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Gauging UK Consumer Demand for G.fast Ultrafast Broadband

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 (12:01 am) - Score 3,019
Openreach BT UltraFast G.fast Fibre Broadband

As Openreach begins to rollout their new 330Mbps capable hybrid fibre G.fast broadband service, which is set to reach 10 million UK premises by 2020, a new ISPreview.co.uk poll of 1,834 readers has found that 75.4% are interested in upgrading to the new service.

The question of NEED vs DEMAND remains a complicated one to resolve because we all have different requirements and those are constantly changing. Generally a modern 30Mbps+ (“superfast“) capable connection should be enough to do almost everything you could want today and that’s important because around 94%+ of UK premises should be able to order such a connection.

However 30Mbps+ may eventually become constrained as 4K video streaming begins to grow (a single 4K stream today requires around 20-30Mbps), especially in a busy family environment where multiple streams can become desirable, and lest we forget the advent of HDR video or future 8K quality. On the other hand future improvements to video codecs could mitigate some of this.

On top of that there’s always the attraction of being able to complete big file transfers in a much quicker time (many modern video game downloads are around 50-100GB in size). Plus faster upload speeds could also be a strong draw, not least because they have become increasingly useful for personal video streaming and social networking.

Nevertheless many people will always demand the fastest connection, often regardless of whether or not they truly need or could even fully use the speed. Of course converting mere interest into actual orders is another matter entirely and depends on a wider set of factors (package price, features etc.).

Do you have any interest in upgrading to an affordable ‘up to’ 160Mbps or 330Mbps G.fast package, once or if it becomes available?
Yes – 75.4%
No – 9.6%
I already have ultrafast speeds via a different service – 8.5%
Unsure – 6.3%

Given the choice, which G.fast speed option do you think is likely to be most attractive (the 160Mbps tier will be cheaper)?
330Mbps (50Mbps up) – 53.4%
160Mbps (30Mbps up) – 46.5%

G.fast is one of the solutions, alongside “full fibreFTTP/H and Cable DOCSIS upgrades, that should help to power the new generation of fixed line “ultrafast broadband” services by offering download speeds of greater than 100Mbps.

Consumers are always seeking faster speeds and the ISP marketing departments know it, provided the price is right. In that sense the above survey is perhaps more reflecting a general desire for faster speeds than a specific desire for G.fast itself.

However it’s worth remembering that extracting the maximum performance from such connections is rarely so straightforward. Many common internet tasks (e.g. web browsing, email, multiplayer video games) do not require a particularly fast connection and a lot of internet servers will also limit their top speeds to well below those being promised for G.fast. Similarly other factors, such as slow WiFi, can mask the benefits.

Lest we forget that G.fast is also far from perfect and still suffers from the age old copper line problem of signal attenuation over distance, where speeds fall the further you are away from your local street cabinet. On the flip side those stuck in remote rural areas and some digitally isolated urban locations, where slower connectivity is still the norm, may find all this talk of “ultrafast” connectivity to be somewhat galling.

Meanwhile this month’s new survey asks about how you’d prefer to contact your broadband ISP and how often you’ve needed to do so? Vote Here.

NOTE: ISPreview.co.uk surveys are likely to receive a higher proportion of tech-savvy respondents than most, although the majority of our visitors are normal consumers (i.e. they come to this site for help and assistance with basic broadband problems / questions or when hunting for a new ISP).

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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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36 Responses
  1. Avatar TomTom

    Forget G.Fast. 75% want FTTP (full fibre to the house)

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Evidence?

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Want is one thing, willingness to pay at a given price is quite another thing altogether.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Steve
      Given take up of fixed line broadband of any description is under 90%, Tom’s suggestion that “75% want FTTP” is not very credible. It’s not even credible to suggest that 75% of current broadband customers want FTTP given only around a third of those able to upgrade to superfast or better speeds have chosen to do so.

      Perhaps “75% of people called Tom that Tom knows want FTTP”? 😉

    • Avatar occasionally factual

      It’s amusing that the first thing most consumers ask when they find that they have to be on FTTP is “Why is it so expensive?”
      (I’m talking about the growing trend for FTTP only new builds here)
      You can never please people.

