broadband Business

BT only game in rural town

Rural broadband providers drop out of BDUK competition leaving BT only game in village.

I hear that Fujitsu has withdrawn from the race for the BDUK funding. It always seemed strange to me that Fujitsu would be chasing the contracts in the first place. Someone like Virgin maybe companies with an established network and pedigree in the UK.

Its a shame for rural areas that Virgin didn’t see any economic sense in pursuing the farming market.

Unfortunately we are heading back to a BT monopoly for many areas of the country. The shame is that this doesn’t make it efficient for me and you, the taxpayer that is handing their cash to BT to “service” rural communities. There is no incentive for BT to cut costs.

For example one of  BT’s most expensive elements in rolling out networks to far flung places is the cost of laying fibre in the ground – between £25 and £140 per metre. I’m sure these costs will be genuine. However if BT had competition in these areas that cost of laying fibre is one where they would be busting a gut to make savings. Remember that the Caio report estimated that of the £29billion it would cost to roll out fibre to every home around £25billion of that was in the civil engineering work involved in digging up the roads.

I realise that BT has a challenge on its hands in supporting its ancient copper network – witness my own recent experience. I wish I knew what the answer was. Complete separation of Openreach from the rest of BT might give us a warm and comfortable feeling from the level playing field perspective but it still wouldn’t make their market any more competitive.

It needs true competition. BT will tell you the market isn’t big enough for this to happen.

I’ll finish by returning to the opening remarks on this post and to say that I don’t think I’ve heard a single person talking about the whole BDUK procurement process and saying what a good job they have done. In one sense The Department of Culture Media and Sport will say that the spending of the money is under way, rural broadband projects are kicking off and that is what is important. Having been helping Nottinghamshire County Council with its bid I can see that this whole project has been hidebound by red tape.  In one sense it is a miracle that anything gets done in this bureaucracy dominated world we live in.

DCMS should however also be asking themselves whether they have done a good job in getting the best value for money for UK plc in establishing a bidding environment where only BT felt it worthwhile pitching for the business.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

16 replies on “BT only game in rural town”

“I’ll finish by returning to the opening remarks on this post and to say that I don’t think I’ve heard a single person talking about the whole BDUK procurement process and saying what a good job they have done.”

No you’re wrong there Tref. BT and the DCMS have both been saying the procurement process is doing a good job 🙂 .


It was always going to be a one horse race, ever heard of vital vision?

It was a stitch up from start to finish, the incumbent retains its stranglehold on our digital economy, and the digital divide is going to get even wider.

The councils have been conned by hard marketing and not listened to anyone else. You can see it in their tender documents. There was no chance for anyone to compete with the incumbent.

I agree, we do need some competition, but the chance has been lost yet again to get altnets up and running in rural areas where the demand is great. Instead we get lumbered with another decade of copper. We also have to put up with a few years of back slapping and marketing until everyone realises we have been left well and truly behind. Possibly for Infinity.

In the early days of BDUK, many of us campaigning for rural broadband were hoping that the money would have been spent on an open infrastructure backbone (the digital equivalent of a motorway trunk road or high speed rail link), coinciding with the Public Service Network projects that local governments were also funding.

All we wanted was a “Digital Village Pump”, an Internet point-of-presence in each village where any local access technology (dig your own fibre, wireless, etc.) could be deployed to gain access. Being open, any ISP would be able to offer wholesale service at the pump, and any organisation (commercial, local coop or even individuals) would be able to run connections to people’s houses and businesses.

All of this seems to have gone by the wayside and instead BT are being paid by taxpayers to do what they should do as their regular day-to-day business, maintain and upgrade the network we entrusted with them back in 1984.

Yes of course it will be a monopoly, it is not commercially viable to have more than one provider. In fact because of competition…too much competition and heavy regulation on BT, they are not able to aafford mass roll out of fibre and make a profit at the same time. Yes…profit! They are a business not a charity and it is mad to think a business would go out of there way and invest on something that will actually lose money.

The problem lies with rivals who use BTs network but do not pay enough for there upkeep and also with the cable companies and business telecoms services running there own infrastructure and providing there own phone lines to customers without the need of BT.

What the cable companies should have done was not compete with BT but work with BT, BT was banned from providing TV services outside its cable franchise areas which were Westminster,Milton keynes and a few other areas. The cable companies should have stuck to TV and leave the phone and broadband to BT, by now they could have reached every home in Britain and the likes of Sky would not find it so easy to dominate the pay tv industry, Sky whom sabotage competition and do little to support BT in building a better broadband network.The cable companies used Mercury Cable and Wireless for cross network connections,operator services,directory enquiries,emergency services and most internet services, this deprived BT of revenue.

