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Hyperoptic Study of EU City Broadband Speeds Criticises Slow London UK

Posted Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 (2:00 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 4,846)
City of london square mile united kingdom

Fibre optic broadband ISP Hyperoptic, which typically focuses its deployments of 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Building (FTTB/H) technology on big UK cities, has published a new index today that ranks European capital cities by broadband speed. The report criticises London for ranking a low 26 out of 33 cities and notes how the city has also fallen four places over the last 5 years.

The problem of broadband connectivity in London is nothing new and has been highlighted many times before, most recently by the City of London Corporation that pegged most of the blame on BT’s shoulders for an apparently “unacceptable” failure to make superfast broadband available to SME businesses within the heart of London’s Square Mile (here and here).

Ordinarily big cities, which usually attract commercial investment from ISPs due to their significant population density, are the first to benefit from faster broadband technologies. But sadly that’s not always the case and one of the many issues in London stems from the significant number of older copper Exchange Only Lines (EOL); these are often harder and more expensive to resolve.

In fact only yesterday the telecoms regulator’s 2014 Infrastructure Report was published, which noted how a whopping 64% of EOLs are in UK urban areas and the availability of NGA broadband solutions (e.g. cable, FTTC, FTTP/H/B etc.) in postcodes with EOLs is just 48% (i.e. well below the 78% UK NGA coverage total).

Ofcom’s report also noted how NGA coverage is particularly low in four inner-London boroughs: the City of London, Westminster, Tower Hamlets and Southwark. It’s perhaps no surprise to find that there’s a high number of EOLs in these boroughs and limited cable roll-out from BT’s big infrastructure rival, Virgin Media.

london_uk_nga_broadband_coverage_2014_map

Meanwhile Hyperoptic’s new study claims that London’s broadband speeds are “failing to support its burgeoning digital economy“. Currently the city only ranks 26 out of 33 for its broadband speeds, with an average download speed of 26.3Mbps (Megabits per second) and that’s over 10Mbps slower than the European average of 36.8Mbps. The top five EU capitals are currently all two times faster than London and Bucharest tops the table with an average of 81.2Mbps.

eu_cities_ranked_by_broadband_speeds_2014

However it should be noted that Hyperoptic’s study is based off data sourced from Ookla’s speedtest.net service, which technically makes London’s situation seem even worse because Ookla’s data tends to weight the score to be more reflective of throughput and that in turn can deliver a more optimistic result (i.e. London’s speeds may actually be a bit slower). Likewise Ookla’s city-specific data doesn’t separate home from business based broadband connections, although in this case both are just as relevant to the overall problem.

Boris Ivanovic, Chairman of Hyperoptic, said:

The UK government has recognised that there is a clear need for speed, which is why back in 2012 it pledged to have the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015. These figures demonstrate that the UK is a long way from that target.

London has long been recognised as a powerhouse of the UK’s digital economy – after all, the capital houses a vibrant tech community and contributes nearly a quarter of the UK’s overall economic output – but its broadband infrastructure clearly isn’t fit for task, let alone the rest of the UK.

If the UK wants to maintain its digital leadership there must be a fundamental shift in its urban broadband strategy. The government must incentivise the private sector to fast track the implementation of future-proofed Fibre-to-the-Building and Fibre-to-the Home infrastructure across all UK cities and towns.

Global Internet traffic is doubling every two to three years; slow incremental rises are not enough to support a sector that is digitising industries and redefining itself on a daily basis.”

It should be noted that the Government originally said, in 2010, that it wanted the UK to have “the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015“, although in 2012 this was craftily refined to say the “fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015” (here). However the Government actually gauges this progress as a comparison across the whole of the United Kingdom, not just London, and by factoring in other aspects, such as affordability (price). Speed is just one of several measures.

Never the less we’d agree that a significant problem remains in central London and it’s understandable that BT’s rivals in the city, like Hyperoptic’s FTTB platform or Relish’s fixed wireless network, are keen to press their advantages over the incumbents older copper infrastructure problems.

At the same time BT are currently developing solutions for EOL areas, such as installing new FTTC Street Cabinets and trialling Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology that puts a small cabinet (node) on top of telegraph poles. In other locations it can also deploy true fibre optic FTTP connectivity that’s similar to Hyperoptic’s solution, although this can be quite tricky in busy inner city areas.

Meanwhile the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (Conservative), is also working to develop a new strategy that could help to improve the situation (here) and the aim is to make affordable superfast broadband available to 99% of London premises by 2018. In the meantime BT continues to highlight how “every business in the capital is able to access ultra-fast broadband via dedicated lines,” which is all well and good but that’s not really affordable for homes and smaller businesses.

At the start of this year BT also said that they were going to spend £50m on improving connectivity in a number of UK cities, but since then the trail has gone cold and we’re not anticipating another update until early next year. One thing is for sure, we’ll need to see faster progress than that for this problem to be solved.

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37 Responses
  1. I seriously doubt this is a shock to anyone. Our cable services are slower than many of our European peers, coverage of those is somewhat patchy, and we have relatively little FTTP in urban areas, a good proportion of the <1% being in more rural ones.

