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UPD5 Government Unveil 10Mbps Broadband Universal Service Obligation

Saturday, November 7th, 2015 (7:18 am) - Score 5,135

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has confirmed that the Government will introduce a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) that should give everybody the legal right to request a broadband connection capable of delivering a minimum speed of 10Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2020.

The development, which was first mooted during the March 2015 Budget announcement and gained further support following BT’s recent commitment to future improvements (here), will not come as a surprise to our regular readers.

At present Ofcom’s existing USO only requires that the national telecoms operator (BTOpenreach) deliver, following the “reasonable request of any End-user“, a telephone service that includes the ability to offer “data rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access” (here); technically this only covers ancient dialup (28.8Kbps) connections.

Aside from that the Government has long pledged to deliver a minimum download speed of 2Mbps for all through their Universal Service Commitment (USC), although the delivery of this has been repeatedly delayed and often seemed to be in conflict with the goal of ensuring that 95% or more of the UK can access a superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speed by 2017/18. Neither of these is legally binding like a USO, which is the key difference.

It’s widely expected that the forthcoming Autumn Statement (Spending Review) on 25th November 2015 may also confirm funding and a strategy for expanding 24Mbps+ capable services to cover 100% of the United Kingdom (possibly with 1-2% via subsidised Satellite), which means that now would be a good time to plan for a USO because the underlying infrastructure should be ready by 2020.

David Cameron, Government Prime Minister, said:

Access to the Internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”

John Whittingdale, Culture Secretary, said:

The UK’s digital landscape is being transformed – our rollout of superfast broadband is helping millions of people who would otherwise have missed out to get online. Coverage has already reached more than 83 per cent of UK homes and businesses. By next month, 3.5 million more UK homes and businesses will have access to superfast speeds – and the Government’s superfast programme is on track to extend that to 95% by the end of 2017.”

Apparently David Cameron will be speaking about this some more on Monday and we’re told that the USO could also be “upgraded over time as technology and demand evolve,” but that’s to be expected. The Government plans to launch an official consultation on this in early 2016.

Officially we should say that the Government doesn’t clarify whether the USO is only for download speeds or uploads. Assuming the vast majority of homes are put within reach of a viable FTTC connection then a symmetrical 10Mbps would be impossible, but it’s probably safest to assume that the USO will only cover download speeds as that is the most important and easiest to deliver.

Mind you the existing USO, which also requires BTOpenreach (as well as KC in Hull) to provide a working phone line upon request, doesn’t always work as well as intended. For example, we often receive reports of people being left to wait for months before their new line arrives.

Likewise today’s copper lines can be very variable (subject to lots of different factors, such as poor home wiring or slow WiFi) and thus judging when the USO has or has not been met may prove challenging. Not that there’s ever been much in the way of actual enforcement action, aside from Ofcom’s general service improvement requirements.

At the same time there’s always the risk that introducing such a measure could impact competition and help to entrench already incumbent providers, which might make it harder for rivals to enter the market. Consumers may also face the possibility of a small price increase in order to help cater for the requirement, although this will be less of an issue come 2020 and once the Broadband Delivery UK programme has largely completed.

As a side note the Government also said that Ofcom would soon (before the end of 2015) release a new mobile app so that consumers will be able to check if their home Wi-Fi is working as it should be. They are also planning to release even more detailed, address-level mobile and broadband speed data in early 2015.

UPDATE 8th November 2015

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has welcomed the announcement and no doubt the FSB will too as they have also called for a 10Mbps USO in the recent past.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

Putting an end to the digital divide will be a shot in the arm for regional growth.

For businesses today, high quality digital connectivity is as crucial to growth and productivity as roads, railways and airports. So the Government’s commitment to continually raise the bar with this new universal service obligation of 10 mbps will be welcomed by businesses around the UK.

The CBI’s recent infrastructure survey showed that digital networks have greatly improved in recent years, but advancements in technology mean that expectation levels continue to rise. Two-thirds of businesses say that improved speed matters and greater reliability is seen as crucial by over four-fifths of firms.

The consultation on how to make this new minimum speed a reality must ensure that telecom operators are able to operate with certainty and build on the significant levels of investment they have already made, often with speeds well in excess of this.”

UPDATE 9th November 2015 (8am)

The UK Labour Party’s shadow digital economy minister, Chi Onwurah, has called for clarity on how the USO will be funded and she also added: “Five years after abandoning Labour’s fully-funded commitment to universal broadband, the government’s “superfast” broadband rollout is still being hit with delays and at the mercy of a single provider.”

In fairness Labour’s “full-funded commitment” was focused on a 2Mbps USC, not a legally-binding USO, and a firm plan for actually delivering that pledge was not published. At the time (2009/10) the idea was that they could have achieved this by 2012, but the only realistic way to have done that so quickly and without the necessary fixed line infrastructure being in-place would have been to cheat with inferior Satellite connectivity.

Meanwhile you could leverage a lot of legitimate complaints against the Broadband Delivery UK programme and BT’s dominance of the related contracts is certainly one of those. However the project has otherwise made reasonable progress for a Government scheme and we’re already seeing some areas achieve their first BDUK Phase 1 coverage goals ahead of time.

Lastly, the question of funding for the new 10Mbps USO is an interesting one. A USC budget does already exist and once the “superfast” BDUK roll-out is achieved, hopefully by 2020, then realistically it shouldn’t need a whole lot of extra public money for the deployment side.

BT has a lot of extension technologies that could bring 10Mbps to even the last 2% or so of very remote homes, but the real cost of BT may be in the on-going maintenance and upkeep of such a policy. However we’ll need to see some firm details first and that’s where Ofcom’s consultation will be so vital.

UPDATE 9th Nov (12:58pm)

A few additional comments have just come in.

