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Hundreds of Trees Pruned – Openreach Pull FTTP Broadband to Rural Cumbria

Monday, March 27th, 2017 (10:50 am) - Score 2,555

Hundreds of trees have been pruned back so that Openreach’s (BT) engineers could run 12km of overhead cabling to bring “ultrafast” Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband to around 480 premises in the rural Cumbria (England) villages of Crosthwaite, Underbarrow and Brigsteer.

We don’t often hear about Openreach running FTTP into remote rural villages (they tend to prefer the cheaper FTTC technology), although today’s news shows that it is still happening and in the middle of the Lake District National Park no less. As a result residents and businesses in the South Lakeland villages can now order download speeds of up to 330Mbps (rising to 1Gbps, once ISPs actually start to offer it).

Apparently the latest roll-out was partly funded by public investment from the regional Connecting Cumbria project, which is working to make “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) services available to 95% of premises in the county by around mid-2018. So far 120,000 premises in Cumbria have benefited from this project (220,000 if you include BT’s commercial roll-out).

However, most of the above has been done with their slower ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) technology. By comparison this appears to be an uncommon example of an area where Openreach has found deploying FTTP to be more viable than FTTC.

Paul Cretney, BT Senior NGA Project Manager, said:

“Fibre-to-the-Premises technology is just one of the ways we can overcome the challenges of reaching more remote, less populated communities like Crosthwaite, Underbarrow and Brigsteer and demonstrates our commitment to making high-speed fibre broadband as widely available as possible.

They are just some of the communities across the county that have been connected up to high speed broadband using FTTP technology as part of the Connecting Cumbria project.”

Tim Farron, LibDem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said:

“This is great news for these villages. Access to top quality broadband is not only important for local residents, it is also vital for our local economy. It enables businesses based in villages in rural Cumbria to connect to the global economy, reaching new markets and helping to support local jobs.

Investing in broadband infrastructure will give a real boost to the local economy. It is vital that ultrafast broadband continues to be rolled out across the county, so that we can compete on the international stage.”

Openreach has also confirmed that their “ultrafast” FTTP service will be deployed to more of the surrounding area during Summer and Autumn 2017, although they don’t say precisely where. Sadly there’s also no information on how much this roll-out cost, particularly as pruning so many trees isn’t a small job.

One problem with this specific FTTP service is the lack of mainstream ISP support. Nearly all of the other major broadband providers have so far chosen to stick with their mass market hybrid-fibre (FTTC) and slow ADSL products (here), although you can buy Openreach based FTTP packages from BT itself or ISPs like Zen Internet, iDNET and AAISP etc.

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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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29 Responses
  1. NGA for all says:

    Salute! Is this considered final 10% FTTP or final 5% FTTP.

    1. JimWeir says:

      Funded by CC 95% target – think that answers your Q

  2. Peter Knapp says:

    Ahh yes, 300+Mb/s or even 1Gb/s FTTP.
    With BT’s hand off costs of around £45 per megabit 95%ile.
    That makes perfect economic sense for the ISP…

    There is a damn good reason why most ISPs aren’t offering it..

    1. NGA for all says:


      In 2013 WLA – Ofcom identified a uniform megabit per second per second underlying cost of c£5 per month. The beauty was it did not vary as the UK was such a small place.

      Can you expand on the bandwidth £45 per meagabit cost and how it applies. How much capacity do you need to contract with for Kendal HO? Is the £45 for incremental bandwidth usage? The state is paying most of the cost here. I assume you need to buy VLAN capacity in this case to a Handover point in Kendal. If you are paying excess rates they end up contributing to clawback or ought too! You insight would be welcome. Could you expand a little?

    2. AndyH says:

      @ Peter – It’s no different with FTTC and unlimited packages. You lose money on tiny percentage of the users who saturate their connections for most of the month, but you make a profit on the remaining majority who do not fully use their connections.

      Obviously the smaller, niche ISPs are in a tricky situation and nearly all of them introduce some usage caps.

    3. AndyH says:

      @ NGA – The state does not pay for the ISP to get the traffic from the Openreach network to your data centre.

    4. NGA for all says:

      AndyH, the state will have contributed to establishing some HO points in Cumbria including the transmission links to them. Where BT has paid, the state is still allocated incremental costs.

    5. Peter Knapp says:

      @AndyH – I appreciate it is no different with ADSL/FTTC. However the potential to get a shock 95%ile bill (if you don’t rate limit, which rather defeats the marketing material and product potential) is much greater. You only need one run away user to push your 95%ile up that month and you (the ISP) stand to loose a fortune..

    6. CarlT says:

      @NGA The costs the poster is talking about are nothing to do with BDUK. He is talking about the links between BT Wholesale and their customers so this spiel is quite irrelevant.

      As Andy said the state support ends where the Openreach network ends.

      You may benefit from reading the relevant SINs

    7. NGA for all says:

      @Carl T – I understand the wholesale product. There is a relevance in so far as these costs shape the provisioning for the peak hour.

      The marginal cost of bandwith is low, so it would be to see how these volume related prices are applied.

