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BT Has No General Plan to Disguise UK Superfast Broadband Street Cabinets

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 (2:47 pm) - Score 3,715

BTOpenreach, which manages access to BT’s national UK telecoms network, has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that it has no general plans to disguise street cabinets. The confirmation follows an earlier suggestion by the government’s culture spokesman, Viscount Younger, that “plans [were] afoot to camouflage” the big green FTTC boxes.

Viscount Younger’s remarks were first picked up by the BBC on Monday and relate to last week’s publication of the new Growth and Infrastructure Bill (GIB), which among other things contains a plan to help “fast-track” the deployment of superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services around the United Kingdom by cutting red tape in the existing planning system.

One of the Bill’s proposals is for street cabinets, such as the big 1.6m high green boxes that are currently being installed as part of BT’s related 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) roll out, to be installed without “prior approval from the local council and without any conditions being placed upon the construction or design by local authorities except in exceptional circumstances [or at Sites of Special Scientific Interest]“.

But yesterday saw Lord Howarth of Newport question whether it was a good idea to let “broadband providers install their bulky and intrusive equipment wherever they decide is convenient for them [and] without a requirement for planning permission or even for local consultation“, which drew an interesting response from the government.

Viscount Younger, Culture Spokesman for the Government, said:

I can understand the noble Lord’s concerns. However, the changes to the formal planning process do not mean that broadband providers have carte blanche to install street cabinets or poles wherever or whenever it suits them.

The main broadband suppliers have agreed to develop a code of practice with DCMS whereby the siting of cabinets must have regard to proximity to any existing street furniture, minimising the visual impact and of course ensuring optimum safety on the streets. Sensitivity to locals is the byword, with planning and assessment made in advance.

… Plans are afoot to camouflage them.”

Openreach today informed us that the idea had been mooted but it hadn’t proceeded beyond that point, although the operator added it would have the capacity to do it. On top of that BT already does some work on this front, such as painting some cabinets to better match their surroundings. But more extensive work does tend to come at a cost and BT probably wouldn’t want to foot the full bill for anything like that.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

We make every effort to site new fibre cabinets in a sensitive manner, in co-operation with the local authority, whilst still ensuring that residents stand to benefit from the next generation of broadband technology. We are also constantly evaluating and refining our approach to deployment, and this includes engaging with local authorities on ways to reduce the visual impact of cabinets.”

As always it’s important not to understate the significant benefits that superfast broadband can bring to an area, which often out ways the usually fairly minor additional disruption that having a larger street cabinet near to your home might create.

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Mark Jackson
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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67 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Well for me I’d rather have more coverage than Openreach spending money from the pot dressing them up just to satisfy some numpties

  2. Avatar Tom says:

    The cabinets look fine to me – although the colorful adverts they have stuck on them is a bit off.
    Some are placed in stupid locations too.. but camouflage won’t stop that.

  3. Amazes me that they are getting away with the adverts, as I bet they have not got permission for them.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yeah I’m not sure either way. They advertise on phoneboxes (not that there are many left) isn’t it just the same? Its an easy way to communicate that it is active though? Remember its not a BT Infinity advert its just saying it has been enabled, for any ISP offering that service

    2. Avatar Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

      We already raised this with the ASA via a complaint earlier this year, however, we lost on the grounds that BT can do what they like with their property.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yeah that is what I thought, it is their property so….

      Why did you object out of interest? Like I say it doesn’t advertise Infinity, it is advertising the presence of fibre which means a customer could be served by Aquiss, Sky, Talk Talk, BT etc etc

    4. Avatar Tom says:

      “Normal people” just see the BT font and colours and think that Infinity is the only option. I deal with these normal people every day and they are astonished when I say that TalkTalk, Zen, Eclipse, Sky etc.. can also offer the service from the same equipment.

