» Editorial Article » 

Let’s Stop Having Different UK Definitions for “Superfast Broadband”

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 (1:04 am) - Score 8,758

Why is this important you ask? An up to 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) line on BT’s network, which over the next few years is what most people should expect to be put within reach of, can in theory cover homes that reside over 2000 metres (2km) away from the local Street Cabinet via existing copper wires. But this “last mile” style run of copper in FTTC’s diet makes it susceptible to performance loss over distance. In other words, the performance you get back, depending upon real line length from the cabinet to your home, could be anything from around 2Mbps to nearly 80Mbps.

Other problems also exist, such as the rising levels of crosstalk (interference) that can mean your predicted speed suffers a significant slowdown over time as more lines go live in the cabinet (they interfere with each other). BT expects to solve much of the crosstalk problem by adding Vectoring technology in the future, which works a bit like noise cancelling headphones to remove interference, but that is still in the trial stage (here).

The Welsh Example

Another example of this confusion is illustrated by how the BDUK target in Wales (Superfast Cymru) is currently for 96% of premises to be put within reach of a “fibre based broadband” network by 2016. The project’s name uses the word “superfast” but its 96% goal is expressed as the generic “fibre based broadband” and indeed many believe that the figure actually represents total NGA network reach (i.e. including sub-24Mbps speeds), much like other BDUK schemes do.

Ofcom recently reiterated the 96% target for Wales in their 2014 CMR study, albeit by using the word “superfast“, and the mass media duly regurgitated it. ISPreview.co.uk queried this matter with the regulator’s director for Wales, Rhodri Williams, whom initially said the information was “accurate” and “is the figure included in [the Welsh Governments] contract with BT“. Williams also stated that the word “superfast” on the Welsh contract referenced speeds of at least 24Mbps, which is another example of the highlighted confusion because, as state earlier, Ofcom itself defines “superfast” as 30Mbps+.

However, according to contract documentation released under an FoI request last year (here), a “minimum” figure of 95% is used to reflect “all premises in the contract intervention area” that are capable of receiving 24Mbps+ speeds, which falls to 90% for 30Mbps+. But this reflects the “intervention area” and not the country as a whole.

Thankfully, after pointing these conflicts out, Williams agreed to investigate further and a week later we finally got our reply: “The report itself refers only to NGA broadband services, which include services delivering speeds of 24Mbps+, but this distinction was not drawn in the press release. We are updating our website to reflect this.” Good, a sort of clarity, although their reason for saying “superfast” in the first place is a little bit odd (i.e. everybody else was saying it, so they did too, which is a strange comment for an industry regulator).

Rhodri Williams explained:

For your information, the term “superfast broadband” was used in the release because the Welsh Government’s intervention project is known as “Superfast Cymru” and the Welsh Government and media in Wales make use of the term to describe broadband of 24Mbps and above.”

The fact is, whether 96% is a target for speeds of 24Mbps+ in Wales or merely reflecting raw NGA network coverage (including sub-24Mbps speeds), the confusion is none the less palpable (same as it is for so many other local authorities around the UK) and that’s before we even dare to touch on the immensely divisive issue of whether the term “fibre broadband” should even be used for anything except true fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) connections (Will the Real Fibre Optic Broadband Service Please Stand Up).

At the end of the day it seems absurd for so many different groups to be using conflicting definitions to reflect a pre-set Government target, especially when public money is being used. Perhaps the most appropriate approach would be for everybody to identify coverage by the EU’s target of 30Mbps+, while expressing overall NGA network coverage as a second separate figure. A few local authorities do this already but that’s simply not good enough.

Leave a Comment
27 Responses
  1. Avatar adslmax says:

    That’s Britain for us! Always slow! Always Pro’s & Con’s! Always Rip Off! Always Behind in Technology!

    1. Avatar X66yh says:

      You really don’t know much do you?
      We consumers are in the UK so mollycoddled and protected and given so many things free or cheap it is difficult to know where to start.

      Try living in other countries where everyone pays a monthly fee for banking facilities (that’s pretty well everywhere bar the UK which is unique in this respect)

      Try places where there is no unfair contract terms acts, no complaints procedures and no ombudsman protection and not much consumer protection of any form at all. You want redress – take ’em to court at your expense.

      Next go to places where there is no NHS to go to free of charge – you want medicine to get better – you pay for it.

      People living/born in the UK have no idea how lucky they are.

    2. Avatar john says:

      exactly Adslmax its a shambles the whole superfast tripe. ripoff Britain

  2. Avatar gerarda says:

    There is also the additional BDUK definition of superfast which is 15mbps at peak times

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Yes but for now let’s try to focus on the actual capability of the physical infrastructure’s reach and not get too distracted by manageable issues like bandwidth / network congestion.

    2. Avatar James Harrison says:

      Network congestion should absolutely be a part of the definition of superfast broadband. Let’s talk minimum committed information rates as part of the definition! Minimum latency and jitter performance metrics! Stuff we can actually measure with standardised tests like RFC2544 and ITU-T Y.1564. It’s no good having 1G bearers to every property if the backhaul network for 1000 properties can only cope with 100M before it’s congested.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      James, they sound very much like SLA’s

      You usually pay heaps for circuits with SLA’s… home connections are contended services and very cheap so expect contention.

