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Openreach Name Exeter as Next City for FTTP Ultrafast Broadband

Friday, June 29th, 2018 (11:05 am) - Score 3,661

The city of Exeter in Devon (England) has today been confirmed by Openreach (BT) as the 9th urban location where their “Fibre First” programme will aim to roll-out 1Gbps (Gigabit) capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based ultrafast broadband ISP technology, which aims to cover 3 million UK premises by the end of 2020.

At present Openreach’s “full fibreFTTP/H network only covers 560,000 premises (here) but the operator is working to ramp this up, which is supported by their recent move to hire an additional 3,500 engineers (here). The initial deployment is focused upon up to 40 UK towns, cities and boroughs, with Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester having already been confirmed.

Apparently further details of the FTTP build in Exeter, where fibre optic cables are laid from the exchange right to people’s front doors, are expected to be announced later in the year. As usual we don’t expect them to cover 100% of the city and so it will be interesting to see precisely how many premises will actually benefit.

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said:

“Through ‘Fibre First’, Openreach is getting on with the job of building an Ultrafast Britain. We are building FTTP to three million premises across 40 towns and cities by 2020 and I’m delighted to announce that Exeter will be among the first to benefit from this commitment.

Since starting the ‘Fibre First’ programme a few months ago, Openreach has built a footprint of nearly 70k across the eight cities we announced in our first wave. That’s a delivery rate of full fibre to more than a thousand homes every week.

This sets us on course to hit our ambition of building 10m FTTP by mid 2020s and become the nationwide full-fibre provider. We will continue to invest and recruit in the south west and across the UK to build the most capable, highly skilled, national fibre delivery machine in the UK.”

Margot James, UK Minister for Digital, said:

“We have worked hard to create the right environment to drive commercial investment in the deployment of full fibre.

Openreach’s “Fibre First” initiative is an ambitious programme – it’s brilliant that homes and businesses in Exeter will now have full fibre, gigabit broadband delivered right to their doorstep.”

At present around 96%+ of premises in the city can already access a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) network and coverage via Virgin Media’s 350Mbps capable network isn’t far behind, which means that Openreach will face some stiff and well established competition in the local market.

In terms of ISP choice, BT naturally has a bunch of their own BT Ultrafast packages (G.fast and FTTP based) on sale and we recommend checking out other ISPs like Zen Internet, iDNET and Cerberus Networks for some rival packages on the same network. Naturally this is only available to those covered by Openreach’s FTTP and for the time being the coverage remains very limited.

Overall Openreach’s initial Fibre First programme (3 million premises) will see them build FTTP to a further c.800,000 premises in Broadband Delivery UK areas (mostly rural) and new housing sites, plus to around 1.7 million premises in towns and cities. Many of these will cater for businesses.

Openreach has previously also talked about an aspiration to reach 10 million premises by around 2025, although they’ve indicated that this may only be possible with support from other ISPs (difficult since so many are now doing their own rollouts), as well as softer regulation, reduced logistical barriers (improved planning, wayleaves etc.) and the ability to switch-off old copper networks as areas move to FTTP (expensive and complex, while also requiring support from Sky Broadband and TalkTalk etc.).

An agreement on the above is looking increasingly likely but may hinge on the Government’s forthcoming review of future telecoms infrastructure. We should add that deploying FTTP isn’t cheap and Openreach has already indicated that covering 10 million premises in the future could cost between £3bn to £6bn (full details).

Leave a Comment
37 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe says:

    “An agreement on the above is looking increasingly likely ”

    You basing that on anything particular

    1. Avatar Joe says:

      “may only be possible with support from other ISPs (difficult since so many are now doing their own rollouts), as well as softer regulation, reduced logistical barriers (improved planning, wayleaves etc.) and the ability to switch-off old copper networks as areas move to FTTP”

      Just to clarify; the first I see little sign the others seems to be nudging in that direction. Both Gov and ofcom seem inclined to move – though how far is not clear.

