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BDUK Publish Data on Premises Passed for sub-24Mbps Broadband

Monday, January 25th, 2016 (4:12 am) - Score 991

At the end of last year the Government announced that their Broadband Delivery UK project with BT had so far managed to expand the availability of superfast broadband (24Mbps+) capable lines to 3.5 million premises (here), but we now know that this figure is closer to 4 million when you include sub-24Mbps premises.

The BDUK programme has tended to only release data on the coverage of “superfast” (24Mbps+) broadband speeds, which reflects their aim of making the same performance available to 90% of the UK by around spring 2016 and 95% by 2017/18.

However the current BT dominated and state aid supported roll-out of ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable FTTCfibre broadband” technology is also expanding its reach into more areas than those reflected in BDUK’s official statistics, which represent locations that receive slower speeds than the required 24Mbps (they need faster than this in order to be officially deemed “superfast“).

This is because FTTC lines can deliver anything from around 2Mbps to 80Mbps and so some premises will still get a benefit, even if they can’t officially be classified as “superfast“. Unfortunately BDUK’s performance reports have tended to exclude this additional data, perhaps to avoid confusing people, and we’ve rarely had much luck when requesting it.

Thankfully one of our readers has succeeded in extracting the information via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, which reveals that an additional 425,000 premises have been subtracted from the official results due to delivering sub-24Mbps performance.

DCMS Statement (21st January 2016)

Based on data received from the suppliers, an additional 425,000 premises (excluding Wales and Herefordshire & Gloucestershire) may have benefitted from a speed uplift as a result of upgrades under the Superfast Broadband Programme but were excluded from the reported numbers because they would not have had access to speeds above 24Mbit/s. We do not have any data on the number within the 425,000 which would have speeds above or below 2Mbps.

We could perhaps surmise that the premises passed figure for sub-24Mbps areas is closer to 500K, at least it probably is once you factor in the missing data from Wales, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire (they haven’t yet reported an updated total). No FTTP lines are likely to be covered by this figure (FTTP doesn’t suffer from the same copper speed limits as FTTC), so we haven’t considered those and in any case only a little FTTP has been deployed via BDUK.

Interestingly BDUK were also asked to identify which of those +/- 500K premises passed could not receive a 2Mbps service, although no data was provided and we suspect that this may be partly because BT generally doesn’t like to supply FTTC at speeds below 2Mbps (according to Issue 12 of the last WBC FTTC Handbook update that we saw).

3.3.6 Pre requisites for taking WBC FTTC End User Access services.

Before processing WBC FTTC End User access, a CP must be a WBC customer with the entire associated WBC infrastructure in place.

The minimum predicted downstream speed of any line under consideration for FTTC is 2Mb/s. Although this is a minimum, a customer should consider whether a line predicting marginally over 2Mb/s would perform adequately in service.

At this speed it’s also possible that in some cases a pure copper ADSL2+ line might actually deliver faster speeds than the FTTC connection, although experiences do vary (depending upon the local network design). In any case we hope readers find this extra bit of information from DCMS/BDUK useful and hopefully we can get a more regional breakdown in the future.

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15 Responses
  1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

    That’s about a 12% failure rate. If you work on the assumption thst Wales and bottom of the league Hetefordshire have worse percentages than that, the overall failure rate could be approaching 15% before, of course, you factor in the sub 2Mb and those where there are still no plans to spend remaining Phase 2 money (parts of Herefordshire and much if Shropshire, Devon and Somerset. Set that alongside appalling customer service, claims that it’s “fibre broadband” when it rarely is, and it’s “up to 80 Mb” which is nothing less than mis-selling, it doesn’t look too good really.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Calling it a “failure rate” might be a bit harsh as it’s just the nature of how the network works in regards to distance vs speed over copper (wireless networks also have distance issues).

      Those sub-24Mbps areas aren’t included by BDUK for the superfast target, but in many cases they will still deliver a modest uplift in speed (good for helping with the 10Mbps USO we’d hope). In other cases Openreach may go back to related areas an infill to extend “superfast” coverage at a later date.

    2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      It’s not a failure rate. BDUK was never set up to achieve 100% coverage at 24mbps an above. It means that there are gaps for which other solutions have to be found if the intention is to deal with those too (which means finding the finance).

      Perhaps if people had paid some attention to what the original objectives were, then maybe those could be addressed and it would get somewhere, but be warned. It will cost money.

    3. Avatar gerarda says:

      It is a question of degrees of failure – 12% including, an unknown number of sub 2Mbps, in areas where public subsidy has already been given is to my mind unacceptably high, especially when it means the 12% are now so scattered that it will be disproportionately expensive to reach them.

      In the PAC report http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmpubacc/474/474.pdf in questions 192-195 the DCMS guy refers to a model they did before deciding to only go for 90% coverage. I wonder if anyone has asked to see that model and find out just what alternatives to FTTC were considered.

    4. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      @gerarda

      But it was always going to be disproportionately expensive to service those properties where fibre would have to be put deeper into the network to fewer and fewer premises. If fibre has to be run out further, then fibre has to be run out further. That’s just the nature of it. At least now the fibre “only” has to be run out from fibre concentrators.

      In any event, now that the “lower hanging fruit” has been plucked, then it moves to the harder to reach stuff which always takes longer and costs more as it’s more resource intensive. It’s simply exposing the underlying cost structures of building networks into more difficult to reach places.

