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UPD Gov Reject BT Voluntary 10Mbps UK Broadband USO and Goes Regulatory

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 (8:03 am) - Score 3,915
10Mbps UK Broadband USO

After a final consultation (here) the Government has today revealed its chosen path for implementing a new legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO), which promises a minimum broadband download speed of 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) for all by 2020 and rejects BT’s £600m voluntary proposal.

Fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) connections are currently estimated to cover around 95% of homes and businesses in the United Kingdom and the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme predicts that this could reach 98% by around 2020, which will sadly leave 2% of premises in predominantly rural areas (plus some disadvantaged urban spots) to suffer from slower speeds. This is where the Universal Service Obligation, which is part of the wider Digital Economy Act 2017, should focus.

Ofcom recently estimated that 4% of the UK (1.1 million premises) still cannot receive speeds of 10Mbps+ (here), although the on-going BDUK deployment means that come 2020 this gap should have been reduced to somewhere around 500,000 premises (depending upon chosen USO design).

Catering for the final 2% by delivering universal fixed line superfast broadband coverage would be expensive (estimated at up to £1.4bn) and so our austerity minded Government proposed a slower USO to fill the gap, which pledged to provide an “affordable” connection that can deliver line speeds of at least 10Mbps (i.e. most will get much faster speeds).

Draft 10Mbps USO Design (Subject to Change)

* A minimum download speed of 10Mbps (Megabits per second) and 1Mbps for uploads. The download speed was chosen by Ofcom as being the level needed to meet the requirements of an “average family“.

* Additional quality parameters with minimum standards for latency, a maximum sharing between customers (contention ratio of 50:1) and a data cap of at least 100GB per month.

* Most of the USO will be delivered via existing FTTP and FTTC (VDSL2) based technologies, while fixed wireless and mobile broadband will also likely have a role to play. BT’s original voluntary proposal also indicated that Satellite may have a role for the final 0.3% of extremely remote premises, although the Government has yet to decide.

* A proposed cost threshold of £3,400 per eligible property will continue to apply, although it can now be aggregated so that communities can work together when requesting a better connection (i.e. raising the total aggregated cost threshold to cover an installation of better infrastructure).

The old USO also included this cost threshold, which meant that if a deployment cost more than this then BT or KCOM could require the customer to pay any excess costs plus a standard connection charge (this is all necessary to stop the deployment costs from getting out of control). In that sense no USO will ever be truly “universal“.

* The costs could be met by industry through a cost-sharing mechanism (levy on subscribers?), which will be established by Ofcom once the specification for the USO has been set in secondary legislation.

* The USO will adopt uniform pricing for upfront and ongoing charges. This will aim to ensure that those in areas not currently served would pay no more than those in the rest of the UK.

The current plan is an improvement from the existing USO, which is offered exclusively via fixed lines and only requires KCOM (Hull only) and BT (Openreach) to deliver, following the “reasonable request of any End-user” (i.e. demand-led), a telephone service that includes the ability to offer “data rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access” (here); even slow dial-up lines qualify for this.

Originally the Government considered adopting BT’s voluntary proposal for a soft USO (closer to a Universal Service Commitment), which would have seen the operator spend up to £600m on the service (here). However Sky Broadband and TalkTalk helped to scupper that idea by threatening a Judicial Review over the fact that BT would seek to recoup their investment by raising wholesale charges, which the ISPs said would force all of their customers to pay more even though only a few would actually benefit.

Elsewhere alternative “full fibre” networks, such as Hyperoptic and Gigaclear, were concerned because it would make their investment case for building new networks into poorly served areas more difficult by allowing BT to reinforce their market position (this is arguably true of both the voluntary BT and mandatory USO options). The Scottish Government also had concerns (here).

Instead the Government has today chosen to impose a regulatory USO, which will give everybody the legal right to request a 10Mbps+ service.

Advantages of a Regulatory USO (Government Points)

* The minimum speed of connection can be increased over time as consumers’ connectivity requirements evolve;

* It provides for greater enforcement to help ensure households and businesses do get connected.

* The scheme will maximise the provision of fixed line connections in the hardest to reach areas.

* Places a legal requirement for high speed broadband to be provided to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold (in the same way the universal service right to a landline telephone works).

A spokesperson for the Government (DCMS) said that, “We did not feel the [BT] proposal was strong enough for us to take the regulatory USO off the table, and have therefore decided not to pursue BT’s proposal in favour of providing a legal right to broadband … the government has decided that regulation is the best way of making sure everyone in the UK can get a decent broadband connection of at least 10Mbps as soon as possible.”

The obvious problem here is that none of the other ISPs have shown any interest in helping to deliver a USO (example) and thus much of it is still likely to fall upon Openreach (BT) across the UK, as well as KCOM in Hull. In practice Openreach may still have to conduct a similar network roll-out to their rejected voluntary proposal in order to meet the expectations, but there’s now a big question mark over funding for it all.

Karen Bradley MP, UK Culture Secretary, said:

“We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection. We are grateful to BT for their proposal but have decided that only a regulatory approach will make high speed broadband a reality for everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live or work.

This is all part of our work on ensuring that Britain’s telecoms infrastructure is fit for the future and will continue to deliver the connectivity that consumers need in the digital age.”

A BT Spokesperson said:

“We respect the Government’s decision.

BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK so we’ll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest-to-reach.

Alongside this, we’ll work closely with Government, Ofcom and industry to help deliver the regulatory USO. We look forward to receiving more details from the Government outlining its approach to defining the regulatory USO, including the proposed funding mechanism.”

