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Written Statement - Superfast Broadband – Open Market Review

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology

The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport made a commitment during the Welsh Liberal Democrat debate in November that I update Members on the work we are doing to identify locations not covered by either commercial or Superfast Cymru provision.

As part of this work in June last year I commissioned a review to identify and analyse broadband provision across Wales, to provide an overview of the State Aid position for the current Superfast-Cymru intervention area and provide direction on what changes may need to be made.

It became clear that a review was necessary because although comprehensive studies, known as Open Market Reviews (OMRs), were carried out as part of the planning for the Superfast Cymru programme, a number of significant changes have occurred that made further analysis necessary.  In particular, new players have emerged in the superfast broadband market and changes have been made to services being provided by Fibrespeed in North Wales, to the footprint of commercial fast fibre roll-outs and to the super-connected cities programme. The review also recognised that new property developments, which were not in existence when the original reviews were undertaken, may not have been built with superfast broadband capability.

The review found that the changes in broadband provision in Wales and to the underlying base of premises mean that the Welsh Government should take immediate action to conduct a further formal OMR.  

The OMR started on 3 February and is being undertaken by specialist consultants, Atkins.  During the review, broadband service providers will be asked what their plans are over the next 3 years to build infrastructure that will ensure the availability of broadband services at a download speed of more than 30Mbps.  In addition, the OMR considers the affordability and sustainability of the services offered by the broadband providers.  This will enable a comprehensive picture to be established of those areas not covered by existing or planned fast fibre roll-out either by Superfast Cymru or a private sector supplier.  The OMR report will also be subject to a month long public consultation.

The market analysis phase of the OMR is scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2014.

The findings of the OMR will allow us to consider the necessity of further interventions to complement the Superfast Cymru programme to make sure that we continue to focus our resources on providing fast fibre broadband in those areas that would otherwise be left behind.