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Councils Demand Full Fibre Broadband Kitemark for UK New Build Homes

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 (11:34 am) - Score 1,398
new build uk homes gtc infrastructure

The Local Government Association, which represents roughly 370 councils across England and Wales, has called on UK property developers to introduce a new FTTP Kitemark so that the public can easily see when a new build home is able to access Gigabit capable “full fibre” broadband ISP connections.

The LGA suggests that currently developers “do not have to pay any consideration to its broadband connectivity,” although strictly speaking the current situation should be improving, not least due to the changes that occurred between 2016 and 2017 to address the problem.

Firstly, most of the major home builders (e.g. Home Builders Federation) have now entered into partnerships with network operators (Openreach (BT), GTC and Virgin Media etc.) in order to better facilitate the rollout of fibre optic (FTTP/H) and hybrid fibre (FTTC / HFC DOCSIS) based broadband technologies.

On top of that a new directive from the EU (details), which has also been adopted into UK law, is supposed to mean that all newly constructed buildings (i.e. those that gained permission after the 31st December 2016) are “equipped with a high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure, up to the network termination points.” The UK government has also been telling councils to ensure that they factor this into local planning approvals.

However, including support for such services, as per the above paragraph, is only half the battle and the property developer still needs to find a network operator to actually make use of the infrastructure they’ve built (spare cable ducts etc.), which doesn’t always happen. A recent study estimated that around 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 of new build premises are still appearing without provision for even “superfast broadband” speeds of 24Mbps+ (here).

Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said:

“Connecting our rural residents to future-proofed, fast and reliable broadband is vital to helping them get on in life and benefit from the advantages that decent digital connectivity can bring.

The standard of digital connectivity we provide to our new build homes should reflect our national ambition to roll out world-class digital infrastructure across the country. Residents will no longer tolerate digital connectivity taking a backseat in developers’ plans.

We call on the Government, homebuilders and the broadband industry to work with us and develop the details of this proposal and give homebuyers the confidence to invest in a new home, knowing they won’t be stuck in the digital slow lane.”

The Government’s new draft of the National Planning Policy Framework aims to help councils’ encourage developers to provide Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) connections to existing and new developments, although it does not give them powers to hold developers to account.

Mark Collins, Director Strategy & Policy at CityFibre, added:

“Full fibre is the only infrastructure capable of delivering the reliable gigabit speed services and futureproofed capacity the UK needs. We fully support the LGA’s call for the launch of a FTTP kitemark, which will give full fibre – the gold standard in internet connectivity – the status and recognition it deserves.

Consumers have been misled for decades by advertising practices which allow copper-based broadband products to be advertised as ‘fibre’. The introduction of a kitemark, however, will help consumers know what they are paying for and what standard they should expect.

By improving awareness and increasing demand for that gold standard, consumers, Government, local authorities and industry can collaboratively drive the roll-out of full fibre across the UK, helping it to catch up with the rest of the world.”

It’s worth pointing out that new build home developments often take several years to complete after being granted planning permission, which suggests that a lot of permissions will have been granted before even the new EU guidance came into force.

Nevertheless, introducing an FTTP Kitemark for larger builds (doing this for smaller individual house builds would currently be unworkable for many projects – currently only around 3-4% of the UK can access such a network) would seem to be a reasonable approach, although it won’t necessarily overcome the challenges faced by property developers when seeking to build news homes in more challenging areas, where FTTP/H networks have yet to even remotely reach.

It’s also worth considering that FTTP/H isn’t the only type of network capable of delivering Gigabit broadband speeds. Future DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades (Virgin Media) and even a shorter range G.fast setup or some fixed wireless networks can technically achieve such performance levels. Perhaps basing a Kitemark around one technology isn’t the best approach.

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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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16 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    “It’s also worth considering that FTTP/H isn’t the only type of network capable of delivering Gigabit broadband speeds. Future DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades (Virgin Media) and even a shorter range G.fast setup or some fixed wireless networks can technically achieve such performance levels. Perhaps basing a Kitemark around one technology isn’t the best approach.”