The regulatory implementation is expected to take up to two years from when the Government lays its Order to complete (secondary legislation is now required – due in early 2018 alongside the final design), which is one of the reasons why it won’t be formally enforced until 2020. On top of that it’s important to remember that the UK is a diverse and competitive market with many different suppliers, networks and ISPs, which means that the USO won’t equate to a free and automatic upgrade.

Instead the 10Mbps USO will adopt the same “on request” approach as the original one, which means that users who want a faster than sub-10Mbps connection will need to upgrade to a relevant USO supporting service in order to benefit (note: faster services tend to cost a little more but then there’s no such thing as a free lunch). The competitive market also means that an “on request” approach is largely unavoidable.

Elsewhere the Digital Economy Act provides a power for the Government’s Secretary of State to direct Ofcom to review the USO at any time, after consulting the regulator, and for a specific requirement that once 75% of all premises take-up 30Mbps broadband the minimum speed would be reviewed.

In other words it could be a very long time before the USO speed of 10Mbps is reviewed and raised again, although opposition parties have signalled their desire for a 30Mbps USO and so future governments may enhance this approach. As hinted early, the main challenge to a 30Mbps+ USO approach reflects issues of both cost and competition.

Setting the USO, which is supposed to define a minimum not maximum performance level, too high might risk damaging competition by effectively handing one operator a distinct advantage over many smaller rivals (e.g. rebuilding BT’s monopoly at a time when Ofcom and the Government are trying to foster alternative networks). Suffice to say that, for now, 10Mbps is more acceptable.

We should add that the proposed minimum data cap for related connections of 100GB per month may seem like a lot, but it’s not. Ofcom’s data revealed (here) that the average broadband connection already uses 190GB and this will be even higher by 2020. The modern thirst for HD video streaming and related services makes it easy to gobble 100GB, which for those stuck on Satellite could quickly become an expensive roadblock.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that other EU countries which have adopted a similar USO do not go as high as 10Mbps (e.g. Spain, Belgium and Croatia use 1Mbps, while Finland opted for 2Mbps and Malta is on 4Mbps) and many don’t even have one for broadband, although that could change with future policy (here).

We look forward to seeing the final design and funding arrangements early next year.

UPDATE 10:10am

Some comments have come in.

Dr Charles Trotman, CLA Senior Rural Business Adviser, said:

“The challenges of rolling out fast, reliable and affordable rural broadband are well known but have been recognised by the Government with the commitment to provide a universal service obligation of at least 10 Mbps from 2020.

For too long, rural areas have been at the back of the queue when it comes to investment in infrastructure and that is why this legal principle is not something to compromise on. Rural areas now stand a better chance of receiving a decent broadband service without BT monopolising the market and deciding its own terms for connection.

It is vital for the Government to move as swiftly as possible towards meeting its objective of universal coverage in 2020 and to ensure legal guarantees are set for any future universal obligation. Ten Mbps is only a benchmark minimum speed which is sufficient now but as technology advances could be too slow in just five years’ time.”

Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk CEO, said:

“The Government has made the right decision for consumers. Broadband is increasingly a utility and it is critical that all of society has fast, affordable access. By opting for formal regulation rather than weaker promises, ministers are guaranteeing consumers will get the minimum speeds they need at a price they can afford. The whole industry now needs to work together to ensure customers see the benefits as quickly as possible.”

Matthew Hare, CEO of Gigaclear, said:

“We welcome this decision from the Government to reject BT’s private proposal. The UK needs great broadband – in fact full fibre – for all. To get there, the UK needs a competitive market in fibre networks. As a full fibre provider delivering 1,000Mbps to every property, we know homes and businesses want access to reliable speeds.

We believe that the 10Mbps is a sensible basic threshold, but providers should be given the opportunity to provide faster speeds. We look forward to working with Ofcom and the wider industry in the coming months to design a competitive process that gets the best result for the UK.”

UPDATE 11:25am

Added a comment from BT above.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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91 Responses
  1. Toby Adams

    I live in an area (295 houses) where there is VM @ up to 350Mbps, but the ADSL is around 1-3Mbps for everyone if they have that service and no fibre. Does VM count in this USO?

    • MikeW

      Every operator counts in the coming USO. It won’t be something imposed on one operator, or on one technology.

    • Tim

      I don’t believe it will matter what the provider is if there is >USO available nothing extra will be done.
      In my area Gigaclear are scheduled to start their build sometime in 2020, so I don’t expect anything extra in my area either. I fully expect that a planned service will count as being as good as having an available service…

    • Bill

      If no provider supplies an adequate connection in a particular area, what exactly happens?

      Does the government take it on board and pay a suitable supplier to do it (upto the threshold)? Or do they demand BT supplies the service?

    • @Bill. Under the current USO they’d demand BT [Openreach] or KCOM do the work, provided it’s within the cost threshold to deliver. I suspect that something similar will have to happen for the regulatory approach because none of the other ISPs want the legal or financial responsibility for delivering it.

    • Bill

      @Mark

      Thank you, I am just trying to reconcile that with MikeW’s point that every operator counts in the new USO.

      If BT are the only ones obliged to do something then I don’t see how responsibility is going to be share.

    • MikeW

      My opinion that every operator counts is from a perspective of exclusion: the USO will not apply to premises where an SP, any SP, every SP, already offers 10Mbps+. Every SP will be counted when denying USO support to a property.

      However, once some premises qualify for a USO service (ie no SP offers 10Mbps), then I don’t believe that every operator is on the rack to supply an upgraded service.

      The responsibility is likely to be limited to a few (very few) willing participants.

      I suspect that participation will be voluntary, so there will be no obligation on BT. I suspect Openreach will volunteer to supply the line, but not the funding. I suspect the funding will be obligatory, but come from an industry-wide pot, not BT alone.