    5. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Sounds like lack of/no advertising from other parties then, if only Infinity advertise then I guess people will make that assumption. That isn’t the fault of Openreach thought

    6. Avatar Tom says:

      Not every provider like Aquiss, Zen, Eclipse etc.. have the cash to spend on mainstream marketing on TV, newspapers, advertising hoarding.
      Advertising on the cabinets would be more palatable if it was more generic and didn’t contain BT “world logo” colours or the font they commonly use. It’s subtle but would have made a difference and also be easier on the eye.

      I have in fact seen two cabinets in Godalming with plain green and white advertising matching the cabinet colour, much nicer! (but also less striking – does a worse job of grabbing attention and advertising).

      RE Martin / the ASA: I expect it’s more a local council advertising and planning permission issue rather than an ASA issue. BT might not need planning permission for communications equipment cabinets but they probably do need permission to then use it for advertising “out of keeping” with the area.

    7. Avatar FibreFred says:

      But its the Openreach logo? You expect them NOT to use their logo and colours?

      They are advertising to the public that Openreach have provided the infrastructure, they are not selling anything to the public themselves. It is up to the service providers to jump on that new service. Sorry you can’t afford advertising but you can’t blame others (BT Retail/Sky etc) that do?

      If you go to the website on the sticker it has links to providers where you can buy the service, not sure what else you expect?

    8. Does not surprise me that the ASA say that as they have no power to do anything meaningful anyway, so no doubt care even less.

      It is the local authorities that surprise me. If what the ASA said is true then it would be open season for everyone to advertise on everything that they happen to own. That seems wierd to me. Also, of course, BT do not own the land the cabinets sit on.

      These cabinets are not shops or business premises in any meaningful sense of the word.

    9. Avatar Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

      @Tom. The case was brought to us by a couple of customers who had FTTC with us, but felt that the stickers BT had placed on the Cabinets were as you say, looked like BT Retail….the arm most consumers know. They indeed referred us to the local council planning team, with a focus on billboards and the rules around those forms of advertising. The ASA did agree with us that branding could be confusing, but little they could do as nothing really BT were doing was wrong.

      We don’t blame BT at all for using the options available to promote (all businesses would), however, our concerns has always been and presently remains so, that consumers are being guided that BT Retail is the only choice for FTTx.

      I won’t sidetrack in this post, but we are getting customers calling us who have been told by BT on the phone that “BT” are the only option for FTTx. There clever in not mentioning Retail, but customer presume the same thing. Thankfully our customers tend to be technical and have told BT exactly what they think. It’s happening almost every week!

  4. Avatar Deduction says:

    “minimising the visual impact and of course ensuring optimum safety on the streets.”


    1. Avatar Tom says:

      That looks more like power work than BT fibre installation (as the filename claims). Even if it were for an FTTC cabinet the power work is not done by BT and they probably don’t have much control over it.

    2. Avatar Deduction says:


      Ill repeat the whole quote from our new bonkers government spokesperson
      “The main broadband suppliers have agreed to develop a code of practice with DCMS whereby the siting of CABINETS must have regard to PROXIMITY TO ANY existing street furniture, minimising the visual impact and of course ENSURING OPTIMUM SAFETY on the streets. Sensitivity to locals is the byword, with planning and assessment made in advance.”

      Yep whacking a big old 1.5metre rod through an 11,000 Volt power line… Openreach safely installing cabinet near existing strett works at its best 😉

      And the next BS spin line defending them tomorrow is?????

    3. Avatar Tom says:

      Thanks for the original link – makes things much easier to understand and put into context. Hardly a common FTTC cabinet installation experience but what a mess for that one 😉

    4. Avatar Deduction says:

      Yep you are right that particular job did indeed become a big mess. I dunno what is funnier the places BT have shoved a few cabinets (and ill be fair it is only a few) or the clap trap that government spokesperson came out with. I vote tie 😉

    5. “minimising the visual impact”

      That in itself should rule out the advertising they stick on them.

