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Sometimes Being Stuck with Only Ultrafast FTTP Broadband is Expensive

Wednesday, Aug 5th, 2015 (8:28 am) - Score 3,529

In theory having access to order a native 330Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service over BTOpenreach’s national UK network should be a good thing, but sometimes if it’s your only option for a faster connection then it can also become very.. very expensive.

At present around 160,000 homes and businesses (premises passed footprint) should be within reach of Openreach’s native FTTP network, which is not to be confused with the even more expensive FTTP-on-Demand (FoD) solution that also crops up in some areas.

In an ideal world those covered by the native service should just pay a fairly standard installation fee (usually around £100) and the ordinary service rental, with the latter usually tending to be a little bit more expensive than the more familiar and cheaper ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solutions that dominate the country.

But earlier this week an interesting story on Cable emerged about a family that wanted to install FTTP via Zen Internet and ended up being quoted £2,323, although some of the stories that have since covered this piece do not appear to correctly reflect the situation and so there’s some room for a little clarity.

Firstly, it appears as if the family were resident in one of Openreach’s rare FTTP-only locations, where FTTC has not been made available. In this situation they should have only needed to pay the basic installation fee, but that hasn’t happened.

Mrs Watson said:

It’s mind-boggling, even the Zen rep was shocked … This really bothers me. Better Broadband For Suffolk tweet every time a cabinet gets upgraded, but what does that even mean? It certainly doesn’t mean that consumers are connected to superfast broadband, as I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s been quoted a jaw-dropping amount for installation.”

However, to put this in little perspective, native Openreach FTTP is available to order via 160,000 premises and FTTC reaches 23 million. On top of that most of those who are covered by Openreach’s pure fibre optic network should not face the same problem, although we have very occasionally seen it crop up before and so, absent of any official statistics, it could perhaps be described as a rare rather than uncommon problem.

But why the extra costs? The issue stems from Openreach’s less familiar Excess Construction Charges (ECCs), which typically cover the cost of either providing additional services or dealing with “situations where the normal cost of providing service is in excess of that listed within the Openreach price list“.

In this case the areas pre-existing cable ducts, which are installed underground, appear not to have been suitable (blocked?) and that would have forced Openreach to excavate the road. Ordinarily the operator would cover the first £1,000 of this and thus ECCs are rarely a problem, but if it ends up costing more then ECC’s can add thousands to the bill.

A BTOpenreach Spokesperson said:

Openreach charges each broadband provider the same amount when their customers want to upgrade to fibre broadband. In almost every case this amount is small and not passed onto the customer, but in a tiny minority of cases we face complex engineering challenges that cost a lot more to overcome.

In this case, we’d need to excavate a road and install new cabling to connect a single home. Openreach covers the first £1,000 of costs in any case like this, but the remainder is passed to the customer’s service provider.”

ISPreview.co.uk has heard of similar situations where home users have been quoted almost double the above amount, so it could be much worse, while others may instead choose to view the stated cost as a viable investment in their future property value. Never the less it’s hardly ideal, particularly if the only other option is a much slower ADSL2+ line and your family are already clogging that.

At this point it’s also important to reflect that Zen Internet only appears to sell FTTP as a business product and that’s another common problem with Openreach’s native deployment, the fundamental lack of consumer facing ISP support.

Sadly we don’t see FTTP specific products being sold by many domestic focused ISPs, outside of BT’s own consumer service, and that’s largely due to the limited coverage. Obviously this is more of a problem if you’re stuck in one of the few FTTP-only areas where Openreach has deployed. Yes it’s a good service, but consumers also need more choice.

Not that any of this would escape the problem of ECC’s and we can’t help but wonder how much bigger this issue might become if Openreach’s FTTP was expanded to a few million premises.

Funnily enough smaller altnet ISPs that deploy similar FTTP/H solutions usually find other ways to solve these cost issues, such as by encouraging locals to help build the infrastructure or by only connecting up big apartment blocks. In other cases the operator may simply absorb all of the excess costs and factor that into its financial model.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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