    • MikeW

      Incidentally, I recall that Ofcom’s consultation on the USO got no decent offers to be a supplier – just Openreach.

      However, I recently read an article from the Broadway Partners that they were willing to step up.
      http://broadwaypartners.co.uk/broadband-universal-service-obligation-uso-broadway-has-the-answer/

      These are people working on TVWS on Arran. I believe they were involved in the startup of Cotswold Broadband, now defunct.

  2. MikeW

    “but there’s now a big question mark over funding for it all”

    It is the biggest questionable area, but taking a regulatory path likely reduces the influence of Sky and TalkTalk.

    My guess is that we will end up with a levy on every internet access service. Probably set at the retail level, rather than wholesale.

    • NGA for all

      Given the 10Mbps service came a little left field from the political process (Nov9th 2015)- and was uninformed by the monies owed, Ofcom could by 2020 declare that 10Mbps is possible without writing specific legislation. Satellite and antenna supported mobile exist, and a substantial amounts of FTTP will be delivered by the BDUK and partners in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland by 2020. All the latter ought to be facilitating fibre extensions as well. It is not out of bounds that ‘reasonable demand’ clauses are added to the WLA definition for FTTP.
      The biggest problem numerically might be in Greater London and SME’s not something a USO is designed to fix.

  3. Optimist

    It’s obvious from Matt Hancock’s pathetic performance on the “Today” programme this morning that the government doesn’t have a clue. What does a legal right to demand high-speed (well, 10Mbps) broadband amount to in practice unless there’s funding in place to actually deliver?

    The idea semms to be that BT will have to fund this. Will BT shareholders be willing to shoulder this burden when the company’s share price has been trending downwards for the last few years?

    • Gadget

      I can see all sorts of pot-holes on this route – what if an operator offers a service but because of the costs has a price which could not be deemed “affordable”; what about an operator that provides say 20Mbps and then in two years time into a 10 year payback sees the threshold increased to 30Mbps; and as others have mentioned how long is the paying for it mechanism talks going to take if one or more parties decide to see judicial review?
      Nice idea – but worried it will be a real world epic fail.

    • 125us

      USOs are funded by cost averaging. All existing users of a service pay more to fund the higher cost of new rural users. The issue with that for broadband is that if subsidising rural customers pushes up the price for people in urban areas to the point where urban customers jump ship to someone like Virgin the cost has to go up again to cover the shortfall and you end up in a vicious circle where there are only rural customers left, all paying £500 a month.

  4. Jigsy

    >[…] dismissing calls from the network provider BT that it should be a voluntary rather than legal obligation on providers.

    Typical BT.

    • Jigsy

      Also, according to someone I know, in Helsinki, 10 Mbps is free.

      And what’s with this 100GB data cap according to the article? Will the UK be going back down that archaic road?

    • Fastman

      actually provision of a phone service if not free (if it costs over £3,500 to deliver) BT funds up to 3,500 (I think) for a the connection of a phone line in the UK) the rest is payable by the requester (he forgot to mention that on the programme)

      having listened to the Broadcast (I wonder if you have) BT offered to cover up to 99% which was rejected

    • h42422

      100GB data cap is probably the biggest flaw in the proposal. 100GB is not a lot, and content gets more and more bloated as time passes. This will allow satellite and wifi operators with no unlimited data option take advantage of already disadvantaged areas by providing them with USO compatible access.

      I have nothing against wireless operators as such, but if we use public money (or something similar collected as a “levy”), we should use it wisely. Any investment offering 10Mbps with 100GB limit will be hopelessy outdated by 2020, and when regulation changes to reflect 2020’s, we will have to chip in again to improve connectivity in exactly the same areas targeted now, replacing the already subsidised solution with something else.

    • Asrab

      100gb is going to be fine -the connections will be so slow they will never use half of this a month, lets see the last update to forza horizon 3 was 60gb on the xbox,

    • Jigsy

      I don’t know, I managed to get 20 GB downloaded in two day at 99 kB/s.

      I could eat through 100GB in about 2w?

  5. JustAnotherFileServer

    The Government/Ofcom has said that 10Mbps is sufficient level needed to meet the requirements of an “average family“.

    I take it the average family doesn’t watch any online streaming then? This would only allow one person in the family to watch Netflix at a time, not exactly meeting the requirements of an average family when only one person can use it at a time.

    I still think that only having the USO at such a low speed it’s going to cost way more in the long term.

    • Jigsy

      I doubt it’ll matter. By the time 2020 rolls around, 10 Mbps will be hopelessly behind the rest of the world on their 1Gbps.

    • wireless pacman

      I thought the average family these days was pretty much a single person household

    • MikeW

      Didn’t Ofcom’s graphic for the 10Mbps USO show 4 different users sharing that bandwidth for different purposes?

      As for size of household, the recent figures are 28% for 1 person, 35% for 2 people, 16% for 3 people, and 21% for 4+.

  6. Doric

    As a resident of rural Wiltshire with NO landline broadband, I welcome today’s announcement, but ONLY if the USO applies the same minimum specification to all the potential delivery methods. Satellite could not deliver the 100Gb data capacity at an affordable monthly price, while 4G is quick but also has modest data cap. To make a real difference to the 4% of homes in the target for the policy, the USO needs to be insisting on landline broadband. IMHO.

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      That’s another key point they forgot to think about when coming up with this USO is how much is it going to cost the end user per month. They will have to provide you with a 10Mbps connection, but it might cost you a fortune per month.

