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UK Moots Switching Off Copper Phone Networks and Fostering FTTP

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 (1:48 pm) - Score 2,109
telegraph pole and bt engineer

The Government has today launched a new Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy consultation document, which forms part of their effort to develop a long term strategy for helping to ensure that the United Kingdom has the “best connectivity” by 2025-2030 (phone, broadband, mobile etc.).

The consultation, which is focused on gathering evidence from the industry and follows the first announcement of their plans in February 2014 (here), starts off by reiterating the current infrastructure goals (e.g. 95% of the population to be within reach of fixed line superfast broadband and 4G services being rolled out to 98% of the population by 2017 etc.) and then begins to set out a series of questions; some of which are quite interesting.

The consultation does not prescribe a particular approach or set down any goals, although it does pose a number of questions that touch upon interesting scenarios and forward-looking trains of thought, which we’re not usually accustomed to seeing from Governments (most struggle to see beyond the length of their own term in office).

On the one hand it suggests that a modest growth in requirements, assuming that happens, would mean that the Government’s existing superfast broadband strategy will have “delivered a minimum of 24Mbps so that networks are likely to be able to meet the likely demand for consumers and small businesses“.

But on the other it also considers whether “switching off copper networks” is desirable from a commercial and a policy objective and also calls for respondents to consider whether the Universal Service Obligation (USO) needs to be extended to include broadband (currently broadband only comes with a 2Mbps for all “commitment“, which is not legally binding).

5.21 The future of copper networks

As the coverage and level of service available on non-copper networks increases the government is likely at some point to need to consider with operators and the regulator whether switching off copper networks is desirable from a commercial and a policy objective. This may need to take into account how best to encourage consumers to switch to non-copper based broadband services prior to this. The benefit of switching off copper networks is that this may further incentivise investment by operators to increase coverage of non-copper networks, and also act as a spur to replace last mile copper networks, or allow substitution with mobile or fixed wireless services. It should be noted that existing copper networks are privately owned assets.

The government would need to be sure that any switch off of copper networks would not leave any consumers without the availability of communications services, including access to the emergency services and also that any other critical systems (e.g. for monitoring and reporting on other utilities networks) could be migrated to non-copper networks. In addition, the setting of a date would need to be sufficiently far in the future that it would not act as a disincentive to current planned investments, and would minimise the cost of stranding any existing investments in the copper network, including where investment has been made in LLU exchanges.

Sadly it’s not entirely clear from the document whether or not the Government understands that BT’s dominant Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology is also reliant upon the existing copper telephone network (everything after the cabinet is still done using VDSL over the old copper line to your home).

Never the less it’s quite normal for older services to be retired as new ones surface (e.g. older 20CN based ADSL products have tended to be replaced in areas where 21CN based ADSL2+ / WBC lines are available), which usually helps to save money and hopefully make the network work more efficiently. Similarly we can easily envisage ADSL2+ lines one day being replaced by FTTC as standard, which would make any debate about uptake somewhat moot.

On the other hand completely switching off copper, which given current developments still seems likely to be a very long way off (well it is a strategy for 2025/30), may one day become a plausible approach. The government has also considered the need to move everybody on to a true fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) network.

5.24 Future investment needs at a micro level should be determined by the market place and, where appropriate, encouraged at a macro level by Government, and supported and facilitated by a suitable regulatory regime under an independent regulator.

The future investment challenge for the UK includes how to deliver, for example:

• Infrastructure that provides for the speed, coverage, capacity, resilience and quality of service that users will demand;

• Moving from the current largely FTTC based infrastructure to the majority of buildings having an access to an internet connection offering FTTP like speeds;

• Greater symmetry in broadband connections to meet the evolving delivery of services across the internet, particularly cloud technology;

• Ubiquitous mobile coverage offering fibre-like speeds and resilience, delivered through 4G and 5G wireless infrastructure, which may require the densification of mobile networks supported by backhaul capacity; and

• Underpinning the areas set out in the Government’s Information Economy strategy.

The consultation is expected to run for an 8 week period and, given that the Government will use this to develop their strategy, they won’t be publishing a separate response. A final report is then expected during December 2014, which should come just in time for the 2015 General Election to help fuel the campaign trail with big promises and precious little detail on how they’ll be accomplished. But perhaps we’re being too pessimistic, although politics tends to have that effect.

