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ISP O2 UK and BE Unable to Confirm Superfast Broadband Service for 2013

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 (9:51 am) - Score 1,709

Internet provider BE Broadband (sibling of O2 UK), which earlier this year admitted that they were “not making very good progress on fibre” and delayed their plans to launch a superfast broadband (FTTC) service until 2013, still “can’t yet confirm” whether this will actually happen. Separately they’ve today suffered major cable damage in London.

The new service, which could offer download speeds of up to almost 80Mbps (Megabits per second) alongside BE’s usual “unlimited” usage policy, was originally tipped to surface before the end of 2011 but was later put back to 2012.

A trial of the future service at the Barking (Greater London) telephone exchange initially raised hopes that it wouldn’t be delayed again, which were promptly dashed after an April 2012 update confirmed that BE were “unlikely to launch [the] service across the BE [O2] network in 2012” (here).

Last night BE’s MD, Chris Stenning, took part in another “Ask the MD” sessions between himself and the ISPs customers. Unsurprisingly the status of their current superfast broadband service, which should have ideally been decided already, was raised and a less than desirable reply returned.

Chris Stenning, BE’s Managing Director, explained:

As you saw from our announcement earlier this year, Fibre was not something we were going to invest in this year due to other priorities across the group.

We are currently looking at the investment wishlist across the whole of O2UK for 2013 and while this is on the list of things I would like us to be able to do, I can’t yet confirm either way.

I know it is not what people want to hear but I’m afraid there is not a lot more I can say at the moment other than I hear what you say and I agree a BE Fibre service would be fantastic.”

The perception given is that BE’s parent, O2 UK, currently appears to be unwilling to commit itself to a firm investment plan for the launch of superfast broadband (perhaps they’re more focused on 4G). Meanwhile O2/BE, which has recently lost customers following various service woes, price hikes and the lack of superfast connectivity, faces a market where most of its arch rivals have already launched faster products.

Back in April 2012 BE also hinted that they were “still looking into launching a [FTTC] service on a limited basis later this year“, although there was no mention of this in Stennings latest remark. Meanwhile the BE Usergroup has also published Stennings response to some other “Ask the MD” questions, although they mostly repeat much of what we already knew. In fairness Stenning deserves some credit for being honest with customers but that’s unlikely to raise the mood.

Separately BE and O2 lines are currently being affected by a major network failure in the Ealing area of London, which is also affecting other ISPs on the O2Wholesale platform (status update). It’s understood that 244 related cables have been damaged in the area and Engineers are currently attempting to “splice” them all back together. The cause remains unknown although BE are “expecting all the fibre repairs to be completed this afternoon“.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. Sheffield Owl says:

    I hope they are prepared for more users leaving.Many are hanging on expecting them to start rolling fibre out next year..
    Not looking good,at least those who are staying put will get a good deal.

    1. Deduction says:

      They are already desperate offering half price deals and deals which involve current members getting free months if they get people to sign up.

      They have become a complete shambles in recent years, no FTTC and the product they do sell is far from reliable.

  2. DTMark says:

    OK, so BE have a presence (LLU) at (most?) of the exchanges. All that would appear to need doing, is to marry the backhaul that’s already there to the GEA kit to provide a fibre service. So what is the problem?

    Well, BE have prided themselves on unlimited, unthrottled access and that can’t be done with the GEA model. In essence they’re reselling someone elses infrastructure. So it might be congested, they can make no promises nor can they do anything about that. There will be no direct connection between BE and the end user.

    Sky have decided to “play ball” and offer unlimited access via FTTC. For now. That might change later on.

    So what’s going on:

    1. Can’t agree pricing with BT;
    2. Can’t/won’t pay for the kit needed to make the change;
    3. Some people might actually end up with slower speeds (reputation);
    4. There is no way to make FTTC/GEA fit with their offer/model either im terms of pricing or unlimited/unthrottled access;
    5. They have something else planned..

    Because if it isn’t (5) above then I’m failing to see what’s going to change next year, other than having lost more customers.

    1. What? says:

      Unless BE are waiting for the FTTH on demand next spring?

    2. DTMark says:

      I doubt it… BE are at the budget end of the ISP spectrum. And I suspect FTTP will be a profit killer.

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      Everything I’ve seen from BE, aside from one small side-remark, has been focused on FTTC. As for FTTP-o-D, it might be something that BE offer but they’d be crazy to wait for it since very few home users will be prepared to pay the installation cost. We have of course yet to see the final pricing but it’s looking to be more of a business product.

      As the article hints, the real problem here is that nobody has signed off on the plan and so it’s been left to the side while O2 forges ahead with 4G. They could have signed off on that plan months ago but the recent declines might have given them cold feet, plus they’ll want to get the new core network upgrade sorted.

      I fear it might be the end of 2013 before FTTC becomes viable.

    4. chris says:

      the only congection should be on there own backhaul

  3. Mike says:

    I’m torn, I currently get between 15-17Mbps, and like the unlimited nature of my BE connection. But then I could be getting between 70-80Mbs with BT for a few quid more. I’m in contract till January anyway, but no idea what I will do at the end!

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      If you can get up to 17Mbps then you should first ask yourself, practically speaking, what benefit would having 60-80Mbps get you? Most online services have a hard time taking advantage of such speeds.

    2. DTMark says:

      That’s tied in with point (3) above. FTTC’s fault threshold is 12Mbps IIRC. So BE’s offer at the moment is – sync at say 16Mbps and get, say, 15Mbps throughput – as much as can be shoved down the line.

      Under FTTC you could sync at 80Mbps and actually see 12Mbps of throughput, but there is no fault to investigate nor could BE do anything about that.

  4. Liam says:

    I have a feeling that Be/O2 are the new Orange Broadband. Their service has gone down the pan and they have delayed a fibre product whilst their competitors are coming over them leaps and bounds.

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