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BT Moot Free FTTP Broadband Trials for New UK Housing Developments

Monday, January 26th, 2015 (12:01 pm) - Score 2,691

BTOpenreach are currently reviewing their approach to the provision of Superfast Broadband (24Mbps+) at major housing developments and, as part of this strategy, the operator is evaluating a series of “free trials” for their 330Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology across the United Kingdom.

Apparently Openreach will make these trials available to developers who register sites with 100+ new homes, although it’s understood that unspecified “pressures” on BT’s resources will limit the number and scale of their available trial slots (note: further slots are expected to become available later this year).

ISPreview.co.uk spotted mention of the trials while examining several recent documents from Hampshire County Council, which in related news has also announced a new extension of its own Hampshire Superfast Broadband project called Getting Connected. The aim of this is to help support new housing developments that will not be superfast-enabled through commercial investment.

Similarly ISPreview.co.uk has recently reported on a number of situations where major housing developments have been built without consideration of the need for modern superfast broadband to be installed at the same time, which has often left new home owners stuck on slower copper line based ADSL connections (examples here, here and here).

It’s important to note that BTOpenreach’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) only extends to the installation of a basic phone line that can deliver dialup (narrowband) levels of Internet access, thus there is no legal onus upon Openreach to deploy anything better. Meanwhile some housing developers simply ignore the issue and home buyers can easily overlook it or be misled.

Openreach often points to a lack of commercial viability for upgrading such developments, although many have questioned how they arrive at such decisions. Indeed we’ve seen a number of areas that were originally deemed unviable and yet returned huge uptake upon deployment, so it’s clearly not an exact science.

Hampshire County Council Report Extract

The failure of developers and broadband providers to make superfast provision for new homes has produced an additional group of premises (outside existing contracts) for which new arrangements will need to be made. A drive to encourage the private sector to ensure that future developments are enabled for superfast services is required, but a response is also required for those sites where residents already living in new homes are encountering the same problems as those in rural and hard-to-reach areas. It seems that unless the County Council enables or uses its leverage on both Broadband providers and housing developers these premises will be left behind.

While seeking to ensure that public intervention is properly targeted, the County Council will wish to consider the possibility of extending the number of premises for which intervention is being considered to include those Hampshire residents living in new housing developments where the private sector has not and is unlikely to make commercially-funded provision for them.

It is clear that unless the County Council plans, influences and (sometimes) directs BT in many instances the programmes will underachieve for some residents. It could be expected that the County Council’s involvement will therefore stretch out for several years to come.”

At this stage the Getting Connected programme isn’t especially well fleshed out and the council admits that there is no statutory responsibility for them to engage with the developers or broadband providers, although happily this appears to be precisely what they’re going to do. Quite how all this will be tackled remains the subject of on-going discussions.

In the meantime the council notes that there are around 4,800 new homes on existing phases of housing developments, which are outside of the councils “Intervention Area” for their broadband scheme and where the developers and broadband ISPs have so far not arranged the provision of superfast services through commercial investment. A schedule of the largest 30 developments, which accounts for more than 80% of the total, is included below.

