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UPD Fluidata Claims Real Competition Can Drive BT to Go Fibre Optic

Tuesday, Feb 18th, 2014 (2:42 am) - Score 1,144

The accounts manager for business ISP Fluidata, Andi Soric, has observed how one of the quickest ways to encourage BT into deploying a true fibre optic (FTTP) broadband network is for rivals to foster competition at infrastructure level by doing the same thing first.

So far BT has felt fairly comfortable with their cost-effective national deployment of up to 80Mbps capable hybrid-fibre FTTC (Fibre-to-the-Cabinet) technology, which is a good solution unless you happen to live at the furthest reaches of your local street cabinet where download speeds can fall away to just a few Megabits.

But evidence from various locations around the country, such as B4RN’s 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) deployment in Dolphinholme (Lancashire), increasingly seem to suggest that BT appear more likely to deploy their own 330Mbps capable truly fibre optic (FTTP) broadband connectivity into an area when rivals begin to threaten.

Similar cases are now cropping up in urban areas, where Fluidata’s Andi Soric notes that some multi-tenant buildings now have a choice of two truly fibre optic networks.

Andi Soric said:

I moved into a three bedroom property with fibre already installed, activated and ready to use. It also has the option to upgrade to 100Mb/s and 1Gb/s, as and when I require it. Hyperoptic have done a great job in providing access to every flat in the newly built Olympic village (run by getlivinglondon). I didn’t have to wait for an engineer to arrive, or spend any time on the phone signing up. The process was a simple online form to complete; my service was up and running for when I moved in.

But I noticed, the flat also had a BT Openreach router installed for Fibre to the Home (FTTH) from BT as an alternative. Based on other individual experiences, Piers’ especially, it isn’t the norm for new build properties as one would expect. I found it strange that BT and Hyperoptic have both deployed FTTH into all flats so efficiently, then I realised it must be in relation to direct competition.

It is great that I have been given two different options for high speed next generation connectivity, when other new builds are left having to use aged copper technologies, but it must be because of the competition from Hyperoptic that has meant BT has deployed their cutting-edge service. So not only does it show that BT can deploy FTTH technology, but they will when faced with direct competition.

The situation seems to reflect Piers’ claim that BT are protecting where they can, their monopoly and only choose to involve themselves in true fibre projects because they may feel someone else is going to take a piece of the pie.”

On the other hand, while good to see more competition, it’s a shame that this only appears to occur in areas where smaller providers are operating and it would be good to see Virgin Media harness FTTP/H in order to provide a new challenge in urban areas. But so far there’s no sign of that and Virgin are likely to remain focused on DOCSIS 3.1 for at least the next few years, which in fairness seems like an economically sensible path (i.e. they should be able to keep up with both BT’s future G.fast and FTTdp tech).

By contrast the difficulty for smaller providers, when faced with a direct FTTP/H challenge from BT, is naturally that the big boy has a mix of economics of scale, a massive advertising budget, a plentiful selection of big brand ISPs and often cheaper prices on its side; though some smaller ISPs can still challenge that last one. Needless to say that nobody likes to be sat on by an elephant, although some like B4RN do seem to have the right size of pin to make that seat feel very painful (i.e. existing community engagement = customers).

Ultimately competition is competition, you adapt or die and BT would clearly rather adapt in the places where a superior technology is likely to encroach. Sadly this doesn’t look likely to happen much outside of the big cities (it’s rare to see FTTP go rural due to the high costs), with a few notable exceptions. The bigger problem comes when public money is used to deploy BT’s FTTP network into an area where another operator is already doing the same, which can challenge state aid rules and also seems like waste of tax payers’ money.

UPDATE 18th Feb 2014

It should be pointed out that BT, acting as an official communications services partner to the Games, deployed fibre to the Olympic park a long time before Hyperoptic did.

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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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