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North Yorkshire’s UK BT Fibre Broadband and FTTrN Rollout Suffers Delay

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 (2:53 pm) - Score 2,500
yorkshire uk county map

The Superfast North Yorkshire project in England, which was supposed to be rolling out BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 90% of local premises by the end of October 2014 and possibly reaching 100% by the end of 2017, is apparently running “13 weeks behind schedule” and BT’s plan to deploy its new Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology in the county may also have to wait another year.

According to the latest council meeting, under Phase One BT were contracted to enable, by the end of October 2014, the availability of “improved broadband” to at least 171,000 premises of which 149,944 must have access to superfast speeds (25Mbps+). But to date the total premises passed is actually 151,499 and only 130,199 of those can receive speeds of 25Mbps+.

Council Update – 18th Nov 2014

BT therefore submitted a formal Notice of Change request that will see 98% (146,292) of premises now completed by the end of 2014 with the remaining 2% (3,652) to be completed by 31 March 2015. The final 2% are represented by Exchange Only (EO) cabinets that present BT with considerable operational and technical difficulties.

The difficulties faced by BT in North Yorkshire are not unique – BT are experiencing similar issues across the UK. The principal reasons are difficulty in finding civils contractor resource and lack of retained expertise in copper rearrangement required for EO cabinet builds. This is a particular issue for North Yorkshire as SFNY is an early adopter of EO cabinets that require considerable expertise to do the ‘in life copper rearrangement’.

Contractually, this failure to achieve Milestone 9 by the defined date constitutes a default by BT. However, at this stage of the Phase 1 contract (and with Phase 2 already contracted), the SFNY Advisory Board (and NYnet 100 Board) do not consider it to be in the best interests of SFNY to pursue this matter through legal channels therefore leverage has been brought to bear. As a result of applying leverage BT has reversed a decision to withdraw three cabinets (serving approximately 750 premises) from their commercial programme and these will now be ‘ready for service’ by March 2015.

The meeting notes also give us an update on BT’s much publicised plan to trial their new Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology in the county (one of several across the United Kingdom), which will work in a similar way to the operators ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solution. We’ve detailed this more HERE and HERE.

Except that instead of taking the fibre optic cable to your local street cabinet, FTTrN will run the fibre all the way up to smaller and lower power remote nodes (e.g. similar to the ECI Hi-Focus MiniCAB 64V perhaps), which can be positioned on nearby telegraph poles, inside manholes / NGA aggregation nodes or at a variety of other locations.

fttrn network diagram v1 ispreview edited

At the latest update in August 2014 we reported that local planning for the trial showed how there would be circa 20 premises served somewhere in the district of Richmondshire (Leyburn). The new meeting notes reveal that the community of Ulshaw has been selected for this and the related telegraph pole based node will serve up to 16 premises.

Apparently the first customers will go live by December 2014, although BTOpenreach are said to face a “challenge … in terms of training engineers and ensuring continuity of power supply“. Under the Phase Two contract, BT were also obliged to submit a revised Phase 2 proposal on 30th September 2014 that demonstrated the uplift from 10,500 premises that FTTRN could offer, within the approved £8m funding envelope. But there’s been a big delay.

Council FTTrN Update – 18th Nov 2014

BT have now informed SFNY that the wide scale deployment of FTTRN will be delayed by up to a year. The key issue is the cost of power. The trial at Ulshaw uses a 1:1 power supply to a node that serves 16 premises. This is the same power supply that would serve a cabinet with 200 premises or more. Therefore the cost per premise of FTTRN carries a significant ‘levy’ for power compared to a Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) solution. The solution for BT is to find a way of aggregating multiple FTTRN nodes to a single power supply. Until this technical problem is solved, BT are not able to offer an ‘uplift’ to the Phase 2 premises number using FTTRN.

The county council states “there is still every possibility that BT will be able to get FTTRN operational at a cost/premise that sits between FTTC and FTTP. If so there could still be time to ‘swap’ FTTRN into Phase 2 (to replace more expensive FTTP) as well as any subsequent phases“.

Otherwise BT are said to be “progressing well” with their planning work for the physical rollout of Phase 2, which is scheduled to start in January 2015 and be completed by December 2016. At the end of Phase 2, there will still be an estimated 41,500 premises that can’t get superfast (25Mbps+) speeds (12,000 of those will be premises attached to cabinets that have already been fibred but the premises concerned are beyond the critical distance of 1.2kms [hard to get a useful FTTC performance]). Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting the update.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    Interesting, so FTTRN isn’t using reverse power from a customer premise then

    • Avatar MikeW

      It certainly doesn’t look like it.

      The desired future solution of “aggregating FTTrn nodes to a single power supply” doesn’t sound like it either; whether it means something forward-fed over multiple copper pairs is open for debate though.

  2. Avatar DTMark

    http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/media/29861/Exec—additional-item-5/pdf/ITEM_5_Superfast_North_Yorkshire_exc_Annex_to_Appendix_2.pdf

    The report is an absolute corker. Some highlights..