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The outgoing CEO of BT Group, Gavin, said as much during a meeting that followed the operator’s last financial report. We covered that here, scroll to bottom of the article:

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/05/bt-cut-13k-jobs-raise-3-7bn-to-boost-fttp-broadband-and-mobile.html

    3. Avatar Joe says:

      Yeah I saw that was hoping you’d heard something a bit more firm. Rival ISPs and copper switch off seems the tricky but essential bit.

    4. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      We may get some more idea on this before the end of July.

  2. Avatar A Builder says:

    Well when BT was worth £70Bn then raising £6Bn from the markets for 10M fibre deployment would have been easy. And with a long range ROI flowing from that then raising some more £Bn for some more M deployments would not have been a big ask.

    Now that BT is worth 1/3 (ish) of that it is much harder for them to raise the cash.

    BT have ignored basic market principles and are eating the results now.

    The point a lot of investors were making years ago was that in context £6Bn was actually not a lot for a very long term and valuable asset that secured BT’s pole position.

    And yes it would have impeded Alt Nets and all those other good arguments and yes OFCOM would probably have worked hard to stuff it up listening to the bleating

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      @A Builder: BT doesn’t always act like a business. The example of a planned FTTP deployment in Exeter illustrates this. As the news story says, there is already VDSL coverage, as well as VM cable. This will reduce market demands for BT’s FTTP in that area significantly, with lower take-ups and there higher deployment costs.

    2. Avatar Joe says:

      Is that true in exeter? Its a growing city with quite a few key tech and other hubs. I can see BT might see that a long term perfectly commercial. Rural FTTP is not where the money is!

    3. Avatar A_Builder says:

      @GNewton

      “BT doesn’t always act like a business”

      This is also unnerving for investors when OR is busily not investing in some things and doing other things on a slightly random, apparently charity case, basis. Whilst I appreciate OR need to try and pilot things having a clear investment policy makes funding investment easier.

    4. Avatar MikeW says:

      @GNewton

      Why is BT picking a city for FTTP an example of where BT doesn’t always act like a business?

      The reasons you give – good VDSL coverage, and VM coverage – is hardly unique to Exeter. Every city will have equally good VDSL coverage, and almost every city will have VM coverage.

    5. Avatar AndyH says:

      “This will reduce market demands for BT’s FTTP in that area significantly, with lower take-ups and there higher deployment costs.”

      This makes zero sense.

      Please explain why deploying in an area with existing alternative providers leads to higher deployment costs?

    6. Avatar FibreFred says:

      🙂 It doesn’t. Not a very well thought out argument. Again….

  3. Avatar AnotherTim says:

    Although FTTP is great, I would like to see more (some?) effort go into dealing with EO lines. They hardly ever get a mention these days, but are a big problem for everyone that has one (whether rural or urban), and not all are a long way from an exchange so could get acceptable speeds from VDSL.

    1. Avatar Roger says:

      Believe it or not, EO lines in some areas (eg BDUK areas, Central London etc) ARE getting fixed. Either by a new AIO cabinet (network re-arrangement) or by FTTP, whichever is the most cost effective and/or practical.

    2. Avatar A Builder says:

      There is a big project in the City of London to fix the EO line issue most of it with FTTP.

      And as @Roger says this is not isolated.

      Full marks to OR for starting to deal with this legacy stuff. Not before time mind.

    3. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      Well, BT have told me that they have no plans to do anything about EO lines in my exchange area. They wanted to, but BDUK wouldn’t pay for the rearrangements (most lines were EO, and only 70% were rearranged in the BDUK funded FTTC rollout). I guess it probably won’t matter soon, as I may give up on fixed line broadband altogether in the next year as it is pretty useless.

  4. Avatar Vince says:

    Or in other words, they’re going to resume the rollout they started in 2011 given Exeter already has FTTP in some areas.

    1. Avatar Ivor says:

      Yep – spotted the old FTTP manifolds on a few poles when I’ve been passing through.

      I don’t get the point of these big announcements. Sure, some big cities are seeing some action – but plenty of other smaller areas have already been given G.fast or FTTP too but never had the big fanfare.