      If the build had been done “out to in”, then there would be many fewer premises upgraded, and progress (in premises passed) would have been much lower. Basically not enough money and not enough resources. It’ simply not possible to magic a huge, trained workforce into place, even if you do have the money to pay them.

    5. Avatar gerarda says:

      @Steve Jones

      The problem is that no one knows or has ever known what the cost of 100% superfast coverage would be, but the UK Broadband witness in the report above was confident it was achievable economically but never got the the chance to show that.

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      A tricky call.

      At the time the modelling was being done, there was obviously interplay about whether fixed wireless was a valid technology at all.

      That will have affected people’s thinking heavily – likely causing the modelling to concentrate on fixed technologies, and modelling just FTTC and FTTP. They likely missed other options too – such as using g.fast DPUs, FTTdp in various guises, or advances in VDSL2.

      Modelling like that probably trained them to expect a coverage of less than 100%. An expectation that they perhaps could have later revisited, but didn’t – but that’s a guess.

      Other interplay will have been happening too. While BDUK were organising the framework, the pilot projects were off and running – needing decisions much faster.

      Without checking dates, I suspect these projects were far beyond the ability to reconsider the “wireless-access to 100%” option. If true, perhaps the fact that some projects were already running with a “fixed-access to 90%” model helped keep subsequent thinking skewed.

      Truth is that the solution of the “UK Broadband” witness still involved targeting some percentage with FWA. Whatever percentage it would have been was, effectively, their equivalent “failure rate”; failure to reach with their better technologies. Yes, they’d have aimed to offset that failure with FWA in the one phase.

      What we have now is a portion that has an expected “failure rate” in phase 1, with offset work due in phases 2 and 3.

      Along with a permanently-unanswerable question of which is best.

      Reading further, it seems another reason for their non-bidding pre-dates any modelling problem: the decision to procure in county-sized lots. If that was a fatal flaw to UKB, it must have come even before there was a decision to run county-sized pilots.

    7. Avatar gerarda says:

      @MikeW I will pass over your statement that FTTC is a superior technology to FWA but it terms of dates of dates the UK Broadband witness appears to say that the decision to reduce the target to 90% was pre-bidding so the modelling had been done very early.

    8. Avatar MikeW says:

      I think the contentious date is more likely to be when the EU started to allow FWA to be considered.

    9. Avatar MikeW says:

      A little googling returned these…

      First attempt to figure out the market was during 2010, and report published December 2010. No conclusion of 90% coverage here, but there is a conclusion that 2Mbps shouldn’t be done independently, but as a consequence of the NGA rollout.
      https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/77505/10-1330-broadband-delivery-exercise-conclusions.pdf

      DCMS started to talk about 90% in May 2011.
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/05/13/government-plans-90-percent-uk-coverage-of-25mb-superfast-broadband-by-2015.html
      (I like the comments in that story predicting average speeds on FTTC, guessing that even the average would be below 25Mbps)

      Meanwhile, BDUK put out the framework tender in June 2011 that does include the 90% figure.
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/06/30/uk-governments-bduk-office-puts-out-huge-gbp2-billion-broadband-isp-tender.html

      It struck me that even allocating funds to counties required a model to work from.
      This dates to July 20
      http://old.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/BDUK-Data-Model-Expalantory-Notes.pdf

      The local authority allocations date to August 2011
      http://old.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/BDUK-Funding-Allocation-16-08-11.pdf

      But it looks like the pilot projects were announcing their allocations in July 2011.

      So … I wonder when the EU started to cave in on allowing wireless?

    10. Avatar gerarda says:

      @MikeW Interesting documents – it looks like superfast wireless was never modelled. I did see somewhere a denial by the EU that they had ever ruled out wireless as an NGA technology.

    11. Avatar MikeW says:

      I agree – it looks like modelling was done firmly in the belief that wireless wasn’t part of the solution set.

      The UK Broadband witness told PAC in July 2013 that BDUK had been offered the chance to use FWA in January, but hadn’t done anything until just before the PAC meeting. As far as I can see, BDUK wrote a new guidance note for the projects in February 2013.

      I don’t know about other projects, but my local one already had live cabinets by that time, so definitely too late. I imagine a lot of bids had either signed, or gone past the point of no return by then.

  2. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

    Worth nothing that Openreach’s latest update for VDSL modems to be approved on their network includes the need for them to support:

    – both G.INP and Vectoring operating together; and that
    – modems sync at 1800m and 2400m when vectoring is implemented

    Which gives to me anyway a fair idea of their plans to address at least some of this sub-24Mbps group.

  3. Avatar DTMark says:

    Who determines which lines are “superfast” and which are not? Example: here, speed estimate is between 16Mbps and 36 Mbps. In other words “We have no idea how fast it will be”.

    Is that a “superfast” line?

    For the purposes of fault identification BT’s “Range B” figure (16Mbps) mysteriously referring to “copper line conditions” is all that BT commits to, not that it has to achieve that anyway.

    So it would be a bit odd if BT reported that line as being superfast capable in their data to local authority while simultaneously, ISPs don’t trust the high estimate and none quote it, and BT makes no commitment to achieving it.

    “Who” determines what is “superfast” and the methodology used is essential in understanding what degree of optimism is contained within the figures being quoted.

    1. Avatar Patrick Cosgrove says:

      It’s certainly a failure rate if you were told you might get it, although you never really knew, and now you haven’t and your speed has deteriorated from aceptable to frequently unworkable. I wonder how many of those upgraded by the inside out approach really needed it, and without subsidy how many of them would have found themselves covered commercially.

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