      That’s why they should have gone for at least 50Mbps USO instead of the measly 10Mbps as it would force the providers to come up with a better solution than just mobile or satellite, i.e. FTTP

    • Guy Cashmore

      We are in a similar situation in rural Devon, no fixed line broadband, we rely solely on 4G which is getting better and better as a service, speed has doubled to 50 Mbps (down) in the past 12 months. The only problem with 4G is the data cap and/or the high cost of additional data (£1 per GB currently for us), if this issue could be solved 4G can provide an excellent short/medium term solution to very rural premises. In Finland the average residential 4G connection now exceeds 600 GB/month data consumption, so this issue appears to be more political than technical? Why is the UK not making more use of this bandwidth resource to deliver decent broadband in very rural, sparsely populated areas?

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @Guy Cashmore Unfortunately 4G still needs to upgrade it’s Fibre connections in order to give the bandwidth that could cope with the general population using it for normal day to day internet connection. This would cost way more than just giving everyone FTTP

    • Guy Cashmore

      Really? Providing improved fibre to one cell tower will cost more than providing it individually to 50 homes spread out around it, how can this be?

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @Guy Cashmore One cell tower would not be enough to service people if they are using 4G for their main broadband connection. That’s one of the reasons why they are looking into if they can install 5G into street lighting as this would give more coverage, but again the backhaul this would require is extensive and also expensive.

    • Guy Cashmore

      I don’t agree, 4G is widely used to deliver residential rural broadband in Finland, if it can work there it can work here. If you draw a 2 mile ring around my local cell tower on a map, it covers about 40 homes in total. Obviously it can’t be used in more densely populated areas, but for areas like this I suggest its an excellent solution.

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      We don’t have the infrastructure like they do in Finland. The UK always likes installing out-dated tech when it comes to telecommunications and people wonder why we are so far behind compared to other countries.

    • Guy Cashmore

      Perhaps, but for areas like mine, upgrading the infrastructure to one existing cell tower has got to be a cheaper and quicker option than trying to install fibre to 40 premises spread over a 12 square mile area?

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      Sorry to say, but it’s quicker and cheaper to do FTTP to the end customers

    • CarlT

      ‘In Finland the average residential 4G connection now exceeds 600 GB/month data consumption’

      Would you mind providing a reference to this? That’s way, way, way above Finland’s average wired usage per connection and, indeed, anywhere else in Europe or the world that report statistics.

    • Guy Cashmore

      @CarlT You can find the data here, second table down: http://point-topic.com/free-analysis/4g-lte-tariffs-q42016/

    • Guy Cashmore

      @JustAnotherFileServer Can you point to anything that supports this? The BDUK Phase 2 scheme in Devon & Somerset is supporting two different schemes, one FTTP (Gigaclear) and one Wireless (Airband) the subsidy rate for the FTTP is 3x higher per premises than the Wireless, all due to the installation cost difference we are being told?

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @Guy Cashmore I live in a semi-rural area. The phone mast that covers my area was converted to allow for 4G and it took over 18 months for the work to be completed (not including time allocated for planning). Each mobile network provider has to install their own kit on-site of the mast (the cost of the kit used is very expensive). If you search on the internet for projects where residents of rural arears have come together and deployed FTTP themselves (i.e digging up fields and such and laying their own fibre) you will note that costs are a lot smaller and does not take anywhere near 18 months.

    • MikeW

      Finland is a great example of how to use wireless spectrum for economic development, rather than a tax windfall.

      For 3G, Finland just allocated spectrum. The UK auctioned their spectrum at such a high cost that it virtually killed the supply industry.

      Even having learnt lessons, the UK 4G auctions still put 2.5x as much, per capita, into the government coffers.

      Finnish suppliers can afford to invest in more masts, more transceivers, more capacity. Uk operators can afford to service the debt from handing money to the government instead.

    • h42422

      Finland has a couple of advantages compared to the UK.

      One historical fact is that until recently phone + contract bundles were banned. Operators had to compete in an environment where everyone was on a one month rolling contract. Operators sold phones, too, and had all sorts of financing solutions for them provided by their financing partners, but phones were not operator locked.

      This led to a business model where getting customers to sign up to lengthy contracts was not the way of getting customers in. Every contract in theory was always up for competition, so they had to compete with speed and price of the actual carrier service. It has changed now but the practice of having unlimited data on virtually every mobile contract dates back to that era.

      Another is population density. Finland has a population of 5.5 million, which is 60% of the population of Greater London, and the country is 1.5 times the size of the UK. Most areas considered urban there would be suburbia here. I am not too familiar with mobile networks technology but I wonder if there is enough bandwidth to provide fast, reliable and unlimited data service in UK cities for a price affordable to everyone.

      I guess it is the combination of these two. UK customers do not expect or demand unlimited data. They rather shop for a new phone and try to find a contract that makes it affordable to them. Operators do not have a motivation to break this as a “sim only” operator would struggle to find customers as most cannot afford to buy the new iphone upfront. And any operator would struggle with customer satisfaction in cities if enough people were torrenting TV shows with their unlimited data.

  7. Reflection

    The Government press release (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/high-speed-broadband-to-become-a-legal-right) only mentions the downstream speed; it does not mention the upstream speed. There were 2 models for a 10 Mb/s downstream speed. One had no upstream specified and the other had a 1 Mb/s upstream. Is it known for certain that the USO is intended to have an upstream of 1 mb/s or is this just an assumption?

    • Fastman

      this is the intereting bit — places a legal requirement for high speed broadband to be provided to anyone requesting it, subject to a cost threshold (in the same way the universal service right to a landline telephone works) — see my note above

    • The details I’ve summarised reflect the Government’s recent consultation proposals, hence why I’ve labelled them as “draft” and “subject to change”.

    • The 1 Mbps upload has been in the proposals for some time (so hidden I’d not really seen it much), and given the mutterings of the last few weeks in my tracking on tbb was due to flip wording to talk of USO with regard to 10/1 rather than just 10.

