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Wales BT and BDUK Contract Reveals Actual Broadband Speed Commitment

Monday, November 25th, 2013 (9:28 am) - Score 1,248

A time consuming Freedom of Information (FoI) request conducted by Richard Brown has successfully secured a redacted version of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) supported ‘Next Generation Broadband’ roll-out contract for Wales, which was agreed between BT and the Welsh Government and contains a lot of interesting details about service speed.

The original contract, which at the time (July 2012) took total investment in Welsh “fibre broadband” to around £425 million (this includes other private investment from BT etc.), aimed to make “world class broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps” (Megabits per second) available to 96% of Welsh homes and businesses by the end of 2015 (it’s since changed to 2016).

So far progress on the effort appears to have been going well but like most Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) linked contracts these days the Welsh scheme used the now familiar and ambiguous terms of “high-speed fibre broadband” and “world class broadband speeds” to reference its performance expectation(s).

The Government defines “superfast” as “greater than 24Mbps” (note: Ofcom and the EU say 30Mbps+), while “fibre broadband” when using BT’s dominate Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology tends to mean anything from at least 2Mbps to 80Mbps. But thankfully the contract has revealed some solid details about the speeds that Welsh homes can expect to actually receive. See the relevant extract below.

wales superfast broadband commitment

In order to put this into the correct context readers should note that the Drop Dead Date for the project is set as 30th December 2016. Similarly PPiR tends to reference peak (best possible) speeds and CiR the minimum design bandwidth. We’ve outlined both below using a similar description, albeit simplified, to the contract itself.

PPiR – Premises Peak Information Rate (Downstream)

This means, for up to 80Mbps FTTC lines, the maximum line speed that can be supported between the Premises and the Point of Handover via the fibre cabinet and copper D side (i.e. the copper network connecting a cabinet to the Premise), taking into account any effects of cross talk (i.e. line interference that can reduce speed) and the length and physical quality of the copper D side.

The definition is different for BT’s 330Mbps capable FTTP lines and defines the maximum throughput at which data will be sent between the premise and the Point of Handover, which being fibre optic doesn’t suffer from the same copper problems as FTTC and so the total number of users tends to have the primary impact upon capacity (i.e. network congestion). The downstream throughput for FTTP under PPiR is also deemed to include “a small element of bandwidth to support Traffic Management”.

CiR – Committed Information Rate

This means the minimum design bandwidth each Premises may receive, including Last Drop Connection, to the Point of Handover assuming that all customers simultaneously use the network fully (maximum load).

Both of these are important because consumer broadband, unless you buy a very expensive dedicated 1:1 contended connection, remains a shared “best efforts” service where performance can vary due to network congestion and the quality of your line among other things (i.e. the less you pay.. the less you get).

The contract is thus saying what the line can achieve under the best possible situation and setting an appropriate minimum rate accordingly. Mind you a minimum of 0.5Mbps is a bit pathetic by modern standards and well below the government’s universal commitment (USC) for at least 2Mbps to all.

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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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12 Responses
  1. Hmmm… I wonder where the CIR runs up to? If it is measured at the cabinet, then that is no problem really as a single Gbps feed to the cabinet would almost always suffice. However, a single Gbps feed to an exchange (to serve all cabinets) would not be enough.

    I also wonder if they will ever actually check it out? Would be fun to try – get ALL of the customers to stream iPlayer in HD at once and see if it copes.

    Mind you, such a “real” trial would not be possible anyway as the test is all premises in an area and not all “connected” premises in an area.

  2. What does Clause 20 have to say, by the way?

    Hopefully it is a tad more onerous that merely requiring BT to buy a round of drinks at the local! :-0

  3. DTMark says:

    On the “Committed information rate”, BDUK effectively ruled out the one option which would have most cost-effectively served remote communities – wireless.

    Because it was more problematic to achieve the CiR of 30Mbps. But, importantly, far from impossible.

    So why does wireless have a CiR of 30Mbps, and fixed-line only has to deliver 2Mbps?

  4. “So why does wireless have a CiR of 30Mbps, and fixed-line only has to deliver 2Mbps?”

    To help BDUK ensure BT would win the contracts would be my guess! 🙂

    But then I am def a cynic!

    1. DTMark says:

      I’ve also read that there’s a chance that BT might be using fixed wireless and 4G for infill areas where VDSL can’t reach.

      So it appears that it’s OK for BT to deploy these technologies – even if they buy then from EE. However EE themselves may not deploy them in a BDUK scenario because they are excluded under the rules.

      Unless there’s a plan to move from 4G to FTTP in the future. That requirement does not seem to apply to BT since there’s nothing in the BDUK contracts to force BT to upgrade any of the tech they’re deploying to FTTP in the future regardless of what speeds it achieves.

      Which rather supports your point.

  5. NGA for all says:

    Give the level of public subsidy >£200 per premise passed, how much FTTP is included?

    1. DTMark says:

      (giggles) as little as BT can get away with.

    2. NGA for all says:

      I note there is a reference to 40%! Is that 40% of the intervention can order FTTP services from their final DP?

      If so and for the first the value for money concerns could be dealt with constructively by providing an indicative subsidy for FTTC and FTTP-(available from the final DP).

    3. DTMark says:

      I have no idea how that could be achieved without a lot of FTTP.

      The outrageously priced “On Demand” product would seem to fall foul of the affordability rules, so it wouldn’t be sufficient to say that the speeds are ‘available’ to anyone who can have VDSL. Bonded VDSL would also fall foul of the rules for the same reason, unless that’s the solution and the price will be flexed to enable this. For whom, on what basis?

      Speeds of 100Mbps+ are “available” to anyone in the country right now if they can afford it. So if affordability isn’t factored in to the contracts then why do the contracts even exist; all is fine as it is, as we can all have those speeds via individual bespoke builds for every property..

      Perhaps 40% of all the people in the intervention area have good quality copper lines of 250m or less, and G.Fast will be deployed at every cabinet..

    4. MikeW says:

      I agree that FTTPoD, in its current guise, falls foul of the affordability tests. I doubt that the aim is to meet this target with plain FTTP either – though they obviously could.

      I suspect that they really intend to use vectoring for the bulk of this, and top-up the percentages with FTTP if need be.

      The 30a profile could help, as could bonding, but my guess is that those won’t be used.

  6. Spilt Milk says:

    “The Government defines “superfast” as “greater than 24Mbps””

    How are figures like 95% of people going to get that speed when quite clearly this shows if 95% all tried to use it at the same time things will drop as low as 0.5Mb?

    Am i right in reading that the actual guaranteed speed figures for this superfast rollout which is costing millions are no better than what most get via ADSL already?

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