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ISP Zen Internet Says Businesses Wrong to Demand Fibre Optic Broadband

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 (2:15 pm) - Score 1,510

ISP Zen Internet has warned that businesses in the United Kingdom should “stop focusing” on the perceived need for true fibre optic (FTTP/H) broadband services, which take the fibre direct to their doorstep, because their needs can already be met by the existing but slower Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solutions.

According to Zen’s Head of Product Management, Andrew Saunders, most organisations “don’t need” the 330Mbps speeds that are possible on Fibre-to-the-Premises (possibly rising to 1Gbps in the near future) lines as the up to 80Mbps performance offered by FTTC (possibly rising to 100Mbps+ in 2013) should be “more than enough“.

Andrew Saunders explained:

Business customers are being led to believe that they must have superfast broadband, delivered via fibre directly to their premises, and anything less will not be satisfactory.

The Government is working with the industry to try to deliver Europe’s fastest broadband network by 2015 and we hope that they succeed, but meanwhile the needs of businesses can be met right now from existing Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) options, and this is not being made clear.

Over half of premises in the UK can already access FTTC broadband, a solution which avoids disruption and guarantees high performance and reliability. Most organisations don’t need the 330Mbps promised by FTTP, and will find 80Mbps more than enough and large enterprises demand bespoke solutions, so for them the debate is largely redundant.”

The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, recently revealed that superfast broadband (25Mbps+) services were now available to 65% of homes and businesses (with a take-up rate of just 7%). Saunders also suggests that the “wait” for true fibre optic broadband services could be adding to uptake woes, with only 18% of its customers choosing to adopt FTTC. He added that customers with good connections are often happier to stick with their standard / cheaper broadband service than to upgrade, at least for now.

Either way businesses that only have access to FTTC lines will, from spring 2013, also be able to order a full FTTP line (FTTP-On-Demand) if they so wish. But the cost of doing so is expected to be steep and thus likely to dissuade some smaller firms, as well as home users.

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20 Responses
  1. Avatar Chris Conder says:

    Its fair to say that if a business is near a cabinet and subscribes to a good isp like ZEN, that they will probably have a more than adequate connection for now.

    The main debate is about all the businesses too far from cabinets to benefit from FTTC. For them fibre is the most sensible solution. Copper can’t deliver over distance, and it isn’t fair for a major and trusted isp to imply different. If we want a proper digital nation then all businesses must have access to a fit for purpose product. Most rural SMEs don’t. Leased lines in business parks mean many cabinets haven’t been enabled in those areas either so FTTC isn’t available. Many SMEs operate in areas without cabinets, or in areas where there are cabinets but those are deemed uneconomic to upgrade.

    I agree that take up of FTTC is poor, but its not because businesses have been misled about fibre FTTP, its because most people who can get FTTC have probably already got fairly good connections already. That is why the BT marketing department says ‘homes passed’. Not homes connected.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “its because most people who can get FTTC have probably already got fairly good connections already.”

      That just isn’t true. I’m on 3Mbps and will soon be on 35Mbps+ I don’t have a fairly good connection at the moment at all.

      This is the same for everyone I know on FTTC, low speeds before high speeds after.

    2. Avatar DTMark says:

      Quite so. The future looks to be the same as the past, just repeated: change the word “exchange” to the word “cabinet”, as in “too far from the cabinet” and off we go all over again.

      I want to rent an office. I want broadband. There is presently no way of guaranteeing same until you’ve signed a lease and had a telephone line (LOL – what year is this?!) wired up. I don’t see a lot changing. Even now, years after moving here, all there is in the local town is an old phone company and network and a connection guaranteed to be useful is extortionately expensive (EFM, leased line) for the simple reason that there is only a phone operator who can connect a broadband circuit by adapting their network at very high costs. Unless you’re the dentist in Lenten Street, anyway.

      While no town is likely to ever see 100% broadband availability – there will always be a few locations which are genuinely “hard to reach” – the fact that, in say five years from now, it will still not be possible to ascertain whether a particular property can have a useful broadband service *after* spending all of this money bodging up a telephone network is a disappointment to say the least.

      I’m also going to hazard a guess that the smaller ISPs make the least profit from FTTP so it is in their interests that it does not become widespread.

  2. Avatar Craig Brass says:

    Its simple really. FTTC works in built up areas as properties are short distances from cabinets in most circumstances. Sad reality is cabs serving businesses are not getting activated because BT know their leased line customers would disappear overnight. Also, FTTC doesn’t work in rural areas. Customers are just too far away from cabinets most of the time…

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Or is it that cabinets serving businesses have relatively few connections and not as financially viable as other cabinets?

  3. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    A business connection normally requires synchronous bandwidth.

    Upload speed is the reason why sdsl was developed for mainly the business market. Now the bright sparks at ZEN are trying to push a copper business solution with asynchronous operation?

    What about all the company workers needing to access office based networks to do their job? What happens when the link is flooded due to insufficient upload bandwidth at the company not to mention packet flow etc.

