BT snubs Bradley Stoke in latest broadband rollout announcement

BT Openreach: Fibre Broadband is here (not!).

The Almondsbury telephone exchange, which serves much of Bradley Stoke, has once again been overlooked in the latest round of superfast broadband upgrades announced by BT this week.

Almondsbury failed to figure in a list of 98 exchanges that constitutes ‘phase 10’ of BT Openreach’s commercial rollout which promises to cover two thirds of the UK by 2014.

With the company’s rolling announcement programme soon coming to an end (only one or two further lists will be published, and those before the end of the year, according to ZDnet UK) it is looking increasingly likely that the town will have to be dependent on state aid for its much needed broadband infrastructure improvements.

South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has pledged to invest £2.2m, on top of £710k from central government, to improve broadband speeds in areas of the district that will no receive investment from commercial suppliers. A project plan published in February stated that a tendering process for telecommunications suppliers would commence in “spring 2012” and work would begin in “winter 2012” but recent press coverage suggests that the Council’s timescale has already slipped.

According to the Bristol Post, the South Gloucestershire project, together others around the country that are being organised under a national framework agreement, is being held up by delays in getting the necessary EU state aid approval.

The Journal understands that the framework agreement names two approved suppliers, believed to be BT and Fujitsu, as the only companies permitted to tender for council contracts, although both will be permitted to sub-contract work to other suppliers. Under EU rules, Virgin Media is not eligible for state aid because its cable network is not open to other Internet Service Providers.

In a letter to Councillors seen by The Journal, Dave Perry, SGC’s Deputy Chief Executive, says:

“South Gloucestershire Council in partnership with Wiltshire and Swindon Councils is one of four lead projects that will be first in the UK to use this framework contract once it is signed by the two suppliers. We are fully prepared to launch our procurement once the framework agreement has been signed. We have been engaging with both suppliers since March to ensure they are fully prepared for our tender launch so that rapid progress can be made to complete the procurement process.”

A spokesperson at the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)  told The Journal:

“We are working with the [European] Commission to finalise agreement on state aid.”

“We are confident the vast majority of councils will meet our timetable and complete procurement by the end of the year.”

Around 4,000 homes in Bradley Stoke are thought to suffer from sub-standard broadband speeds because they are not served by Virgin Media’s cable network and are too away far from the two BT telephone exchanges that serve the town.

Subscribers on 0117 numbers, served from Filton, are theoretically able to access superfast broadband after that exchange was upgraded earlier this year but many Bradley Stoke residents report that they have been unable to obtain the new service.

A national poll to gauge demand for superfast broadband, organised by BT in winter 2010, saw Almondsbury finish in 19th position (from 2,495 eligible exchanges) but the company has so far chosen to ignore the findings of its own customer research.

Virgin Media has stated that it would be “uneconomical” to expand its cable network in the town and has instead focussed it efforts on increasing connection speeds to existing subscribers.

One local resident became so frustrated at the lack of progress in delivering broadband speed improvements to the town that he recently paid BT around £5,000 to install a leased line to his property in Crystal Way.

A suggestion from Bradley Stoke Town Councillor Tom Aditya that “a working party be set up to look at other broadband options for the town” was given a cool reception at last month’s meeting of the Town Council’s Planning Committee. In response, Committee Chair Cllr Rob Jones commented that he felt, from a Town Council perspective, there was nothing more that could be done for now.

Pleas from The Journal’s Editor that SGC should engage with Town and Parish Councils, community groups and local “broadband champions”, with a view to considering options for additional local funding for broadband infrastructure investment have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Broadband Meeting.

Photo: Bradley Stoke Town Councillors and local MP Jack Lopresti discuss the town’s broadband problems with Communications Minister Ed Vaizey in August 2010.

Related link: Campaign for Better Broadband (The Journal)

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  1. This doesn’t surprise me. BT’s strategy seems to be to roll out where they can compete against Virgin to possibly increase their subscriber base and, for the other areas that may attract funding under the BDUK strategy, to wait until they can submit a bid and use someone else’s money instead of their own investment.