In any case we’re pleased to see some difficult questions being asked, although it remains to be seen how they’ll end up being answered.

Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy consultation
https://www.gov.uk/../file/341450/DCIS_consultation.pdf

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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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42 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve Jones

    Of course there are two copper networks. There’s the twisted pair phone network and the VM co-ax network. Are they both to be “in scope”, especially as (for consumer purposes at least), the VM network would, with some upgrades, meet consumer requirements for the forseeable future.

    In any event, this is a debate that needs to be had as there is zero chance in the current regulatory environment of copper being withdrawn as it’s impossible to make a financial case for a complete swap-out (rather than cherry-picking promising candidates).

    Any forced swap-out of copper with fibre would involve dealing with a mass of conflicting private interests heavily invested in the current setup. If anybody wants to see what can happen, then read up on the history of Australia’s “National Broadband Network”, where the initial aim was to swap-out the twisted pair network with a fibre one (note that this was not full 100% coverage). The fibre network was to be operated (and, ultimately commercially viable) on wholesale only services using an effective monopoly. The budget spiralled way out of control and timescales slipped. The Strategic review (admittedly it’s politically controversial) saw funding requirements reaching $73bn (Australian).

    http://www.nbnco.com.au/content/dam/nbnco/documents/NBN-Co-Strategic-Review-Report.pdf

    Dealing with the competing private interests (all, incidentally, protected to one extent or another by EU laws) using some form of mandated national solution is going to be enormously complex and expensive. The imposition of a USC would be another issue. Historically such things have been imposed on organisations and companies with effective monopolies so that cross-subsidies can be use. Witness the Royal Mail, PSTN network, electricity distribution, water supplies etc. However, broadband is nothing like a national monopoly, so the scope for cross-subsidisation is very limited.

    I wonder if any government would have the political will to carry through the massive change of regulatory environment that would be required and either find huge post of public money (to buy out private interests and invest) or apply extremely unpopular levies on existing services to fund the investment (and deal with legitimate private interests).

  2. Avatar Raindrops

    Load of old waffle including the first lengthy reply from a paniced BT fan, the only relevant part is…
    “A final report is then expected during December 2014, which should come just in time for the 2015 General Election to help fuel the campaign trail with big promises and precious little detail on how they’ll be accomplished.”

    Or very short version “More government spin for the stupid”

  3. Avatar DTMark

    Good to see some forward-thinking at last.

    This calls into question the entire BDUK scheme and the following points:

    1. If the taxpayer is not to endlessly bear the cost of building infrastructure, then a market for that infrastructure will need to exist with private investment paying for the build out. Broadband should be a growth industry rather than something that needs “propping up”. Competition drives improvements. The approach BDUK took has severely damaged this opportunity.

    2. Moving to fibre from copper is not an “upgrade”. By way of an example, just because there may now be fibre to a cabinet in the vicinity of properties, does not mean that this was any kind of “stepping stone” towards the future. The same issue – the dig/build cost – remains. The location of telephone cabinets does not necessarily have anything to do with the most cost effective means of building a FTTP network when those cabinets are in private monopoly hands. Back to point 1 – BT has run rings around the government with the BDUK scheme and will naturally do so when it comes to FTTP from a strengthened position. The approach BDUK took has severely damaged this opportunity.

    3. If any taxpayer funding is needed – as I’ve always argued, for ducting, then that ducting must be available to all potential players on equal terms in order to drive competition and maximise consumer choice. Competition at a retail level does nothing whatsoever to drive this infrastructure. The infra provider cannot itself be a retail player.

    4. The government cannot expect entrepreneurs to dive in and invest when the government itself is the barrier to investment – fibre taxes, 4G frequency licences and road digging charges by LAs spring to mind here. This needs joined-up thinking of a type that simply does not exist at present.

    5. To avoid another Digital Region fiasco, it will be essential to break away the integration part of Openreach which provides services to ISPs over the network from BT so that all providers can provide over whatever the end network is. This part cannot be avoided. Is the government ready to do this?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      There is already mandated access to the duct/pole infrastructure under the PIA system. The problem is that the costs of deploying and supporting large amounts of equipment in the field are simply prohibitive. Putting equipment into exchanges is one thing, but multiple companies running their own fibre down shared infrastructure, or putting in thousands of cabinets in competition, is something else again.

