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UK ISP Entanet Says There is Still a Niche Market for FTTP Broadband

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 (2:07 pm) - Score 1,252
fibre optic cables from above

Communications provider Entanet has said that there is still a market for BTOpenreach’s ultrafast native Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband in the United Kingdom, although its appeal remains in a “relatively small niche market” and is held back by limited availability.

At present the number of homes and businesses in the United Kingdom that can take a pure fibre optic connection via FTTH/P/B technology is sitting at around the 380,000 mark and roughly half of those come from BT’s network, with the rest being delivered by smaller providers like IFNL, Gigaclear, Hyperoptic and B4RN etc.

The benefits of a true fibre optic connection are well understood, not least in terms of performance (table ultra low-latency Gigabit speeds), although for BT the big issues always stemmed from its high deployment cost and painfully slow rollout times.

This is partly why BT’s original ambition, which sought to reach several million premises with FTTP, was ultimately scaled back (here) in favour of a focus on slower but faster and cheaper to deploy hybrid-fibre solutions like their ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and future G.fast technology (here).

Eventually true fibre optic solutions will become part of a natural progression and indeed many of BT’s own hybrid-fibre upgrades are already helping to take that fibre optic cable even closer to homes. But in the meantime the dominance of cheap FTTC makes the case for FTTP very difficult, at least in shared areas, although Entanet remains adamant that a niche does exist.

Paul Heritage-Redpath, Entanet’s Product Manager, said:

It’s important to understand that the potential market for FTTP customers is being squeezed. We are still receiving regular enquiries about FTTP from our resellers, who tell us they often struggled to find a wholesale provider for FTTP.

It continues to be a viable option for business customers looking for high speed connectivity but who don’t need the service guarantees provided by Ethernet based solutions. It’s only real current Achilles heel is its limited availability, especially when compared to its more accessible cousin, FTTC.”

Certainly Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and the rest wouldn’t have found success without being able to understand this niche, which more often than not involves targeting areas that BT has struggled to upgrade. In Hyperoptic’s case they go for the large urban apartment blocks that BT has been slow to tackle, while Gigaclear focuses on smaller communities in isolated rural areas, which BT would often find economically unviable to upgrade.

Some exceptions to this rule do exist though, such as CityFibre’s joint effort with Sky Broadband and TalkTalk to deploy a 1000Mbps FTTP/H network in the city of York where rival cable and FTTC solutions can already be found. The success or failure of that venture may well offer some insight into the wider potential of FTTP.

However it’s important to remember that BTOpenreach are still deploying FTTP/B, albeit at a much more limited scale, to various rural communities and some urban or new build locations (i.e. where it makes the most sense to do so). But sadly availability isn’t the only problem facing FTTP, with a lack of consumer focused ISPs and supporting packages being another key issue.

Outside of BT’s Consumer division (i.e. Infinity 3 and Infinity 4) the native FTTP choices are somewhat sparse, with none of the other big providers doing much of anything to cater for the admittedly small number of homes that can actually order the service.

Meanwhile smaller ISPs tend to focus such products on the business market, which are usually a bit too expensive for domestic purposes. In fairness we can understand the lack of ISP support among the big boys as they wouldn’t want to confuse their customers and supplying FTTP with good capacity can be expensive (BT could perhaps make it more attractive for providers), but we still think they could do more.

In the meantime the rest of us will have to make do with FTTC and cable based services, which for the most part are more than enough. But there are also plenty of gaps that could be filled with FTTP, where it makes sense.

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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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9 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark

    Is the price to alternative ISPs (other than BT) part of the issue?

    BT get the bandwidth at cost price, everyone else has to pay the wholesale price.

    Much in the same way that Talk Talk really didn’t want to sell FTTC, and found themselves railroaded into it to some extent for market share..

    FTTP might have the potential to be a huge loss-maker to everyone except BT.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      No… BT pay the same price as other providers

    • Avatar Kits

      BT was split into three to allow all retailers the same, regardless of who you go with they will order via BT wholesale supplied by BT Openreach. BT retail is just the same as any other ISP that orders via BT wholesale.

    • Avatar AndyH

      They still have to pay to build, maintain and upgrade their backhaul network though – even if it’s at cost and transferring revenue between the groups.

    • Avatar hallelujah

      “…regardless of who you go with they will order via BT wholesale supplied by BT Openreach.”

      That is what i thought ISPs buy from BT Wholesale and not Openreach. Nice of a moderator here to explain how things work.

  2. Avatar DTMark

    “BT retail is just the same as any other ISP that orders via BT wholesale.”

    No. There is no such company as BT Retail.

    BT Retail effectively pay the cost price since all that happens is that money moves sideways within the same company.

    Everyone else has to pay the higher Wholesale price.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      No , openreach sell at the same rates to all ISPs including BT

    • Avatar GNewton

      @DTMark:

      BT Group is organised into the following divisions:

      1)
      BT Global Services – provides IT and telecoms services to multinationals

      2)
      BT Business – provides telecoms services to UK SMEs

      3)
      BT Consumer – provides retail telecoms services to consumers including TV and BT Sport

      4)
      BT Wholesale – operates BT’s networks

      5)
      Openreach – fenced-off wholesale division, responsible for the “last mile” of BT’s access network in GB and tasked with ensuring that rival operators have equality of access to BT’s local network

      Now the question is this: Since they are all owned by BT Group are there any restrictions with regards to sideways money transfers between its companies?

    • Avatar AndyH

      BT Consumer also includes Plusnet.

      The divisions are separate of one another in terms of both accounting and operations. So despite it being an internal transfer of revenue, they do operate as if separate (if that makes sense).

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