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Fibre broadband to rural Wales 'immensely challenging' - Superfast Cymru

Tuesday, December 2nd 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The programme to bring superfast broadband to Wales is “immensely challenging”, the man in charge of it has said.

Ed Hunt, Superfast Cymru programme director, said the drive to bring connectivity to more than 96% of homes and businesses in Wales by 2016 faces several challenges, but is on track to succeed.

His comments come as it was announced that properties in the remote location of Dinas Mawddwy, Gwynedd, now have access to speeds of up to 330Mbps in the latest milestone in the project.

The installation of fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections in the village is due to more than 16km of overhead fibre – a distance which has not been achieved before anywhere in the UK – and 20km of underground fibre.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Mr Hunt said the programme encountered regular challenges, including the geography in Wales, such as Snowdonia National Park.

He said: “If you’re operating in rural areas you have to bring power to our green roadside cabinets. And not always do you have power, or access to power, in the vicinity of our green cabinets.

“Another practical challenge as well is when you’re working in rural areas you have very narrow roads and we have to close roads.

“There’s some real choreography that has to go on because otherwise you endanger healthy economic activity in areas if you close too many roads down at the same time.”

Other issues have included the discovery of Japanese knotweed in one area, which delayed the installation of a cabinet by around nine months, as well as a recent discovery of newts in another which could force the relocation of the planned cabinet.

“Some of these environmental factors can hit you from left field, things that you can’t quite plan for,” he said.

“It can be immensely challenging, really hard, but we’re making very good progress.

“Every single green roadside cabinet is a project in its own right. It’s got to be planned, you’ve got to put a concrete plinth down, you’ve got to bring the cabinet to it, you have to bring power to it, you have to bring fibre to it, it has to be commissioned, it has to be safety-checked. There’s a whole series of activities.

”It takes a long time. I wish we could click our fingers and bring it to people across Wales by tomorrow morning.”

Mr Hunt said the Superfast Cymru project is bringing connectivity to areas that previously had none at all, such as Anglesey which now has 60%.

The project, which is approaching 300,000 premises and aims to reach 500,000 by next summer, is even impressing the sceptics, he said.

“I think people are actually believing now and they can see the evidence on the ground that this is actually beginning to happen.

“This time next year we’re going to have well over a million premises passed, transforming businesses, transforming what people are able to do at home, home working, skills, surfing, watching TV, access to 4K content, it’s never-ending.

“What’s really nice, and we’ve had a few examples, is people have been sceptical and have received the service and are getting 70-odd Mbps and their lives have changed as a consequence of it.

“My god, believe me, we’ve got the weight of BT behind us on this. We will make this work, we’re making it work today, the energy levels behind us are just so high, and we’re going to complete this programme.

“We’re absolutely on track to deliver this for the people of Wales.”

Superfast Cymru is a partnership between the Welsh Government, UK Government, European Regional Development Fund, which has provided £205m, and BT, which has contributed a further £220m.

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