      Until Ofcom actually deliver and the first people can order none of us will really know, the fight is just starting on what it will look like.

    • Reflection

      The bizarre thing is that there will be those without a 10 Mb/s – 1 Mb/s connection that could get such a connection now. It would only be necessary to prevent providers from artificially capping the upstream speeds to a level below 1 Mb/s. Just for clarification I am thinking about ADSL2+ here. I am surprised that the upstream service levels do not appear to be adequately regulated.

    • Ah the old remove tech limitations and lengthen the life span of an almost 2 decades old service.

      While some people with Be (and ignoring Annex M option) would show upload speeds above 1 Mbps it was rare rather than the norm, and would be line length limited and their DSLAM were very tweaked.

      Remember tweaks to ADSL2+ on upload will not improve download speeds, which is what the majority are interested in.

    • Reflection

      Lengthening the life span of an old technology is not the point. Neither is it about tweaks. In addition downstream speed is dependent on upstream speed: try downloading and uploading a file at the same time. The points are:

      1) Something could be done now for those who have to cope with ADSL
      2) Internet connection upstream speeds should be adequately regulated

      Something could be done now to improve things for those having to endure yet another wait for superfast. This posting is a fair summary of the situation in Wales: https://www.russellgeorge.com/news/broken-promises-superfast-cymru-leaves-powys-lurch

      I have been tracking Superfast Cymru rollout. Out of 42 exchanges near me, 35 have had rollouts axed from the program in the last few weeks. Maybe it is old technology, but it is the technology people need to use and will have to for some time.

    • And these 35 exchanges that have had their roll-out axed are? 35 exchanges could mean 30,000 premises affected or just 300 premises affected.

      Is that a zero nothing rolled out from SFcymru or just some areas delayed and then given costs dropped to favour other areas that meet value targets?

      So what can be done NOW for those on ADSL only? When you say now most people assume you mean within a few weeks. I know one thing and that is send a satellite installer to visit them.

    • Reflection

      I was mainly demonstrating the need for adequate regulation of the upstream rates for USO and any other connection. When I use a works laptop from home it is worse now that it was some years ago. It is not the connection, but the increase use of cloud and the corresponding upstream and downstream traffic. Something could be done about that quick because it is an artificial capping of the upsteam (not the sync).
      When it comes to Superfast Cymru, I am not certain it is help for those who, until a few weeks or days ago, were reasonably expecting superfast availability to be asking the questions you do. The Welsh Assembly and/or Openreach suddenly change things on a large scale without explanation at the last minute. To have been treated like that does not seem acceptable, regardless.
      Satellite is not a Internet connection panacea. Like the other options it is not within everyone’s means. One of the big things is the lack of reliable information. How can anyone plan given the uncertain value of the information Openreach provide. Openreach say things like ‘tough decisions,’ the reality is possible more likely that Openreach have overreached.

    • If SuperfastCymru has ended work on a large number of locations then happy to get given details so can look into it.

      On the upload you say the sync is not capped but throughput is artificially capped, can you explain with some figures? e.g. 816 Kbps sync but through put down in the 338 Kbps area…

      Hate to break it to you, but other operators have same issues as Openreach, some are small enough that they can quickly manage and resolve them, others are so small no-one notices

      The BDUK projects as they exist give no bonus funding for exceeding the targets, but if a target is not met the partner (BT usually) is expected to keep building and spending until target is reached.

    • Gareth

      Andrew, I have an example of a premises in Wales that has been de-scoped, 2+ years after the original estimated availability timescale on the openreach checker (timescales have come, gone, reset, come again, gone again, reset again…). The checker had been showing build phase (FTTP) for the last year or more.

      The property is on it’s own at the end of the network. Months ago a PON splitter appeared on a pole outside the next property back towards the exchange, about 300m away. A few weeks ago it finally became available at the neighbouring property, and rather than changing to available, the status changed back to in scope. Then at some point in the last couple of weeks, it changed to we are exploring solutions.

      Now it makes no sense to put shared infrastructure any closer for 1 potential customer, so you have to presume that they’d originally planned to run the last 300m of fibre on the install should a service be ordered. Looks like somebody’s noticed a potential loss making install and decided it would be in their interest to remove it from scope rather than take the hit…

    • Reflection

      It looks like Gareth appreciates what a significant number of property owners in Wales are experiencing. Properties in the ‘Build’ state going back to ‘In scope’ and then ‘We are exploring solution’ or worse, to the ‘Superfast Accepting orders’ just because their cabinet is fibre enable, but they are too far to get superfast, USO, USC speeds. Let’s be clear, a lot of this can be more of a lottery than anything to do with difficult to connect properties.

      Andrew, I am not certain how having a list of addresses dropped from the program would do to help those individual affected. They have been dropped and have no real ideal what will happen next. One of the main problems is the information, which originates from Openreach, is unreliable. I have even seen some properties with a can order FTTP status with the FTTP tubing coiled outside and not yet run up the pole and connected to a manifold. I have watched the piecemeal progress locally and compared it to the status. There is little correlation. Because of that, and the impending contract end, I started to look at the wider situation in the county; it took appreciable time and effort. It soon became apparent that there was no realistic way Openreach could deliver what it was telling people. In October, I worked out that Openreach would have to be completing FTTP builds at a rate of one exchange area at least every 1.96 weekdays to finish before the end of December. That did even consider the FTTC builds outstanding.

      As I understand it, the plans for next phase of superfast rollout in Wales, does not include any properties left out of the current phase. My investigations and correspondence make me wonder if there is any real contingency for that scenario.
      BT and Openreach, and no doubt others, are still making the same classic mistakes. Trying to make out they are better than they are. The higher the profile the company and the more they go into denial the more they develop a bad reputation. An expert marketing analyst pointed that out about BT in the 1980’s. Things haven’t changed much.