Matthew Evans, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, said:

We welcome the Government’s commitment to push good quality broadband services to near universal levels for businesses and homes. Driving better coverage into the last 5% of homes who will not receive superfast broadband at the end of the current rollout is a complex but critical task and the Government is right to consult on a universal service obligation (USO) for those homes and businesses in the very hardest to reach areas.

It is important though that the Government views a USO as one of a range of options in this last 5%. More can still be done to drive private investment in digital infrastructure and it is important that this work continues. Any USO would need to be commercially viable for operators and ensure that any impact on competition is limited.”

Raj Sivalingam, executive director of techUK, said:

techUK welcomes the Government’s recognition that broadband and the online benefits that it facilitates is an essential part of our daily social and economic lives.

However, it’s important to remember that one size will not fit all in terms of the choice of services across the country. There are a number of geographic and population factors that affect this and a variety of technologies, from fibre copper and cable to wireless and satellites will be required to deliver this level of connectivity to all.

The Government is right to set the ambition. Fortunately we are starting from a position of strength in the UK. Government, Ofcom and industry now need to work together on the detail. The chosen approach must strike the right balance for UK consumers, citizens and the businesses that will deliver it.”

Mai Fyfield, Sky’s Chief Strategy Officer, added:

This is a welcome initiative and fits with Sky’s belief that the United Kingdom needs to be more ambitious in its digital infrastructure. However it is unthinkable that the Government would hand an even bigger role to BT given problems with the current roll-out, its history of poor service and the risk of declining competition. An independent Openreach, freed from the control of BT, would be able to work with the whole industry to deliver the investment and innovation that the UK needs.”

Adrian Kennard, MD of AAISP (Andrews & Arnold), said:

Thankfully for Internet access, unlike gas, electricity, and water, it can be carrier over radio waves, so any of the various satellite services that can deliver 10Mb/s would meet this objective. They are not even stupidly expensive. They work anywhere you can see the sky. So, well done David Cameron, “achievement unlocked”, 10Mb/s Internet access to even the most remote areas of the UK is now available.

The problem is that satellite links are “a bit crap”, but to be fair, they are probably fine for the objective here – allowing access to crucial services. The two issues with satellite are total bandwidth which can create levels of congestion, and latency due to laws of physics.”

UPDATE 9th Nov (2:22pm)

The UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has now weighed in with their own comment.

An ISPA Spokesperson said:

ISPA agrees with the Prime Minister that broadband is vital and welcomes the ambition to get more UK homes and businesses online.

The UK market is competitive and diverse with hundreds of providers making use of various technologies. Whilst we support the objectives of a USO, as we set out in our responses to the Ofcom Review of Digital Communications and in the parliamentary inquiry on superfast broadband, there are significant questions that will need to be addressed. These include funding, the impact on competition, the existing European regulatory regime around universal service and how this fits with the current government-based rollout.

We note that a previous call for a levy to fund broadband on telephone lines in was rejected by the previous Government. ISPA is currently meeting MPs from across the UK on broadband to help connect ISPs with MPs campaigning on rural broadband.”

UPDATE 10th November 2015

A comment from the rural land owner focused Country, Land and Business Association (CLA).

Henry Robinson, CLA President, said:

This is a major breakthrough for rural communities, and will make a transformational difference to those living and working in the countryside. It is a victory for the CLA’s long-running campaign for universal broadband and our work will continue to ensure that this pledge becomes a reality for every home and business in rural areas.”

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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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121 Responses
  1. chris conder says:

    Wonder if he realises it can’t be done through copper? And all the money wasted on cabinets that can’t deliver 10Mbps to everyone? There are millions still waiting for 2Mbps let alone 10. They will just end up saying ‘get a satellite’.

    1. FibreFred says:

      Where I do agree is that they could use satellite to fulfil this in which case it’s not much of a change?

    2. BE says:

      Noone should think this obligation will not use satellite to ensure a minimum of 10Mbps. Nothing in the government’s wording indicates otherwise. And I doubt it would be narrowed to a single service provider like BT – that would contravene state aid rules under EU law. As such, it doesnt mean very much given that currently just about anyone can request a satellite broadband service, and assuming there is sufficient ‘room’ on the satellite for another connection, and the user is prepared to pay for it (typically more expensive than fixed-line services), they would get it.

  2. FibreFred says:

    You can’t deliver 100Mbps using copper? Really

    Anyway sounds good how will it be paid for, doesn’t the government pay towards the existing uso?

    1. FibreFred says:

      10Mbps curse my predicting phone 😉

    2. Steve Jones says:

      It would be fair to say that it can’t be done entirely with copper. Excluding wireless/satellite fibre has to get within reasonable distance of the property (and I dare say that FTTP is even the most cost effective in some cases).

      I also wonder if the USO will be hedged around with “reasonable cost” considerations as is the case with the USO for telephone services where excess construction costs can still be encountered.

      There’s also the little issue of which company will e obliged to meet the USO. In areas with an OR infrastructure monopoly, then there’s really no choice. However, what about urban areas where VM is present? Will they escape all the associated costs of a USO? In any event, either internal cross-subsidisation or explicit public subsidy will presumably be required unless there’s some form of political deal with BT being done in the background (not that I’d like to suggest it might influence the Ofcom review currently under way). Additionally, if there’s to be 1-2% subsidised satellite who pays for that?

    3. FibreFred says:

      No VM should not escape the phone uso came about when there was only bt, for broadband today there are many providers it would be absurd to spend thousands bringing broadband to a property if virgin where already on the next street, that said you would only have a choice of virgin as there’s no wholesale

    4. Steve Jones says:

      In theory the position with regard to VM and wholesale services will, I assume, be reconsidered with the current Ofcom review. Not that I expect Ofcom to change its position on that point, albeit I think some consideration should be given to how industry-wide cross subsidies might be introduced to cover expensive areas (read some sort of explicit levy on BB connections rather than expecting it all to be covered by OR). I don’t suppose it will happen though – VM are rather used to having a free ride from Ofcom to do much as they please.

