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FISP Calls for 1000Mbps Broadband to be Deployed Across London UK

Thursday, March 31st, 2016 (3:35 pm) - Score 987

The Foundation for Information Society Policy (FISP) think-tank has said that some 20 cities in the United Kingdom are on their way to rolling out Gigabit (1000Mbps+) class broadband services, but London isn’t one of them and they want the capital’s mayoral candidates to change that.

In fairness even many of the cities that do have 1Gbps broadband connectivity available often only deliver very limited consumer coverage of such connections (e.g. the Sky Broadband and TalkTalk Joint Venture with Cityfibre in York does intend to cover the whole city, but so far they’ve only actually achieved a few thousand “premises passed” since 2014).

Lest we not forget that most of the Gigabit class connections in other cities are more focused upon catering for public sector and business sites, but if we only look at those then you also have to include Leased Lines and they are much more widely available, albeit for a hefty install price.

However FISP seems more concerned with the consumer angle and they note a YouGov survey of 1,167 adults in London, which claims that a sixth of Londoners are unhappy with their broadband speed (the possible network availability of faster connections in related areas does not appear to have been considered in the survey) and 17% rate the city’s chances of meeting future broadband needs as being very poor.

David Brunnen, FISP Member, said:

“Demand for broadband capacity in London is growing rapidly, but the capital’s broadband, based largely on old networks of copper wires, has a limited future. This dangerous situation will diminish economic and societal growth in the future, unless London’s incoming mayor is able and willing to take drastic action.

Slow broadband has a particularly negative impact on those who are trying to work flexibly from home, and on small businesses and start-ups based in people’s homes and reliant on speedy internet to run successful operations.

Hundreds of thousands of Londoners are already unhappy with their broadband – and unless quick action is taken to support growth and encourage investment, there will be serious repercussions in the near future.”

FISP says that to solve this problem the future London mayor should deliver a publicly-owned Digital for Londoners (DfL) agency, which would dedicate itself towards making London an “open access” based Gigabit City by 2020 (defined as allowing all homes and businesses a symmetrical broadband speed of 1000Mbps). But as usual it’s all too easy for a think-tank to promise such things, but quite another to fund and then delivery such a project within what is a very tight time-scale.

In theory Virgin Media’s future DOCSIS 3.1 cable network could do a lot of the leg work (1Gbps seems plausible, although full duplex 1Gbps may take a lot longer to arrive), but BTOpenreach would need longer to roll-out FTTP/H on such a scale and their G.fast service is otherwise aiming for a maximum download speed of 500Mbps by 2025. Meanwhile smaller operators, such as Hyperoptic, will help by nibbling around the poorly served edges but they can’t do the whole of London.

The other question is where the money would come from, particularly since EU State Aid rules are rather restrictive when it comes to allowing public funds to be used in areas where the private sector should really have no excuse for not doing it themselves. It would also be interesting to see how many of the 20 other UK cities that FISP moots for Gigabit status will actually end up achieving total FTTP/H coverage by 2020 (they appear to be confusing Cityfibre’s very hypothetical “addressable market” coverage with actual “premises passed”).

Still we’d certainly welcome a more forward thinking approach to connectivity and funding, but we’d need to see this alongside a proper examination of the costs (including likely funding sources) and timescale. Otherwise the DfL idea appears to have gained some support from the City of London Policy and Resources Committee, Federation of Small Businesses, IoD and the Westminster Council.

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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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23 Responses
  1. Ignition says:

    There is more FTTP per person in sparsely populated hamlets in the UK than in our cities.

    The cities can be served cheaply through hybrid solutions and there is no case for FTTP via BDUK.

    This hasn’t changed. Hopefully the new trials from Openreach will help but as of right now they make really hard work of deploying FTTP. It seems to cost them a huge amount and take them a long time, even when there’re no civils to do. Not a great business case maker given they’ve pre-existing networks they can use through enhanced copper.

    Virgin Media aren’t going to overbuild with FTTP, and DOCSIS 3.1 is going to be very asymmetrical for a while.

    A new entrant is needed to fulfil anything like these ambitions, and hopefully will arrive using a combination of their own investment in infrastructure and usage of Openreach plant through an enhanced PIA product.

  2. New_Londoner says:

    A pretty clueless “report” that seems to ignore what is already available. It would be good if the “think tanks” writing these reports took a bit of time to do fact finding before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

    From a quick read, this has about as much credibility as the regular uSwitch twaddle on the “slowest streets in the UK” (which almost always have fibre available).

    Perhaps a referral to the ASA would focus a few minds on ensuring that they pay attention to the “think” part of their think tank label! 😉

    1. DTMark says:

      What percentage of premises in, say, Zones 1 and 2 do you think can be connected to a symmetric 1Gbps fibre connection in a reasonable time scale, say, two or three days (just plug it into the connection point in the street a few hundred metres away at most), and at a reasonable cost of perhaps £250 or less, and how many infrastructure providers can the customer choose between?

    2. New_Londoner says:

      And what percentage do you think this applies to in, say, New York, Tokyo, Seoul or Shanghai? And let’s be clear, you are talking about real 1Gbps services? Or do you mean the very highly contended broadband (FTTB) services like those in Seoul that deliver average speeds of 20Mbps or so?

    3. DTMark says:

      I don’t see how what people in cities in other countries can get is relevant.

      I mean the ability to connect to a service which is actually capable of delivering real 1Gbps symmetrical speeds, even if the customer elects to take a lower speed service.