    4. Avatar James Harrison says:

      Of course I expect contention on my cheap home line, and any telecoms project will be contended!

      You pay shedloads for lines with service guarantees, yes. You pay shedloads for uncontended lines, yes. These services both attract additional significant costs.

      This is not the same as defining the minimum and maximum service levels a user should expect from the technical implementation of a NGA network at all.

      If I’m going to hand someone a million quid to deliver something, I want to define what it is I’m getting. The same _should_ apply to things like the BDUK roll-out (but does not currently, in any meaningful manner). If we pay any ISP to deliver a network into an area, we should have meaningful, measurable (via performance test at installation time) minimum and maximum performance requirements. IE, every line this ISP installs must be able to manage at minimum X Mbps, measurably. If everyone is using their line at once, any line should be able to manage at minimum Y Mbps, measurably. These are all testable things. We should always be defining these, in plain numbers, not “up to approximately ~15Mbps to 90% of subscribers during [undefined] peak hours” which is untestable and practically meaningless.

      If I was asked to sign a contract for a purchase at work with phrasing as woolly as the BDUK specifications, I’d refuse. BDUK should have, too.

  3. Given that “fibre broadband” includes twisted pair copper and also coax cable, I don’t give much chance to a consistent/correct agreed definition of “superfast”. Afterall, our wonderful marketing departments also had to have two versions of “unlimited”: “unlimited” and now “truly unlimited”!

    In any event, as old Albert used to say: “speed is relative” 🙂

  4. Avatar James Harrison says:

    To clarify – the BDUK guidance says 30Mbps is superfast for new projects. But this was 15Mbps under the old guidance, before it was revised to bring it into line with the EU definition. However the new guidance only applies to new projects, so for most (all the big BT ones, I think) BDUK projects the definition of a superfast network is still this beautifully ambiguous line that means almost nothing:

    must be designed in anticipation of providing at least ~15Mbps download speed to end-users for 90% of the time during peak times in the target intervention area

    The 30Mbps criteria was added and specifies that the network must be able to deliver speeds in excess of 30Mbps, and not just theoretically, you must be able to demonstrate this in a real-world example, though not at the actual built network. Again the wording is quite flexible.

    To illustrate how little BDUK actually seem to know about this technology, for our project (Northmoor Broadband) we had to include that line about 15Mbps speeds. Our minimum symmetrical speed, specified two lines above, was 10Mbps worst-case under contention for 100% of subscribers, and 100Mbps maximum information rate for 100% of subscribers, with upgrade capacity (real-world, demonstrable) without civil engineering works to 1Gbps/100Mbps max contention. Yet we still had to put that line in because otherwise the network would not be considered superfast!

  5. Avatar DTMark says:

    Imagine that it were possible, and maybe it is, to re-profile ADSL2+ just ever so slightly so that the maximum attainable line rate becomes 24.1Mbps.

    Bingo, an NGA network for almost everyone.

    It’s all in the detail.

    1. Avatar Pedrostech says:

      You share my cynicism Mark!

      Superfast Surrey’s website still has the superfast listed as 15mbps.

    2. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      No need to reprofile it, ADSL2+ goes over 24.0Mb already as standard.

  6. Avatar dragoneast says:

    I’m old enough to believe that you can’t beat accuracy. But do most people care, and by that I don’t mean the people who post (or even read) sites like this one? If it looks good enough, then they’re happy. Any why not? If it were otherwise the whole marketing industry would be out of business, and we’d all be broke. I’ve yet, by the way, to meet anyone in the IT industry who delivers what the customer actually wants. Like all of us, they rely on the customer being prepared to put up with what they get.

  7. Avatar Shane says:

    Superfast Leicestershire state 24mbps for the majority and they say all Leicestershire citizens to get at least 2mbps if they can’t get the 24mbps due to location. I wouldn’t call 2 superfast

  8. Avatar GNewton says:

    The Essex BDUK is one of the worst offenders when it comes to using misleading terminology. See for e.g. its page at http://www.superfastessex.org/forbusiness.aspx which talks about ‘fibre broadband’ when actually it’s just another type of twisted-pair copper service using VDSL.

    To continue this deception they refuse to publish adequate postcode details, e.g. no real information on what type of ‘fibre broadband’, at what speeds. We read a comment not too long ago that in some of its BDUK areas about £2400 per customer will be spent for a non-future-proof VDSL line.

    The BDUK is a farce and should be scrapped, using mis-leading terminologies has made it only worse.

    1. Avatar Shane says:

      It’s the case of putting people in charge of something they don’t understand or make an effort to understand….

  9. Avatar Raindrops says:

    The problem is not a new one. I remember when 256 and 512k came along and that was dubbed “High Speed” Internet. I even remember the same marketing ploys back when 56k dial up came along and a certain company (i better let it remain nameless) had wild claims of “x times faster than traditional dial up”.