    It all smacks of protecting leased line profits.

    1. Avatar Pedant says:

      Synchronous does not equal Symmetrical!

      What business want is Symmetrical bandwidth – ie the same upload speed as download speed. Synchronicity has nothing to do with it. Synchronicity means there is a fixed and known timing relationship between two signals. This could be a 1:1 relationship such as “for every downstream bit there is one upstream bit”, or it could be “for every 8 downstream bits there is one up stream bit”. Both of these examples are Synchronous, but one is Symmetrical and the other is Asymmetrical. Typically synchronous networks are synchronised to an external frequency reference (clock) such as Rubidium or Caesium beam, though more often a GPS disciplined crystal oscillator.

      ADSL = Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line.
      SDSL = Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line.

      There are Synchronous networking technologies such as SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and SONET (Synchronous Optical Networking). There are also Asynchronous technologies such as ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and Ethernet. Synchronous networks are expensive, and not well suited to today’s packet data, so are being replaced with Ethernet for the most part.

    2. Avatar zemadeiran says:

      Well spotted, not many people would have picked it up…

      You are hereby awarded a gold star 🙂

    3. Avatar DTMark says:

      From what I’ve read FTTC is basically useless at more than about 1500m of copper (far less for aluminium) because by that distance apart from the downstream degrading massively over such a short run, the upstream is getting on for nil.

  4. Avatar Fibrefred says:

    It would be good to establish whether businesses are really being left out of the fttc rollout or whether it is just hearsay. I know in Northern Ireland there was a lot of take up by businesses and I know my local retail parks have fttc cabs

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      From my own rather limited experience of our nearest town, I can only find five businesses in the town that can have FTTC – they have to be on the right side of a particular side street tucked away from the high street.

      There are, AFAIK, no plans to do anything else in the town, and so while four years on I’d still love to rent an office there, and I even drove around the whole town more or less street by street looking for any office I could lease which had a guaranteed useful broadband connection, I just can’t give BT any of my money because every business area does indeed appear to have been skipped.

      There’s even a large complex of offices to let in one part of a business park with two telephone cabinets so I’m guessing it isn’t that there are very few lines.

      I am guessing that the fact the town has no broadband network requiring anyone with a need for speed to pay silly money to have a bespoke connection installed, is the reason that those cabinets were not upgraded – not financially viable, but for the opposite reason many might imagine.

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      BDUK will sort out the rest of the cabinets.

  5. Avatar David says:

    This report worries (and puzzles) me a lot. In the face of an overwhelming torrent of statistics, reports, articles, surveys and government pronouncements about the beneficial impact of universal access to Big Broadband (not “wide narrowband”), there are still significant numbers of people who claim that there is no case and that we can be content with what we’ve got. What do they expect to gain (except maybe headline grabbing) from such claims? Don’t they realise that every nay-sayer just confuses the politicians who make policy? To ZEN pundits who put their names to such guff I would say this: when you come to sell your copper-served home but can’t because it has no acess to NGA or higher, you can rue the day when your pronouncements help to retard the pace of investment and hence provision of a highspeed, symmetrical connection.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      So please describe how highspeed, symmetrical connections eg FTTP should be funded to become available to all.

    2. Avatar zemadeiran says:

      Broadband bonds…

  6. Avatar aitchpee says:

    Bizarre that Zen of all ISPs should be shuffling along looking down at their feet rather than picking up the pace and looking where they are going. It’s not about current demand or services being used today by businesses, but what is still to come!

    We haven’t even invented all the technology and services that will use these connections in the future, so why do we want to be in the same position in ten years time, trying to fix the problem a second time?

    It’s a bit like the apocryphal American patent office quote that “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

    To answer the question about funding posed above, this requires creative combinations of funding sources, balancing state funds with significant private investment and building a long-term business case, since this is an asset with a long life-cycle and thereby potential revenue opportunities.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      Fibre is going to kill off all the small ISPs piggybacking on others infrastructure.

      The BDUK project was supposed to be about “what’s to come”, so you’d have thought a definition of basic broadband at say 10Meg and superfast at say 100Meg would have been the targets.

      Sadly, the 2Meg narrowband target for everyone isn’t even realistic for today’s applications.

      Your last paragraph sums up what would probably have been a four page essay from me.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “Fibre is going to kill off all the small ISPs piggybacking on others infrastructure”

      Fibre won’t kill them off, they are already killing themselves off by charging ridiculous prices compared to the big ISP’s justified by saying they get a superior level of support and service. Just how good can that service be for 2,3,4 times the price per month?

  7. Avatar Gadget says:

    Whilst I totally agree about fibre availability enhancing the prospect of selling your home, or making one you are planning to purchase more desirable it seems that at least one estate agent has contary ideas


    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      Not meaning to cause offence to the owner, though I suspect that some might be taken, and yes, they have a good point, but…

      I can’t honestly see how you could make that house less aesthetically pleasing than it is now.

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