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ITS Criticises Ofcom Over Claims the Final 5% Won’t Get Fibre Broadband

Friday, July 24th, 2015 (10:36 am) - Score 1,139

The Director of Strategy for ITS Technology, David Cullen, has said that the CEO of national UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, Sharon White, was wrong to tell MPs that those living in the final 5% of the country are “not going to get” fibre broadband style connectivity to improve their Internet access.

Sharon White made the controversial remarks earlier this week while speaking to a Culture, Media and Sport Committee in Parliament (here), although as we noted at the time her comments appeared to overlook all the work being done by alternative network operators (e.g. B4RN, ITS).

Heck even some of BT’s own FTTC/P and FTTrN deployments through the existing Broadband Delivery UK programme have arguably already entered some areas that might have otherwise been classified as in the final 5%. The picture is far more diverse than Ofcom’s comment suggests.

David Cullen, Director of Strategy at ITS, told ISPreview.co.uk:

I think the statement Sharon should have made is ‘the commercial model followed by incumbent operators does not make fibre deployments likely for the final 5%.’

It’s not the technology or even the pure cost of it that’s the issue; these can be overcome by different ways of funding and encouraging greater take-up. Many altnets are already successfully deploying Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) in very remote areas by using these and other innovative approaches. ITS included.

Where terrain, environmental factors, and of course premises’ density become a real challenge, we use a number of tried and tested wireless solutions that allow reliable superfast services to be delivered to residential and business end-users successfully. These stimulate demand, and when that gets high enough, there will be a natural and affordable shift towards FTTP – as long as affordable high capacity backhaul can be extended into these remote areas.

That’s what the regulator needs to be prioritising. A market that actively encourages new commercial approaches and the extension of affordable backhaul through actions such as sensibly-priced dark fibre from BT and the use of transport infrastructure (e.g. rail and highways) to provide rural backhaul.”


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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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21 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    I agree with David Cullen entirely. Sharon White’s remark is a green light for the local authorities with low ambitions to reach their targets and then stop.

  2. Avatar Jonus says:

    David Cullen is a wise voice in the market and as the Chair of INCA clearly understands both the urban and rural market.

    Would it not be better for Sharon White to sit with INCA and other key ALNET providers such as Gigaclear, ITS, HyperOptic and clear gain an understanding on how these providers are plugging the gaps which BT and the larger suppliers such as Virgin and TT are ignoring?

  3. Avatar PeterM says:

    Its all very well saying that the final 5% will get superfast fibre but it has to be practically achievable in a reasonable time frame.
    On the West Chiltington exchange we have about 80% superfast coverage, 25Mbps and above.
    That means 250 cannot benefit from FTTC.
    It will be easy to give 100 of these properties fibre because they are in a cluster, hopefully they will benefit in the next phase of the BDUK roll out.
    The remaining 150 are scattered over a wide area along about 10 miles of country lanes and served by 4 different cabinets with the lines snaking around each other.
    These 150, I am one of them, are the reality of the final 5%, other solutions have to be found. In our case we are overlooked from the South Downs – fixed wireless is the obvious answer.

  4. Avatar Neil McRae says:

    I think he needs to read what she said.


    1. Avatar Craski says:

      Exactly. She didnt say “not going to get fibre”. She said, “The 5%, we are not going to get there through fibre” and in the context of the discussion she was having, it was pretty clear that she meant not everyone in the 5% is going to be connected via fibre which is quite different.

  5. Avatar rockyv says:

    a lot of alt nets are adding value in this space, with sometimes very hostel opposition from the incumbents. maybe ofcom should have taken a steer from BDUK in recent weeks and signposted these areas covered by that 5%, to community focussed approaches like fibre garden and Barn, or the companies who are delivering these projects Like Gigaclear and ITS. the whole point of these rollouts is meant to be around innovation, job creation etc, but unless its BT involved their not interested in exploring the alternatives.

    These Alt nets are creating skills Jobs, maybe a KPI of this BDUK project should be how many jobs has BT created

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:


      BT to create 1,000 new apprenticeships and graduate jobs

      Plus all the jobs with contractors.

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: There are also job losses with BT, I leave that to you to do the Google search for this.