    BS terminology is what happens when you have people that speak nothing but BS define the terminology.

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      512k was high speed compared with the alternative, dial up, to be fair. 10 times faster download speeds.

      Pretty standard at that time calling ADSL / cable high speed internet.

      It’s the fibre optic stuff that’s the mess. Far rather we’d stuck with HSI.

    2. Avatar Raindrops says:

      Ah but thats the thing, it was not just dial up you had to compare it to it was also ISDN. A 256k DSL connection was not “high speed” compared to an GOOD ISDN connection, especially in most businesses as you could bond ISDN pretty easily. (Many had 128k) Best case is it was around double the speed of a bonded ISDN setup, which is not much different to today and a good ADSL line which runs at 20Mb Vs a FTTC line running at its 38Mb.

      The BS terminology has always been there, i even remember crap software in dial up days which would claim to “double your internet speed” when in actual fact all it did was when it came to website images and similar download/display a crap low res. jpeg version rather than the full say bmp file.

      BS terms and BS promises especially from those listed in this story have always been there (for many of them listed not just the internet either).

    3. Avatar Raindrops says:

      PS also if 512k and later 1Mb was “high speed” What terminology would you had tagged NTL/Telewest with at the time? That was running at 2Mb at the same time as 512k and 1Mb was deemed “high speed”.

      Was NTL/Telewest 2Mb the “super fast” of the past? And 512k and 1Mb just plain old “high speed”? Like i said BS terminology. Anything to catch the eye and interest, normally of the stupid that blindly believe the claims.

  10. Avatar lisa says:

    @X66y well we not exactly lucky due to the fact this government are trying to get us like America. The next move will be to get rid of NHS and you will have to pay for treatment. So I agree with john and adslmax Rip off Britain. The uk is a shambles all they think of is Tax this and that.

  11. Avatar TomL says:

    These terminology battles will go on forever and the consumer will always be on the losing/being conned end. Look at the Ofcom/ASA ‘Unlimited’ guidelines that stood for nothing and have started the rise of ‘Truly Unlimited’ nonsense advertising. Plus the whole 4G/LTE con http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/24/wtf_is_4g/.

  12. Avatar four_eyes says:

    just as always a con the upto saying is basically a mis selling structure they cannot even get the estimated speeds right via the BT wholesale website its just a absolute s figure what doesn’t add up .

  13. Avatar Con Bradley says:

    How can 24 Meg be described as Superfast when speeds like 750Meg are being achieved with standard fibre technology.. Perhaps a better term might be slightly less slow, at least this would be a bit more honest.

  14. Avatar terri says:

    superfast is just a hype when BT have installed because when a isp says you will get whatever speed then they install the vdsl you get completely different figures and 24mb is not superfast yeah!!! when you can get 50mb 80mb 100mb and its just a con to the customer like the line rental.. so BT want to get there figures right and STOP mis-selling a product what is a con and they class it as superfast rip off Britain.. by OFCOM and BT

  15. Avatar Bill says:

    an old article now this, but the farce of “super fast” seems to go like this.

    BT will only usually connect people who get a 15 Mbps sync to FTTC

    So many local authorities set 15 Mbps as the requirement *shock*

    Gov set 24 Mbps , EU sets 30 Mbps .

    Reality is, the majority of customers in rural areas on FTTC will get under 30 Mbps sync speed, 24 Mbps similar.

    As for policing this. there seems to be no clause in the contract that requires the infrastructure provider to confirm all the properties will gain the 24/30 Mbps before they receive the money.

    There equally seems no mechanism to evidence the actual speeds received one the network is live.

    the short of this is, it is easy money, best of luck to any LA who tries to claw back BDUK money when the truth hits.

Comments are closed.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • NOW £22.00 (*32.00)
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • TalkTalk £22.00 (*29.95)
    Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Vodafone £22.00 (*25.00)
    Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £22.00
    Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: HYPERSPRING
  • Plusnet £22.99 (*36.52)
    Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £50 Reward Card
Large Availability | View All
Cheapest Ultrafast ISPs
  • Gigaclear £24.00 (*44.00)
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Offer Code: SPRUCE20
  • Vodafone £26.00 (*29.00)
    Speed: 100Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Virgin Media £28.00 (*44.00)
    Speed: 108Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Hyperoptic £29.00 (*35.00)
    Speed: 150Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: HYPERSPRING
  • TalkTalk £29.95 (*39.95)
    Speed: 145Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Large Availability | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. FTTP (3203)
  2. BT (2919)
  3. FTTC (1848)
  4. Building Digital UK (1847)
  5. Politics (1826)
  6. Openreach (1744)
  7. Business (1587)
  8. Mobile Broadband (1371)
  9. FTTH (1355)
  10. Statistics (1345)
  11. 4G (1181)
  12. Fibre Optic (1127)
  13. Wireless Internet (1106)
  14. Virgin Media (1099)
  15. Ofcom Regulation (1094)
  16. EE (784)
  17. Vodafone (775)
  18. TalkTalk (734)
  19. Sky Broadband (713)
  20. 5G (664)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact