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UPDATE BT to Help Lancashire UK Reach 99% Superfast Broadband Cover

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 (10:42 am) - Score 1,240
openreach bt cable duct manhole

The Lancashire County Council has once again picked BT to help extend the coverage of superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speeds from the current target of 97% (end of 2015) to 99% by around 2017, which will be conducted as part of the Government’s BDUK based Superfast Extension Programme.

The current Superfast Lancashire deployment of “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services has now reached over 110,000 premises across the county, which pegs the total coverage (including separate commercial roll-outs) at over half a million homes and businesses and the aim for phase 1 is to push this total to 655,000.

Sadly details about the new Phase 2 contract are extremely limited, which is largely due to the pre-election period stalling big public announcements. But the Blackpool Gazette notes how the scheme will be supported by £7.68m of public funding (it’s not currently known whether BT will also contribute). Some of the first phase 2 areas to benefit will be Warton, Elswick, Little Eccleston and Freckleton.

Lest we not forget the small but significant impact of B4RN’s separate scheme in some of the county’s most rural areas, which uses no state-aid but continues to roll-out a 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network despite facing some well document obstacles along the way (e.g. BT’s rival FTTP deployment in Dolphinholme).

UPDATE 20th April 2015

According to BDUK, the contract signing has now completed, with the Government confirming its contribution of £3,840,000 to the project (the total figure given above is matched with council funding). Still no word on BT’s contribution.

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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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36 Responses
  1. That’s about 520 cabinets so far and should be costing, including BT’s contribution – £12m of headline contract for Phase 1 of £62.5m (Public £32.5m -BT £30m). BT may well be receiving higher standard unit charges for this one, but the money may eventually get returned. This is also excluding any FTTP? The need to take any central money on offer is understood.
    But what will happen the excess and how does it get translated into more coverage or is the money returned when more FTTP and greater cost transformation could have been conducted?

  2. Avatar Matt

    99% is probably all we can really hope for with fixed line sadly. I hope a solution is found for the 1-5% that is left without.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      Fixed wireless or 4G… not perfect but better than satellite…

    • Avatar Matt

      Very much true I hope 4G is the solution though honestly I imagine that if 99% get superfast speeds that close to a 100% must be on NGA so maybe FTTRN in future could be used.

  3. Avatar Al

    Sadly details about which areas as part of Phase 1 which are due to be enabled next in Lancashire is hard to come by. And they passed 500 cabinets in November last year, sadly my cabinet was not one of them still they laid the foundation for it over 4 months ago, and a dig around gives some roadworks mentioning NGA for my area in Jun this year. Still give it another few months and the open-reach site should be correct as it’s being saying you’re area will be enbaled within the next six months for at least a year now.

    • @AL do you have a public reference for the 500? You can get a good estimate by dividing by 200. BT look to need to complete 50 cabs a month in Lancs to hit the numbers.
      The issue cannot be budget, given the actual total average NAO cost is £23k. Are Lancs paying costs identfied by NAO or are they on some standard unit charges unrelated to the underlying costs?

    • Thank you, at 900 cabinets in total, it suggests a project of £21m-£22m. We can see BT’s is resource constrained, but where is the money sitting? Is Lancashire getting substantial levels of FTTP.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Where is BT constrained with resources? In BT or sub-contractors?

    • @The Facts; 200 cabs a weeks seems to be BT’s current resource limit for the rural project, over 3 years that c28,000 – 30,000 cabinets for phase 1 nationally.

      If you take the NAO cost of £23k per cabinet -then the billing ought to £4.6m a week – this is less than 5,500 FTE – nationally, includes contractors, given labour is at least 80% of the cost.

      The total Phase 1 public subsidy alone of £1.2bn suggests many more could be employed, perhaps doing FTTP, but this aspect needs more attention.

      Note BT at EFRA before Christmas, confirmed they had resource issues with projects in Germany competing for available contract resource.

      If you have better numbers please share, but on the face of it the public funding alone could pay for at least 7,500 FTE doing installs.

    • Avatar Al

      Not sure about the level of FTTP in Lanacashire, but when the coming soon list was available on the openerach site, it looked like quite a few where down for FTTC/P (including mine) but it’s looking like those areas down for FTTC/P are being done towards the end of current rollout.

  4. Avatar Walter G M Willcox

    I am surprised that we still talk of passing properties rather that connecting them. I believe this is important as the laws of physics dictate that longer lines cannot possibly support VDSL “Fibre” services. (It seems 300 m is the limit for most services achieving the maximum throughput speed of 76 Mbps and around 1 km is likely to be the limit for speeds around 30 Mbps.