  5. Avatar Darren says:

    Tom, the full story is here: http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/4296-fibre-install-knocks-out-power-to-part-of-middlewich.html

    Basicly the contractors drove an earth rod through a power line, the power company has a policy of replacing the cable 5M either side of the break, hence the size of the hole.

    So not as dramatic as some would like to make out. Haha.

    Becasue of the 5M rule the power company had to dig in the owners garden: http://www.middlewichguardian.co.uk/news/8258297.Sparks_fly_as_power_is_lost_to_200_homes_in_Middlewich/

    He didn’t mind though, he was just worried about it delaying the faster broadband, haha, brilliant.. never mind who could of potentially got hurt, I want my faster broadband damn it.

    Love it.

    1. Avatar Deduction says:

      Obviously missed what the so called code of practice is and what they actually did when installing the cabinet.

      Lets have another eh….

      but remember the quote again “……and of course ENSURING OPTIMUM SAFETY on the streets”

      Unless you are blind person in which case you cross the road on those bobbly paving slabs. You do this to ensure you know when you have safely reached the other side.

      Safely according to the government and BT smashing your face into the cabinet, breaking your nose or worse, all because being blind isnt bad enough a burden already, so we better shove a cabinet in your path to spice up your day.

      Ahh BT SAFELY installing cabinets to the public up and down the land ROFLMFAO

    2. Avatar Darren says:

      I don’t know why he is talking to me, changing the subject and throwing false accusation around (as usual), I was addressing Tom.

      But truth hurts doesn’t it, haha.

    3. Avatar Deduction says:

      Then learn to click the reply button for the part of the news comments you are replying to.

    4. Avatar Darren says:

      Learn to recognise when a message starts “Tom,” it maybe isn’t addressed to you. Haha, pitty the fool.

    5. Avatar Deduction says:

      Perhaps my name is Tom. As to Pitying fools, indeed I do. One “T” in the word “Pity” FOOL.

    6. Avatar Darren says:

      Reduced to abusing my overzealous keyboard on a comments section at 3AM, turning into the grammer police is the ultimate fail. I pitty you fool. Haha.

    7. Avatar Deduction says:

      “Pity” what ever you wish. 3am or 3pm, you still can not spell.

    8. Avatar Darren says:

      That’s just it though, I can spell. I’m just spelling it wrong because I know you like it. I pitty you, you sad little child. Ha. That’s all I will say now, you have no point and this isn’t going anywhere.

    9. Avatar Deduction says:

      So you act intentionally retarded, that is what we thought.

      PS Whoever is removing that comment its just gonna be reposted. His posts are abusive and all the time they remain he will be spoken to in a similar manner.

  6. Avatar Daniel says:

    Preposterous. Lord Howard of Newport needs a reality check. Only in the UK could we become more pre-occupied with dressing up a cabinet, than actually getting the technology out there for the good of the land. Keep BT focussed on delivery, not fannying about wondering who might get a bit upset about a green box on the side of the road.

  7. Avatar Kyle says:

    It’s clearly this kind of nonsense and squandering of funds that has got this country into the state that it is.

    I see the cabinets for what they represent and the opportunities they bring; again, I’m sure there are thousands out there who would rather a green cabinet than being stuck in the dark ages.

  8. Avatar Michael says:

    What would be useful for the debate is to also show what an FTTP deployment causes to appear or not in the street. Presumably this creates either fibre distribution pillars or footway boxes without the need for power feeds. In certain environments, although more expensive than FTTC it might be the best holistic solution.
    I would also be interested to know if the pole mounted FTTC units have been deployed anywhere in UK yet.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      It certainly would be more expensive and would mean less money to rollout to other areas, would that sit ok with you? That you didn’t get faster broadband because someone objected to a cabinet and got FTTP and robbed you of a better service?

    2. Avatar zemadeiran says:


      Please explain how a passive optical network foot box would be more expensive then an active cabinet with power feed etc?

