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BT Abandons Original Rollout Target for Native UK FTTP Broadband

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 (1:53 pm) - Score 6,615
bt openreach fttp install trial

BT has unsurprisingly abandoned their original 2009 commitment to make ultrafast fibre optic FTTP broadband ISP services available to 2.5 million premises in the United Kingdom and will instead focus on the more economical but slower FTTC solution and the expensive new FTTP-on-Demand (FTTPoD) service.

Originally BT committed £1.5 billion to help make its new superfast broadband (FTTC and FTTP) services available to 40% of the UK by 2012 (around 10 million premises). At the time the operator promised that 1 million premises would be covered by their ultrafast (330Mbps) fibre optic based Fibre-to-the-Premises service, which was even revised upwards to 2.5m in October 2009 (here).

Since then the investment has increased (£2.5bn) and the commercial target set at 66% of the UK by spring 2014 but most of this has gone towards their up to 80Mbps FTTC service. In reality it’s somewhat well known that the FTTP project didn’t go quite according to plan, which is reflected by the fact that, at the end of 2012, the service had passed just 100,000 premises.

Aside from being costly to roll-out, which wasn’t helped by a lack of pro-broadband legislation (the government’s Growth and Infrastructure Bill is only now being debated), the service was also challenging to setup. Several 2011 trials showed that it could take 7 hours and two engineers to install the service (here), or sometimes longer, into a single home (the target was supposedly around 2 hours).

A BTOpenreach Spokeswoman told ISPreview.co.uk:

This figure was provided many years ago and was always an estimate as opposed to a firm target. It is far less relevant today given we’ve doubled the speeds available via FTTC and from the end of this month we’re starting to make FTTP available on demand. This will allow more customers to upgrade to the ultra-fast speeds offered by FTTP should they wish to. The reality is that by focusing on FTTC, we’ve been able to bring the benefits of fibre to a far bigger footprint over a much shorter period of time.”

However BT does point out that their 2.5 million FTTP target was for the commercial roll-out and apparently work to expand the native coverage of its FTTP service will still continue through the state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme. Sadly it’s too early to know how far beyond the current 100k figure this will take FTTP.

Similarly BT’s new FTTP-on-Demand service, which will make FTTP available to all existing FTTC supporting lines, is due to go live on Monday 29th April 2013 next week. But this is more of a “premium” / business focused service that would cost some home owners thousands of pounds to install (full details).

In short nobody should be surprised by the fact that BT’s 2.5 million target has been tippexed out. The writing has been on the wall for quite a few years, albeit unofficially. Likewise the heavy focus on improving FTTC’s coverage and performance (e.g. vectoring) is now clearly BT’s primary direction for the foreseeable future (here). Credits to PC Pro for pointing us towards this development.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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17 Responses
  1. DTMark

    Seven hours and two engineers to wire up a house…

    Versus cable – two engineers, maybe half an hour for a property that has never had the service before. Including putting the box on the wall, plugging the kit in, optimising the power levels and making sure it works before they leave?

    Does this categorically prove that relying on the BT network “last mile” as some sort of starting point for a FTTP rollout is simply unsuitable, just way too old and in too poor condition?

    Is this why the pricing for “fibre on demand”, more accurately “fibre” is so ludicrious even when the fibre gets within say 2km of the end user?

    How long can it really take to walk along a street with some micro-trenching type tools and do all the houses from scratch?

    Which is quicker and cheaper?

    Where is BT’s “selling point”?

    • The 7 hours figure was of course from 2011 and I think they’ve since improved on that.

    • Ignitionnet

      Cable to a house that doesn’t have a ‘T’ outside takes a fair bit longer than half an hour.

      I had cable installation to a property that had never had it before, took best part of 4 hours.

    • FibreFred

      As I’ve said before though DTMark, the distance from cable cab to home would usually be a lot less than agg node to home

      So why were these FTTP areas chosen as FTTP in the first place? Any technical reasons or just to make up nice numbers?

  2. Kyle

    Does the BTOpenreach spokeswoman actually believe the trash she’s spouting, saying that they are ‘offering’ FTTPoD as if this is in some way a recompense for the FTTP promised? The correct answer is that it isn’t. They’ve realised that crappy bits of copper here and there will suffice and that they can now get away with charging for what they spoke of as a non-cost rollout to the end user.

    Needless to say, did anybody actually expect any more? The virtual removal of any fault threshold on FTTC shows that this is not the ‘be all’ they’re spouting it as.

  3. Ignitionnet

    I would be a lot more kindly disposed to Openreach over this announcement if they were to further announce that their customers can use FTTPoD with the upcoming 220/20 service.

    As it stands it’s difficult for anything other than a relatively high-end business product to be released with the current FTTPoD arrangements.

