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Government and BT Deal to Put Superfast Broadband into UK New Builds

Friday, February 5th, 2016 (12:32 pm) - Score 2,561
new build uk homes gtc infrastructure

The Government has today unveiled a new agreement with BT (Openreach) and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) that aims to deliver “fibre based” (FTTC/P/H) superfast or ultrafast broadband connectivity into new build properties across the United Kingdom, either for free or co-funded.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of recent criticism (here), which has seen both property developers and BT alike come under repeated fire for failing to ensure that new homes were being adequately equipped with phone lines and fast broadband connectivity. In some cases new home owners have been left to wait months for even a working phone connection.

However the problem isn’t universal and a number of developers, such as the Berkeley Group, have previously made commitments to ensure that their builds will be prepared for “fibre optic broadband” infrastructure by 2016 (here). Last year also saw the Government call on local authorities to consider the need for superfast broadband when judging planning applications for new developments (here).

In keeping with that a new European policy will soon require “All new buildings – and those undergoing major renovation – for which applications for building permission have been submitted after 31 December 2016 must be high-speed ready” (here). Suffice to say that today’s announcement is part of a much wider change of strategy towards new builds.

Summary of Today’s Key Agreements

* Fibre based broadband offered to all new developments either for free or as part of a co-funded initiative. The Government estimates that more than half of all new build properties can be connected to “fibre broadband” free of charge to developers.

* Openreach is introducing an online planning tool for homebuilders, which will tell them whether properties in a given development can be connected to fibre for free, or if a contribution is needed from the developer to jointly fund the deployment of the local fibre network.

* The housing industry will also be given access to a ‘rate card’ from Openreach, which details the fixed cost contributions required by homebuilders in those cases where joint funding is required. Openreach will make a significant contribution itself before seeking any funds from developers.

* HBF will promote and support uptake of the co-funding offer amongst their members, and emphasise the need to plan for connectivity early in the development.

Today’s news also represents something of a U-turn after a senior member of the HBF warned in 2014 that the EU requirement for all new buildings to be “high-speed broadband ready” from 2017 onwards could “seriously damage” future construction (here). The HBF in England and Wales represents around 80% of the new homes built each year.

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister, said:

“The Government’s ambition to build 1 million new homes over the course of this Parliament will house families and future generations to come. Broadband connectivity is just one thing that home buyers now expect when buying a new build, so this industry-led push to make superfast, or indeed ultrafast, broadband speeds available by default in new homes represents a very important step in meeting the UK’s digital needs.”

Clive Selley, CEO Openreach, said:

“This is an important step towards bringing fibre broadband to as many new build properties as possible.

We recognise that high speed broadband connectivity is a major factor for homeowners when deciding to buy a house. That’s why we’re offering to deliver fibre to all new build developments either for free or as a co-funded model.

With the support of the HBF we’ve delivered a series of measures to give developers greater clarity, choice and more funding. Today’s announcement underlines Openreach’s commitment to further extend its fibre network – which reaches more than 24m premises – to benefit even more communities across the country.”

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the HBF, said:

“Housebuilders are constantly striving to deliver on and surpass the expectations of customers as we continue to see housing supply grow. Broadband speeds are an increasingly important factor in the home buying process and this offer to developers will see more new build purchasers benefit from the very best connectivity to go alongside the many other advantages of purchasing a brand new home.”

It’s worth noting that the Government defines “New Site Housing Developments” as being two or more new premises on the same site including single dwelling units (houses) and multiple dwelling units (flats/apartment blocks), which should reduce the pressure on builds of individual homes where the financial costs of upgrading a single property’s local infrastructure might make the project too expensive.

Otherwise the Government appears to be playing catch-up with a policy that should ideally have been established a few years ago, alongside the national Broadband Delivery UK framework. Better late than never.

However we would like to know what model Openreach will use when deciding if “properties in a given development can be connected to fibre for free,” not least since we’ve seen various examples where an area was classed as being “commercially unviable” despite there being ample local demand.

Apparently the new approach will be “closely” monitored over the next year to see how it performs.

UPDATE:

In case it wasn’t clear, the property developers don’t have to use a service specifically from Openreach if they don’t want too (a number of utility suppliers like IFNL / GTC can supply FTTP networks).