      At a certain point, it becomes uneconomic to put competition deeper and deeper into the network (which was one of Ofcom’s stated aims when it was setup). You just end up with duplicated expense and local monopolies.

      This has even hit mobile where mast and other infrastructure is now mandated in some areas to keep costs down.

      As for monopolies, where these inevitably arise due to economics, the ownership is irrelevant. It’s the regulations that matter. History shows us that state monopolies can, and often are, just as bad as private ones. Indeed, the state run telephone network in this country was a perfect example of high costs, low investment and poor responsiveness.

      In any event, all those assets out there belong to private interests at the moment and, short of the state confiscating them, it’s rather difficult to see how your model will work. I suppose you could try separating the people than run and own the FTTC cabinets from the bit that looks after the ducts, but that won’t achieve competition. You will, at best, have local monopolies if split along geographic lines.

      Incidentally, you leave out one very real piece of competition, and that’s the VM network which covers more than 50% of the country’s households and puts a price lid on FTTC (given that there’s an Ofcom mandated flat wholesale pricing model across the entire country).

    • Avatar DTMark

      “There is already mandated access to the duct/pole infrastructure under the PIA system.”

      PIA is a non-starter. The pricing of BT’s “fibre on demand” would seem to indicate that even BT have little confidence in the quality and fitness for use of much of the network given how old it is and how long it is since anyone went anywhere near the D-sides. What is needed is usable ducting to deploy multiple networks.

      “At a certain point, it becomes uneconomic to put competition deeper and deeper into the network (which was one of Ofcom’s stated aims when it was setup). You just end up with duplicated expense and local monopolies.”

      This bit doesn’t make sense. If there is more than one infra player, there is not a local monopoly. Duplicated infra to premises is a Good Thing. After all the State doesn’t say to Tesco “you can’t build a supermarket here, because there is already a Sainsbury’s, so peoples food needs are already catered for”. Indeed this is the essence of competition which drives improvements. Is the duplicated expense of building two supermarkets bad for the consumer? No.

      The big cost is the ducting cost not the fibre. The ducting cost can be shared, the fibre, separate, private, per provider.

      “the ownership is irrelevant. It’s the regulations that matter”

      Disagree strongly. BT have and will continue to sit on their hands exploiting a monopoly waiting for the next taxpayer bung, operating a model of fleecing businesses for basic connectivity because they’re not allowed to fleece the residential consumer in the same way. Regulation can never trump competition as a means to improvements.

      “Incidentally, you leave out one very real piece of competition, and that’s the VM network which covers more than 50% of the country’s households and puts a price lid on FTTC”

      Infra competition is the key to all of this. As you rightly say, and much to BT’s chagrin, people aren’t jumping to pay for a new line installation and VDSL setup costs when they already have VM, yet find it hard to bring the prices down precisely because they are coming to the party so very late and starting from such a backward position having milked their ancient old phone network for so very long.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Your analysis is at considerable odds with what the Broadband Stakeholders

      Running fibre into existing ducting is far from an insignificant cost. To make it work it requires a subducting system. Every operator has to keep their own detailed physical fibre connection mapping, multiple engineers have to do down holes and into cabinets to connect splice their own cables (or go to dedicated cabinets – even more expensive). Of course it’s possible to delegate the work to service companies (maintaining a national field force is incredibly expensive), who then have to deal with multiple systems. In all, it’s a lot of extra complexity, much to go wrong and requires a whole new charging, management and configuration regime.

      There’s also the underlying assumption that the ducting that is in place is generally suitable for sharing. That’s far from the case. Analysys Mason looked at this, and there were a lot of caveats over the suitability of much of the ducting (they even considered reuse of VM ducting). Indeed, much of the wiring near houses is of the “direct buried type” (as it is where I live), and where such ducting exists it is often full with cable (not to mention collapses and obstructions).

      Infrastructure competition works in some areas – such as business provision and, maybe, highly concentrated areas where the economics might just work, but it won’t not nationally. Indeed, we have infrastructure competition where it makes financial sense. In VM areas, in major business areas. It simply doesn’t work in more sparsely populated areas.