    5. FibreFred says:

      Agreed but it seems crazy that over 50% of the population and growing can get access to great speeds via cable but no choice in provider well a choice of one.

      If the whole thing is being reviewed plus a uso this has to be up for discussion it’s a no brainer

    6. TheFacts says:

      Why crazy, why did the cable companies give up on their rollout?

    7. FibreFred says:

      They ran out of money it’s not the coverage that is crazy it’s the lack of wholesale lack of choice

    8. Steve Jones says:

      One thing that does occur to me is the era of ISPs being operators of local telecoms equipment should surely be drawing to an end with the general direction of technology. The LLU MSAN in every (significant) exchange business model surely makes no long term sense with hybrid copper/fibre solutions. They essentially just revert to buying in backhaul and virtualised local BB services. I don’t think (separated or not) OR will deliver them a fibre equivalent to the MPF product. The FTTP service that is available is structurally very different and interconnects more like GEA/FTTC.

      Of course a revolution might happen and the many billions of ounds appear so the LLU operators band together to extend the York trial to a large portion of the country. However, that would surely overlap heavily with VM areas.

      So the question is, what will an ISP be? It seems more likely to me that they will become largely retail suppliers concentrating on content and added value rather than being network operators. That’s the only way that I could ever see them interconnecting with any VM wholesale product as DOCSIS networks don’t allow for any real form of unbundling at the network infrastructure level.

      Whether Ofcom will see it this way is another thing. There line for a long time has been to encourage competition as deep into the network as possible, but that’s lead us down the LLU/MPF model which is surely a technical dead end given the topology of the GEA/FTTP & GEA/FTTC networks.

      nb. there’s a little issue of the forgotten voice services of course, but LLU ISPs essentially get that as side benefit of operating MSANs. If the MSANs play a decreasing role in their delivery of BB then the economics will surely break down if those devices are just providing a voice service. Of course BT have expressed a wish to be able to drop the traditional voice line service and BB delivered voice would allow a lot of equipment to be retired and local exchanges to be closed.

    9. Steve Jones says:

      @The Facts

      The cable companies didn’t just run out of money they effectively went broke. The only reason they survived was because the original investors wrote off most of their investment (including the banks who “restructured” their loans). The cable industry was consolidated and eventually came under the ownership of Liberty Gobal (Virgin really have nothing to do with the ownership of the company – it’s a branding/promotion thing).

      The interesting point is that the vast historic losses of the UK cable industry are fundamental to the economics of Liberty Global as it relies on them to reduce its tax liabilities. It was this that fundamentally undermined the proposed deal for Vodafone to take control of the VM network.


    10. You have just hit the nail on the head as to why BT favours FTTC so much – the other ISPs cannot truly unbundle it and thus more market power reverts to BT/Openwretch.

      If/when they roll out FTTH then they will push the PON route (as opposed to PTP) for the same reason.

    11. FibreFred says:

      I doubt that’s the main reason wireless it will be cost

      Same with gpon lots of people use it even Google fibre

    12. fastman says:

      wireless — its question off cost — If ISP A has spent money on LLU kit in exchange it will be happy to leave you on 1m copper on its equipment that offer you (as that’s mor profitable for them) than offer you an TTC 30 m/bps (as an example) + service using a GEA cablelink it has to buy from Openreach to deploy it — that hard economics and the cp commercial decision especially if the broadband you are being charged for its running at a loss for the ISP – I always advise using the BT Wholesale DSL checker as an indicator as that will tell you what is available at your premises rather than what your current service provider want to provide you with

    13. Noel says:

      We’re supposedly the second people in the country to get FTTP on Demand in a little over a month.

      That’s a rate of about one line per year for whole of the UK (we’re getting 2 lines) – it was ‘generally’ ‘available’ in 2013, right?

      And so of the 351,642 premises passed by the end of 2015 – 2 will have been from customers who ordered FTTP on Demand.

      Most impressive!

    14. AndyH says:

      @ Noel – I have no idea who gave you that information? An ISP I do business with has had over 100 customer installs of FTTPoD (longest leadtime was 8 months when I last asked).

    15. Noel says:


      Oh my goodness – are you serious – you know of 100 customer installs of FTTPoD, the longest lead time being 8 months)?

      We were told in September by BT staff that they’d only heard of one ever being finished, and that took 18 months.

      I’m really embarrassed I bought this line. Seems I’ve been stitched up proper.

    16. Noel says:


      A senior BT person said that – not a junior customer support employee

    17. TheManStan says:

      Might that have been county rather than country?

  3. Matthew Williams says:

    Hopefully we will hear more about this on Monday and in the autumn statement. Sad fact is the government does have enough money for the last 5% to have FTTRN or Fixed Wireless but they won’t likely commit to it like they should to allow speeds to increase. Satelitte is not reliable at all.

  4. Milly says:

    The offcom use is legally enforceable only on kc and bt, that will make things very interesting in vm areas or other areas where the presence of an existing commercial operator means they can’t use bduk funds – BT will have a legal obligation to commercially overbuild gigiclear, b4rn etc regardless of the service options available to residents in that area because BT will have to be able to provide a service to anyone that chooses to opt for their network.

    1. FibreFred says:

      That is a fair assumption without hearing more but like I say… the USO shouldn’t apply in the same way that the phone one does because its not the same, there are many providers of broadband services, but there was only 2 phone providers back then.

    2. Steve Jones says:

      I doubt very much the USO would apply where an alternative service was already available.

    3. I agree totally Steve. Which in itself might well make the USO something of a farce now that we have widespread and growing LTE coverage. Although as BT already has spectrum it can use (even before the EE merger) then would not surprise me if BT uses FWA as the means of achieving any USO.

