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Superfast broadband contracts halfway there, BT isn’t living on a prayer

Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) has passed its halfway mark, with 22 of the 44 contracts now signed and sealed. 

With the announcement from BT and West Sussex County Council, we’re now halfway to seeing the UK’s creaky old broadband network getting a much-needed tune up.

Speaking about the Better Connected West Sussex deal communications minister Ed Vaizey said:

“Today’s contract signing in West Sussex marks a milestone in our efforts to bring superfast broadband to those areas around the UK where it is currently unavailable. With 50 per cent of projects now in delivery phase, businesses and individuals will very shortly be enjoying all the benefits that high speeds offer.”

Superfast broadband is halfway there, BT is living on a prayer

Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Fibre Broadband and BDUK

Contracts have been signed and work has indeed begun, but it’ll be a while before we can start to see the fruits of the BDUK plan.

Currently we’ve seen more homes and businesses connected to superfast thanks to private investment. BT, which has been awarded all of the BDUK contracts so far, has gamely soldiered on with its own commercial investment, which has seen superfast broadband reach 15 million UK premises.

By contrast, the first BDUK-funded street cabinet, in Ainderby Steeple, North Yorkshire, wasn’t connected until December last year.

BT’s headway with its own superfast rollout means it now hopes to have connected two-thirds of the UK to superfast by Spring 2014, roughly nine months ahead of its original end-of-2014 due date. As a result, its expected that once this is done, there will be more BT engineers free to facilitate BDUK rollout.

Superfast Broadband: 2015? 2016? What’s going on?

Those eagerly awaiting superfast broadband in their area can’t have failed to notice that some projects aren’t expected to be fully delivered until later in 2016. Originally, the plan was that all of the BDUK contracts would be completed by 2015. Just in time for the next election, providing the coalition government with a juicy digital legacy. The fact this date has slipped is something the opposition hasn’t failed to notice.

With a further 22 regions still in procurement, its likely that these won’t be done until after then. BT’s take on the matter is as follows:

“Each BDUK contract is unique with the coverage targets and timeframes reflecting local circumstances. Many will be complete before 2015, whilst some will be complete afterwards. Many of them have coverage targets that are in excess of 90 per cent, so the end date should not be taken as an indicator of when 90 per cent itself will be achieved.”

BT has got a huge task on its hands. Now it’s the only company actively bidding for BDUK contracts, it’s a foregone conclusion that it’ll snap up the remaining regions. The more recent BDUK announcements have all come with 2016 ETAs attached, but once BT’s own commercial project is over, it may well revise these dates.

We’re keeping track of every single BDUK project and will update on the progress and delivery dates as and when we hear more. 

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