      Besides, with the size of BT, these few new apprenticeship and graduate jobs are nothing. Also, don’t forget the severe lack of innovation and BTs lazy “Can’t Do” culture, inherited from its dull GPO past, and you get the picture. This country is very backwards as regards fibre access networks.

  6. Avatar GNewton says:

    Sometimes I wonder how, in this “Can’t Do” culture so prevalent in this country, they managed to build telecom lines in the rural areas decades ago. It’s time for OFCOM to wake up and to get its act together!

    1. Avatar PeterM says:

      But that is the problem, when you get to the final 5% these rural lines cannot be adapted to superfast.
      The only way to deliver superfast to these areas is to rip out the existing system and start again!

    2. Avatar Craski says:

      “They managed to build telecom lines in the rural areas decades ago” … Good point!

      In rural Aberdeenshire, many many miles of BT cable isnt buried or strung between telegraph poles, it is simply slung into the grass verge. How hard can it be to sling a new armoured fibre optic cable onto the verge alongside it and provide FTTP in these scenarios?

    3. Avatar GNewton says:

      @PeterM: “and start again!” They managed to do that decades ago building telecom lines even in rural areas, there’s even a USO. What’s preventing them from doing it now, except this time using fibre instead of copper? Since then, this lazy “Can’t Do” culture has developed, no vision, no innovation …

    4. Avatar PeterM says:

      The problem is the expense and the time it will take. This should not be underestimated. BDUK phase 2 in West Sussex is only tackling 3,000 properties and all of these will probably be in bite sized clusters.
      It will be much better to look at the alternatives like fixed wireless. They can be delivered quickly and with a very significant savings. Properly done with good backhaul they are probably a better option than FTTC in rural areas where even customers only 1km from their cabinet may struggle to get superfast speeds.

    5. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @GN – who is this they and them you write about?

    6. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Gnewton if you want to know how they did it years ago it’s well documented, just Google it you will find it interesting and also your answer

  7. Avatar fastman says:

    what job losses In BT — considering the business has had a policy of no compulsory redundancy for x years – – more mis information again !!!!

  8. Avatar Kits says:

    @fastman well read about Cornwall for one 2015.
    Job cuts at BT Cornwall defended despite pledge to create 500 new jobs
    By RWhitehouse | Posted: January 14, 2015

    Cornwall Council

    Cornwall Council
    Comments (1)
    BOSSES at Cornwall Council and BT Cornwall have defended a move to axe dozens of jobs despite having made a pledge to create hundreds of jobs by moving council services into the private sector.


    The council formed a controversial partnership with BT to provide back office functions in a deal worth £157.5million over 10 years.

    When the contract was signed the council and BT said that jobs transferred from the council to the new firm would be protected and pledged that 500 new jobs could be created in Cornwall over the lifetime of the deal.

    However this week it has been revealed that 45 jobs have been axed by BT Cornwall.

    A concerned employee contacted the West Briton this week claiming that 30 permanent jobs were being cut at BT Cornwall and that another 50 temporary staff were not having their contracts renewed.

    They claimed that this could cause problems for the services which rely on the IT and back office functions provided by BT Cornwall and could affect frontline services.

    Read more: http://www.westbriton.co.uk/Job-cuts-BT-Cornwall-defended-despite-pledge/story-25853422-detail/story.html#ixzz3gzVMfTxx
    Follow us: @westbriton on Twitter | westbriton on Facebook

    1. Avatar Gibberish says:

      Has been pointed out to him before, still does not comprehend he has no idea.

  9. Avatar fastman says:

    assume they work for a JV cant comment — so if they worked for BT their role might go but the person would not — so no everything is as black and white

  10. Avatar Karen says:

    Two members of my family have been laid off by BT in the past. One in 2005 when the exchange they worked at closed (along with 3 other people) and another in 2009 when they closed a call centre (along with 50+ other people). To even suggest in any manner BT do not cut jobs and people is flight of fancy.

  11. Avatar Nico says:

    So you think the last 5% are in Rural areas?
    How about Pimlico/Chelsea/Richmond-upon-Thames?
    We will “never get fibre broadband” (verbatim – BT customer service) because no-one will put up with the disturbance of having it laid down. Ever.

    What the hell?

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