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Wales BT and BDUK Contract Reveals Actual Broadband Speed Commitment

Monday, Nov 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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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