      Thank you

    3. Avatar Darren says:

      FTTP would cause more digging if lines aren’t in ducts or ducts are blocked, pushing up the cost. It would also cause more disruption and “scaring” of the road/footpath/owners property. Both FTTP and FTTC have their downsides, FTTP being better in the long run but too expensive to install on mass in one go. I’d prefer FTTP but having enjoyed FTTC since 10/2010 I’m not complaining.

      Asthetics are considered because the cabs are painted to match surroundings. That’s as far as it needs to go IMO.

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:


      I’m bewildered as to why you think rolling out FTTP is cheaper than FTTC? Where have you been for the past 4yrs or so? I thought here?

      Thankfully I don’t need to explain as reports have already done detailing the cost of FTTP in the UK. If FTTP was cheaper why do you think FTTC is being used? Please don’t say to “protect the copper assets” lol

    5. Avatar zemadeiran says:


      VDSL2+ as I have mentioned before IS meant for MDU deployment and has been adapted to cabinets.

      There is no future proofing with copper which if there were, Openreach would not be offering FTTP on demand down the line would they?

      The added cost of FTTP has to be born by the property dweller in the last mile, is it all not the same thing? The cost difference here lies in the fact that no new actively powered cabinets would be needed with GPON.

      How much does a new VDSL cabinet cost?

    6. Avatar Deduction says:

      “How much does a new VDSL cabinet cost?”

      Depending on location it seems to vary (dont ask me why).

      Typically they cost £12,000-£20,000 each or rather that is what Openretch charge for one. That does not include any complications that may occur, like the pure comedy links i posted earlier.

    7. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      A lot of that depends upon whether they’re upgrading the old cabinet or installing a brand new one in a fresh location as the latter would obviously require extra costs outside of the cabinet itself, depending upon location, access etc.

    8. Avatar Deduction says:

      That cost is based on what the question was, the price of a NEW VDSL cabinet.

    9. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Cost must depend on the size, cards installed and make.

    10. Avatar FibreFred says:


      I’ll ask again 🙂

      So which is cheaper:-

      A) Rolling out FTTP to 66% of the country

      B) Rollout out FTTC to 66$ of the country

    11. Avatar FibreFred says:

      % not $ 😉

    12. Avatar zemadeiran says:

      That is what we need to figure out!

      If you take look at the link above posted by deduction, we can see that we are looking at £10.000+ per new cabinet to deploy.

      How many lines on average per old cabinet? 100? 200?

      if the average is 100 properties per cabinet that equates to £100 per property.

      Lines and costs will vary but there will be an average and I am sure that EVERYONE would prefer FTTP without copper’s shortcomings.

      Do these sums make sense?

    13. Avatar Deduction says:

      It is impossible to say if FTTP would cost more then FTTC. As that link also states…
      “It is hard to establish true costs because BT does not disclose them, and requires interested parties to sign non-disclosure agreements, the HoL committee heard.”

    14. Avatar FibreFred says:

      hahahah come on we are not really going to have this conversation are we? There are reports out there showing it will cost £25billion+ for FTTP in the UK.

      To cover 66% of the UK with FTTC it is costing £2.5 billion (check that decimal)

      Its not impossible to say if FTTP would cost more, you don’t need to see any BT costs, its just plain old common sense. The work involved on labour alone means it is more expensive for FTTP.

      Google up “fttp vs fttc costs” and we cam nip this one in the bud 🙂

    15. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Where it’s upgrading an existing area FTTC is clearly cheaper, just a new cabinet. But in a new build area how do the costs compare?

    16. Avatar FibreFred says:

      For new builds I would expect the costs to be similar

    17. Avatar Deduction says:

      quote”There are reports out there showing it will cost £25billion+ for FTTP in the UK.”

      Reports by who? BT?

    18. Avatar FibreFred says:

      You’ve seen the reports, independent ones

  9. Avatar Deduction says:

    Please link to report/s which mention this £25 billion in an independent report where the figure is not from BT.