Sites Requiring HCC Intervention
Cabinet ID – Site Address – No. Properties
ROMSEY 20 – LAND AT, ABBOTSWOOD, SANDY LANE, ABBOTSWOOD, ROMSEY – 436
TITCHFIELD 18 – LAND AT, HUNTS POND ROAD, TITCHFIELD COMMON, FAREHAM – 327
FLEET 28 – LAND WEST OF, HITCHES LANE, FLEET – 263
EASTLEIGH 44 – LAND SOUTH OF SOUTH STREET, WIDE LANE, EASTLEIGH – 254
TURGIS GREEN 16 – LAND AT, TAYLOR’S FARM, SHERFIELD PL GAIGER AVENUE, CHINEHAM – 227
FARNBOROUGH 119 – QUEENSGATE SITE, GOVERNMENT HOUSE ROAD, FARNBOROUGH – 220
WATERLOOVILLE 60 – OLD PARK FARM, LONDON ROAD, WATERLOOVILLE – 203
FARNBOROUGH 112 – FARNBOROUGH BUSINESS PARK, O’GORMAN ROAD, FARNBOROUGH – 200
ALTON 33 – LAND AT, CHANDOS LODGE AND GRANGE HOTEL ANSTEY ROAD, ANTSEY, ALTON – 188
ANDOVER 48 – LAND AT, PICKET TWENTY, ANDOVER – 188
BASINGSTOKE 34 – REGENERATION SCHEME, FAROE_MALDIVE CLOSE, BASINGSTOKE – 185
HARTLEY WINTNEY 1 – LAND SOUTH OF, DILLY LANE, HARTLEY WINTNEY, HOOK – 172
BASINGSTOKE 102 – LAND AT, JOHN HUNT SCHOOL, SHAKESPEARE ROAD, POPLEY – 124
LIPHOOK 10 – KING GEORGES HOSPITAL, HEWSHOTT LANE, LIPHOOK – 90
ANDOVER 81 – LAND AT, PICKET TWENTY, ANDOVER – 74
LOCKS HEATH 64 – COLDEAST HOSPITAL, COLDEAST WAY, SARISBURY, SOUTHAMPTON – 68
BASINGSTOKE 116 – SKIPPETTS HOUSE SKIPPETTS LANE WEST BASINGSTOKE – 67
BASINGSTOKE 130 – BEECH DOWN PRE SCHOOL, GERSHWIN ROAD, BASINGSTOKE – 67
FAREHAM 62 – BROADLAW WALK, BROADLAW WALK, FAREHAM – 67
HAMBLE 5 – ROTARY COURT, ROTARY COURT, NETLEY ABBEY, SOUTHAMPTON – 66
WATERLOOVILLE 61 – GRAINGER DEVELOPMENT SITE, NEWLANDS LANE, WATERLOOVILLE – 64
WINCHESTER 34 – LAND AT, WORTHY ROAD_FRANCIS GARDENS, WINCHESTER – 63
HAVANT 54 – RAMSDALE PLAYING FIELDS, WOOLSTON ROAD, HAVANT – 60
WHITELEY 108 – WHITELEY FARM, WHITELEY, FAREHAM – 60
BASINGSTOKE 90 – LAND NORTH OF, POPLEY, SHERBORNE ROAD, POPLEY, BASINGSTOKE – 54
FAREHAM 50 – 1-25 THE LEISURE CUNNINGHAM DRIVE GOSPORT – 54
HEADLEY 1 – LAND AT, ASH ROAD, BEECH ROAD, LINDEN R BISHOPS GREEN, NEWBURY – 46
LEE-ON-THE-SOLENT 9 – ROGERS HOUSE, ELMORE ROAD, LEE-ON-THE-SOLENT – 44
WATERLOOVILLE 60 – OLD PARK FARM, WATERLOOVILLE – 40
TADLEY 19 – BOUNDARY HALL, MULFORDS HILL, TADLEY – 38

Furthermore Hampshire’s preliminary research has identified planning (forecast) data for new housing developments for the period 2014 to 2020. Overall, the list includes more than 250 sites and over 37,000 new homes. Some of these already have agreements with BT and or other operators for superfast broadband, but the council states that a “substantial proportion” do not presently have any such commitments in place.

It’s likely that several of Openreach’s “freeFTTP trials will thus take place in some of the above developments, although no specifics are currently known and the matter is still the subject of on-going discussions between the council, developers and BT. However the council has said it does have a “strong interest” in such a trial taking place with at least “some parts” of the proposed development at Bordon-Whitehill (this is one of the future 2014-2020 builds with about 4,000 homes planned and some 377 of those are due to get slower FTTC).

Several other councils are known to be looking at this issue, alongside the Government, and no doubt Openreach has a few developments already in mind for their trials, although we’re not entirely sure what they’ll learn that hasn’t already been learnt from past experiences with such developments. Perhaps some new deployment approaches will be tried.