      On the upstream side the sync can be 984 kb/s and the throughput will be solid at 500 kb/s. Interestingly, capping Annex A upstream is one way to make Annex M upstream better and more attractive, to those close to the exchange!

    • Gadget

      Reflection – my understanding is that the Openreach checker will know if a cabinet is enabled but if the FTTC speed is too low will not give the message that fibre is available but from memory returns an Exploring solutions for that particular line.

    • Since when did Openreach ever do complete roll-outs of FTTP across exchanges? The pattern I am seeing is piecemeal for those who can order (e.g. 2 in cabinet area then a few months later a few more, then just one lone premise left waiting), and if as alleged there are premises flagged as able to order with coiled tubing, then get the person to order and if that fails pester me and I will pester Openreach.

      One flaw in the checkers for years is that some areas vanish out of scope to then magically appear live, i.e. specifics are needed to see what may or may not be going on.

      I cannot run news items (nor can Mark) on hearsay or extrapolations of one person with an issue.

      No sign of systematic capping of ADSL2+ upload throughputs at 500 Kbps in the speed test data, one ISP has been known to do something similar due to some weird quirk in how they work but corrected on request.

      On Openreach checker the exploring solutions for very long VDSL2 is not perfect and usually only triggers for very very long lines.

    • Reflection

      Gadget, there is the Openreach checker and the Superfast Cymru checker, which uses data from Openreach. In my experience there can be discrepancy and taking other things into consideration (I have done a lot of checking), the Openreach checker often appears to give an indication more optimistic than the reality. What should happen and what does happen is not always the same thing. I think the majority, with Superfast, have little idea of the frustrations of information challenge for those without.

      Andrew, I never said that Openreach do complete roll-outs of FTTP across exchanges. I simply, but accurately, computed what it would take for Openreach to provide what they were indicating they were going to do in, albeit, a simple way. The fact that it was unrealistic is the important point. If you want to explore further, I can tidy up some Excel spreadsheet data and email them to you. I am happy to put in the work if there might be the prospect of some real value; I was previously unaware of what your interest might be. I see you have contact details on the ThinkBroadband website.

    • Gareth

      I wasn’t suggesting that my somewhat anecdotal evidence was particularly newsworthy or representative in itself, merely that it appears to fit in with Reflection’s alleged pattern. The problem with assembling the evidence to prove Reflections assertion is that you would need the observations of lots of people who’ve probably only been checking the status updates for one property each over a long period of time.

    • And there is the age old qualifier ‘plans are subject to change’

      Its only a failure of the number of premises delivered is below target, that that premise B got enabled rather than premise A is personally frustrating but not a failure of a project.

      Maybe a failure of the project planning but then the pressure was to deliver a lot of premises very quickly so taking a HS2 type decade to plan it all and survey everything to the n’th degree was not going to happen, plus would all to the costs of delivery.

      Yes some people are going to get dropped, and this has been the case since 2009 and applies to other providers deloying too.

      In other counties Openreach has come back to deal with some of these after the formal end date, so how Welsh Assembly approaches things is important.

  8. David Lewis

    What about rural businesses? Lack of broadband is preventing rural business from providing jobs and economic stimulus.

  9. Paul.

    I note that the Country Landowner’s Association are restating their frequent demand for fast connections as soon as possible – the same group whose members regularly derail rollout to rural villages by refusing to permit comms infrastructure and masts on their land *at all*, or without the payment of inflated rents.

  10. Steve

    Not related to content but it’s bothering me that the picture for this article is aping a UK road traffic sign indicating a maximum speed. A minimum speed sign would be blue and pictorially more appropriate for what is being discussed . K thx bai

    • Bill

      For me it carries a certain sense of irony…. The idea that our aspiration is only 10mbps in 2020 indicates a limited mindset which the sign conveys rather well.

    • Tim

      What would you say would be the right figure?

    • h42422

      @Bill: I am not sure what would be the right level of aspiration here. I was initially shocked by 10Mbps but after thinking it through, I do not think it is too bad actually.

      Why?

      Because few will be offered a USO upgrade that takes them just over the 10 Mbps threshold. Technology to deliver that is just not there. Some unlucky ones might get something around 10Mbps with LR-VDSL, but in most cases this is not an option. Urban EO lines need to be rearranged to cabinets, which will for most mean 50+ Mbps, even G.Fast speeds. Rural lines and some urban areas as well will go directly to FTTP, which will mean much more.

      Setting USO threshold to something more “realistic”, say 30 or 50 Mbps, which probably would still be enough by early 2020’s, would mean a lot of semi-fast properties would drop under the USO threshold. As OR will at some point be scrutinised for its ability to deliver the USO, it would just mean it would start from the lowest hanging fruits, again. These would not be the 2Mbps urban EO lines that are expensive to upgrade, or remote rural lines where a lot of work per property is needed, no matter what technology gets chosen.

      This would just mean those who are struggling the most now would be again the lowest priority. OR would just claim everyone will get USO and they are working as quickly as they can, but because of limited resources they are focusing 2020-2025 in areas where their investment produces quickest result to the maximum amount of properties.

      For that reason I think 10Mbps is actually a reasonable choice. Those upgraded will get much more, but it forces them to finally concentrate their effort to areas that are most difficult and expensive to upgrade. They just cannot weasel their way out of it anymore claiming they are doing the best they can but only in less challenging areas.

    • Bill

      @h42422 You make some good points here. I just hope it ends up as you have suggested and that those being upgraded do actually get some robust long-term infrastructure.

