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UK ISPs Confused But Supportive of 330Mbps Fibre on Demand Broadband

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 (2:06 am) - Score 3,113
fibre optic cable trench uk

The launch of BT’s new 330Mbps capable FTTP-on-Demand (FTTPoD) service, which will eventually make true fibre optic connectivity available to all FTTC supporting lines, has been given a cautious welcome by most ISPs; though some aren’t quite sure how it fits into the market or whether domestic or even business customers will want it.

The service, which this week began a phased roll-out across the United Kingdom as part of its early market deployment (here), will effectively put BT’s top 330Mbps based Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology within reach of most home or businesses owners by around spring 2014 (66% of the UK and possibly 90% by 2017 through the BDUK scheme).

Officially BT has pegged the service as a “premium” and “ultra-fast” business product, which home owners can also order (albeit alongside a significant installation cost that could run into thousands of pounds). Indeed most of the ISPs that ISPreview.co.uk spoke with have either expressed an interest in adopting it or were already planning to launch a related product.

But many of the same ISPs also expressed some degree of confusion over what corner of the market BT were hoping to attract and a few noted some potentially critical caveats with the service, which could make it a tough sell.. assuming they know who to sell it to in the first place.

Trefor Davies, CTO and Co-Founder of Timico, said:

We’re really interested in FTTP-on-demand, as we think it could be a strong product for small businesses requiring more bandwidth than FTTC can currently give. However it’s obviously in a pretty small initial trial area, which makes it hard to test with real customers. Also businesses we see increasingly want to use a single broadband link for VoIP and data, but as soon as they do this start to need stronger uptime and repair SLAs.

We think the connection charge of £500 is pretty good when compared to full-fat Ethernet service, but 66 working day lead time might feel like an age compared to normal ADSL. But Service Providers will need to clearly manage customer expectations on throughput – this is not going to provide 330Mbps line rate service 24*7 without a very high monthly price-point.”

A BT Retail Spokesperson said:

It is early days for FTTP on Demand. BT Retail is now looking at the pricing and will announce plans in due course.”

Paul Heritage-Redpath, Entanet’s Product Manager, said:

The general feeling seems to be that this is a niche, low-volume product as the typical installation charges will be akin to a leased line, but without a leased line’s SLA – albeit at a lower monthly rental.

For very sound economic reasons Openreach have concentrated their cabinet roll-outs in areas with multiple residential users, rather than businesses. Home workers with deep pockets and the desire for ultimate bragging rights may find this product both available and attractive, provided they are careful to choose a router able to make the most of the service. Our feeling is that it is overkill for the majority of home users, and lacks the service guarantees needed to be used as a primary business line.

If it risks falling between two stools for its user base, it is no easier a proposition for ISPs. Describing a proposition where a fixed installation charge, a variable installation charge and – in some proportion of cases at least – excess construction charges all apply is a much more complex sell than traditional FTTC or even FTTP as the price and delivery date can both change for the worse along the order journey.

As part of the broadband family very different economics apply to backhaul than do to selling dedicated connectivity as well. Simply put, customers may expect business grade bandwidth at broadband prices – so CPs will need to look very carefully at the economics of delivering this service. Although Openreach’s pricing applies from today, we don’t expect most CPs to offer the product until later this year, if indeed they do at all.”

Simon Davies, Director of IDNet, said:

We are certainly going to be offering the service and we think that it fills-in quite nicely for business and home-worker customers who would like faster speeds without the higher costs of leased-lines (and who don’t mind a bit of contention).”

Adrian Kennard, Director of Andrews & Arnold (AAISP), said:

Yes, we are offering FTTPoD for broadband customers. We’re happy to trial this initially as it will fit in with a change to BTW 95th percentile billing which will allow us to operate the higher “head room” needed for these higher speed services. The terms will reflect what BT charge us, so 3 year contract, and quite expensive set up and monthly costs. We don’t have exact pricing yet.

However, we are also offering this as an Etherway connection where customers can have one or more Etherflow services configured to burst up to the 330Mb/s rates as they wish, and have committed throughput for business applications. We’re waiting for confirmation from BTW of Etherway terms, but Etherway services are always individually quoted.

[But] as you know, any ISP actually trying to offer 330M will be an issue with the headroom they need to be able to offer a service which can do 330M when required, and the number of customers on 330M to make that viable. It may be that we offer a lower speed option for such customers, if only to manage expectations.”

Piers Daniell, MD of Fluidata, added:

To be honest we see it focused on the consumer side but will be looking at offering it to our wholesalers and evaluating it further as it could have some good applications especially for SMEs in the available areas.

[However] you can’t install FTTP into multi-tenant units – so most business premises are ruled out. BT are trying to make it a single residence consumer product only – and keep businesses on the EAD option.

Also, you can only purchase the FTTP on-demand product if you are in an FTTC enabled area. But BT make it hard to order FTTP as a business, and given that there aren’t the same contention or uptime guarantees on FTTP as EAD, I don’t see the fit with most of our customers.”

It’s certainly interesting to note how some ISPs see FTTPoD / FoD as a consumer product and others as a business solution, albeit one that might be both costly, tricky to order and complex to explain.

The degree of confusion over how best to place a product like FoD, which doesn’t offer the same guarantees as a full business solution but which can still cost just as much to install, appears to be shared by most providers.

In any case the proof will be in the pudding but it’s perhaps fair to say, as Entanet points out, that FTTPoD will probably end up being a “niche, low-volume product“. It will surely afford BT some bragging rights in the battle to broadband-up the nation but very few are actually expected to adopt it.

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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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6 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    “But BT make it hard to order FTTP as a business, and given that there aren’t the same contention or uptime guarantees on FTTP as EAD, I don’t see the fit with most of our customers”

    Surely that is obvious? It costs less than EAD

    Sounds like another case of damned if you do and if you don’t.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      That’s his point. While it does cost less the kinds of businesses who would be demanding this level of connectivity, in his experience, will be the same companies who would be paying for EAD. He struggles to see the niche for his customers due to length of time to install, contention and lack of SLA.

      The only businesses who would have an absolutely compelling reason to order this are those that are a long way from their FTTC cabinet so incapable of getting good speeds via that technology. Those with higher bandwidth requirements are, well, already going to be on EAD as they require more bandwidth and assured, SLA’d bandwidth at that.

      I am with him, I do struggle to see a retail offering for this to businesses short of bundling it with an FTTC service from a diverse supplier as a back up, and an ADSL service from another supplier to back up both cabinet and PON, and I’m not sure BT will supply FTTP and FTTC to the same premises at the moment.

      When getting to that level of complexity why not just take FTTC from BT Wholesale and FTTC from TalkTalk Business, use a load balancing router and enjoy a higher guaranteed throughput along with some redundancy from the GEA Cablelink onwards?

    • Avatar DTMark

      The guaranteed throutput is a particularly interesting factor.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Ignitionnet, but isn’t it the other way around? Isn’t this product for those that want the speeds of EAD (or higher actually) but don’t want to pay the price of EAD and because of that are willing to sacrifice SLA’s etc

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    Presumably this “early market deployment” will help understand answers to exactly these kinds of questions? We’ll all see soon enough who is prepared to order the service, and why (or why not!).

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