    What FTTP there is is, in many cases, delivering speeds no greater than FTTC.

    Ofcom regulated their way to the market as it stands today, the government tax infrastructure in the way they do, their fault entirely that we're behind so many of our competitors in this regard.

    • GNewton

      While there are indeed a lot of issues with the way telecoms are regulated in the UK, part of the problem is also the failure of BT with its ‘Can’t Do’ looser mentality and its sheer incompetence. Just take a quick look at BTs own business forum to see why.

    • I presume you’re going for ‘loser’ rather than ‘looser’ there.

      They have no competition to push them to invest more. This is in no small part due to regulation. Prices in the UK are pretty low, again due in part to regulation and in part the TalkTalk effect.

      Some of this can be fixed if regulation is changed to produce a more attractive environment for investment.

      BT are doing nothing most other telcos in their position wouldn’t. Over half the UK are a captive audience and have no choice but to pay them regardless of whether they are delivering copper, hybrid or a full fibre solution.

    • GNewton

      “I presume you’re going for ‘loser’ rather than ‘looser’ there.”

      Yes, I was the loser here with my wrong spelling 🙂

      I am not sure whether competition is the answer here. Duplication of last mile access networks is quite wasteful. A single fibre-optic last mile network, with proper regulation, is probably the better way to go, with open access under same conditions to any ISP or telecom company. Of course, complete separation of BT is a requirement, the network infrastructure company has to be completely independent.

    • Given the government want to shrink the public sector further it’s fair to say that an NBN as in Australia, except FTTP all the way, is unlikely.

  2. No Clue

    Who remembers this idiotic BT statement…
    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/11/bt-claims-uk-is-already-in-the-vanguard-of-eu-fibre-broadband-deployment.html

    “….the UK to have the best broadband amongst major European countries by 2015.”

    Hurry BT only about 3 weeks to meet that PR poop.

  3. fastman2

    G newton the forum you indicate is a BT ISP forum so is nothing to to with infrastrcuture provision — bTR & BTB are just 2 of 500+ cps that openreach support

    • GNewton

      You really believe all of this? OpenReach, BTRetail, BTBroadband, BTSports etc., all belong to BT Group. You won’t see BTR nor BTBroadband shop around, they don’t use LLU.

      BT needs to be genuinely split up, and we need to stop wasting taxpayer’s money on BT, it’s a business and not a charity, though it tends to act like a beggar, not even able to provide a professional customer support for businesses, just look at BTs own business forum.

      BT could learn a lot on how to provide fibre to at least bigger towns from companies like Telefonica or Jazztel in Spain.

    • TheFacts

      Is the regulatory, competitive or engineering situation any different in Spain?

    • Newton, Jazztel are an alternative network builder – I’m sure if we had one here we’d see more moves from BT.

      It’s also worth noting they are headquartered in London and were Jazztel PLC until Orange bought them in September.

      Either way this proves my point about alternative networks breeding innovation – thank you!

      Telefonica are retiring their copper network. As of right now I don’t think Ofcom would allow BT to do the same. We’re LLU junkies in the UK and love our cheap/free slow ADSL.

      In any event BT have put their cards on the table. If FTTC is available you aren’t getting FTTP from BT for the foreseeable unless BDUK or other money is involved.

    • Gadget

      GNewton, disagree with the LLU claim, BT consumes the same products including LLU space, power etc as the external CPs, with the same terms, ordering systems, timescales etc. Further reading is available under Ofcom EOI here’s a link to the definition – http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/policy/bt-undertakings/glossary

    • TheFacts

      @Ignitionnet ‘alternative network builder’. 134 companies with code powers to do a build anywhere in the UK.

    • GNewton

      @TheFacts:

      “Is the regulatory, competitive or engineering situation any different in Spain?”

      As usual, why don’t you do your own research? Have you completed your research on the questions raised some months ago? Or have you conveniently forgotten it?

    • TheFacts

      Please tell us what there is to learn from Telefonica or Jazztel in Spain.

    • GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Please tell us what there is to learn from Telefonica or Jazztel in Spain.”

      Google is your friend. Ever heard about genuine fibre-optic broadband?

    • TheFacts

      Would you please tell us for the benefit of others.

    • No Clue

      Ignitionnet explained it already but as usual you failed to read.

    • GNewton

      @No Clue: TheFacts is simply not willing to do his own research, he just keeps on asking the same boring questions. It has been explained to him multiple times in the past how to get more data, how to follow through with requests under the Freedom of Information Act. That’s what I mean when talking about the prevalent ‘Can’t Do’ culture amongst so many here.

      A simple Google search reveals a lot of details about why Telefonica in Spain is doing a much better job than BT in the UK:

      https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=telefonica+fibre+spain&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

  4. fastman2

    not even worth commenting on !!!!!

  5. Alloneword

    I have given them a compelling case to instal here, but heard nothing apart from we have spoken to landlord, and the nothing, 4mbits for someone who could spit at canary wharf a joke.

    All1

  6. Cristivmd

    I am from Chisinau, Moldova, we have pretty much the same internet as in Romania, but I dont see ourselves in these standings at all

    • Could be a few reasons for that one. Perhaps the survey takers don’t consider Moldova to be in Europe, or they might not have enough samples from there to get a reliable reading.