Equally there’s no guarantee that those in a co-funded situation will be able to reach a deal with Openreach, in which case they’d only get a basic copper broadband service. Developments that are most likely to benefit from a “free” upgrade would need to fall within Openreach’s existing FTTC/P footprint or be building more than 250 properties.

Openreach has revealed a lot more detail as part of the this briefing.

What is a Connectivity Assessment?

The Connectivity Assessment is a new service that allows a developer to receive an upfront assessment of the likely broadband connectivity and speeds for their development.

We recommend that developers apply for a Connectivity Assessment, at least ten months before the first occupancy date. This service will be completed by Openreach at a given point in the process but can also be requested directly by a developer at any time and the first Connectivity Assessment for each development site is provided free of charge.

From today, all new sites registered can benefit from the Connectivity Assessment. It has been designed to allow a quick turnaround, so that developers can quickly make the right decision for their business and customers. It will provide:

* Confirmation of whether or not the site is covered by existing FTTC infrastructure, which will be connected for free. New Infrastructure is required to serve new sites of 100 or more new homes in all cases as such these are deemed outside of existing coverage.

* The option of new Fibre Broadband Infrastructure based on a Developer Contribution (if applicable and where there is no existing infrastructure)

* Clarity and certainty of the costs to connect a site outside of existing Fibre coverage

* The expected broadband speed range based on copper infrastructure, should the developer not wish to take up the option of FTTC infrastructure.

What happens if the developer decides that they don’t want Openreach to install fibre infrastructure?

If the housing development is already covered by our existing fibre broadband network, this will be automatically available to homebuyers and developers need not do anything further. However, if a new fibre broadband network isn’t required by the developer, we’ll not proceed fibre and we’ll connect the developer’s site to the existing copper network.

We have had a lot of feedback from developers and the HBF that for many new home buyers, broadband speed is one of the big influencers when making a house purchase. This is particularly key if they intend to work from home, or have many devices connected at the same time; perhaps with multiple family members using the same connection.

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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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20 Responses
  1. Avatar TheManStan

    On the topic of existing new build, Local authorities will need to agree dispensation to OR regarding their adoption policies…

  2. Avatar GNewton

    Isn’t this a watered-down version? Shouldn’t new developments be fibre-optic ready?

    • Even the EU policy avoids being specific and tends to use ambiguous terms like “high-speed”, which perhaps reflects that they don’t expect most countries to meet their 30Mbps for all target by 2020 (unless they cheat with Satellite again of course).

    • Avatar FibreFred

      If they get FTTP they are fibre-optic, if they get FTTC they are fibre-optic ready as there will be a aggregation node feeding the cabinet.

  3. Avatar kenneth

    Hybrid fibre “Vdsl” is a shambles of a product….. costing just as much as pure fibre in the long haul in 5 years time the cost of deplying fibre cabs and the power they use go far past that of which tradition fibre splcing and deployment cost.. look at korea…. 10Gb and 1gb for consumers unlimited.. ultra low latency and sla! 98% vdsl has no sla! Im still waiting for BT to intall my FTTPoD line 🙂 like useal its openreaches fault and then bts and then openreaches and then wholesale….. its all a shambles! istill have 4 bonded vdsl lines full speed but need the low latency and bit, packet loss0

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Move to Korea? 🙂

      Is Korea a valid comparison, you see this a lot “Look at that lot” but is it a valid comparison, usually… it isn’t

    • No the cost of VDSL really doesn’t go far beyond the cost of using FTTP from the outset. Not even close. BT didn’t randomly decide to spend extra to supply services that have higher operating expenses so that they could keep maintaining their copper network at considerable cost, too.

      As far as the rest of your barely decipherable post goes: indeed.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Methinks you believe the hype about Korea too much. 10G? Yeah, right. Korea has really good cover of 100M speeds. Not the 1G and 10G levels though.

      IIRC, Korea is around 40% FTTB, 30% FTTH, 20% HFC and 10% xDSL.

      Where the market is not FTTH, but is really FTTB+VDSL or FTTB+LAN, they’re looking at using something known as G.now, not FTTH. This is rather similar to G.Fast, with similar speeds. Still using a final drop of copper.