Meanwhile Hampshire is continuing to press on with its Broadband Delivery UK based project to make superfast broadband (24Mbps+) connectivity available to “at least” 95% of the local population by “mid 2019 or earlier” (details). At least now we know that new homes in Hampshire are less likely to be left behind, but consumers should always ask plenty of questions about broadband provision before parting with their cash. Never assume it will be good enough.

Leave a Comment
24 Responses
  1. Avatar RevK says:

    The only thing that makes sense to me is for the housing development to have ducts from each premises to meeting-point huts, with perhaps council (or community management company) renting duct space to telcos in return for maintaining them. That allows future proofing and allows conventional copper phone lines, proper fibre installs, or whatever comes along in the future, and is telco neutral.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      A little like Stockholm does? Although I think that goes one step further, and is about renting dark fibre to the telcos.

      I can see that requiring a management company, rather like leashold flats, but applied to freehold housing over the whole development.

      Sounds plausible … but for it to work to the benefit of consumers, you’d need BT to be forced to work with such groups, renting duct space or dark fibre. I imagine that would be a huge change to the regulatory environment. Ever see that being likely?

  2. Avatar GNewton says:

    While it’s nice to see some FTTP ‘trials’, it is still a kind of a joke, isn’t it? FTTP is a well known technology which has been around for many years, there’s nothing to be trialled here! Looks to me like another example of how backwards this country, and BT in particular, really is!

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      I knew they’d be a negative spin on something you’ve been shouting for 🙂

      They won’t be trialling the tech, they’ll be trialling the offer.. to see how it works out, take up, costs etc etc

      Honestly its great use

      Will most developers use it?

      Probably not

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      Just shows how much @GNewton knows about what a trial means to BT.

      Some trials are about the technology, some trials are about the people and processes (both internal to BT, and in their interfaces to others), and some are about testing the market to see whether something is wanted.

      This one smacks of being all about the processes. The size of BT makes for an awful lot of processes, some manual, and some embedded within their IT systems. Any new process requires updates to the IT systems, and training of staff, and all that takes planning, time, trials and a national rollout of its own – all totally unseen by the public.

    3. Avatar CliveRutford says:

      Agreed GNewton, no need to trial anything.

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yeeehah Clive, that’s the way to run a business, no trial, no proof of concept nothing just straight into production

      A good way to fail

    5. Avatar GNewton says:

      @MikeW:

      “some trials are about the people and processes (both internal to BT, and in their interfaces to others), and some are about testing the market to see whether something is wanted.”

      I understand that. However, in this case we are dealing with an existing, wel established product, as the news story says:

      “the operator is evaluating a series of “free trials” for their 330Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology across the United Kingdom.”

      BT has had its fibre Infinity product (Option 3 or 4) for years, this is not new territory. This is just a case where BT finally and slowly has to give in to other pressures put on them by e.g. Hampshire County Council, and negative publicity about BTs incompetence.

    6. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Its clearly lost on you 🙁

    7. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Still don’t have access to Superfast FTTx, then, GNewton.

    8. Avatar FibreFred says:

      So… here’s just a few bits your not grasping yet.

      Yes you can order FTTP as a business or residential users to a single property

      But what about a developer?

      If a developer has 100, 1000+ homes do you expect them to put in singles requests for each provide? In which case BT would handle them all as separate entities.

      Surely a better method would be to allow a developer to bulk order which would change the way the order is received and processed and how its delivered

      Does such a process currently exist? Doubtful
      Will they create one? I’m sure they will
      Will they need to test that process? Yes

      That will be just one part of the trials

      Does that make more sense?

    9. Avatar GNewton says:

      @Ignitionnet: “Still don’t have access to Superfast FTTx”

      If you don’t have access to appropriate fibre or other kinds of internet services, then why you don’t you do something about it? Organise a local campaign to get a telecom company to implement some services, or move your office elsewhere.

      As regards these BT trials: This has nothing to do with the lack of existing FTTP products, or lack of technical skills, it’s purely an issue with BTs sales department, to negotiate specials deals with various large property developers. Using the term ‘trial’ here is quite misleading!