    4.3 None of the above removes the contractual obligation on BT to provide a minimum of 2mbps to all properties

    OK, great. So it’s in the contract.

    6.2 Although apparent at local level for some time the question of the 5-10% properties remaining without access to superfast is an emerging issue at national level.

    Why is it an emerging issue? Did the properties move en-masse by miles since the inception of the project?

    8.7 There is no doubt wireless/satellite  can currently provide a service although not to the same ‘standard’ as that provided by BT/Virgin fibre

    Absolutely hilarious. Then..

    8.7 They may therefore become the practical alternative for those premises that will fall into the 5-10% and be unlikely to get fibre backed broadband in any reasonable timescale.

    BT is already contracted to supply the USC to everyone, as above. No need for alternate solutions.

    9.2 100% of superfast is unlikely- hence recent discussions in the SFNY Advisory Board around the concept of reaching a 95/5% situation. Thus 95% superfast (ie >25mbps) using fibre might be achieved with the remaining 5% having access to a High Quality alternative (ie >2mbps <25mbps)

    BT is already committed and contracted to supply that. As above.

    9.3 resolution of the Universal Service Commitment obligation

    It's already resolved. See above.

    Appendix

    14 This paragraph is NOT FOR PUBLICATION- see Annex to this Appendix.

    I wonder what that said.

    • Avatar MikeW

      On items 8.7 and 9.2: Discussion on these items is about providing superfast speeds (or even HQ speeds) to the final 5-10% in a future phase 3. Within that context, the fact that BT’s existing contract requires them to supply a 2Mbps USC to the same places is totally irrelevant.

      On item 9.3: While the fact that BT has a contract requiring them to supply a 2Mbps USC service is indeed resolved, the timing of when to enforce that provision is sadly not resolved. Negotiations for phase 2 allowed the date for the USC condition to be moved back by a year (and, by today’s report, delayed by a further year) in return for re-allocating £2m from the USC budget into the SF budget. The mere existence of a phase 3 means that the timing of the USC provision is something that can be negotiated against. Again. If the council wishes to do so. Ergo the issue is not yet resolved for once and for all.

    • Avatar gerarda

      @MikeW
      Contrast that to Suffolk CC who stuck to their promise to deal with not and slow spots by end of 2015. Do the people who have been left out yet again know that ? The SFNY site is still promising the USC by the end of next month

    • Avatar DTMark

      I don’t see hoe the 2 Mbps USC can’t be relevant. You can’t run two separate projects – the ‘vdsl rollout’ one and the ‘2Mbps USC’ one separately.

      You’d assess the areas street by street, then you’d work out the optimal plan based on the right technology for each area.

      Any other approach will inevitably lead to a slow-motion car crash affair which might ultimately result in having to build separate overlapping networks in precisely the same areas when just one might have done, or, more probably because of this, simply running out of money before the USC part can be fulfilled.

      The comedy aspect of this being an ’emerging’ situation suggests to me that this is precisely what has happened.

    • Avatar KOConnects

      Gerada said “Do the people who have been left out yet again know that ?”

      I’m a community broadband champion for one of the communities left out – yet again – and yes we do know it. Mind you, we had to submit a Freedom of Information request to get it. We’re not out in the sticks either – 11 miles from Leeds and 5 from Harrogate. Our local bus service even offers free onboard WiFi at 10Mb/s. Our BT fixed links currently run at between 0.5Mb/s and 1.75Mb/s.

      We and ou opposite numbers in other not-got communities have got fed up of the excuses SFNY have given us over the last 25 months while BT run rings round them. We are now running a separate community-led initiative. We know we won’t get funding from SFNY, but at the moment there’s no plan for us at all anyway, so getting even limited improvement for some of our community is a bonus. Advice from the experts on this board always welcome.

      Our expectations were so low that we were looking forwards to 2Mb/s by the end of 2014, the minimum commitment made by SFNY and the North Yorkshire MPs when they launched this with such a fanfare in September 2012. Now we are shunted out into an unfunded, unscheduled Phase 3.

      To add insult, BT are cold calling some of our communities to offer then superfast broadband even though we are not part of the coverage area. They even sent an engineer to install a residential connection only for him to discover that our cabinet is not fibre enabled and so took kit out again. You couldn’t make it up !

  3. If you have taken fibre to the DP why not permit FTTP using an ATA for telephony. The latter is part of Ofcom’s definition for analogue line anyway. This seems to be what an FTTP enabled exchange means – see Hascombe.

    Eircom in Ireland have concluded that due to power costs , it is cheaper to deliver FTTP to the DP in rural areas. They can also factor recovering copper.

    Perhaps North Yorks and BT should claim this is a victory for common sense.

    What it does reveal is this notion of fibre as premium service cannot be sustained. It also puts into question the cost recovery regime for copper. Is it so generous BT need to contemplate putting power on a pole rather than replacing the final drop with fibre.

    The existence of the ATA removes any regulatory barrier to this occurring.

    • Avatar No Clue

      “If you have taken fibre to the DP why not permit FTTP using an ATA for telephony.”

      Cos they can charge thousands to install the RN carp instead maybe????

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