    1. Avatar Deduction says:

      FULL BSG report AS linked to at the end of the link Gadget gives…

      The BSG is part funded by industry and government. The current sponsors are:
      BT GROUP

      Independent report… Still waiting! (facts will be reposted over and over)

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Its not a report by BT is it an independent entity, sorry that’s beyond your understanding.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      The following are current sponsors of the BSG.

      3UK, Alcatel-Lucent, Arqiva, BBC, BSkyB, BT Group, Cisco Systems, DCMS, Ericsson, Intellect, ITV, Orange, TalkTalk Group, UK Broadband, Virgin Media, Vodafone

      It provides a neutral forum for organisations across the converging broadband value-chain to discuss and resolve key policy, regulatory and commercial issues, with the ultimate aim of helping to create a strong and competitive UK knowledge economy.

    4. Avatar Deduction says:

      “Its not a report by BT is it an independent entity, sorry that’s beyond your understanding.”

      The BSG is funded in part by BT, if you could read you would had noticed that. If that is your idea of independent you obviously have bigger sanity problems than first thought.

    5. Avatar Deduction says:

      Just to make your 2 IDs look a bit more dim (Nice to see you were up early on a sunday morning spamming various sites again)…

      “The BSG is FUNDED through a combination of government and industry sponsorship. Sponsorship entitles companies to take a place on the Executive and on the Advisory Council. The following are current sponsors of the BSG…….
      BT GROUP

      IE BT funds the organisation your “mind” thinks produced an independent report…. Priceless!

    6. Avatar Gadget says:

      In the absence of any other costs for the whole country being available that is what an independent consultants calculated the overall cost to be. They (Analysis Mason) thought it was reasonable, the government thought it reasonable, so I’m sorry if you are having problems with it.
      You might also like to reflect what the cost of the B4RN initiative would be if extended to all the remainder, and included civils costs.

    7. Avatar Gadget says:

      And while you are thinking about other sources of costs for the whole country you might like to look at the now failed Selling Village
      Again nothing to do with BT in any form but found the cost of FTTP a little to high to swallow.

    8. Avatar Deduction says:

      Independent report… Still waiting!

      for reference as you obviously need it…
      quote”5.not relying on another or others for aid or support.”

      Ill explain it slowly for you…

      BT and others give the BSG money, they are called sponsors.

      “— n 1. a person or group that provides funds for an activity…..”

      The organisation that you “think” (term used very loosely) made and “independent”
      report is given “support” in a financial sense. That to the rest of the English speaking world with an IQ above 5 is the OPPOSITE to independent.

      Independent report… Still waiting!

      (Please insert multi laden posts below still not able to link to one simple little thing you claim exists)

    9. Avatar Gadget says:

      Before trying sarcasm I suggest you try reading my post of 5:17 which acknowledges the input of BT’s figures by the consultants, who chose not to query them.
      Then perhaps read the final paragraph of that post, any my subsequent one, both of which you have not chosen to comment on so I’m assuming you agree.

    10. Avatar Deduction says:

      Still waiting on a independent report.

    11. Avatar Gadget says:

      Ok, since you have chosen to ignore my comments and repeat a request for an independent costing here’s a business plan to deploy FTTP


      and on page 8

      “Providing 100% coverage in those eight parishes plus spill over areas will deliver service to 1452 properties. It will cost £1.723M and take twelve months to deliver. A detailed design has been completed. ”

      Now to me that works out at £1186.64 per property. So I’ll leave the multiplication of this by shall we say 26m properties…….

    12. Avatar Mike says:

      Looks like you will be waiting for it to provide a report which mentions a £25+ Billion figure for a while. It now seems to think a rural scheme that involves lots of digging and limited man power costs equates to the same as laying cable in ducts which already exist in most of the country. It is persistent i’ll give it that, persistently stupid. Reports from an organisation BT give money to and now trying to compare costs of a small scale scheme to that of the entire country.

    13. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Please recommend an organisation to produce the report you want.

    14. Avatar Deduction says:

      Im not fussy all you or you multi names have to provide is an independent report.

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