phone networks could be recruited to improve broadband coverage for the  UK’s superslow ‘Final 10%’ at a meeting today.

The Final 10% Project meeting was called at just a week’s notice, but Broadband Delivery for the UK said it was confident the industry would have time to prepare.

The Financial Times (paywall) reports that mobile phone operators have been asked to pitch ideas for using the extra £250m announced for rural broadband this summer.

Mobile operators asked to pitch in for rural broadband Final 10%
Wireless is one solution for very remote rural broadband

Read Recombu Digital’s guides to BDUK and rural broadbandExecutives from EE, Vodafone and Three are expected to attend alongside BT and – hopefully – a few fast-moving altnets with new ideas.

The meeting’s notice on the Official Journal of the EU tendering site reads: “BDUK is keen to understand the potential to expand the network of suppliers involved in the delivery of superfast broadband and as such is seeking supplier views on the delivery approaches to extend superfast broadband coverage beyond the levels currently provided for by local bodies’ existing supplier contracts.

“We are particularly keen to see suggestions for how to deliver superfast broadband to some of the UK’s hardest to reach areas, including those options which might give communities an opportunity to shape local solutions.”

There’s also £20m in the Rural Broadband Community Fund, much of which is locked up in the Catch 22 of BDUK projects refusing to publish detailed coverage maps for non-BT suppliers.

A BDUK spokesperson told Recombu Digital they had spoken to network suppliers and were confident that they would be ready for the meeting and were eager to make progress.

BDUK says the meeting’s open to both alternative networks, and councils or their contractor – BT – wishing to extend existing BDUK deals.

There’s also the teasing third way ‘combination of the above’ – this is BT’s Build and Benefit proposal, where local communities raises funds to buy the superfast FTTC broadband cabinets and cabling from BT, and pays for it to be installed.

The sting in the tail of Build and Benefit is that the community then freely donates the new network back to BT, which charges them the same rates as its other customers.

It’s currently being trialled in the Cumbrian community of Fell End, where the parish council raised £34,000 alongside charitable funding to make itself attractive to BT.

As the largest recipient of 4G spectrum in the 800MHz auction earlier this year, O2 is obliged to cover 98 per cent of the British population, but there’s no minimum speed requirement.

To qualify for government funding, 4G operators will have to prove that they can beat the EU’s superfast threshold of a 30Mbps average speed.

Image: deBurca/Flickr

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