      The Broadband Stakeholders produced by Analysys Mason looked at this area and, in that they though infrastructure competition might work, their summary was that it would only be viable in the most economically advantageous places. Which, of course, is a recipe for “cherry picking” and inevitably leads to patchy delivery. Indeed the Australian NBN project included anti cherry-picking rules for alternative networks as it was recognised that if a financially self-sustaining network was to be put into place with widespread geographic coverage, it would require a degree of cross-subsidisation, which “cherry picking” prevents.

      What this would mean, is that coverage will be very patchy with wildly different pricing reflecting the underlying economics in each area.

      In any event, you still fail to deal with the issue of the legitimate interests of the private shareholders who currently own these assets (as they were either bought from the government of the day, or have been extended since).

      http://www.analysysmason.com/PageFiles/5766/Analysys-Mason-final-report-for-BSG-%28Sept2008%29.pdf

    • Avatar FibreFred

      How can fttc not be a stepping stone ? Fibre is a lot closer in a lot of cases so there’s less to do

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      As the report produced for the BSG points out, bringing fibre further into the network in the form of FTTC (and GPON-capable) cabinets is a step, but a relatively modest one. The estimate is that approaching 80% of the cost of getting fibre to the premises is in that last link from the cabinet to the property.

      Note, it’s even more expensive done using the ad-hoc FTTPoD approach. A full “swap-out” would at least be more efficient by doing all the properties at the same time. However, that’s only going to happen through legislative changes as nobody (not even Ofcom) has the power to mandate such a change on a national level. (A full FFTP swap-out trial was authorised where there is no LLU presence and the commercial and legal issues are much simpler).

    • Avatar DTMark

      I’m not making assumptions about the ducting to the home or premises – this would need to be all-new in many locations.

      This is the chasm that needs to be jumped to put in place some form of future-proof network if we make the reasonable assumption from where we are now, that it is not going to be 5G or indeed a wireless option.

      This is why FTTC is no “stepping stone” nor does it get us any nearer, it’s a solution which provides either no solution, a short term or possibly a medium term solution – cherry picking by virtue of the inherent flaws of DSL technology and the ancient phone network.

      It does not provide the means for any significant private funding, relying heavily on the taxpayer and simply paves the way for more of the same in perpetuity.

      So far as shareholders are concerned, each company would have to consider the business case and whether to be involved in building a network for the future, like any other business – can they compete, what are their USPs – same as any business.

      As regards coverage, it is truly farcical that BT is being given public money to transform an ancient phone network into some semblance of a broadband one in – often – built up areas. Given the right framework, indeed as we have seen, other players like Sky and Talk Talk will invest. They will not, of course, hand money to the BT Group to build them a network to lease back to them. The taxpayer seems to have been shafted with that.

      It does mean however that in sparsely populated areas, fewer choices would be available. Whereas a town centre might currently have a choice of a duopoly expanding to maybe five infra players and gaining genuine choice, those in the “middle of nowhere” would probably have to put up with more limited infra choices. This is perfectly reasonable. “The reason it takes the ambulance half an hour to get to you, is because you live half an hour from the hospital”.

  4. Avatar adslmax

    Government, BT are useless and clueless! Copper isn’t future proof!

  5. Avatar hamish

    Another Ass first government approach with there so called fibre optic tripe

  6. This statement shows how misguided the government is:

    5.21 The future of copper networks

    As the coverage and level of service available on non-copper networks increases the government is likely at some point to need to consider with operators and the regulator whether switching off copper networks is desirable from a commercial and a policy objective. ”
    There are hardly any ‘non-copper’ networks apart from a few altnets, fttc is a superfarce and it is all copper to the home, with no upgrade path as the fttc cabs only connect to old copper, and aren’t big enough or good enough to feed that number of fibred homes. It is all totally bonkers. Millions are being left in the slow lane yet statisically are ‘superfast’. And the government falls for it every time, aided and abetted by ‘consultants’ from the BSG and AM and a feckless regulator in OFCOM and the toothless ASA. The few altnets who soldier on should be aided to expand, to provide the much needed choice and competition that is so sadly lacking in the UK. Propping up an obsolete incumbent is not the answer. We will become a third world nation in the digital revolution. Even cities would still be on dial up but for Virgin providing competition.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      What is your proposal?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      The question to be answered is an economic one, and not some chasing of speed for the sake of it. There’s an important cost/benefit issue. Simply spending tens of billions just because it sounds right is not an argument. What needs to be answered is what the economic benefit would be or would that investment be better spent elsewhere.