In addition, by 2001, BT was struggling and even had to offload its mobile phone network across Europe.

An example of how having little competition can helps keep the infrastructure up to date can be seen on the Isle of Man which has a very fit for purpose network both mobile and fixed. Another is Deutsche Telekom in Germany which is even part owned by the government.

In addition, Telefonica O2 was awarded a nice piece of Spectrum for 4G however it must expand its 3G. Coverage to the most rural parts of the country as part of the condition. Its 2G coverage covers many rural areas,originally built by BT, it covers many areas EE and 3 don’t.

Whatsmore, BT has also been awarded 4G spectrum and is rumoured to use this strictly for rural areas, they claim they will not be launching a new mobile network.

Of course tax payers will pay….all the money people thought they were saving by being say TalkTalk customers, will now have to caugh up them savings and pay BT for fibre,was a bit pointless of people switching to cheaper rivals, that’s what you get when you undercut something.

Its like everyone not paying council tax, what would happen? Your local area would go downhill.

Look at HMV, people chose the internet because it was cheaper, now HMV has gone.

Cheap,cheap,cheap and free is the only language some people understand and what people need to realise is, the cheap and free term comes with a price, in this world you only get what you pay for and because people chose to hang up on BT simply because they thought they would save a few pounds every month, they have been landed with what they’ve paid for, an out dated network.

Ofcom wants to stop poking there noses in to the running of BT and focus on companies like Sky who do all they can to damage competition and deliberately withold TV channels and content to squash out rivals.

BT has a 21CN to roll out,compete with undercutting rivals and manage over 50,000 public payphones which they do very well.

So yeah tax payers should foot some of the bill

“It needs true competition. BT will tell you the market isn’t big enough for this to happen.”
2,500,000 homes in the final 10% is certainly a big enough market for altnets to operate within, just so long as support in the form of some government subsidy/grant/loan is there to ensure they can be viable and sustainable, as well as fitting into a cohesive plan for ubiquitous coverage. The BDUK process hasn’t helped in this, but there’s still hope and discussions are ongoing to find some light at the end of a very long tunnel.

There is nothing stopping other companies from rolling out fibre. They just don’t want to take risks as profit margins would be very narrow.

It took 20 years for the cable industry to make a profit in the UK, and they serve urban areas so coulf you imagine how hard it would be to trade in rural areas.

Then there are planning regulations, it only takes one trouble maker to object to planning applications. In the borough of Kensington and chelsea, BT was refused to roll out fibre cabinets across the borough and has therefore pulled out. Another case was Muswell Hill and the BT cable network in Westminster which Virgin Media was leasing, all planning applications refused.

Some organisations don’t make it easy to roll out no matter how much money a company wants to splash out.

What about going sideways to get around BT ? Can making Network Rail put fiber in the ground along the U.K.’s rail corridors be a way of speeding up the process ? And what happened to micro-trenching by cutting slots in rural roads ? As usual, HMG seems to be asleep at the “points”.

P.S. Using a railroad’s ROW for fiber gives them a chance to upgrade their signals and communications links (dispatch – cab and passenger Wi-Fi).

I did hear Network Rail S&T was on the up – growing their own infrastructure again after the disgraceful sell-off of the old British Rail Telecom network to Racal/Global Crossing.

That could have worked – give the BDUK money to Network Rail to improve access to the trackside fibre on an open basis – gigabit hubs at railway stations for local Internet providers to access a national IP backbone.

Sadly post Dr Beeching there isn’t much rural reach for rail anymore but still, at least public money would have been invested in a publically owned asset.


I watched an interesting programme about Dr beeching and his cuts. Many of the now disused routes, Network rail are still in charge of some of the lands and bridges ect… So any repairs come out of Network Rails pocket. Empty land could be put into good use.

Dr beeching obviously didn’t do enough research to know that British Rail would still be responsible for the disused bridges and land, so maintaining near enough derelict and useless features whilst providing no train services actually provided a deeper financial loss.

We are a village of 520 people.
We are in in area that BT admits is not commercially viable.
Some of our nearby friends still have to use MODEMS!
We have been working with Gigaclear (
Provided we get 30% of households in our six village cluster (that’s 193 households) they will build a FTTP network starting in May and live in September 2013.
Cost per household? £100 connection fee and £37 per month.
Performance? Top rated broadband speeds in UK.
Guaranteed 10Mbps duplex bursting to 950Mbps.
A certain large telecomms incumbent is very unhappy.
I can’t wait.
Can’t be done? See

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