    There is another “feature” of BT’s deployment which is becoming more apparent in many places including Caton Lancashire, Elstead and Shere in Surrey. As it is apparently BT’s responsibility for upgrades, it seems that BT Openreach are being prevented from installing their additions with the initial cabinet deployments. The second tie-cable duct and the additional cables to support the maximum cabinet capacities of either 288 or 128 services are omitted. (The cabinet capacities in turn are usually only a fraction of the numbers of lines in the original green cabinets.) Once the original cabinet capacity of just under 100 services covered by the BDUK subsidy is exhausted, BT then delay the re-excavation and upgrade installation for many months presumably to maintain their cash flow; thus leaving the cabinets unavailable for up to 5 months. See the “mayhem” article under recent comments on the Guildford Dragon web site for more details.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      No issue with stating availability as in passing properties.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Correct that is what everyone does

    • Avatar fastman2

      BDUK figures are around +24 m/bps as they are only figures that are published on BDUK

      BT then delay the re-excavation and upgrade installation for many months presumably to maintain their cash flow; thus leaving the cabinets unavailable for up to 5 months. See the “mayhem” article under recent comments on the Guildford Dragon web site for more details.

      What disinformaition as ever

    • Avatar MikeW

      Given that the cost of digging is huge, it is a surprise that they don’t install enough duct space in the first place.

      However, I can see one “unintended consequence” that may be happening here… If BDUK pays for the first, and BT pays for subsequent ducts, I can see that it would be good for future accounting (of PIA etc) to keep the two separate, even down to the digging.

      But the rest of it is standard fare for telecoms, where you dimension for expected take-up, and expand as growth occurs – rather than dimension for 100% capacity from day 1.

      In strowger days, you didn’t even have enough equipment to detect dialling pulses on all lines. Why bother providing expensive equipment when lines stay idle most of the time? Instead, you dimension for busy-hour traffic levels. The same calculations apply to everything telco, whether circuit switched or packet switched.

      Right now, we don’t have 100% take up of broadband, let alone fixed-line, let alone cabinet-based broadband. Dimensioning beyond actual demand is a waste (perhaps temporary, perhaps permanent), of both money and time, that could be better used to build a cabinet in a different village.

      That doesn’t mean BT have done things right. Just that their demand prediction is the thing that’s wrong, rather than the principle.

    • Avatar fastman2

      actully the pressure is to get cabs over the line and to meet the contractual milestones – Couties want as many cabs done by some date in May 2015 (cant think why)– so you do deploy premises and cabs that that you are contracted or you do provice additional civils for cabs already deployed – those cabs will be done but there will be a timeframe for doing those as a certain amount of premises have to be delivered every quarter

      provisioning is never on 1/1 basis that would be poor economics

    • Avatar gerarda

      Equating properties passed to availability is as much a lie as saying that adsl is available if your exchange is enabled. It does not matter if “everyone”, i.e those with a vested interest in avoiding the truth, say it, a lie is still a lie.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @gerarda – how should the rollout be measured then?

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “how should the rollout be measured then”

      I think if you read the previous posts carefully you’ll see how it should be measured: On a genuine per-premise passed. At the moment, the BT online checker is hopelessly out of date. Over the past fee days, I have seen multiple cases in a town of 20,000 were areas were classified as passed, when in fact premises in whole roads with available VDSL cabinets couldn’t order Infinity (VDSL) at all. In 2 cases I saw the VDSL cabinets only metres away from the premises, on the same roads, with residents unable to order VDSL services!

    • Avatar TheFacts

      So a supermarket does not serve a whole town because it is not open 24 hours and all the population would not fit in it.

      It’s a measure understood by the industry.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      “It’s a measure understood by the industry.”

      Indeed it is… used by all large telco’s including Virgin.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “It’s a measure understood by the industry.”

      Haven’t you read my previous reply to you?

      What’s needed is a genuine premise-passed measurement, ideally also with a breakdown of what speeds (download AND upload) are available for each premise.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Why is it of interest that a cabinet is initially installed with one card? Key is number that could potentially order.

  5. Avatar DTMark

    Have Lancashire CC announced the name of the independent consultancy who will be verifying that the performance targets have been met before money is released yet? 😉

  6. The disinformation to which fastman2 refers must be that from local authorities who just announce broadband performance statistics, that of course meet their targets, but not a word on how the performance statistics are derived. On the other hand the fact that Surrey County Council has not managed their contract to make sure that disruptive work is not repeated is well documented and is real information.

    As far as everyone using “passing premises” makes it alright to continue, I am not so sure. I think the term comes from the days when the wires were used solely for telephone connections and a premise could be connected by a simple drop wire from the nearest distribution point. This would not incur a delay of 5 months with repeated street works. The coverage statistics are meaningless unless “passing premises” has some kind of guarantee as to how long it will be after a cabinet exceeds its initial capacity before a premise is superfast broadband connected and not merely passed.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Perhaps you have a rose-tinted view of past GPO days.

