Fibre optic ISP Gigaclear UK, which is working to rollout a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in rural Berkshire, appears to have suffered another local setback after Network Rail refused permission to run optical cable over one of their bridges near Binfield.
The situation was first spotted by the BBC yesterday (credits Barnaby), although we think their reference to it impacting “ten thousand people” might potentially be confusing the above issue with last year’s much more significant rollout delays; those were due to wider issues with resources, management and planning (here).
Gigaclear has a couple of contracts under the state aid supported Superfast Berkshire project and both were last year hit by delays of between 3-20 months. We should point out that one of Openreach’s (BT) contracts under this scheme was, at the same time, also hit by a 12 month delay.
In this latest case Network Rail confirmed the situation and said they were “investigating alternative arrangements,” while a spokesperson for Gigaclear acknowledged that “there are inevitably factors which are beyond our control.”
No clear reason for the refusal has been stated in the report, although we know from similar examples in the past that running optical fibre cable over rural bridges that belong to Network Rail can be both expensive, disruptive to commuters and may also attract a lot of red tape (health and safety etc.).
Naturally there are alternatives, although it would depend upon the area and we’re not exactly sure which bridge is affected. In some cases you just have to find another crossing, while in other situations it may be possible to use a directional drill in order to go under the rival and elsewhere we’ve seen fibre being carried across rivers (e.g. pole to pole) but that isn’t always viable.