    • NGA for all

      @h424222 I agree with your sentiment. The 10Mbps popped out Nov 9th 2015, while no consideration was given to the monies to be contracted, monies owed etc. BT did not scale up to the monies available so as it stands money is not the problem, (£500m worth yet to be done, £477m owed of which £347m is yet to be applied to coverage) resource is.

    • MikeW

      I think h42 might be right, but it would be better to codify it: set a USO qualifying threshold speed of 10Mbps, but set a separate USO outcome speed of, say 25 Mbps. That way, we target the upgrades at the worst premises, but ensure that once upgraded, they get well above the threshold.

      That should also ensure that that these premises won’t then need to be included again as soon as the USO threshold rises.

    • Tim: Well, it’s 2020, so 20/20 is clearly the best target!

  11. Steve Jones

    In practice, if Openreach end up being landed with the responsibility for fulfilling the USO in the considerable majority of cases, then I don’t see it being much different to the voluntary proposal. If there is to be an overall increase in costs, then Ofcom will have to take this into account when setting the regulatory wholesale pricing.

    The other issue is aggregation of demand. If this is all on an individual premises on request basis, then it seems obvious that it is extremely likely to break the £3,400 threshold. Indeed, almost inevitable given that (without LR-VDSL) it means extending fibre much further (short of a wireless solution). That aggregation issue would appear to apply whatever network operator was chosen.

    In any event, if requests goes via retail ISPs (as they do for telephony services), then how do alternative network providers get involved? The vast majority of the retail ISPs use OR network infrastructure. How will a potential customer know what other network operators might fulfill a USO provision in their area and which retail ISPs to approach for it.

    In all, I await details on the mechanics of this as it sounds like there is the potential for an almighty mess.

    • NGA for all

      I agree. Gigaclear can support a FoD on the same basis as BT but it is small. There is an opportunity to conclude BDUK activity with beginning of what is likely to be the scheme visible on the Oxfordshire Superfast site. It needs to evolve but the basics are all there to help define ‘reasonable demand’.

  12. Tim

    I’ve recently started campaigning for FTTH to be enabled where I am and 167 nearby houses. Openreach have shown some interest as part of their Community Fibre Partnership program and I hope to have a meeting with a representative and village residents in the new year.

    I’m now wondering how/if this changes anything. If I’m right, it doesn’t, not for at least 2 years and would only mean that a 10Mbps service would be made available if we waited and done nothing. Am I right?

    With the community partnership we (the residents) would fund an upgrade to Openreach FTTP which would work out cheaper than going it alone with FTTPoD, would provide 330Mbps and the same monthly price as native FTTP. From the info I’ve had so far this could cost each resident between £1K-£3K. FTTPoD have been quoted at £7,675 install and £320pm (ex-VAT).

    • Steve Jones

      10mbps is the minimum, and it may be that in order to provide it that an FTTP solution would be required in your case anyway in which case, presumably, what would be available is FTTP speeds. However, what’s missing completely is how this new USO proposal would work in practice. If it’s an on-request services property by property then it’s going to bust any realistic threshold cost. Only if there is a demand aggregation process would it look realistic, but without the mechanics being specified, then who knows what will happen.

      The advantage of the community fibre partnership process is that it does at least exist, and you’d know what you’d get as it would be contractual and when it would be delivered. I’d also add that even when the USO process is passed into law a few years from now, it’s difficult to know how fast things will actually be provisioned. With the best will in the world, there simply isn’t the size of trained workforce in the country that would suddenly be able to deliver services to, several hundred thousand of the more difficult to reach properties in the country if it’s a fixed line solution (wireless might be a bit different).

      Of course the downside of the community partnership approach is the cost to the people who sign up for it.

      As it is, there are an awful lot of unknowns at the moment about how the whole USO process is going to work. Now that the one real option on the table has been eliminated the regulators have to go back and work out an actual solution and how to put it into practice.

    • NGA for all

      Tim you should try to get your community scheme adopted by the LA/bDUK state aid scheme. It should permit the costs to drop and the BT contributions to be checked, and it is likely you would get standard FTTP-GEA rates. The £3k opening quotes tend to drop to £1-£1.2k once the poles are checked.
      Is the £7k across 167 properties? If is then it is very good. Can you share a post code. There was a recent Sommerset example at £500 a property for FTTP, an extension off BDUK infrastructure, a subsidised cab in Blackford area near Yeovil.
      There are some very good and affordable examples emerging but getting the work scheduled is problematic.

    • Fastman

      it will depend on whether your local authority is willing to support you on it

    • Tim

      The area I’m hoping to get FTTH for is mapped here:- https://drive.google.com/open?id=1MOyojt56JbhvNE_-KKz5u_0EKnCvPMf3&usp=sharing

      The quote I had for FTTPoD was to my address assuming just me ordering.

      Having spoken to Openreach already I know that it would be FTTP as FTTC is enabled already but we’re too far from the cabinets. Remote note (pole mounted) G.Fast is also not an option due to the spread of the properties.

      Click my name for a link to the fb page.

    • NGA for all

      Tim, thanks. Fastman what rationale are LA giving for not incorporating the Community Broadband Scheme into the state aid programme. It is win, win I think unless I am missing something.

    • NGA for all

      Fastman, there is duty,expectation to in-fill, there is clawback. At least half the money is lost if it is not used for this purpose.
      The Oxfordshire version of CBP, assuming the costs and capital are verified using the VFM process, provide the basis of how BDUK is brought to close and a B-USO if needed is defined. BT contribution, state contribution if possible and customer contribution is resolved.
      If BT or Gigaclear or Airband is seeing any inclination by counties to stop while funding remains and holes in service remain, then this should be made public. They can replicate the CBP for their areas.