    10. Avatar FibreFred says:

      They always use that term, for them its a trial, trials can take many forms as above

  3. Avatar nga for all says:

    It’s good. Better if developer put passives in for all to use. Granting a lifetime monopoly for providing duct is costly.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      When a developer installs duct for Openreach, following the steps in their developer’s guide for both copper and fibre, doesn’t Openreach both provide the ducting (and other stores) and pay the developer for the work done?

      http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/contactus/connectingyourdevelopment/documentationandinformation/paymentpolicies/paymentpoliciesandhbfagreement.do

      Nothing stopping the developer from ignoring Openreach, and putting some other network architecture in place … but he might not find his choice meets with the approval of all prospective buyers.

  4. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Passive ducting is fine until someone has to be responsible for it. Councils have perennial difficulties in maintaining what they are responsible for already; seen the state of the pavements and roads? And out-of-sight, out-of-mind comes to hand. Community ownership is fine, but anyone had experience of trying to set it up securely, without established residents? I have. The basic rule is that you can have anything if you’re prepared to pay enough for it. And we aren’t.

  5. Avatar MikeW says:

    Definitely a positive move from BT … hopefully they’ll update this to remove the 100+ limit, and swap to an FTTP-based solution for almost every new home. We keep hearing that Greenfield locations are the best place to see FTTP – so its about time the complete set of processes were in place to make it happen.

    Its also good to see Hampshire have been tracking the developments in the county, and noting the difference in levels of commitment by the developers. There’s nothing like a bit of publicity to make more of them realise they need a proper solution in place – you just need that publicity to land in the hands of the buyers.

  6. Avatar telecom engineer says:

    Seeing as the accountants have turned provision on newsites into a more reactive affair (hence lead time complaints); providing fttp not only makes sense material savings but there is less labour or intervention compared to a new copper build. with good planning and preconnection from dp to aggregation node bt could achieve the real hands off network they attempted with numerous copper programmes. The never ending sprawl of development continually further from exchanges makes fttp even more sensible. Only real challange is finding an acceptable way of increasing olo take up – but a growing customer base will encourage that somewhat itself.

    1. Avatar nga for all says:

      Is bt likely to ever employ a chief engineer again? Not a cto or ca, which are two a penny!

    2. Avatar telecom engineer says:

      Well the chief engineers office is still going and are involved with all sorts. Imagine mostly either unreported work due to trial or improvements to tools / materials which is too boring to report outside the company but important to the engineers.
      Take a simple change, a mechanical joint closure 34 – was roughly 12 long bolts to open requiring a drill, about 30mins to initially install and only usable for copper. Within 4 years they had redesigned to a hand opening joint, usable for fibre and copper, costing a tenth of the 34 and taking 10mins to initially install. Plus a nice royalty for joints sold outside bt.
      Thats not sexy work but the benefits at scale are obvious.

  7. Avatar fastman2 says:

    most of the above developments are not covered for fibre and majoroity is where the developer has gone with copper USO only

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      The problem is that large or even medium sized developments are built so slowly to avoid flooding the market with properties and maximise sale prices.

      Look at this estate, which you may remember well 😉

      Deploying FTTP would be an absolute no brainer on this estate now, hell given the take up deploying brownfield FTTP would’ve potentially been a smart move as far as 82 goes, however the initial contracts for this estate were signed in 2004 when FTTP and FTTC simply weren’t in existence.

      Just one of those things.

      Appreciate what you’re saying, developers are obviously too defensive, however Openreach need to do their part to push the message too. Last year I heard a developer say that Openreach had told them that greenfield FTTP was a trial! That is not a good result and processes need checking to ensure no developer is under that misapprehension as obviously greenfield FTTP is in the best interests of everyone involved.

    2. Avatar nga for all says:

      @ I agree with Ignitionnet. Fttp/ata is in the FLAMR cost recovery so i do not understand why it cannot be used. BT Group think of fibre as a premium service needs to challenged as fibre is just a medium, a cheaper one, maybe it is the Telereal deal holding bt back.

  8. Avatar fastman2 says:

    the fundamental issues is the developer can do something or nothing — the only obligation is that Voice has to be provided as part of USO

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