    • Avatar fastman

      so your issue is with FOd — not sure why you even need or want FOD

  4. Pity it’s not about native fibre / FTTP. FTTC exists solely as a means of overlaying ‘some’ fibre onto a legacy copper network. It seems strange to have to build a legacy thing then update it all in a oner. Or is BT still bound by some kind of minimum copper telephone requirement that means they still have to run copper too?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Not sure but there are FOX’s (Fibre Only Exchanges) so I don’t think they can be bound.

      For me it should be down to the developer. BT should supply the node free (or funded if required) and then the developer should have a choice of paying extra to make it FTTP to each house or if not it’s FTTC.

      After all FTTP is a good selling point when it comes to putting the houses up for sale.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      It’s actually the responsibility of the property developer to put in the infrastructure and then hand over to Openreach. Which is why there is all the push (sarcastically as they’ve been talking about it for years) to get good BB provision into the planning permission part of developments.

    • Deddington was the FOX exchange but I don’t think copper has been retired there. Checking the number of the Deddington Arms and Unicorn Inn indicates copper is still there – both quote ADSL Max numbers.

      Could just be something to do with the checker of course.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Alasdair/ManStan

      The real picture is even more complicated than that.

      The developer is in no way forced to involve Openreach at all; they can choose anyone they feel like – an open market, and all that malarkey.

      However, once people live there, they have a legal right (due to the USO) for Openreach to supply a phone line – even if the developer didn’t involve them during the build, and didn’t include their infrastructure.

      There is also something of a problematic time just after people move in: The builder has sold them a house, but the road isn’t public – and hasn’t been adopted by the council. That means Openreach have no legal right to access the road/pavement – even if they have a legal obligation to supply a phone line. A standoff ensues.

      If the developer have chosen someone else to supply fibre (and often Sky TV), you will find that this third party effectively has a monopoly on communications – at least until the road gets adopted. And that could be 5 years after the last homes have been sold, and maybe 10 years after the first ones were sold.

      Even when adoption is complete, the council have policies that require any road/pavement digging to be fully resurfaced – making any digs ultra-expensive. This becomes a great disincentive to supplying new services (by VM, Openreach, anyone) if the infrastructure wasn’t included in the very first steps of the development.

      If the developer does include Openreach in their plans, then they will usually install all the ducting and chambers on behalf of Openreach (using Openreach stores), and will then be paid by Openreach for that infrastructure after inspection.

      For a few years now, the Openreach Developer’s guide had instructions for this work, and has included details that required fibre tubing as well as copper ducting. However, the latest version of the document has been split into two – for fibre and for copper. The copper document no longer specifies exactly what the ducting should contain: just that the developer must include whatever rope/cable/tubing their Openreach planning officer has specified is to go inside the duct.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      Exactly, the thing you always have to remember is that a politician’s word isn’t law. Though it’s ever-so convenient to have you believe otherwise. And a modern habit.

  5. Avatar Bluemoon

    In the area I live the planning office already had this provision in place however as it was opt-in by the developer they decided against it so therefore we are stuck with copper in an area where other developers are deploying fttp. As our development is small compared to the others who knows when We will get anything high speed.

  6. Avatar MikeW

    One aspect of this is good – and perhaps shows Openreach with a shifted attitude; the fact that Openreach will engage early. That the “Connectivity Assessment” can be performed right back when the land is being purchased.

    We shouldn’t ever hear that Openreach hasn’t heard of a development, or isn’t aware of the number of properties. Yes, it isn’t Openreach’s fault all the time – but it should still never happen.

    Perhaps the laws of choice – the ones that allow a developer to choose someone other than Openreach – need to be revisited, such that a developer is forced to engage with “USO providers”.

  7. Avatar fastman

    no it is not !!!! developer asks for copper only USO voice — Developer then gets copper cab — copper cab not in commercial programme (finshed) or BDUK (no postcode at OMR) so no Fibre — this is what it will stop

  8. Avatar fastman

    also developer needs to engage around total phase build rather can I have 100 lines (not this is the 100 of say 750 homes I building

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