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BT Adjusts Support for Slow UK FTTC “Fibre Broadband” Lines

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 (10:55 am) - Score 4,040

The Managing Director of Andrews and Arnold (AAISP), Adrian Kennard, has noted a number of interesting changes to the terms of BTWholesale’s up to 80Mbps “fibre broadband” Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL) connections, which appears to take away some of the ISPs flexibility and at the same time make it harder for consumers to get the connection speed they expected.

A little over a year ago FTTC installs that failed to reach their forecast speed (i.e. within the first 90 days of service and which cannot be adequately fixed by Openreach) still benefitted from some protection, which essentially involved BT giving ISPs the option to either accept the lower speed, cancel the install (i.e. re-instate ADSL or refund the costs) or reappoint an engineer to try and get a better speed. Simple.

In practice though Kennard said that “BT seem to have no means to ask us that question, and so complete the install at the lower speed and we have to complain and dispute the billing if it is cancelled, and so on.” Perhaps partly as a result of that problem, and the rising adoption of PCP-Only (Self-Install) FTTC lines that don’t require an engineer to visit your home, the rules have gradually been changed over the course of several revisions (FTTC Handbook Issue 9 vs Issue 12 – Page 17).

A recent letter of complaint, which was sent this week by Adrian Kennard to BT, summarises the core issues. But for the purpose of this article we’ll ignore the matter of contract notification (that’s an issue for the ISP and BT to settle) and just focus on the changes themselves, which are interesting from a purely informative point of view.

AAISPs Letter of Complaint (Extract)

You can see that between issue 9 and issue 10 you removed the requirement for the engineer to attempt to reach the forecast speed, and removed the ability for us to request a re-appointment to make such an attempt. This is clearly a material change and detrimental.

You can also see, between issue 11 and 12 you have made a change which is materially detrimental to the provision of the Service as it lowers the threshold which is considered an unacceptable speed for provision of FTTC services from the minimum to the 10th percentile which is significantly lower.”

Under the changes BT essentially gives ISPs the option of either accepting a lower speed or cancelling the service (with an appropriate refund) via a Cease Order. But crucially there’s no optional to have an engineer resolve the issue and by using a 10th Percentile speed the level at which a line would be considered at fault has been reduced.

It’s important to reflect that the 10th Percentile, from what we can see of the evidence and BT’s approach, appears to reflect the lower performance experienced by 1 in 10 similar lines; this needs a little explanation. BT typically splits their line estimates into two Ranges (A and B), with Range A reflecting the predicted performance of a good quality line and Range B when your line is one likely to suffer from various wiring issues (poor quality etc.).

According to BT’s data, and using the best case performance scenario as an example (e.g. a short and fast copper line), FTTC should deliver a best Range A speed of 79.99Mbps and this stays roughly the same for the 10th Percentile rate. By comparison a Range B prediction on the same sort of line would be 69.71Mbps and this drops sharply to 54Mbps for the 10th Percentile rate. The importance of this change is reflected when you look at how the text has changed between Issue 9 and 12 of the FTTC Handbook.

FTTC Handbook Issue 9 Extract (July 2013)

A service must have been investigated by Openreach for under performance since its Service Activation date (i.e. the line will not synchronise at a speed above 50% of the predicted rate at the time of sale or the line rate has dropped by more than 25% over a 14 day continuous period).

FTTC Handbook Issue 12 Extract (September 2014)

The service must have been investigated by Openreach for under-performance since its Service Activation date (i.e. the line will not synchronise at a speed above the 10th Percentile point of sale predicted rate, (please see section 16.2), or the line rate has dropped by more than 25% over a 14 day continuous period).

We have queried the changes with BTOpenreach and hope to have their perspective in the not too distant future. In fairness, the 10th Percentile adjustment is arguably reflective of Ofcom’s voluntary Broadband Speed Code 2010 for ISPs, which states the following:

Ofcoms Broadband Speed Code 2010- Extract

If asked to explain further or asked to state the definition of “significantly below”, the ISP should provide information on the access line speed achieved by the bottom 10th percentile (or above) of the ISP’s similar customers (“the minimum guaranteed access line speed”) and explain that if the customer’s actual access line speed is below the minimum guaranteed access line speed, then it will follow the process set out in the 4th Principle [ISPr ED: resolving customer speed problems].

In a practical sense this probably won’t change much given past problems (especially with securing an engineer visit to improve speeds), but it’s sometimes interesting to note these things.

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar adslmax says:

    FTTC speed issues are related to dreadful DLM & dreadful crosstalk

    1. Avatar DanielM says:

      that the downside to DSL i guess.

  2. Avatar david says:

    FTTC they can keep it more chew than its worth and been paid over and over in line rental with there 1970,s wiring

  3. Avatar MikeW says:

    I’m sure I’ve seen it reported that the values that the DSL checker comes up with as “estimates” are meant to be a reflection of the behaviour of “similar lines”. The upper speed given was meant to reflect the 80th percentile, while the lower speed was said to reflect the 20th percentile.

    When you read Adrian’s complaint, this suggests that BT have changed the lower threshold from “the minimum” estimate (which would be the 20th percentile) to the 10th percentile.

    What really isn’t clear is whether the fault threshold is the 10th percentile of Range A or Range B.

    1. Avatar No Clue says:

      Sounds more like e-penis measuring than an explanation

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