      If achievement of these high speeds can only be achieved by public subsidy or by forcing high costs to pay for these costs, it won’t obviously benefit the country but it could very easily become a personal drain.

      As it happens, the UK has firmly gone down the low cost route. That might still be right.

      As the Australian NBN shows, it’s very easy to get wrapped up with some grandiose plan that becomes vastly expensive with costs completely out of step with economic benefit.

    • Avatar GNewton

      TheFacts: Here we go again, stupid question, nothing to contribute to this discussion. Have you finally learnt about the difference between a longterm investment, without burdening the taxpayer, and the BDUK farce?

    • Avatar GNewton

      “As the Australian NBN shows, it’s very easy to get wrapped up with some grandiose plan that becomes vastly expensive with costs completely out of step with economic benefit.”

      How exactly was it out of step, compared to the current Abbot NBN vision (FTTN), in terms of the final costs for FTTP?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Where can we find details of a long term business proposal for 100% 1G access without any government funding?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I keep asking gnewton for his investors and I never get a reply

    • Avatar DTMark

      “BT is a telephone company. If people want more from it, well, the taxpayer will just have to buy it a network. We have pensions to pay, you know, and everyone has a duty to pay them”

      😉

      A quick search reveals my post from over a year ago now..

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/06/uk-government-told-to-spend-5-5bn-from-hs2-on-fibre-broadband-instead.html

      There was probably another similar one a year before that, and the year before that..

    • Avatar Raindrops

      “Where can we find details of a long term business proposal for 100% 1G access without any government funding?”

      If it were available BT would deem it commercially sensative like their current crap rollout and where it reaches.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @Raindrops: “If it were available BT would deem it commercially sensative like their current crap rollout and where it reaches.”

      Quite a few users here don’t understand the difference between long-term investment and the BDUK gap funding farce. There has yet to be a cost-benefits analysis to be done. I am sure someone will dig up ‘The UK Broadband Impact Study’ fairytale story for us again in the defence of the BDUK waste.

      And yes, quite often you can’t even get the specific funding cost details for cabinets in certain geographic areas from local council BDUK projects because they tend to hide them under so-called commercial confidentiality clauses. Both Norfolk and Essex counties have been quite wasteful with the taxpayer money spent on cabinets.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      I understand long term investment it’s not hard. I am asking who the investors are and ive asked countless times and you’ve yet to give an answer

      I could tell you I plan to regenerate some classic but now run down seaside resorts with long term investment sounds great but totally meaningless without actual investors

      So who are they ?

      (Silence expected )

    • Avatar FibreFred

      …. and silence is what we get. Proving your “plan” is simply a joke

  7. The cost to our business of an email or online transaction is virtually nill as more processes become automated. The cost of generating a piece of printed paper, putting in envelope, addressing, stamping, posting, delivering etc is enormous in comparison. The savings government would make on that alone would almost pay for fibre to the home, and that isn’t counting the savings in remote healthcare, education etc. etc.
    Don’t ask what it would cost us to do it, ask what it’s going to cost us not to do it, with millions still unable to get a fit for purpose connection. Until connectivity is ubiquitous many prefer to remain analogue. Digital has to be easy. We could do it, once we stop believing infinity is the answer, because it isn’t. A mulitimillion pound marketing lobby doesn’t make it into fire, its still plain old copper, often corroded and neglected and cannot deliver the quality of service required to make it a pleasure to use. It’s still a faff, with timeouts and days without a connection in many areas, not all rural ones either. Yes, our internet is cheap, but that’s only because we’re forcing an old phone network to deliver it. This can’t go on or we’ll be left behind in the digital dark ages.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      You don’t need FTTP for the functions you describe. Nothing you describe needs gigabit capable, or even 100mbit capable networks. Even 4K video doesn’t need anything like that bandwidth.

      Solutions will be required to provide decent functional speed for more remote locations, but (whatever the technology) it requires subsidy; either public, or cross-subsidy. It simply isn’t self-sustaining. Such solutions might, or might not. use FTTP, but gigabit speeds are surely not a requirement.