    4. themanstan says:

      It´s a safe politico promise… in that BT has already promised this, so giving a date well in the future makes it a costless promise…

  5. simon bull says:

    Im in a rural location and we only get 0.2 to 0.5 meg. Our exchange is 9.8km away and we a re told by openreach and bt sorry we cant do anything to help you because your area is not financially viable. So hows the camaron goi g to change this…more lies.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      Wait for the detail of what will be in the act. If, as is reported, it will be a legal entitlement then those issues of covering the costs will have to be addressed. It might be that there will be exceptions or the dreaded satellite option, but until the proposals are published and the detail gone through then it’s too early to judge.

      An act of parliament is not a politician’s vague statement. If it enshrines legal rights, then there has to be a way of enforcing it. I would concentrate on the detail and that’s the time to lobby your MP over the contents of any bill.

    2. Mark says:

      The The “get a satellite” option in no way will guarantee 100% can get 10Mb either.

      Many rural homes which are never going to get decent fixed line upgrades are grade listed buildings with restrictions on altering the exterior appearance. You can not just go randomly putting satellite dishes on walls or roofs of those properties.

      A similar issue arises in inner city areas that have not and will not be upgraded to FTTC. There are plenty of flats in these areas where you can not put a satellite dish on the property. Even on the ones where you can i believe their is some maximum number allowed per building, so if everyone has a Sky TV dish already you are screwed.

      Typically and unfortunately it sounds like more politician blah blah without having a clue about actual speeds and availability of broadband.

    3. Noel says:

      FTTPoD? – See below 🙁

    4. Mark says:

      FTTPoD is not available in areas which do not already have FTTC available. Unless that has changed. It needs a aggregation node.

    5. Noel says:

      Absolutely true Mark – I do find it very strange that FTTP on Demand isn’t available everywhere FTTC is. I assume you can ask them to run it from the exchange though – if you’re prepared to pay for it! 🙂

    6. Noel says:

      That said, look at the stats:

      3 FTTPoD lines nationwide in three years isn’t exactly impressive! 🙁

    7. fastman says:

      Fod is only available on an exchange that is enabled and then a cab that is enabled – in a number of situations its more cost effect to get the community to fund a new cab in the area and share that cost between the community as FTTC than it will be for a couple of individuals to do FOD — see openreach.FAQ’s

  6. James Harrison says:

    We can only hope that the definitions involved for the USO will actually mandate, at a technical level, a universally consistent minimum performance and useful parameters with regards to actual usage. The BDUK superfast definitions were so woolly that if you could get 30Mbps out of a wet piece of string and some tin cans in perfect conditions then you qualified, more or less.

    1. Actually, the one I was involved with earlier this year had quite a strict condition on minimum performance. This involved a “busy hour committed rate” of xxMbps that customers would achieve at least 90% of the time in the busiest three hours of the day.

    2. James Harrison says:

      The BDUK specs call for a network “designed in anticipation of providing up to approximately 15Mbps for 90% of subscribers during peak hours”. Peak hours is not specified. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/379762/State_aid_-_Guidance_-_Technology_Guidelines.pdf

      Note the phrasing is very vague, and allows for flexible interpretation. “Well, we thought that it’d probably get about this much but yeah real world line conditions and all that… particularly poor copper in that area, y’see…”

      When we did the Northmoor Broadband project we actually had to add that line to get it past BDUK. Just underneath the line specifying 100Mbps symmetrical upgradeable to 1000Mbps symmetrical (for 100% of the parish) without digging it up again, the 10Mbps symmetrical minimum in worst-case contention conditions for 100% of subscribers, and the details around acceptable network latency and jitter. Without saying that our 100Mbps network (with clearly better than 15Mbps for 90% of people contention performance) met this vague line, too, it wasn’t “superfast”!

      I’d really like to see a meaningful USO that encourages network operators to build real infrastructure wherever it is possible (not just financially appealing) for the hardest to reach areas. Be that fixed (ground) microwave backhauled VDSL or FTTH, or a full fibre solution – anything but satellite, which doesn’t have low enough latency for many applications.

  7. Noel says:

    Hi guys,

    I just want to share my experience with BT-Openreach and FTTP. I’m not going to reveal specific details as I am scared of retaliation from BT-Openreach and that there’ll be more ‘go-slow’ or ‘no go’.

    From what I understand from BT staff, we may be the second people in the country to actually get FTTP (on Demand) installed.

    We live in a ‘not-spot’ – we get about 0.5Mbps, even though we live in a market town and have full 4G coverage. The people down the street from us have 80/20 on FTTC and Virgin Media. We have large BT ducts outside our house – not exactly the ‘middle of nowhere’!.

    We ordered two FTTP lines in autumn 2014. We’re still waiting, but after basically working on it full-time – which trust me, is necessary if you want to get FTTP – we should have the first two lines up and running in late December 2015.

    For the first two lines, the process – start to finish – will have taken 287 working days, even though only 12 days (not remotely full days, mind you) of actual work by Openreach has/will have happened.

    We have had to invest months of work into chasing up BT-Openreach. Nothing will happen unless you spend many months on end emailing, phoning and begging for them to do what they contractually agreed to do.

    This is not the people at BT’s fault – they were useless getting the initial order done, but (after 5 months) got it registered. Then they handed it over to Openreach and nothing happened. I’ve had to follow up nearly every day for 8 months.

    Back in autumn 2014 we also ordered another 2 FTTP (oD) lines for other premises. Nothing – really, nothing – has happened on them yet.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience?

    1. fastman says:

      FTTP is hard ,expensive complex and no benefit to anyone expect the person who is funding it – so if there are moee of you in the same location its completely the wrong product – it is also deployed / provisioned in the same way as an Ethernet service — so that may tell you where the priorities currently lie

    2. Noel says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more as for ‘priorities’ fastman, the BT Business guys kept trying to sell us Ethernet and Leased Lines and promised us a two months installation for them. So we had to wait and extra year basically because we chose FTTP instead!