    • Avatar Joe

      FTTP expensive? I pay no more than I did for ADSL – unless you order the higher speeds its hardly much different

    • Avatar occasionally factual

      @Joe
      Well FTTP has a limited number of suppliers (talking about Openreach FTTP here) so there isn’t real price competition.
      The cheap providers do not want to resell it (Sky/TalkTalk) so getting a good deal can be an issue for some.
      Although BT Retail price match FTTC for the 2 lower speeds and the competition at that level is slightly cheaper (Zen,Spectrum), at the next 2 speed levels pricing can increase sharply for non BT Retail suppliers. (ignoring AAISP here as it limits data usage in its packages)
      And some people will not use BT Retail for their own reasons.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      @Joe

      For FTTP to be comprehensive, then wholesale prices would have to go as most of the country is not commercially viable at the current ones. Those who have FTTP at the moment have some special things in their favour. It may be that it’s subsidises by programs like BDUK. It might be that it’s a community scheme where volunteer labour is used (and which doesn’t have to wholesale services). It might be a new build where installing fibre is essentially the same cost as copper. It might be a vertically integrated supplier that does not have to revenue share with retailers and does not have to carry the costs of a parallel copper network (imposed by regulatory mandate), or having to cross-subsidise uneconomic areas.

      The wider problem still remains that a national roll-out of FTTP would cost of the order to £25bn, and for a long time, there would be a parallel copper network which would have to be supported. That would take many years and would have to be paid for by higher wholesale rates. To put that in perspective, £25bn is 5 years OR revenue(not profits) and that includes leased lines. Strip out the revenue for that, and it’s 8-9 years of total revenue.

      There is talk of (maybe) 10m FTTP premises, but to do so would require regulatory changes like, for instance, having the power to remove copper networks which OR does not have due to regulatory controls.

  2. Avatar TomTom

    PCP cabinets and Fibre cabinets must go. Get rid of it. FTTP are the future.

  3. Avatar James

    Maybe there should have also been the question about if you already have fibre. We don’t in large areas of the Forest of Dean including my area as BT passed our cab. We would love it but we were/are not seen as a priority. Hopefully we have Gigaclear coming to us in April 2018 but we will see.

    • Avatar Tim

      Have Gigaclear given you a date of April 2018? I’m in the FoD area and I can’t get them to give any sort of date at all. They don’t even mention the areas they were awarded in Feb in the roll-out schedule on their website.

  4. Avatar GNewton

    Bear in mind that the seemingly high rate of users interested in G.fast is among those who can’t Ultrafast at the moment. In the real world, demand for G.Fast will be very low as the planned G.fast areas are usually already well server with good enough VDSL or VM cable services. The planned cabinet-based G.fast does reach the right target group.

    • Avatar AndyH

      ” The planned cabinet-based G.fast does reach the right target group.”

      What is the right target group? 10 million premises is the wrong target group?

    • Avatar MrWhite

      But it’s likely those 10 million premises are already able to get fast speeds on VDSL. It’s those on lower speeds that would want, but not be able to benefit from G.Fast given the drop off over distance. Without creating additional nodes between the cabinet and premises it will on;y really benefit those relatively close to the cabinet.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Have you considered that OR (and its ISP customers) will want to be able to offer competitive products, and speedily, in those very same VM cable areas top avoid customer drift?

      Whilst g.fast isn’t going to be able to carry the same headline figures as VM can manage with the cable network, it at least needs to be in the same ballpark.

      This is a low-cost, fast-rollout service primarily aimed at competition. It’s not a panacea, but something that’s commercially driven. If the costs are low enough, then it will sell (and I expect to see the wholesale cost trending towards what we currently see for the 80mbps GEA-FTTC product. Bear in mind that some of the costs will be offset by not having to increase capacity as fast on the VDSL cabinets (or even avoid, in some case, adding new cabinets).

    • Avatar GNewton

      Sorry, it should have read: “The planned cabinet-based G.fast does not reach the right target group.”