    Perhaps true – though if developers have to put on their legal packs ‘not broadband fbr future ready’ or some such I’m fairly sure they will suddenly find more creativity in getting more fbr to their developments. Almost any compliance will be of some benefit in the longer term even if their is no network to begin with.

    • Avatar CarlT

      DOCSIS 3.1 is going to delay progression to full fibre. To use its full capability requires fibre to every cabinet. May as well use FTTP.

      G.fast at gigabit speeds requires fibre to junction / distribution points. Again the ducts are going to brand new, so why put an expensive active component requiring electricity deep into the network and use copper when you could just use fibre throughout? G.fast would have higher operational costs and higher network build costs than FTTP.

      Hybrid network builds have zero place in new builds bar very low numbers of properties extending existing hybrid networks. In new estates of any scale a new hybrid network build isn’t worthwhile.

    • Avatar Joe M

      I agree 100% with CarlIT. https://hellosemi.com/hypercube_fiber_optics.html
      Even if you own copper “broad band Internet”, it is simply 20x cheaper to roll out the next install with “symmetric gigabit fiber Internet”. So your capex is gone down to some figure x20 lower. So you can grab more market share simply by re-tasking a few directors and line managers and hiring a few fiber workers and race two teams to see who has spent the most amount of capex and who has cabled up most amount of customers for the same amount of investor money.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @JoeM – 20x cheaper than doing what? – read the document.

  2. Avatar occasionally factual

    Shock horror, property developers only interested in lining their own pockets by cheaping out on their work.
    These poor developers who barely make a profit from giving away the properties they build cannot afford to build workable infrastructure. I mean look at this news article and tell me you don’t feel sorry for the builders?
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/23/persimmon-slashes-bosss-bonus-to-just-75m

  3. Avatar Guy Cashmore

    What are developers supposed to do in areas where only OR have a network but FTTP isn’t available from them at any price?

    • Avatar CarlT

      If the development is >30 homes they should be good to go.

    • Avatar DevonPaddler

      @Guy FTTP does go from each local exchange, it goes via AG Nodes which in turn route via central regional exchanges

      SamKnows isn’t clear on this but is accurate – there is no FTTP at your exchange. New Build developments get FTTP free of charge if bigger than 30 plots – this works as the developer does much of the civics locally and OR just have to do the fibre path & a PON with Very high % takeup

    • Avatar DevonPaddler

      Sorry autocorrect – should read

      FTTP doesn’t go from each local exchange, it goes via AG Nodes which in turn route via central regional exchanges

    • Avatar 3G Infinity (now 4G going on 5G)

      Use 5G Fixed Wireless Access – its what AT&T and Verizon are doing in US, cheaper than fibre but still offers 1Gbps. In UK Arqiva, Three etc all have 28GHz spectrum so they could do the same thing tomorrow.

  4. Avatar NGA for all

    Is it a kite mark or a tick box? A kite mark would suggest a pro-competitive provisioning of duct and other passive infrastructure sufficient to be shared by all providers with an acknowledged demarcation points like shared patch panels. This is more, have you called BT, Virginmedia, Hyperoptic or someone else and agreed supply?

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGA – A kitemark does not suggest that, look it up.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      IT’s VULA model from OR, or retrospective PIA from OR, or no competition from the others. What are the attributes of the intended Kite Mark apart from securing one supplier of full fibre access?

    • Avatar Gadget

      https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/kitemark/services/ and it also applies to products as well. I can see the idea that a housing development would wish to re0inforce its claims that purchasers would have access to Gbps broadband if they required it, but that would surely require defining a quality or British Standard to apply and be tested against. (by the way there are some strange British standards around such as the British Standard “finger” to testing safety from chock etc, but I can’t see what standard applies to a generic Gbps broadband connection per sec)

    • Avatar CarlT

      https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-housing-developers-must-adopt-fibre-premises-kitemaker-new-builds

      The LGA do not appear to care, they just want it to indicate FTTP. Competition, VULA, PIA, they aren’t bothered. If it’s Openreach it’ll be delivered same as everywhere else, if it isn’t the households get whatever the network operator offers in terms of wholesaling, if anything.

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