  4. zemadeiran

    What really confuses me is how the FTTPoD is set up.

    From FibreFreds pdf links I can see that the product bypasses the FTTC cabs and goes straight back to the Agg node near the actual exchange. The FTTC cabs also go back to the Agg node so why the hell not charge from the Agg node and not the cab???

    There is so much bandwidth at the FTTC cab so why not utilise it? Is it because it is a single point of failure? Surely not if FTTPoD is PON….

    What I really want to hear about now that K&C Council have cleared Openreach is what BT is doing about FTTB?

    • FibreFred

      Do you mean why charge from the agg node and not the cab?

      Simple its a separate service using separate fibres, you don’t want to design and run a solution that is dependent on that cab because I expect at some point in the (distant) future that cab will be removed

    • DTMark

      When I think about FTTP I tend to view it as a project “pushing” connectivity out to streets and homes which only really works en-masse (“do the whole street”), whereas the BT approach is more “pulling the connectivity to homes” (“a house or a pole at a time”)

      I don’t see the need to actually deploy the physical cable to every home, just to the “T” box outside (the connection point at the foot of the driveway) and you then connect the last 30m or so on demand. Or to the end of the street and you then pull the cable through that last bit on order.

      Which is what VM does. As far as I know – I’m not a telcomms engineer. Of course, since they had no service obligation because they were building with private money, not taxpayer’s money (orignally), they just skip the “hard bits” disappointing customers whose neighbours can get e.g. 120Meg while they make do with 2Meg ADSL.

      VM works on £350/home I think and I guess their ROI can also factor in the quad play services that BT has never really been able to develop due to under-investment (particularly TV).

      Accepting that thanks to wayleaves and topographies, among other things, getting to 100% FTTP may be well nigh-impossible/impractical, I really cannot see how we progress beyond FTTC if we place one predatory monopoly company in such a strong position to hold the country back.

      I can see why there is a desire to build FTTP in such a way that the cabinets can be retired later. Has anyone done the long-term sums on the cost of this approach (to us, not BT) versus simply building a new network, are we selecting the most expensive possible option?

    • FibreFred

      DTMark,

      Well “Virgin” didn’t actually do anything like that, they just bought up separate cables companies that had done their own thing already and merged them all into one network.

      But yes I agree with what you are saying, at some point to make this attractive I would expect BT will have to ( based on demand/signs-ups like say Hyperoptic ) drag the fibre even closer right to the pole, then the installation fee for the customer will be much less.

      But to do this across the country will obviously be very expensive. I expect to make it work you’d have to get good sign ups on a street. That is no different to what Virgin do now, if you want Virgin to come to your street then they’ll charge a very high fee so it has to be worth their while to do so (i.e. lots of customers ready to sign up)

  5. Chris C

    Obviously I respect BT is a business and it cannot bankrupt itself rolling out FTTP. But it does seem BT’s performance on FTTP is abysmal compared to other major isp’s who have done it in other countries. Why is BT’s cost per property passed so high when we have a small land mass? was it wise to concentrate it on rural cornwall? and why does it take 7 hours, is the ducting etc. in a very bad state? Or maybe none of this applies and they are seeing high demand for FTTPoD already meaning if the demand is there for high install fees why not let the customer pay for the infrastructure instead of the company.

    • PhilT

      Splicing fibre rather than using pre-terminated lengths of fibre is time consuming and high skilled. Perhaps they just chose the wrong method.

    • Ignitionnet

      Largely underground rather than overhead lines, with the exception of final drops, in urban and suburban areas. Simple.

      Compare this to North America or Japan where cable, telephony and power tend to be pole mounted and it’s soon pretty easy to see the cost differential.

  6. Zemadeiran

    Terraced houses could easily be wired up by just running the main fibre just below the gutter with a cherry picker.

    This would however mean blanket coverage wether it is required or not.

    I would love to see mini data centres set up in each area.

    • TheFacts

      What’s so special about a mini data centre, whatever that actually is, in an area?

    • MikeW

      Fibre running along terraces under the eaves… is how Rediffusion distributed its cable TV back in the 70’s. It is also how electricity was distributed in one of the houses I owned 20 years ago.

      The downside is that wayleaves or easements are required from every homeowner, making it a logistical nightmare before you can even build – assuming everyone says “yes”. It also makes access to fix faults more annoying.

      A mini data-centre? Wouldn’t that need a building with power, light, heat and air-con? Power backup too? Wouldn’t that be almost like an exchange building?

      Yet BT would really rather get away from many of the small rural exchange buildings it owns, and concentrate things into a few larger buildings.

    • MikeW

      Note: Rediffusion wasn’t fibre, of course, it was plain old copper. I only meant that it was wired under the eaves…

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