  7. DTMark

    London…. miles of ancient old GPO wire, a telephone company, and in some areas, a cable company.

    Isn’t it much the same as the rest of the UK e.g. sorely lacking some semblance of a telecommunications network, waiting for someone to start building one?

    Compare with Amsterdam – all underground ducted, nice and tidy, no street poles, 200/20 available as a standard product.

    • TheFacts

      Where and when did the UK go wrong?

      Discuss.

    • DTMark

      I don’t think that the UK has ever really “done” infrastructure.

      The point at which it went most seriously wrong was when the then Conservative government transformed a public monopoly into a private one in the misguided and dogmatic belief that a market would deliver, forgetting that for this to work, a market must either exist or be capable of being fostered.

      But then that isn’t really why it was flogged off. It was largely to make a quick buck for the government to buy some votes with thanks to the short-termism which pervades this country linking back to the opening point.

    • No Clue

      “Where and when did the UK go wrong?”

      Lack of investment for almost half a century from the idle monopoly named BT and a regulator who is about as forceful as a fist made out of fluffy kittens.

      Thats probably a start as to why our so called network is 25% paper wrapped cable 25% wet string, 24% general patched joined rubbish and 26% ran by fat greedy idiots.

    • TheFacts

      How about you list the changes in telecomms in the UK over the last 50 years. Nothing stopping over 100 companies from competing with BT, as they do.

      Monopoly where and not where?

    • TheFacts

      It may have gone wrong in the 1980’s, pre internet, when the government stopped BT rolling out FTTP as it would compete with the cable TV companies if they put video down it. And then the cable companies ran out of money to continue their rollout.

    • DTMark

      I wasn’t around then.

      Was BT planning to ‘roll out FTTP’ or simply run along behind the cable installers duplicating their investment and behaving in a predatory way?

      Simply that recent behaviour would suggest the latter, indeed this would be good business sense, but it doesn’t get the country anywhere.

    • GNewton

      “Where and when did the UK go wrong?”

      TheFacts knows the answers, he’s just try to argue again here with his boring questions. It has been explained to him multiple times in the past how to do his own research and then contribute to this forum.

    • No Clue

      “How about you list the changes in telecomms in the UK over the last 50 years.”

      Sorry i thought you just wanted to know where things went wrong, apologies that you did not like to hear its due to BT being cheap and hopeless.

  8. So BT Openreach introduced a new version of the “Where and When” Superfast broadband availability tool recently. And guess what, Soho, right in the heart of London, went from the “Coming soon” status it had for the last couple of years (always scheduled for the end of the current quarter) to “Exploring Solutions”.

    It would be great if Mark could use his super-detective powers to find out what is really blocking here: is it BT (protecting its business of dedicated lines and very expensive business fibre), or is it the city of Westminster?

    The latter have been known to block anything and everything (which also explains there’s very little coverage from Virgin Media in the area), and in the initial stages of deployment it was definitely them blocking (“no, we don’t want green cabinets, they need to be black” — answer from BT: “feel free to paint them” — “no you have to do it yourself”), but that was 2 years ago, and no progress has been made, and Mayfair and Soho are still devoid of affordable fibre.

    Maybe Hyperoptic should explore a more aggressive coverage of the area… It’s really dense, with a nice mix of businesses of all sizes and residential blocks, so it should be a pretty attractive place to deploy…

  9. Our UK connectivity plans are woefully under ambitious and we are years behind on delivery.

    I cannot see the commercial incentive for BT to deliver cheap fast connectivity to UK business. Why would any business invest money to provide FTTC to sites that may pay 10 to 100 times more for leased lines?

    The usual connectivity statistics talk about people and homes. With 64 Million people and 5 million businesses BT could provide fast internet to 92% of us without a single business having fast connectivity. Businesses don’t need the stats they only have to run a speedtest to know the truth.

    Business connectivity is a very different delivery model to residential and the government investment strategy and statistics should be separated.
    2015 will see sways of commercial property becoming non-viable for business use. We are already seeing ghost estates where offices designed for over 10 staff get less than 2Mb. I move businesses for a living and “is the internet going to be fast” is the first question they ask when considering a commercial space.

    Unfortunately for BT a viable commercial delivery model does exist.

    Landlords who provide elite connectivity into their commercial space will make more profit than those that don’t. Commercial space with poor connectivity will not provide good returns. Property with fast connectivity will achieve increased occupancy, increased yields and significantly reduce empty periods.

    Provisioning connectivity in new commercial property takes 6-8 weeks and orders are typically placed after a lease is signed. Cumulatively this can add 3-4 months to the move process. We have seen tenants move in 1 month to property where elite connectivity is already available. Soon Landlord investment strategy will reflect this.

    Government strategy should look to accelerate private investment via commercial landlords. Providing access to the Connection Voucher Scheme, helping to facilitate “No charge when empty” ISP service plans, FTTP legislation in building regulations and helping to establish FTTP unified standards.

    Personally I would not rely on the BT marketing department to determine the performance of UK PLC for a generation.

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