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TalkTalk and Sky Broadband Non-Committal on Use of BT’s FTTP Network

Monday, July 4th, 2016 (1:04 am) - Score 6,636

Openreach recently announced that their ultra-fast 330Mbps capable (soon to reach 1Gbps) Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband network will reach 2 million UK premises by 2020 (here), but residential users face a limited choice of affordable ISPs and BT’s rivals see adoption problems.

At this point it’s easy to forget that BTOpenreach has been rolling out pure fibre optic FTTP services commercially since 2009/10 and that’s excluding some of their much older experiments, but so far their product has only been made available to 300,000 premises and only a few smaller ISPs, outside of BT itself, actually offer it (e.g. Zen Internet, AAISP).

Naturally one of the reasons for this is likely to stem from the potential for confusion, with bigger ISPs perhaps not wanting to promote something that only a very small population could actually receive. On the other hand BT itself gets around this by hiding their FTTP packages behind the standard availability check and only showing them when relevant (a model that others could follow, if they wanted).

BT Retail’s FTTP Pricing

Unlimited Infinity 3 (200Mbps)
£45 per month + £18.99 line rental

Unlimited Infinity 4 (300Mbps)
£52 per month + £18.99 line rental

NOTE: A 12 month contract, with no activation fee, applies.

We should point out Openreach’s FTTP also offers several slower speed 40Mbps, 55Mbps and 80Mbps options that match the monthly wholesale rentals of their cheaper mass-market Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) products of the same speed (here), which makes the transition easier to sell. Admittedly the connection fee is a little more expensive (£92 +vat), but not discouragingly so.

A Spokesperson for TalkTalk told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We are keen to learn more from Openreach following recent announcements to expand the reach of their FTTP network to more homes and businesses, and we would be very interested to see more details. Once we know more about the locations and volumes of new premises, we will be able to make our own plans about how we can add this service to our portfolio.

We have also been working hard on our own plans to provide fibre to the premises. In York our Universal Fibre Offering (UFO) is an exciting opportunity for us to explore alternative models for providing faster Broadband speeds cost effectively for our customers.”

ISPreview.co.uk privately engaged several ISPs over this question and the feedback we received suggests that a number of obstacles may be hampering adoption of Openreach’s FTTP. One possible dilemma here is that TalkTalk and others also have their own limited FTTP networks and separate ambitions, which is sometimes hard to slot in alongside Openreach’s different model.

Most ISPs also noted how they’d have to develop new ordering systems and re-train their staff, all of which adds an extra level to the cost and that’s more of an issue with a service of low availability. On top of that Openreach’s planned FTTP roll-out (here) will have a large focus on business coverage, which reflects a big chunk of the 2 million target and that east into the residential impact.

Another issue is that the most affordable FTTP options are sold as a “Transition Product“, which means that you have to take it alongside an existing line rental service (WLR or MPF). It is possible to terminate the line rental, but if you do that then the FTTP price rises sharply to compensate (e.g. 40Mbps FTTP = £82.80 +vat per annum + line rental at wholesale or £183.48 standalone). NOTE: These costs reflect wholesale, not retail prices (i.e. data, features, profits, VAT have yet to be included).

A couple of providers weren’t too happy about the above approach, although we should point out that Virgin Media’s cable and Sky’s own trial FTTP network adopt a similar design. Sadly Sky Broadband, which recently confirmed they had no plans to build an FTTP/H network of their own (here), were generally unwilling to give us their position.

In the past some ISPs have also highlighted concerns over the cost of data capacity / bandwidth, which made them fear that offering ultrafast FTTP to home users could be too much of a burden (i.e. without making it so expensive as to be unattractive). Never the less they may have to adapt, particularly with 300Mbps G.fast being just around the corner.

Overall Openreach has been putting a lot of effort towards turning FTTP into a viable mass market deployment, with most of their improvements occurring on the expensive roll-out and end-user installation side. At the same time ISPs that worry about needing to re-train staff or upgrade their systems will no doubt have to do some of this for G.fast anyway, which may present an opportunity to add support for FTTP.

At the end of the day we hear from a growing number of consumers who want to order FTTP via Openreach’s network, but they don’t all wish to take it from BT or a more expensive business ISP. Hopefully one of these days TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and others will find a way to help meet that demand, but for now it still seems to be a waiting game.

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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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8 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    Might the cost of bandwidth factor into this?

    e.g. Virgin Media get this “at cost” for customers on their 300Mbps services, as do BT for their FTTP services.

    At what cost, though, and how does said cost compare to what an ISP on Openreach’s service pays (wholesale)?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Yes and it is mentioned briefly in one paragraph above, although this is just a short summary of feedback rather than an in-depth examination. We will be touching a bit more on the bandwidth side in an unrelated future piece and a few historic articles have also touched on this.

    2. Avatar Ignition says:

      Those two use leased backhaul, and the EAD and EBD pricing is available online.

      10Gb is between 10k and 17k +VAT per year if the network is built okay.

  2. Avatar Steve Jones says:

    I’m not sure I understand the point about the GEA-FTTP “Transitional Product” issue. Yes, if the LLU operator doesn’t take MPF on that line there is a compensatory increase, but that doesn’t increase the cost relative to FTTC-GEA does it? Or have I missed something.

    The reason that the “voice line” has been seen as carrying the great majority of the physical line costs (which includes all that passive infrastructure – poles, ducts, manholes etc.) is an accident of history and dates back to when broadband was seen as an adjunct to the voice function. Hence all those shared

    So I personally think that argument for not adopting GEA-FTTP is sheer nonsense. From what I can see the price for GEA-FTTP, without the MPF element, is the same as GEA-FTTC with the required MPF element (and we don’t know what SOGEA prices will be, but expect them to not be vastly different). So there’s no reason (from the wholesale pricing point of view) why a 40/10 GEA-FTTP product should be any different to a 40/10 GEA-FTTC. Or have I missed something?

    nb. I realise there are the other material issues regarding the costs to the ISPs; training, systems integration, interconnects, fibre voice gateway interfaces and so on, but I’m addressing purely the OR wholesale pricing issues.

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      The truncated sentence in the second para should read “Hence all those shared line ADSL services prior to full LLU adoption.”

    2. Avatar NGA for all says:

      I think a higher cost of customer acquisition and installation costs suggests they are seeking more margin and the capacity to create their own data transport product using passive inputs, rather than accepting the limitations of a managed VULA service.

  3. Avatar NGA for all says:

    I assume TALK TALK and Sky are awaiting further concessions on enhanced PIA and dark fibre pricing to create a greater margin.

    This ‘transitional product’ status is little more than preserving the legacy service and optimising the existing cost recovery regime.

    Tricky this, FTTC (due to its cheapness and the level of public subsidy) on its own would allow a very low VULA price. The current NGA Cost Modelling exercise almost demands a mix of FTTC and FTTP to be modelled if investment in FTTP is to be encouraged.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Sky has made clear that they have no plans to build a fibre network of their own. Meanwhile TalkTalk would need to attract a massive amount of private investment in order to reach their very hypothetical aspiration of 10 million premises passed, but their York trial is taking a long time to complete even 20,000 and the operator has yet to set out a real plan for delivering more.

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