    Part of this is due to the fact that Fujitsu have already stated they only intended bidding for a couple of the packages of work expected under the BDUK work (I’ll see if I can find the source for that; can’t recall where that was declared at the moment) and therefore BT effectively become a single source supplier with very little chance of them not getting the work once the SGC/wiltshire procurement work is progressed.

    I’ll also believe Winter 2012 when I see it and of course the relevant date will be the time to implement from winter 2012; so sometime 2013 if we’re lucky.

  2. How very depressing. I’m getting to the point where I think this just isn’t going to happen, and should I ever decide to move on from Bradley Stoke, will likely be the moment I finally get a decent broadband service.

    BT’s strategy on this has been daft from the outset. As Dave says, they’ve targeted areas where they can compete against Virgin rather than looking for areas like here where they’d have a monopoly. Surely they’d get more cash out of places like this??

    SH – is there any timetable yet for when South Glos will annouce preferred bidders for state aid?

  3. @Toxteth O’Grady,

    I assume the preferred bidders will be announced as soon as the national framework gets approval from the EU.

    Hopefully, once SGC starts it tendering process, we will finally get to know if BT intends to upgrade Almondsbury on a commercial basis. This information is known to SGC, through their state aid consultation exercise, but they have so far refused to disclose it on the grounds that it is commercially sensitive.

    Unfortunately, it looks like there’ll be more anguish ahead as the money currently available won’t be enough to bring superfast broadband to everyone in South Glos, which will inevitably lead to rows about which areas get prioritised.

  4. Yes – agree there isn’t enough money to do the lot. Could be an interesting bun fight.

    Did you try and request the information via an FOI? If they tried to exempt it via commercial sensitivities, then you can appeal as they should favour disclosure for large sums of cash.

  5. “Did you try and request the information via an FOI?”

    No. I expected the tender to be made public pretty soon after they told us they wouldn’t be publishing the results of the state aid consultation, so didn’t think it was worth the trouble. Mistake!

  6. Well I look forward to the next time BT attempt to try to sell me a service like BT Vision which requires a decent broadband connection. I shall be telling them in no uncertain terms that until they invest in providing a decent infrastructure to me then I wont be taking investing in their services!

  7. The current BT rollout definitely favours areas where Virgin is well established.

    It is disappointing that with about 30% of the Almondsbury area already covered by Virgin and the rest of the area littered with CATV trunking cables that neither Virgin want to finish the job or BT compete in this area.

    SGC’s refusal to disclose Virgin and BT plans for the next 12 months is baffling. We are at the point where BT are announcing plans for 2013 so by default I think we can assume that BT and Virgin are not interested without a large amount of cash.

  8. If anyone in the 0117 (Filton) area of Bradley Stoke has actually managed to get superfast broadband installed, could you leave a message on this story please?

  9. BTW the cabinet pictured in the lead photo is in Filton itself not BS, although I have noticed that the cabinet at the start of Stean Bridge Road in BS has a similar “Fibre broadband is here” sticker on it. And yes Simon, that is an area already covered by Virgin!

  10. I work for an IT company in Filton, we have 4 (yes, FOUR) Infinity lines into our building giving us download in excess of 300Mbps…………

    Then I drive 3 miles home and have to make do with my 2Mbps (at a push) connection, barely able to watch any TV on demand service.


    It’s ridiculous how it can be so different in such a short distance, and it really is a case of that leaflet drop we did just fell on deaf ears.

  11. Further information revealed at tonight’s meeting of the BSTC Planning Committee in response to questions raised by The Editor at last month’s meeting:

    Question (from BSTC to SGC): Is there any idea yet exactly what areas of South Glos will receive superfast broadband?

    Answer (from SGC): Unfortunately not. This will be dependent on the successful supplier following the call off competition as part of the tender process. The council has to be technology neutral under the framework agreement, so depending on the technology chosen by the supplier to implement the infrastructure, the roll out could be different. Once we have appointed the supplier we will have more information, and should be able to start publicising a high level delivery plan towards the end of the year.

  12. This is becoming a joke! Over the past week I’ve had around 10 massive rants at BT due to the service!
    I am always in contact with someone at BT Care (very helpful indeed!)
    Yesterday my broadband dropped for around 2-4 hours! Got in contact “you have a fault on the line, we will extend this and you will be contacted via the extended network department.” always the same thing! Engineer comes out, fixes, couple of months later fault appears again! I wouldn’t be surprised if I have more rants over the next few days at them!