      For there to be economic benefit for gigabit capable networks, you need to find a use for that much bandwidth. Holding all your data remotely? Remote backup? Maybe, but remote storage can never be as responsive as local due to the fundamental limits of the speed of light. In any event, the economic activity generated must be able to fund the high costs or it’s simply an economic waste.

      Of course there are always some businesses with very high bandwidth requirements, but like all businesses with special requirements, they will move to where the relevant resources can be provided in the most cost effective manner. Aluminium smelters are build near hydro schemes. Warehouse hubs are built near motorway and rail networks. Communications are just the same – data centres, banks, media distribution and so on will go where communications are cheap.

    • Avatar DTMark

      That’s something of a straw-man argument. Gigabit speed potential is a factor of the future-proofed nature of fibre-optic networks. Virgin’s network is also gigabit capable without digging to premises. So far as DSL technology is concerned there is nothing “in between” – nothing sensible anyway. The idea that every street pole is going to gain Remote node technology is pure fantasy.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Who are these people that ‘prefer to remain anologue’?

      Are there timeouts with FTTC and not FTTP?

    • Avatar Raindrops

      “You don’t need FTTP for the functions you describe. Nothing you describe needs gigabit capable, or even 100mbit capable networks. Even 4K video doesn’t need anything like that bandwidth.”

      Nonsense poop like most of what you have posted. Just 2 netflix streams can need 100Mb (i assume you meant Megabits). If you believe BTs crap marketting also they are blabbering on their “fibre” adverts about some silly cow being able to shop and do multiple streaming at the same time…… Obviously a lie and clueless like you.

    • Avatar DTMark

      .. once again..

      Attack the topic, not the person.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts:

      “Who are these people that ‘prefer to remain anologue’? Are there timeouts with FTTC and not FTTP?”

      How about doing your own homework! How is your research under the Freedom of Information Act going?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      No, can’t find about people remaining ‘analogue’.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @CD
      Quote “The cost to our business of an email or online transaction is virtually nill as more processes become automated.” But it isn’t the case that the cost of providing your business with this facility is virtually nil.

      Your business does not need FTTP to send emails or conduct online transactions, so it would be a real waste to spend public or private money on a vastly over specified infrastructure for this. Why not use satellite as it is more than capable of supporting these applications?

      Your continuing promotion of a “one size fits all” FTTP network without any indication of how the £25bn or so required to build it will be found really undermines your argument. You may have seen my proposal, which is to divert a few £bn per year of the Common Agricultural Policy funds and use it to build a worthwhile asset, rather than wasting it subsidising the operating costs of inefficient UK farmers.

  8. Avatar Steve Jones

    @Raindrops

    Netflix actually recommend a minimum of 20mbps for 4K (so it would appear 40mbps is adequate for two streams). In any event, I’d question whether 4K is essential for either economic reasons or whether it really makes much difference in a typical UK household. The reason is quite simple – human visual acuity and how far we sit from out TV sets. At 6 feet away (close by UK standards) you need a 47″ screen to perceive any distance. At a more typical 8 feet, it’s about 63″. To make a really visible difference, not one just perceivable, then add 30% or more to those figures.

    So 4K might be a nice to have, but I can’t see an economic justification for making it universally available. It’s hardly

    The fact is that (at a minimum) it would take at least £20bn to perform a national fibre rollout (and that’s assuming it’s done using GPON from cabs). It simply isn’t going to find finance unless there’s a prospect of a return. In practice the obstacles are much worse as they include all sorts of regulatory and legal issues regarding those companies (VM, BT, LLU operators, altnets and business fibnre providers) who will be impacted.

    It’s not that fibre isn’t desireable. It’s just whether you can get 95% or the gains for 20% of the investment.

  9. Avatar Col

    A techie question,

    Can the same fibre cable feeding your nearest FTTC cab also be used to supply FTTdp for homes with a longer distance +1KM from the cab.

    • Avatar Walter G M Willcox

      @ Col,

      Now that would be a real forward-thinking sustainable idea and is exactly what was detailed in our Ewhurst procurement specification BEFORE BT destroyed our SEEDA Grant-approved project. Search for history on our Ewhurst Broadband web site if you would like more detail.