    3. Mark says:

      If you were able to order FTTPoD then your address AFAIK should be able to have FTTC.

      FTTPoD unless things has changed AFAIK basically ran a fibre cable to your home from the aggregation node of the local FTTC service. Maybe your street as your say is stuck at 0.5Mb with no FTTC available which would explain why you were given the runabout with the FTTPoD order.

    4. Noel says:

      Hi Mark,

      We can get FTTC but it would be 1Mbps or something – we asked BT and they said there was no point in getting it.

    5. fastman says:

      problems is you are talking to the service provider — what you should have done is make contact via openreach FAQ’s to see what could be done with your community — that may be a more cost effective solution for your community

    6. Noel says:

      I don’t really feel it’s acceptable that we have to negotiate with Openreach just to get FTTP. It’s 2015.

      I just feel that FTTP should be up and running in 2 months if leased lines are’. 14 months of despair and begging isn’t really something a consumer should have to go through in one of the world’s top 10 economies.

      After all, Openreach charge more than double what it costs to provide services to the customer on average.

    7. fastman says:


      FOD is a 121 service for you and you pay all the connection (over a 3 year) period – community funded FTTP /FTTC is where a community works with openreach to find a gap funded solution for all the community rather than the individual where not all the cost is borne by the resident and a percentage is funded by openreach

    8. Mark says:

      If you are rural Noel it may be worth speaking to the likes of Gigaclear.

    9. AndyH says:

      I’m not quite sure how you could place two orders for one property? You are aware that they don’t install two separate fibre lines?

    10. Noel says:

      Hi Andy,

      Yeah, it’s two separate door numbers but the same property.

  8. Dave King says:

    USO of 10mbs – This is great news I think!
    So whats happened to the USC of 2mbs for all by the end of 2015?
    I bet I will be told to F* Off again and put up with 700kbs for another 5 years.

    1. FibreFred says:

      Commitment vs obligation (legal)

  9. Jonny says:

    So if it’s not a luxury, the VAT will be going, yes?

    1. Steve Jones says:

      Despite what people claim, VAT has never been for luxuries only unless you think things like clothes are fall into that category (only children’s clothes are zero rated). Indeed the UK is unusual in Europe in having so many products which are VAT exempt or zero rated. It’s a hang-over from purchase tax prior to joining the Common Market and required specific agreements.

      In any event, VAT will surely, like that for all telecommunications services, be at standard rate.

    2. Jonny says:

      It was lumping it in with water, gas and electricity (e.g. a utility) from Cameron that prompted the question. He called it “fundamental to life in 21st century Britain”. Gas and electricity attract a 5% VAT rate, water is 0%.

      I’m fully aware it will still attract a 20% rate, but clearly different parts of Government disagree on how vital a service/product it is.

    3. Noel says:

      We definitely have four utilities now – Electric, Water, Gas and Broadband.

      And frankly, I bet you most people would give up the gas before the broadband! 🙂

    4. Gadget says:

      Noel – you could be right….:-) according to https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/lsoa-estimates-of-households-not-connected-to-the-gas-network the mains gas coverage for the UK is only 90%

    5. gerarda says:


      There is no universal coverage for gas – most rural homes use oil instead. Be interesting to compare the gas coverage with that of FTTC and of 3/4G. Suspect a lot of rural areas have none of these.

    6. Noel says:

      @gerarda – You’re right, neither of us were specifically talking about USOs, there’s no need to a USO for gas because you can get it in a tank 🙂

  10. Tim says:

    In 5 years time 10Mbps will be like having dial-up now. We need to aim higher, 100Mbps by 2020 would be more like it.

    1. Noel says:

      Tim, I think you’re right. 10Mbps is not even fit for purpose now: you can’t stream 4k at 10Mbps, and that’s what how you’re meant to watch Netflix on a nice new TV.

      I would personally suggest that CMA splits Openreach from BT next year, and a full transition to FTTP by 2025 is mandated, with a minimum standard of 1Gbps symmetric by then. People should also be able to switch providers within a minute (subject to contract), as they can today in Sweden.

      The FTTP rollout would cost £15 billion or so but it’s a fraction of the £70 billion+ we’ll spend on fixed-line broadband in the up to 2025, and if the Victorians and Georgians had taken the same attitude as some of the ‘copper forever’ mob, much of our country’s crucial infrastructure would never have been built.

      Once the FTTP’s in, maintenance costs have been found to be about 20% lower, so it’d even pay for itself in a couple of decades.

    2. TheFacts says:

      @Noel – does this include an OR FTTP overbuild of VM and other areas?

    3. Noel says:

      A good point – you could do it for much less if you didn’t replace copper lines in VM areas – but copper is going to have to go anyway so it might as well be done now – it won’t be cheaper to do it later!

      If anyone says it will – ask them about Crossrail! 🙂

    4. TheFacts says:

      @Noel – are you proposing government funding to installing FTTP in VM areas installed by OR for wholesale use?

    5. Noel says:

      I’m proposing replacing the copper network with FTTP as countries like Sweden are because it’s going to have to happen at some point anyway. The longer you wait with big infrastructure projects, the more expensive it gets generally.

    6. Steve Jones says:


      so what if you can’t stream 4K? It’s hardly an essential service. Pumping in big subsidies where there’s no market to pay the full costs is a dubious use of money.

    7. Noel says:

      No-one’s asking for subsidies.

      Operating margins of Openreach and UK Power Networks are between 50% and 60% (operating profit: £1.1bn, and £1.1bn just for the South East in 2014) – they could chip in a bit too.

    8. Steve Jones says:


      Yes you are, or at least in those areas where it is not commercially viable provide. You may be talking about cross-subsidies, but it’s still a subsidy (which is what happens on the basic phone line for historical reasons).