  13. Why was Tom Aditya’s proposal snubbed? If BSTC can’t rely on SGC and BT/Fujitsu to sort out this problem imminently, then there are a whole host of suitable technical solutions out there that just require local co-ordination (such as a provision of area Wi-Fi networks that will have much higher bandwidth than the current implementation). Wouldn’t it be great if Bradley Stoke, as a town, had the first Broadband network that wasn’t teathered to the phone lines? You pay your monthly fee, and you can take your laptop anywhere in the town and get broadband?

    I fear if you leave it up to SGC it could be 2015 or beyond before much of Bradley Stoke gets true broadband….

  14. Out of curiosity will we be able to receive FTTP from BT in 2013 when it goes live?

    The roll out is independent of FTTC and has been trailed by 15 areas already, with another 10 this year.

    There will be a cost reflectiing the installation work, but since the BT ducting from exchange to home is all new this could be affordable for many.

  15. Further to the discussion on an earlier BSJ broadband story about premises connected directly to the exchange (i.e. not via a cabinet), this press release from BT Openreach may be of interest:

    NGA020/12 Network rearrangements

    “The purpose of this briefing is to raise awareness of potential network rearrangement options for BDUK funded County led projects.”

    “As part of Openreach’s Next Generation Access (NGA) Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) programme and our ongoing operations, we have been trialling some network rearrangements including the installation of new street cabinets or Primary Cross-connection Points (PCPs) as potential solutions to provide Superfast Fibre Access on Exchange Only (EO) lines …”

  16. Bert,

    Exactly! The new wi-fi 802.11ac standards potentially reach up to 1.7gbps which is far superior to anything that BT or Virgin currently or propose to offer. plus of course their is always 4G LTE and Wi-max as well. This could very well be a sensible business option? Anyone from BSTC reading? I’d get involved for sure!

  17. BT just phoned me offering a very good deal on their openreach services – the works – I asked if that was a definite no strings deal and they said yes. I said I am on a better deal with BT at which they were surprised – I’m with Virgin!!! so pay BT a big fat Zero and after this its going to stay that way.

  18. Response from Virgin Media:

    Hi James

    As you will understand, we receive a great many requests to extend our
    cable network to new areas and we focus our network expansion activities
    on areas where there is greatest demand for our services.

    We plan our expansion programme quite far ahead but when we begin to
    look at our build plans for 2013 we will consider demand in Bradley
    Stoke and at that time we will write to you and other interested
    residents to inform them of our plans to canvass opinion in the area.

    With best regards

    The cablemystreet team


    2013 could be a good year!

  19. James – that was exactly what VM said to me last year and the year before, except the years were different in the text… it’s word for word!!!

  20. I e-mailed cablemystreet about my part of Juniper Way.

    This is the response:

    Thank you for your enquiry regarding Virgin Media providing digital services at your home.

    Unfortunately for us to make this area serviceable with digital services would be too expensive and would cost more than our current budget allows, so therefore cannot be considered to be upgraded by our infill activity at this time.

    As we find new ways of serving areas such as this that are outwith the existing network, we will look at your request further and may be able to include this in build programmes in future years. However at this time, we will not be able to provide cable service to this area.

    I appreciate this is not good news, but be assured our team will continue to look for other solutions that may help us achieve this in the future.

    Best regards

  21. @gyre, that is an interesting reply, particularly as they specifically put a cable into St Marys school!.

    Part of the road by the Church is cabled, so don’t believe it is beyond the capabilities. If it is money related, I am sure that a number of residents in Juniper (and the surrounding roads) would be more than happy to help dig the trenches. I know I would.

    Doesn’t stop them rubbing our noses in it by constantly shoving their junk mail through our letterboxes though.

  22. Just sounds like ‘monkey staff’ replying to our emails on cablemystreet then…

    Maybe we should re-lunch an appeal again? Petition needed? Get everyone to just spam cablemystreet email address so they are clear that many people are intrested in cable for bradley stoke!

