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447,170 Premises in Scotland Need Help to Get Gigabit Broadband

The Scottish Government has published a new Public Review (PR) consultation for Scotland, which reveals that some 447,170 premises might need state aid help under the UK Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit broadband rollout scheme in order to access 1Gbps speeds (rising to 1,281,434 if including ‘Under Review‘ premises).

The project, which is targeted at upgrading areas in the final 20% of the UK (5-6 million premises) where commercial investment models tend to fail, seeks to ensure that a minimum of 85%+ of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable broadband ISP connection by the end of 2025, before reaching “nationwide” coverage (realistically c.99%) by the end of 2030 (here and here).

NOTE: Commercial builds – mostly in urban areas – have largely already pushed gigabit coverage to around 70% of Scotland and rising (mix of FTTP and Hybrid Fibre Coax).

However, the first step – before procurements can begin and contracts be awarded to suppliers – is to identify precisely which areas are not expected to benefit from gigabit speeds under existing commercial builds, which covers related plans for the next 3 years. This is known as an Open Market Review (OMR). Only once you have the answer to that, can you identify where public funding will be needed to help address market failure.

Read the full story here

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Spring UK Budget 2023 – Full Expensing May Help FTTP and 5G Rollout

The Chancellor of the UK Government, Jeremy Hunt, has today announced the Spring 2023 Budget, which sadly made no mention of any extra support for gigabit broadband or 5G mobile deployments. But the new “full expensing” measure could help to bring down the cost of some related plant and machinery (capital expenses).

Firstly, we weren’t expecting to see any major “new” broadband and mobile related infrastructure funding announcements from the Government this time around, which is because they’re already running two such schemes. The first one is their £1bn Shared Rural Network project (progress update), which aims to extend geographic 4G based mobile (mobile broadband) coverage to 95% of the UK by end of 2025 (it will help 5G too).

The second one is their £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which aims to make gigabit-capable (1Gbps+) broadband ISP networks available to at least 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 and then “nationwide” by 2030 (Winter 2023 Progress Update). The project consists of several support schemes, including vouchers (£210m), funding to extend Dark Fibre in the public sector (£110m) and gap-funded deployments with suppliers (rest of the funding).

Read the full story here.

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INCA Accuses Ofcom of Putting UK Full Fibre Rollout at Risk UPDATE

The Independent Networks Co-operative Association, which represents UK alternative broadband ISP networks, has today warned Ofcom that “more than £25bn worth of investment” to improve the UK’s digital infrastructure “will be directly threatened” if Openreach is allowed to introduce new FTTP wholesale price discounts (Equinox 2).

Just to recap. Openreach are set to introduce a new round of wholesale discounts on their full fibre broadband products from April 2023 (here). The move is intended to help their ISPs stay competitive with newer alternative networks (Summary of UK Full Fibre Builds) and further reduce the price of related packages, which will in turn boost take-up by consumers and aid the move away from copper lines.

As we’ve previously said, the discounts under Equinox 2 are not as dramatic as Equinox 1, with smaller changes to rentals and some reductions in connection charges. Nevertheless, more than a few AltNets view the move as being anticompetitive (here), with CityFibre even going so far as to lodge a Competition Act complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Ofcom (here).

Openreach’s smaller rivals carry a lot of risk due to being in the earliest stages of investment and build, but many of which have previously enjoyed a market where the operator was traditionally much more expensive. This made it easier for them to grow take-up, attract investment and gain support from ISPs to join alternative wholesale options. But at the same time, they fear that Openreach’s response (more discounts) may be putting all of that at risk.

However, last month saw Ofcom take the “provisional” position not to intervene (here), which the regulator said was because Openreach’s offer is “not anti-competitive and is consistent with the rules we consulted on before introducing them under our market review in 2021.” INCA has now responded to the related consultation and their reaction is much the same as it was last December (here).

Read the full story here.

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Broadband ISP Brillband Secures £475,000 Investment Boost

Glasgow-based ISP Brillband, which at its launch last year (here) chose to quirkily describe itself as the “world’s first … app-based broadband provider“, has secured an additional £475k investment from “digital infrastructure banking experts based in Australia and Norway-based angel investors” to help expand across the UK.

In case anybody has forgotten, Brillband currently only sells Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband packages over CityFibre’s network in Scotland. At launch this was only available to parts of Glasgow and Renfrewshire, but they’ve since gone live across areas of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Inverness and Stirling to match CityFibre’s current footprint.

The new investment is said to value the company at £5.4m, although valuing a new ISP before it’s had time to build a strong customer base – in this already over-crowded market of broadband providers – is not a task for the faint of heart. The provider needs to be given time to show that it can break into the market successfully, ideally without breaking itself in the process.

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