      Just because there are profits made on some functions doesn’t mean you pour money into parts that don’t. The shareholders would be in open revolt as that’s their investment and dividends. If further investment produced increased returns, then that’s obviously attractive to those looking at growth businesses, but OR is never going to be that type of company. It’s extremely tightly regulated and there’s precious little prospect of any revenue growth (only GEA/FTTC is providing some of that which just about compensates for regulatory intervention in other areas.

    9. GNewton says:

      @SteveJones: “Pumping in big subsidies where there’s no market to pay the full costs is a dubious use of money.”

      Isn’t that what the BDUK does?

    10. Steve Jones says:


      Yes it does, but in that case it’s justified on social grounds. A certain level of functional Internet access is becoming close to being essential, especially with the push for so many services, government and commercial to be on line. Rather like a phone service being virtually essential. The point is what level of BB can be subsidised on the basis of those social grounds and at what level it should be self-financing.

  11. fastman says:

    tim so who going to pay for the USC let anoe that — because some one somewhere will have to pay for it — at that’s the 10 mb usc

  12. Craski says:

    Sounds like classic politics.
    They’ve been telling the final 5% that they are #ExploringSolutions to bring them 24Mbps by end of 2018.
    Now they promise 10Mbps by 2020. What a joke.

    1. Noel says:

      If you rolled out FTTP, I think a lot of people would be happy to wait until 2025 for 100Mbps because they’d know a long-term solution was on the way. 🙂

    2. FibreFred says:

      I don’t think people would wait, do you really think we could fttp the country in 10 yrs?

    3. Steve Jones says:


      I doubt very much that those on low speeds want to wait any longer than absolutely necessary. They have lives to lead now. They want to be able to teleconference, run iPlayer streams use Amazon Prime and so on.

      As for most people, I doubt they care too much for what the speed is provided they an do the functional things. Perhaps streaming a two or three HD video streams. You don’t need 100mbps for that. There will always be some who want the fastest speed, or who want 4K video but for most things like price matter most.

      As for universal FTTP in 10 years then the logistics alone would make that very difficult. It would involve training a large new workforce and, almost certainly, inflating the cost of basic street works. Then there’s all the local road disruption.

      FTTP coverage is inevitably going to be patchy driven by commercial and technical considerations. The copper network is not going away anytime soon.

    4. Noel says:

      @Steve Jones

      Well Steve, let’s just say we disagree. I feel that lwe should always be driven and pushing the boundaries to improve our country’s infrastructure, wherever we live.

      We also know that what I’m proposing is possible because other countries have/are doing it.

    5. FibreFred says:

      Which countries ? Did they have a similar structure how is it funded?

    6. Noel says:

      NZ, USA, France, Latvia, Japan, South Korea, countries of all sizes, shapes, inside and outside the OECD.

      But let’s all agree on two things: copper is out long-term. It’s dead, finished, (insert Monty Python line here).

      Also, once fibre’s in, it costs about 20% less to maintain – and this will only increase over time with better kit.

      The switchover’s going to happen. Might as well get it done now.

    7. FibreFred says:

      So all those countries have fttp coverage to all properties?

    8. FibreFred says:

      I agree long term fibre is the answer but the two issues are:


      It will take too long and cost too much in one go to do it so the approach by BT is to do it in stages giving speeds we want in a more realistic time frame at lower costs which makes sense and what a lot of other countries are doing also. As long as you get the speeds required does it matter if it’s 100Mbps g.fast or 100Mbps fttp?

    9. GNewton says:

      @SteveJones: “As for universal FTTP in 10 years then the logistics alone would make that very difficult. It would involve training a large new workforce and, almost certainly, inflating the cost of basic street works. Then there’s all the local road disruption.”

      No offense, but doesn’t it sound a bit like a “Can’t Do” culture. Why would the FTTP logistics be more difficult than copper? FTTP is a well established technology (at least in many other countries), there is no need to reinvent the wheel in the UK for this. As regards training a workforce: How long does it really take to train a telecom engineer to handle fibre? Weeks? Months? Years? If you can’t the necessary skills from local workforce, hire qualified staff from abroad!

    10. FibreFred says:

      Along with Can’t do attitudes are No Clue attitudes.

      Why would the logistics be different to copper? Well no-one is talking about rolling our copper to the home, its already there!?

      And now you are belittling the job of a fibre engineer? I’m surprised you’ve not suggested retraining those claiming benefits yet…

    11. Noel says:


      Top idea actually – everyone wants fibre, and it’d be a great job to get into if you were unemployed! Beats cleaning up litter!

    12. TheFacts says:

      The vast majority of jobs would be digging up the roads and pavements and putting in duct.

    13. Noel says:

      Less training required for that

    14. GNewton says:

      @FibreFred: When will you stop launching your little personal attacks on ISPReview? This makes you only look ridiculous here.

      I posted some genuine questions here for SteveJones who actually knows a bit about the subject.

    15. Al says:

      My connection is sub 10Mbps in fact it’s sub 8Mbps and at times can even be sub 2Mbps as I’m on ASDLMax and I’m sick of waiting for faster speeds, fine you want to rollout FTTP, then instead of most people covered first the slowest areas have to be done first.

  13. AndrewH says:

    At least it’s 10, that’s all I can say.
    There was a danger of it being 5.
    10 is a good start and they are saying it should be possible to adjust it.
    Thing is, most will get more than 10 anyway. I would get about 35 if a remote node was put in.
    But yes, we a looking at a data explosion very soon and then 50 will have to be the minimum.

  14. dragoneast says:

    Two things occur to me. Why do we all think everybody else thinks the same way as we do? Am I the only person who gets irritated by being told what I think or what I need? I can make my own mind up, thank you. More importantly, what else will this lead to? Presumably the demise of terrestrial TV and radio, even perhaps conventional phones, as “it can all be streamed”. Well, not everywhere, not all the time. Faults do occur.