      BDUK is relevant if it has paid for the fibre spines and some core transmission capacity.

    8. AndyH says:

      @ NGA

      BDUK did not fund the BT Wholesale network!

      As both I and Carl have stated, the Openreach network ends at the exchanges. ISPs are responsible for getting traffic from the exchange to their networks. There is no public funding for this.

    9. TheFacts says:

      @NGA – some of your knowledge is seriously lacking, have any of your comments made the slightest difference to the UK broadband rollout?

    10. CarlT says:


      I can’t find anything in the 2013 WLA referring to BT Wholesale’s pricing per megabit per second per month on WBC or WMBC 21CN products.

      BT Wholesale pay Openreach for CableLinks from layer 2 switches – these are a standard product used by both BDUK and non-BDUK subsidised kit, and connectivity to them is provided on a commercial basis. BDUK is there to gap-fund build and CapEx, making the commercial pricing viable.

      BT Wholesale take the CableLinks into their own switches or routers, and from there pay Openreach for EADs, which use Openreach transmission network and fibre that is not related to the NGA network.

      These are not subsidised by BDUK as far as I’m aware. These are using the exact same backhaul products that BT Wholesale ADSL services use. They do not use the fibre spines and branches that are used for NGA, they use trunk fibre routes going between exchanges.

      These backhaul products do not use the layer 2 switches or OLTs used for NGA, they use separate, dedicated transmission equipment. The same transmission equipment carrying the existing ADSL broadband services delivered from BT Wholesale MSANs. This stuff pre-dates FTTC and deployment of FTTC is in no way dependent on it.

      If you believe that BDUK is subsidising Openreach’s point to point Ethernet products or BT’s TSO division this is something that needs more attention drawn to it and you should raise this to the relevant authorities.

    11. NGA for all says:

      Thanks for the insights.

    12. MikeW says:

      “The same transmission equipment carrying the existing ADSL broadband services delivered from BT Wholesale MSANs. This stuff pre-dates FTTC…”

      Although BT have been altering “this stuff” too. The centralised BRAs functionality has been moved out of the ~10 sites onto hundreds of new MSE routers, which are likely to be at most metro node sites.

      Likewise the WDM transmission network seems to have been getting a makeover.

      “If you believe that BDUK is subsidising Openreach’s point to point Ethernet products”

      In general, I think you are correct, but there is one area where BDUK has been funding the backhaul and transmission network, though I couldn’t begin to say which part of BT actually got the subsidy.

      That area is in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland; in particular the project to add 20 subsea connections (250 miles) to and between islands, and to add 30 WDM nodes through both the islands and highlands, and about 500 mile of fibre to connect it up.

      The project was acknowledged as partly funded by Digital Scotland.

  3. Stephen says:

    How would FTTC be cheaper to supply rural properties than FTTP? To my mind, FTTC needs a pair of cabinets & fibre run in underground ducting which may need to be installed in the first place, whereas FTTP doesn’t need a cabinet & can be erected on existing telegraph poles.
    My street in rural Aberdeenshire is in scope for FTTP, I’ll be very interested to see how they roll it out. If they do at all!!

    1. Peter Knapp says:

      Hi Stephen. There is a “but” here of course. Subject to cabling, one FTT(C)abinet can potentially service 576 premises, although not many are as large as this.
      That of course in cost per serviced premises is tiny to FTTP requiring new delivery to every premise..

    2. Lee says:

      No fibre cabinet can support that many linea. 384 is the current maximum.

    3. TheFacts says:

      and then a 2nd cabinet.

  4. CarlT says:

    So about that digital divide… City of Leeds Openreach FTTP coverage zero. Rural villages 12km of poles from exchanges good to go, subsidised by urban taxpayers and telco customers.

    UK broadband economics is so weird.

    1. TheFacts says:

      What’s the rural VM coverage?

    2. NGA for all says:

      It is bit weird but just as your showed there as no need for FTTC subsidy in Huntslett, this exercise will show these efforts will be much cheaper than portrayed in 2008/9 and so may benefit Leeds customers eventually, as the penny drops that LRIC for fibre is lower than copper.

      If these country bumpkins can have it, why can’t we is a legitmate question?

    3. MikeW says:

      Carl’s cabinet wasn’t ever at issue over subsidies, and never used one. It was just that Openreach claimed the cabinet was uneconomic without factoring in the huge estate that had since been built.

    4. GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: “What’s the rural VM coverage?”

      Who was the last emperor of China?

  5. fastman says:

    actually the biggest FTTC Cab is a 288 which can be expanded to a 384

  6. Nathan says:

    Is this cleverly placed to stop b4rn expansion?

    1. Lee says:

      I doubt it.

  7. lyncol says:

    Is this something new for Openreach to install overhead fibre?
    Does stringing fibre cables between poles create any new problems…is the cable relible in high winds/bad weather?

    Getting fibre to a DP should be cheap enough…?

    1. AndyH says:

      It’s nothing new, Openreach have been doing it for many years now.

      Duct work is preferable, but it’s exorbitantly expensive for small, rural areas.

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