  13. Techman

    I live in a former EO property that was linked to a cab outside the exchange 1.1km away on over 2km of copper cable (sadly there are 8 cabs loads closer to us however with 1 being only 100m away). This was done as part of bduk and appears to be all they will do. The speed on fttc is basically the same as on adsl2 and is just over 10mb with 1mb upload. Does this mean we will be stuck on this connection for the foreseeable future? BDUK say we have already been upgraded despite it offering zero speed improvement and it doesn’t look like we are covered by this new USO. 10/1 is becoming a real struggle with multiple users 🙁

    • occasionally factual

      yes @Techman, very probably.
      You have access to the USO speed so that’s it. At least for the time being until the USO speed is raised again.
      Openreach will be, no doubt, tasked to put most of their engineers into the USO provision and the rest will be fixing faults and fulfilling the outstanding contracts under BDUK and BT’s own commercial investment program.

    • Fastman

      Techman you co see if the community fibre partner shipw ill give you a cost for a FTTP connection as the fibre might be very close (is there anyone else in the same situation as you as that might help reduce the gap required for it to be built

    • Techman

      Yes I am in a town with a population of 25k, there are around 75 properties on my street and a couple of adjacent ones in the same situation as me. There is a fibre enabled cab 100 metres away. Annoyingly houses less than 40 metres from mine are getting full 80/20. BDUK seem absolutely clueless on this matter, when I asked them why they had paid BT to upgrade our street to get speeds that were the same as we were already getting on adsl2 they couldn’t reply. From your experience how much would we be looking at for 75 properties?

    • NGA for all

      Techman, with the cabinet comes an aggregation nodes with spare fibres, and each cabinet is likely to be fed by a 24 fibre cable with 1 in use. They are ready to be extended and budgets that report as efficiencies/savings was there for in-fill, not everywhere but as far as the monies permit. There are at last another £500m of contracted expenditure to be fulfilled and most of the clawback is yet to find its way into a coverage plan.

      I think the numbers of premises not benefitting from a significant improvement from a cabinet is 7% (Ofcom)nationally, closer to 13% average (Audit Scotland) in BDUK areas, while the most rural is 50%-70% but the fibre bundles are in place to be extended. The funding envelope and the requirement for FoD was defined for in-fill. The latter is not fully productised and BT has not scaled up (hence the monies are resting in accounts), not yet anyway, but much of the current FTTP growth is in the hardest to reach areas which is not given the credit it deserves, largely because folk are afraid of needing to do so much more.

    • Techman

      Thanks @NGA for all – so are you saying there is still plenty of scope and potential funds for bduk to still come back to areas like mine?

    • NGA for all

      Techman, there is £477m Capital Deferral is BT’s accounts – £130m has been released so the remainder needs unlocking. There are also unpublished investment account balances held by LA’s which are an unknown. It can all be fought for.

    • MikeW

      @techman

      I think @NGA is wrong – that there aren’t 24 fibres at each cabinet. He’s also fixated on FoD as the next solution, and the supposed money available for it.

      He’s right that there is scope and funds to come back and “infill” areas like yours.

      In your case, the most likely upgrade that would apply is some copper re-arrangement, rather than a full-fibre deployment. The aim will be to get your lines re-arranged onto nearer cabinets.

      Some upgrades would add an “all in one” cabinet (AIO), and re-arrange lines that were too long for the existing cabinet. Your situation, with many closer cabs, might not need this.

      This kind of re-arrangement does happen within some BDUK projects, but it rarely happens in the first phase of upgrades: just adding the cabinet for EO lines is enough to use up that pot of subsidies, even if it doesn’t improve everyone. Yours is a relatively costly change (intensive man hours), so doesn’t get included in those first phases. But it tends to be cheap enough for later phases.

      If your speed is under the SFBB threshold (25Mbps), then you ought to remain qualified for future upgrades, and your local authority should include your postcode in the list of “NGA white” areas for future phases. It is important that your authority acknowledges this, as without it, there is little chance you will be considered for any upgrade whatsoever.

      Unfortunately, some authorities set slightly different thresholds, and make extra “step-change” requirements that could rule you out.

    • Techman

      thanks @MikeW my postcode is indeed listed as an NGA white area with the local authority but has not been included in any upgrade plans at present. I suppose there is some hope. Thanks for the informative post

    • CarlT

      Cabinets certainly aren’t fed by 24 fibre cables. They are, initially, fed by a single fibre. I have watched them blow said fibre to a cabinet.

      The initial installation installs a microduct, ideally inside the existing ducts, building a path to the cabinet. Fibres are blown down that microduct as required during commissioning and for additional backhaul, however Openreach can also use WDM and a single fibre with the multiple GigE backhaul multiplexed on it.

      No reason why they couldn’t blow more down there but they certainly don’t use multiple fibre count cables to feed cabinets.

    • CarlT

      I also don’t understand the referral to FoD. If Openreach build FTTP as part of a BDUK contract that’s just FTTP. Nothing to do with the on demand product.

    • NGA for all

      Cof205 Cable is in OR published slides and it corresponds to a cable count of 24, no doubt other arrangements can be used but that is the standard.
      FoD is a means of achieving standard FTTP but with the assistance of the community. Copper re-arrangement is fine for those living within 1200metres, but it can and does create another digital divide.

    • Gadget

      FOD is a single premises solution, PON is a multiple premises solution. It would not be a practical solution to FOD a community but would be extremely wasteful.

    • NGA for all

      Gadget – BT folk now happy to confirm FoD is PON and always was. A peculiar SP version has emerged. More to come hopefully. Demand can be constrained by charging the first customer all the ECC’s.

  14. Mike

    Good news, at least we will not have to go through the sham 2Mb for all thing again.

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