    Or simply just annoy them on twitter! I’ve certainly have!

  23. @deanw, to be fair to them, I’m actually at the other end of Juniper Way… about as far from St. Mary’s as you can possibly get.

    However, yes, it is very annoying to get all their marketing literature and not be able to get the service. That’s just them teasing. Grrrr.

  24. I believe the real problem around juniper way is the line length from the exchange. I was previously told that the cable runs down Bradley Stoke way before turning right and doing a big loop around the bluebells and great meadow (cabled streets) before crossing over to the Marjoram way box. Surely it is not beyond the impossible to shorten the line by splitting it and crossing the roundabout earlier. Initial reports were that this would almost halve the line length and therefore improve speed.

  25. Press release from South Gloucestershire council.

    I’m not sure I have that much more confidence in this route after noting the first paragraph of the introduction appears to still contain review comments (where the percentages are discussed). And with the maps still so low resolution there is still no way of understanding what (if any) of Bradley Stoke is included in the 32% even though the last phases of BT’s rollout schedule still doesn’t cover cabinet 44 even if Filton is already Infinity ready. (still seems a bit daft to upgrade an exchange and not plan to upgrade all the cabinets too, even if it was to be over a long term plan.)

    If the timeframes are broadly met we might find out something late September with the preferred bidder selection, or it might be wait another 6 months for the detailed surveys to complete.

    My good news today was I found out Sky now allow their Anytime+ service to run on any broadband not just the Sky offering. Shame my speeds mean I’ll still need to consider if I want to watch something a day in advance. Almost on demand, almost.

  26. Hi all,

    I’ve just bought a house on The Bluebells… does this mean I will (or won’t) be able to get Virgin broadband… and does the cable length mean my connection speed will be limited?

  27. I’m pretty sure that The Bluebells has Virgin. Cable length shouldn’t be an issue as their system uses co-axial rather than twisted pair.

  28. I just received this e-mail from (supposedly) Bt Openreach.

    Just two small problems…

    1 – I’m on the Almondsbury Exchange, not Filton.
    2 – I’m not called Brian.


    Dear Brian,

    Thanks for telling us that you’re interested in superfast fibre broadband.

    We’re really pleased to let you know that your local exchange, FILTON, has been added to our rollout plans.

    You can get more details about the current status of the FILTON exchange, and find out when superfast fibre broadband will be available, using our new interactive map at

    Because there are instances where we can’t upgrade every single street cabinet, we’d advise you to contact your preferred Communications Provider and use their line checker to find out whether or not your property will be able to get superfast fibre broadband.

    Satisfy your need for speed, with downloads of up to 100Mbit/s – and join our superfast fibre revolution.


    Openreach Marketing

  29. Same email sent to me! (Not Brian!)
    I am on the Filton exchange and by the way Openreach, we have been known about Filton being upgraded since April!!!
    Openreach handle the cabinet upgrades and I cannot see anywhere on their website for trying to get some more detailed information. BT/TalkTalk/PlusNet will only be able to show availablity once Openreach (the Wholeseller) has done that cabinet upgrade.
    I wonder how Winterbourne and Stoke Gifford users are getting on with their fibre broadband?!

  30. Checking the map shows Coriander Drive as having 1 provider of NGA provision. This may be something happening within the 3 year timeframe but as I understand it cabinet 44 (which serves 95% of the road) is not on any phase of BTs rollout at the moment.

    Would I be surprised if they’ve found out that 5% of Coriander Drive seems to be fed from a different cabinet with a fibre link back to the Winterbourne exchange and therefore consider that NGA access is available and is there a chance therefore that they are ignoring it as far as the BDUK scope is concerned…

  31. Here is an email response from Openreach:

    Sorry for the delay in responding
    > Can confirm you are serviced by PCP 44 of the Fulton Exchange although you are some distance from it
    > Please note the exchange boundary between filton and Almondsbury exchange is within 2 or 3 premises from you
    > will confirm which exchange your neighbours are on
    > I am to confirm that Filton 44 it is not currently excluded from our commercial deployment which is due to complete by 2014
    > Kind Regards
    > Colin P Brooks
    > Sales & Customer Experience, NGA Development Manager

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