      In reality, it could take a long time to get a line, and the resource restriction could come from anything. Perhaps there needed to be more copper in the access network, or a bit of wrangling was needed to get a line back to the exchange. Or perhaps the exchange needed a new rack adding to it. Or was being upgraded to a TXE.

      In the sixties, exchanges would be installed with an expected life of twenty years, with an expectation of having twice as many lines at the end of life as at the beginning. They wouldn’t initially have all the racks necessary for final service.

      In the seventies, delays in getting a phone service built up, largely caused by insufficient switching capacity. The GPO ended up with hundreds of mobile exchanges in trailers that could be deployed to provide extra capacity. They’d still take a good while to wire into the building though.

      So, you might have been able to order a line for any address, but the GPO might not have had the capacity to supply you.

      Apparently, there are mobile FTTC trailers now…

    • Avatar MikeW

      The alternative, of course, is to over-dimension cabinets from day 1.

      Alone, that’s just a waste of money. No harm, there, right? No need to fund other cabinets, other villages, right?

      But you also want to over-dimension the tie pairs too, which takes manpower. That manpower couldn’t be better spent putting the first tie pairs into a different cabinet, in a different village, could it?

      Right now, the widespread rollout is resource-limited. To demand those resources be expended before they are necessary is, quite simply, to demand the rollout to be done more slowly.

      Having said that, as I answered Walter, I do agree that digging in enough duct space should be done in one go.

    • Avatar fastman2

      david

      this disinformation is from so called telecomms experts who have litte or no knowledge of how the programme works and either cause major problemens in their own communities or other commuities

  7. Avatar fastman2

    there is enough duct but the copper wont have been done and that resources that as to prioritised against deployment of other cabs

  8. MikeW

    I agree with all that you say regarding the efficient deployment of telecommunications assets and we agree that digging in enough duct space should be done in one go. The mystery is why this was not done? Any ideas? Simply an under estimate of demand or some other reason?

    • Avatar fastman2

      each cab was done under standard deployment rules — you have to start somewhere beaing mind the programme has deployed now in excess off 50,000+ of the 92,000 street boxes in the uk in the standard way over the last 5 years which

    • Avatar fastman2

      prob inexcess of 60,00 now wehn you take in commercial and bDUK cabs

  9. Avatar Walter G M Willcox

    Those that claim to be experts may confirm that BT Openreach can install three types of FTTC as described below. They may also confirm how many spare ports are reserved as replacements for faulty ones.

    1. The less reliable ECI 256 equipped initially with 1 64 port line card and one set of 100 pr tie cables providing a total, after a second line card is fitted, of 96 services including spares.

    2. The Huawei 128 equipped with 1 32 port line card and one set of 100 pr tie cables providing a total, after two additional line cards are fitted, of 84 services including spares.

    3. The Huawei 288 equipped with 1 48 port line card and one set of 100 pr tie cables providing a total, after one additional line card is fitted, of 96 services including spares.

    4. The experts may also confirm that all types of cabinet require a total of three sets of 100 pr cables with sufficient duct space to utilise every available port before a second FTTC is added to the street furniture.

    5. The experts may confirm that an accurate availability condition can, with appropriate perseverance, be quite easily verified by entering a known phone number, with either no DSL service or one with only an ADSL service, into the BT Wholesale availability checker and observing the forecast availability date for those with exhausted capacity.

    6. Finally the experts can confirm that:-

    A) Even with GFast modifications, BT VDSL services will still all be well below Virgin Media’s 152 Mbps service which are available throughout their superior coaxial cable distribution infrastructure.

    B) BT’s Fibre on demand services only provide asymmetric speeds “Up to” 330 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload.

    C) True P2P FTTH services from the likes of Gigaclear, Hyperoptic and B4RN provide realistically priced symmetric 1,000 Mbps services which are fully sustainable for many years to come allowing for the forecast explosion in data transmission requirements.

    • Avatar fastman2

      FYI the ECI were part of commercial phased , all BDUk are H96 / H288 or some new ones will be H128 All in ones — all cabs will have 100 tie cables as standard on Day 1 —

      You do not scale infrastrucuture on a 1/1 contenion in any project

      the comparion against Vigin and FOd is irrelevant / Erronous and mis information er

      Gigaclear – dig up your village / and actually you get no choice of provicer (monoply)
      Hyperoptic — same bandwith as a FTTC cab and also destoy half your building whem you deploy it (monopoly)
      B$RN – specific rural network (not scalable)one wonders who will support in going forward – (monoploy)

    • Avatar fastman2

      Walter

      GFAST will be in excess of 152 i can assure you — but as you had vigitn build out to your property i expect you have 152 already then

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