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Has South Yorkshire picked BT for its superfast broadband rescue plan?

South Yorkshire authorities are reportedly in talks with BT to stop the region from becoming a broadband backwater

Following the demise of the Digital Region plan – due to close for good next month – BT had been tipped to step in to clear up the mess.

At the time, both BT and Government spokespeople remained evasive on the subject but now it appears that talks between councils and the UK’s biggest ISP are underway. 

South Yorkshire folk could start to see a lot more of these on the roads
South Yorkshire folk could start to see a lot more of these on the roads

A report in local business site Rotherham Business News says that BT has been selected to lead a £20 million project which will connect the majority of premises to next generation broadband. 

BT and the the government’s BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) fund will contribute £12 million while the remaining £8 million will come from a local authorities investment fund. 

As 80 per cent of the region is due to be connected to superfast broadband under commercial rollout schemes, it’s said that £20 million will be spent on connecting the remaining 20 per cent of homes and businesses. Superfast broadband – 25Mbps and above – will be delivered to 18 per cent while a basic ‘at least’ 2Mbps service will be rolled out to the remaining 2 per cent of areas. 

If BT is handed the contract it’s expected that those in the superfast portion of the project will get either FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) lines or FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) connections installed. 

FTTC lines provide top speeds of 80Mbps, but the technical limitations mean that speeds decrease over distance. The further away your home or business is from a green BT cabinet, the slower your speeds will be. 

Trials of and vectoring could improve speeds dramatically. Despite recent developments, it doesn’t look like FTTC will ever be able to compete with FTTP – a pure fibre connection – in the future-proof stakes. Because there is no copper last mile on an FTTP line, the connection is less susceptible to interference, the cheif cause of download speeds slowing down over distances. 

Top download speeds possible on BT’s FTTP lines are currently 330Mbps, but the telco has successfully demonstrated 10Gbps speeds in Cornwall.  

BT spokespeople and other sources have been able to comment or shed any light on developments. All a spokesperson for Barnsley Council had to say was that negotiations on a project relating to broadband access in poorly served areas across South Yorkshire were underway. 

The spokesperson said: “This is an important multi-agency project which is seeking to extend fast internet access to many places in South Yorkshire that don’t currently have it. 

“The exact project deliverables are currently at a delicate stage of negotiation, and there is potential for the details to change between now and the completion of the negotiations. We expect to make a formal announcement in the next few weeks. Until that time, there will be no further comment.”

While the Sheffield City Region investment fund is said to be stumping up a big portion of the cash, it looks as though Sheffield city centre itself won’t benefit from the scheme. 

As ISP Review point out, BDUK funds are typically aimed at areas not due to be connected to next generation broadband by commercial ISPs over the next few years. Because city centres and suburban areas generally on the rollout roadmaps of the likes of BT and Virgin Media, not every road, street and business park will directly benefit from BDUK projects. 

If this wasn’t enough, it doesn’t look like the assets installed by the failed Digital Region project – which has cost taxpayers over £100 million – are going to be part of any BT scheme. 

A spokesperson told the Sheffield Telegraph that the Digital Region fibre network is to be sold to Geo Networks for an unspecified sum. Geo’s owner Zayo will add the cable to its core network and will start decommissioning street cabinets once customers start leaving. Digital Region is due to shut down on August 14. 


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