    Governments will only spend money if they can save money elsewhere. I’m not sure the elderly, sick and infirm (not all or whom are old or will be “dead before then”) can all be looked after by faster broadband. (Does your PC/smartphone/tablet wash, dress and clean you yet? Well, probably for some of us. It does talk to us, and pleasingly will tell us what we want to hear.) Though it’d help if it enables us to ban cars, trains and planes since no-one will ever need to travel anywhere as the world will come to them. Of course, law enforcement can be digitised. The Government has advanced plans for that. Why not GPs too? Education already is, so schools and colleges can become redundant too. Then it all starts to make sense, I have to agree.

  15. Hector Graham says:

    Has the government made any statement about a minimum upload speed obligation at all. With services like Skype, Facetime, Periscope and Meerkat, as well as cloud based storage services, the upload speed is becoming an increasingly important factor in peoples connection speeds. I find it increasingly frustrating when isp’s make it continually difficult to find what upload speed they provide in their connection information, and feel this needs to be addressed too.

    1. Noel says:

      Very good point Hector – the speed should be symmetric.

      Our ridiculously slow connection can just about download a film in 5 hours or so, what it could never do is upload my 50GB of documents to my cloud drive. One literally has to copy it to an external hard disk and drive it to London on the weekend to upload.

    2. FibreFred says:

      How often do you need to upload 50Gb and for what purpose? Do you think that is a common requirement

    3. Mark says:

      “How often do you need to upload 50Gb and for what purpose? Do you think that is a common requirement”

      I trust you mean gigabytes (capital B) rather than Gigabits (lower case b). 50Gb is only 6.25GB. Which with a 20Mb upload is done in less than 1 hour. Id assume even a light user could easily spend 1 hours worth of time uploading per month.

    4. gerarda says:

      @mark so on a USO with 10mbps download which is likely to have about a 2.5Mbps upload speed the file would take 8 hours to upload. That sort of time is not easily spent.

    5. Noel says:


      Look, I’m just giving you facts. It was a 50GB upload of a bunch of business documents and databases. We need to do this stuff fairly regularly. The lack of connectivity is a major issue.


      Yes, 50GB. Sorry for the typo.


      Couldn’t agree with you more.

    6. FibreFred says:


      That’s fine I was just trying to understand what you were uploading so.. your a business, its unlikely that residential users regularly need to upload 50GB of anything in one go.

      So… your connection isn’t fit for your business purpose

      I wasn’t my typo not yours or should I say.. phone autocomplete typo

    7. Mike says:


      Yes, 50GB. Sorry for the typo.”

      You did not make any typo Noel. You correctly stated 50GB

  16. Noel says:


    Agreed 🙂 But home/business I think it something that is kind of the same now for a lot of people.

    I just feel we have a choice: we can either push ourselves and invest now in infrastructure we’ll need for the long term or we can spend the absolute minimum bow, get poor results and wind up spending more over the long term.

    I should note that if Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft paid the taxes they’ve avoided through Double Irish with Dutch Sandwich, that would be more than enough to cover FTTP for all! 🙂

    1. FibreFred says:

      Sounds good but.. the country is broke, the government hasn’t spent much on broadband and I doubt that will change. Look at the recent announcement for infrastructure spending. How much of that is being spent on broadband infrastructure?

  17. Noel says:

    We’re not taking about much (if any) public money.

    Even if we were, all the other countries rolling out FTTP (apart from the UAE) have very similar debt to GDP and fiscal positions to us. So I think the ‘we’re broke’ argument is a canard.

    I like arguing for FTTP being pulled to all premises, because we all know it’s going to happen. Some people think it should happen in the next 10 years, some people think in the next 20.

    1. TheFacts says:


      On top of that we’d caution against trying to make a direct Apples to Apples style comparison between BT and Verizon. Both have different network histories and operate in markets with different regulatory rules and taxation requirements.

      Lower maintenance costs are welcome but getting past that first hurdle, which is especially costly for connecting the “last mile” fibre directly into homes and businesses, remains the biggest single hurdle to overcome.

    2. TheFacts says:

      Nobody is arguing against FTTP as an ideal, it’s just where is the business case to justify it. How would it be funded and installed and how would it fit in with existing telcos and ISPs?

    3. Ignition says:

      As long as you don’t mind having no choice of ISP on the FTTP network it’s all good.

      Verizon keep their network to themselves, and even they are selling bits of the FTTP off to focus on the more profitable mobile side.

    4. Mike says:

      Verizon have a wholesale division and reseller programmes.

    5. GNewton says:

      @Mike: “Verizon have a wholesale division and reseller programmes.”

      Just curious: That being the case how did Verizon manage to deploy more widespread FTTP as opposed to BT?

    6. TheManStan says:

      Simple no Enterprise Act to stop them deploying… Verizon started laying fibre half a decade before OFCOM and UKgov changed the law to allow BT to operate in this area.

    7. Mike says:

      In the states the equivalent to Ofcom is the FCC. AT&T in the states at around the same time as Thatcher refused BT to become anti competitive with their planned roll out also had issues with US congress and the FCC and a halt was called to their roll out with the company having to become numerous divisions also such as Bell South.

      Nothing has stopped BT from rolling out FTTP for well over 20 years now, the same goes for the cable companies of America. The only difference is over there they have got on and done things rather than wait, lick bottom for all the government cash they can get and then roll out a solution which in another couple of decades will need updating again.

      The old the government stopped BT is an old excuse, and 20 years out of touch.

    8. Mike says:

      Oh and NO Verizon did not start laying fibre half a decade before OFCOM and UKgov changed the law to allow BT to operate in this area. Verizon as a company did not even exist until the year 2000. Again a split off from originally AT&T, Bell Atlantic etc.