      Sadly BT only provide spare fibres as far as their aggregation points (i.e. distribution nodes). From that point on quad or 7 * 7 mm tubes are fed – two to each FTTC. Each tube can carry a 4 fibre bundle all of which are terminated in a tiny fibre termination box and all are reserved for the appropriate processor boards. Frequently on Huawei 128 or ECI 256 cabinets only four fibres are installed initially.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Walter
      Thankfully the residents of Ewhurst were saved from your publicly funded scheme when BT invested commercially, otherwise they would probably be the southern equivalent of the Digital Region fiasco, saddled with an overly expensive network made from now obsolete equipment.

  10. Avatar Raindrops

    “Netflix actually recommend a minimum of 20mbps for 4K”

    No they do not they recommend 25Mb or higher…

    https://help.netflix.com/en/node/13444
    https://help.netflix.com/en/node/87
    https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306

    The streams are variable bitrate and scales from 25Mbps all the way up to around 60Mb.

    If a scene that require more bandwidth than your connection is capable of occurs and you have your settings set to high as recommend in that second link it will then scale back down to regular HD which only uses 5-7Mbps.

    The opening credits in house of cards peak at almost 25Mb (certainly more than the 20Mb you mention), a scene in an episode of Breaking Bad which involves a certain character (i wont mention names in case it spoils things) who meets a nasty ending in a lift peaks at 52Mbps That in case you can not add up would mean less than 2 streams capable of FULL 4K.

    If you have less than those speeds the stream quality will drop back to HD whether you have your settings in Netflix set to “High” or “Auto”.

    Netflix also have example files to measure what setting and bandwidth is being used if you have a Netflix account all you need do is search “Example” and “Test”.

    What you think of 4K is irrelevant, the same as what people thought about HD, your thoughts thankfully do not stop progress. BT on the other hand do.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Raindrops
      Whether you need 20Mbps or 25Mbps+ to watch 4K Netflix content is largely irrelevant. You can’t seriously be suggesting that £25bn or so is spent so that some of us can watch multiple 4K streams? Surely there are rather more important uses for such an investment?

      Let’s be sensible about this. You can download 4K content to watch at your leisure, so streaming is not essential, let alone multiple simultaneous streams – how many households have multiple 65 inch+ 4K screens anyway? And looking ahead, what makes you think codecs won’t continue to improve, meaning less bandwidth is needed per stream?

      So let’s not propose spending £25bn of our collective money to feed the short-term viewing preferences of a small minority. If you really must have this bandwidth to indulge your viewing preferences then please use your own money to provide it and don’t look to others to do so, there is a price to pay to be an early adopter.

    • Avatar Raindrops

      “Whether you need 20Mbps or 25Mbps+ to watch 4K Netflix content is largely irrelevant.”

      No it is not thats what streaming will be in the future.

      ” You can’t seriously be suggesting that £25bn or so is spent so that some of us can watch multiple 4K streams?”

      I suggested no such thing, i simply pointed out 100Mb is not enough for multiple streams as another user posted. As to your 25bn, thats nothing more than BT blah blah figures with no proof.

      “You can download 4K content to watch at your leisure, so streaming is not essential, let alone multiple simultaneous streams”

      WHERE can you download 4K movies at your leisure…… Complete crap again

      “how many households have multiple 65 inch+ 4K screens anyway?”

      Why has it got to be 65inches, they do them 32inch and up now. Please keep up with tech if you are gonna comment on it.

      “And looking ahead, what makes you think codecs won’t continue to improve, meaning less bandwidth is needed per stream?”

      They never did for MPEG2 or MPEG4, bitrate required to ratio of quality has always remained the same for those. H.265 is no different.

      “So let’s not propose spending £25bn of our collective money to feed the short-term viewing preferences of a small minority.”

      Yeah like 1080p was short term im sure 4K will only be short term….. Oh no hang on you are stupid and ignore the future. I almost forgot.

      “If you really must have this bandwidth to indulge your viewing preferences then please use your own money to provide it and don’t look to others to do so, there is a price to pay to be an early adopter.”

      No idea what you mean Virgin have done 152Mb for a while, that truely can do multi 50Mb streams. Its just BT is crap and cant do 2 50Mb streams at once with FTTC. I clearly explained that to you.

  11. Avatar New_Londoner

    @Raindrops
    Where to start?