    • Avatar 125us

      The customers paying more money for the top speed Virgin offers are the ones BT needs to have to subsidise the rural rollouts.

  5. Avatar jeep

    Please excuse my ignorance on techy matters, but it seems to me that gfast is just a stop gap to full fttp, I was wondering whether the overall cost of this including all the development & spin off technology needed/looked into, at a cost is really cost effective ? Don’t get me wrong I would happily have gfast if able or if it is even offered in my area.

    • G.fast is a very cheap upgrade, relatively speaking, and you’re right in that it is somewhat considered as an interim measure because, even with the right investment established, full fibre will take many years longer to reach the same level of coverage. In the meantime you can’t leave everybody stuck on FTTC.

    • Avatar Bill

      I think the development and actual costs are considerable, just look at the monstrous equipment required from Skippy that has been covered here in the past.

      It just isn’t very good PR for BT to tell people that, so they keep saying it is “low cost”, even terms such as “no-brainer” have been used.

      All that effort could be better put into progressing a wider-scale FTTP roll-out, prioritising those that cannot get decent speeds at the moment.

    • Avatar MikeW

      @jeep
      Two points:
      a) There was a study done by Nesta a while back, that figured a rollout of G.Fast “now” (in 2016) followed by a rollout of FTTP in 2023 would cost the same, net, as just starting to rollout FTTP in 2016.

      The reasoning: higher income from the G.Fast rollout, because the rollout would cover more people in a much faster manner than an FTTP rollout.

      Conclusion: If the country didn’t need speeds higher than G.Fast in the period 2016-2023 or longer, then it was beneficial to rollout G.Fast.

      Their ultimate conclusion was that there wasn’t yet a sign for a “killer app” for full fibre. But the country should monitor those places that are well-supplied with full fibre to see if any trends get going.

      b) European comparisons show that the countries which are deploying VDSL2 are getting higher coverage of superfast speeds than the countries deploying full fibre – and that includes rural areas. The same pattern follows into the economies of those countries – the ones deploying VDSL2 have higher “digital economy” scores.

      It seems that deploying “good enough for now” in a more widespread manner has better outcomes for the country as a whole, rather then the bragging rights for a few.

  6. Avatar lyndon

    A lot of people would love to get access to FTTC not mind be stuck with it!

  7. Avatar DAVID MAYNARD

    All this talk of superfast fibre is annoying we can’t even have normal fibre where we live, we had it for two days then the whole area went down and bt and talktalk aren’t fixing it.
    We are now having to cope with 1mbps and no I’m not joking…

  8. Avatar Sean

    Was told by BT Retentions team on Friday 24 that major roll-out announcement would be coming in next two weeks and that they were compiling a list of customers who had previously declared an interest to target following its publication.

  9. Avatar John

    Buyer beware, upload speed is slower than VDSL2 unless you are right on top of it. A handfull will see an increase on G.Fast, most will see a decrease. Probably explains why BT don’t quote upload speed on their packages anymore.

    My line is 300M of mostly aluminium so I’ve no interest in G.Fast. It will not improve the 19Mbps upload I currently get on VDSL2.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      A handful you say? I don’t think so. Not sure where you’ve got your information from, but from the trials of G.Fast it shows that a large percentage will benefit both on the download and upload speeds including those that are about 400 to 450 meters from the cabinet.

    • Avatar John

      I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      Not sure what you mean by that comment, I just hope that you were drunk when you made that comment, otherwise everyone needs to worry.

    • Avatar John

      Yeah yeah, troll off loser 🙂 Don’t make claims you can’t back up.

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      You must have been looking in the mirror when you were typing out that comment HAHAHA. Next time, don’t make wild and imaginary claims without backing them up them and to top it off when someone challenges you about it all you can do is make nasty comments #Busted

    • Avatar JustAnotherFileServer

      Also here are stats from a 400 meter line using G.fast and as you can see they are higher speeds than normal VDSL: https://imgur.com/a/vjCPf

  10. Avatar Lyndon

    The Joys of living close to one of those green cabinets!

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