    9. TheFacts says:

      2009 – ‘The variation allows BT‟s Openreach division to control and operate electronic
      equipment necessary to provide super-fast broadband services using FTTP.’

    10. Mike says:

      Not sure why you are quoting modifications to a 2002 act, regardless Verizon did not start fios until 2005 the first county trialing being in Texas. So at best 4 years prior to BT trials. Lets see how much more they did in those 4 years…

      In May 2013, Verizon announced it had passed 18 million homes with Fios and 5 million customers. How many have BT passed with FTTP, not even half that is it?

      Verizon unlike BT also want rid of the copper network and are trying to sell there old network off.

      Verizon unlike BTs FTTP service is symmetrical with choices of… 50Mb, 100Mb, 150Mb, 300Mb and 500Mb for BOTH the up and down stream. Whats the upload rate of BTs FTTP?

      You only have to look at the figures to see how Verizon went balls out to bring a decent platform unlike BT.

      PS NGA access which is part of the review from your quote is technically any service capable of 24Mb or higher and BT offered that long before FTTC with their over priced leased lines. To even try to say Verizon had a massive head start over BT is ridiculous.

      Verizon started winding down their fios rollout in 2010. Their project to which passes 18 Million homes with fibre which started in 2005 was basically done in just under 5 years. Their docsis type system akin to FTTC was done way before that.

      BT with their FTTC rollout is not due to be finished until 2017, thats 8 years since their first trials in 2009. How come they have been so slow not only with FTTC but FTTP rollouts?

    11. TheManStan says:

      Um 2009-5 = 2004… which fine isn’t quite 2005, but where does 2000 come from?


      see section 17, specifically “17. BT, along with other national PTOs,[40] are currently restricted from offering simultaneous broadcast entertainment services to two or more dwellings over their telephone line networks.[41] The restrictions were imposed to encourage the investment needed for local companies to build their networks and become established.[42] The restrictions on both conveying and providing were to be reviewed in 2001, although the Government was prepared to reconsider the conveying aspect in 1998 on the advice of the Director General.”

      How is that not legislation actively preventing BT from operating in that market?

    12. Mike says:

      “Um 2009-5 = 2004… which fine isn’t quite 2005, but where does 2000 come from?”

      Not sure what you mean think you are confusing what i stated. 2002 is the date
      His or you quote in the prior message of “2009 – ‘The variation allows BT‟s Openreach division to control and operate electronic equipment necessary to provide super-fast broadband services using FTTP.’”
      comes from this
      Which is an updated document which dates back to 2002.
      SEE PAGE 1 SECTION 1.2

      NOT a 2009 document or quote.

      2000 is when Verizon as a company started… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_Communications#Formation_.282000.E2.80.932002.29 “Formation (2000–2002) Verizon Communications formed in June 2000”

      I trust that clears things up.

  18. Noel says:

    I believe BT are using Openreach as a cash cow and that left alone it could do the job easily. So do a lot of people apparently.

    1. FibreFred says:

      The annual reports of openreach are in the public domain so you can see how much of a cash cow they are

      And for a lot of people do you mean sky talktalk and vodaphone?

      We will see what happens I expect the whingers will end up calling ofcom toothless and keep on whinging from their armchairs of expertise

  19. fastman says:

    noel not sure now a 5gn bn funds a 10bn or 25bn project to fund FTTP where currently only around 10 of the 530 service providers is deals with offers that product — most want cheap Copper

  20. Patrick Cosgrove says:

    We can all speculate like crazies (see link*) but what we really need is clarity from BDUK on what this means. Typical of DC to tell the CBI what they want to hear without any substance behind it. What a dreadful make-it-up-as-you-go-along crowd this government is. Some possible good news is a report today that broadband expenditure will not be cut as part of the spending review on 25th November, but was there any extra money in the first place to finish the job?

    * http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/11/village-of-crazies-hill-grabs-home-secretary-in-battle-for-fast-broadband.html

  21. Sebastian says:

    Though this isn’t directly related to the article, more focus needs to be on getting Britain connected and achieving this 10Mbps target as soon as possible and less on ultra fast broadband. Though ultrafast broadband has a bigger availability because it will be done in urban areas first it does not mean more people will use it. The normal person doesn’t need ultrafast broadband like the normal person doesn’t need a car which does 200 mph. It gets to the point where there is little to no point in having an even faster connection. What a lot of people forget is that with a pure copper line is the reliability, which makes the experience 100x worse when the speed isn’t even that great in the first place. So I would like to think that reliability is prioritized over allowing Dave to download a film in 5 minutes instead of 10 (just an example so don’t quote me on the figures).

    1. Ignition says:

      The ultrafast stuff is using the companies’ own funding. These projects require subsidy. There’s no focus on one over the other any more than Virgin Media are going to start focusing their Project Lightning rollout in rural areas where there’s currently no superfast.

      Sure, it’d give them a high uptake. It’d also cost well into 4 figures per premises they reach, require large amounts of maintenance, and take a number of decades for them to see any kind of return on investment.

      ‘Getting Britain connected’ is at the fringes really expensive. Gigaclear are spending £1.3k of their own money, alongside a ‘smaller slice’ from public funding. Virgin are building entirely new networks from scratch for half that in urban areas, BT can upgrade their urban superfast to ultrafast for even less.

      The two have no impact on each other and are very different streams of work with their own budgets.

  22. liveinhope says:

    You can still find copper in the fridge and rural areas so why not apply some of the new copper technologies available to increase bandwidth.
    Let’s think smarter!

    1. Ignition says:

      They’re even more distance limited than ADSL. Can’t shove 106MHz of signal down a line that can’t manage 1.1MHz of ADSL.

    2. Mark says:

      Similar thing about cable Mhz ratings and what can be sent over them was explained to some regulars already…
      They obviously did not get it.

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