    Quote “As to your 25bn, thats nothing more than BT blah blah figures with no proof.”
    Actually I’ve seen £25bn mentioned by the Broadband Stakeholder Group, Analysis Mason and others. I wasn’t aware BT had mentioned £25bn as the cost to deploy FTTP nationally, any sources?

    Quote “They do them 32 inch and up now”
    I know that, we’re you aware you really need the larger screen for your eye to be able discern the difference at any distance, so anyone paying a premium for a small 4K screen is really wasting their money? Or do you sit a few inches from the screen to view content?

    Quote “H.265 is no different”
    So you don’t foresee any codec developments for 8K that will benefit 4k too?

    Quote “like 1080p was short term”
    You forgot to mention 3D, or that 4K’s replacement (8k) is already in prototype, will probably be available by around 2020, so the life of 4K as a high end technology is quite limited.

    Quote “Virgin …. can do multi 50Mb [sic] streams”
    Agreed, as can various other providers, although as you know, with Virgin performance can be a lottery if your cable segment is affected by congestion. I’ve no problem if you want to pay for an appropriate service, just don’t want you looking to the taxpayer to subsidise your personal viewing preferences.

    • Avatar Raindrops

      The 25bn figure whereever you saw it is based on a figure produced (or rather vomited up) by BT. If it is not seeing as you are the one that brought up the 25bn figure please point to a source where this figure has been independently verified.

      “I know that, we’re you aware you really need the larger screen for your eye to be able discern the difference at any distance, so anyone paying a premium for a small 4K screen is really wasting their money? Or do you sit a few inches from the screen to view content?”

      Dunno what you are on about again eh….
      A 4K screen even that of 32inches will look better than a HD 1080p screen at 32 inches. 4K and H.265 codec that it uses have a greater colour depth. It is not just about amount of pixels anymore. 4K has richer colour, so unless you are colour blind yes you will see a difference on even a 32inch screen.

      “So you don’t foresee any codec developments for 8K that will benefit 4k too?”

      NO because H.265 specification basically does not allow for anything more than what it is currently capable of, again the same as MPEG4 was entirely new from MPEG2 and no benefit in MPEG4 filtered down to MPEG2.
      8K will use a new codec for higher chroma subsampling of pixels than what H.265 can do or anything before it could do. The only thing that H.265 can do is encode at a resolution of 8K which is nothing as you can do that with any codec just wont have the quality though. (chroma subsampling and bit depth above 4K as its a max of 4:4:4 would be lost). This is no doubt far too complicated for you to comprehend, regardless.

      “You forgot to mention 3D, or that 4K’s replacement (8k) is already in prototype, will probably be available by around 2020, so the life of 4K as a high end technology is quite limited.”

      LMAO 3D was never intended to be a long term solution, unless you seriously thought we would all be running around like loons not only watching everything on TV in 3D but having 3D smartphones laptops and tablets walking down the street bumping into lampposts as you skype uncle fred in 1080p 3D.

      It was aimed at enthusiasts who also deemed it to be crap. Thats why that never took off.

      Oh and as for 4K….. Thats been here a looong looong time if you want to be finicky. Things like Technicolor and others were capable of capturing at that resolution and well beyond years and years ago. Its just we never had a screen for our homes for all its detail and (film grain) until now.

      The first 4K “DIGITAL” (if digital is what you mean) for filming of cinema was released way back in 2003 (go google Dalsa Origin if you do not believe that).

      I think you will find that was when HD 1080 was getting popular so you could argue it was 1080P whos time was numbered NOT 4k.

      Even if you argument is correct, new tech comes along every 7-10 ish years so no doubt when 8K is here they will also be working on something else……. Something that would not happen if people like you were in charge that seem to dislike innovation or even comprehend it.

      Virgin and congestion…… SORRY NO go look at the latest ofcom report they did better than BT FTTC this time around…… OUCH that must hurt you.
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/04/average-uk-home-broadband-isp-speeds-climb-18mbps-reports-ofcom.html

      Highest Virgin latency on the chart is about 16ms, highest BT FTTC latency on the 38Mb service is about 22ms and for the 80Mb about 18ms. It also varied a FAR greater amount than Virgins did throughout the day.

      Shame but good job trying to get in there like a worm again and defend BT and attempt to still peddle the Virgin congested MYTH.

  12. Avatar Andy

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Less waffle more action.

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