    4. New_Londoner says:

      You’ve outlined a scenario, the implication being that this in some way represents best practice. I’m simply trying to understand where in the world this is currently applicable.

    5. DTMark says:

      I’m still not seeing how it’s relevant.

      “A pretty clueless “report” that seems to ignore what is already available.”

      I’m just trying to establish what is already available. I didn’t think that we were anywhere near what is being requested and the closest London gets is a few blocks of flats wired up by an alt-net and also perhaps a few business parks.

      When price and lead time is left out of the equation, then of course, “anything” is available.

    6. TheFacts says:

      @DT – why are you asking for 1G and not 300M or 2G?

    7. DTMark says:

      I’m not sure what difference that makes either since if fibre is deep enough into the network to be connected to premises on request cost-effectively then surely any of those speeds or higher could be supplied.

  3. John Miles says:

    What is the case for ‘needing’ 1 Gbit per second? To give a bit of perspective, on current BB networks it is common to use a 1 Gbit link to connect exchanges serving around 500 users to the main network and it never carries more than 500 Mbit/s. So the need for that same capacity for just one average user seems spurious.

    There are specialised users that require high rates and there’s a good case for building wholly new networks with FTTP, but not for replacing or overlaying existing networks where FTTC currently gives enough capacity

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I think the use case for any new form of connectivity depends upon individual circumstance and expectation vs need vs marketed (advertised attractiveness) demand. It’s rarely a simple argument.

      You could say that by drilling it down to a simple argument of headline “speed” then some people are overlooking the other advantages of having a pure fibre optic infrastructure, such as greater reliability, lower maintenance costs, certainty of performance and future scalability for lower investment.

      Likewise wouldn’t it be wonderful if almost everything you did online was instant or close to instant (takes a few seconds rather than hours)? Including big downloads. I’d love that, but equally we can live with 30-40Mbps today for a few years, but it’ll need another infrastructure upgrade eventually and then another etc.

      Right now I think the challenge is more with getting 24Mbps+ to everybody rather than Gigabit, but that doesn’t mean to say that operators can’t make a viable case for FTTH/P if they think it’s worth doing over the longer-term. Cost and time-scale are usually the key barriers to such an approach.

  4. Nick says:

    All I want is at least something better than copper line 7.5-15 which is all that BT can offer right in the centre of London in Marylebone !!

    Unbelievable in 2016

    1. TheFacts says:

      The cable companies have had 30 years to provide you with a service.

    2. karl says:

      HUH…What??? Cable companies have been able to offer 7.5-15Mb and higher 30+ years ago???? Thats a new bit of stupid insight.

    3. TheFacts says:

      30 years to provide TV, then phone and then broadband.

    4. karl says:

      Dunno where you get the 30 year figure. Telewest only came to existence in 1995 (making it 21 years old). Prior to that it was only a regional company supplying Croydon.

      Of course if you are talking about the days prior to Telewest when the company was regional only and did not supply internet services back then. Some areas could not even have the TV service. Then we may as well go ahead and assess you comment further and realise…

      BT have had since 1912 when it was known as the GPO or 104 years to provide TV, then phone and then broadband.

      I guess somehow you think it logical a company going for what you think is only 30 years should be supplying things before an organisation that has been going over 100 years.

  5. TheFacts says:

    Refers to http://www.digitalforlondoners.co.uk/

    Private funding – what’s stopping them now?

  6. Philip Virgo says:

    London’s competitors are New York, Hong Kong and Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Manchester and Leeds. In every case fibre to the fintech and multi-media SMEs (including home-based workers) is a core to success. It is why those properties in London which have it commend premium prices. It is why the competitors to BT have been fighting to secure a level playing field so that they can use private finance to do what BT has not – for fear of cannibalising its leased line revenues. My main criticism of the FISP report is that it has not taken a look at what the competitors to BT are already offering across London – when they can get the back haul. hat raises the question of what the Mayor can do to help. So far Zac Goldsmith has made the only solid comment with his pledge to exploit the TfL networks and wayleaves, akin to the telecoms subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn.

    1. TheFacts says:

      @Philip – what’s the VM coverage in London and what do you mean ‘when they can get the backhaul’? C&W were digging up London 30 years ago.

    2. Ignition says:

      No worries about Leeds and Manchester providing competition. There isn’t a single native Openreach FTTP line in either of them, and only Hyperoptic provide FTTB/P in some apartment buildings.

  7. John Lockwood says:

    Expecting BT to provide G-Fast in London is a pipe dream. BT still do not provide their so called Super-Fast broadband i.e. BT Infinity to much of London. My exchange like nearly all exchanges in London was upgraded to allegedly be Fibre capable years ago but like most of London I am still waiting for them to upgrade my street cabinet.

    BT cannot even be bothered to upgrade Old Street/Silicon Roundabout despite the many negative press stories this failure has generated. Frankly with the appalling response of BT over broadband one starts to suspect that they now having bought EE will never offer 5G mobile either.

    It is farcical that BT are advertising their TV service with allegedly 4K capability when this requires BT Infinity which we cannot get!

    1. TheFacts says:

      This must mean lots of opportunities for altnets, where are they? What exchange are you?

    2. karl says:

      HIm telling what exchange he is on would not tell you if he could get FTTC so dunno why you want that information. Or why you continually think you must be the only one that can use a broadband checker.

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