      (that, or Openreach groups them up into a nearby town – e.g. St. Austell in Cornwall seems to encompass the villages several miles away that either already had FTTP, are now getting it, or are having G.fast pods fitted)

      Openreach were running fibre up my road a couple of weeks ago – not sure if it’s some sort of infill for those at the other end of my road who may not get a gopd VDSL service, or whether we’re getting an FTTP upgrade (it’s an FTTC road in a largely FTTP village). Either way, I look forward to the massive announcement of my tiny village as one of the next areas for the rollout!

    2. Avatar olicuk says:

      Ivor, we’ve just had the similar, also in a village location nowhere near the fibre first announced areas. They’ve just unblocked ducts and then installed FTTP connectorised DPs across the footprint of our PCP and its VDSL2 cab (as well as to an adjoining business park which didn’t have superfast before as they’re fed by a different PCP). I think it’s great they’ve done this and will upgrade when its live, but it almost seems like a mistake they’ve done our roads, rather than just the business park. All properties on our cab have predicted FTTC speeds of over 40Mb on a worst case basis. So waiting for our big announcement too!!

    3. Avatar Ivor says:

      Olicuk – sounds like the same’s happening here then. My cab serves two fairly long roads and roadworks.org showed them running fibre down both of them.

      Haven’t yet seen any new equipment on the poles but maybe this is stage 1 of a rollout (aggregation node needed to go in first?), neither do the BT Wholesale or Openreach checkers say anything new.

      G.fast seems to be going on in the neighbouring villages (a couple of them were in the original trials, others are getting it installed right now). Due to line length I can’t see cabinet-based G.fast being a good idea for my PCP, so FTTP would make sense, or FTTdp if that’s back on.

    4. Avatar olicuk says:

      Ivor, yes there’s nothing on the Openreach or BTW sites about FTTP coming here either, despite the physical work just completed. And likewise I wouldn’t think G.Fast would be great here either as whilst it’s not a huge cabinet footprint, it’s about 200m from the cabinet to the first properties connected, and then probably another 400-500m to the end of the roads served (which spider off from the 200m point). So an average of 400-450m perhaps, which I believe is around the limit of G.Fast, and therefore FTTP is a better option. The only difference here is that everything is ducted.

  5. Avatar Ben says:

    5g coming to Birmingham and other cities later this year. This will enable ultrafast wireless speeds. Be interesting to see how quickly bt and others get fttp to these areas.

  6. Avatar CliveC says:

    On EO lines – why don’t they just put the VDSL kit in a rack in the Exchange to cover EO lines served by that Exchange?

    1. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      I understand that they are not allowed to put VDSL kit in an exchange, as it would interfere with ADSL lines. Of course, if they could replace all the ADSL lines with VDSL lines and there was no reduction in speed (which would happen for long lines) or extra costs for ISPs, then I suspect not many people would object to the rules being changed. But the rules won’t be changed, so upgrading EO lines will remain prohibitively expensive.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      They’re not allowed to run VDSL2 frequencies from the exchange.

      The ability to do so has been studied as part of NICC, but no-one seems to have pushed further with it … perhaps because it is complicated. I think some of the complication stems from the fact that if you allow BT to put VDSL2 in an exchange, then you have to allow any other operator (Sky, TT etc) the right to do so.

      Go to NICC http://www.niccstandards.org.uk/publications/index.cfm
      and look at ND-1517.

    3. Avatar MikeW says:

      @AnotherTim
      It isn’t just the interference with ADSL that is the problem. It is the interference with cabinet-based VDSL.

      The problems multiply when, say, an cabinet-based customer would prefer to get VDSL2 from exchange-based Sky rather than a cabinet-based BT.

  7. Avatar AnotherTim says:

    @MikeW thanks for the reference. From reading it I gather there is no real technical reason for not installing VDSL in exchanges in cases where it would help EO lines. There may be commercial reasons, but I’d argue that denying EO customers better broadband because it is unfair to some companies is a bogus point of view. The alternative appears to be to wait for an altnet (such as Gigaclear) to come to the rescue, which those companies don’t have access to anyway.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      You’re right – the majority of the technical reasons can be overcome by sensible restrictions that would indeed help EO people. New Zealand put in place just such a scheme to cope with cabinet-based vs exchange-based services.

      But we know that, in this country, Ofcom will likely side with the concept of “more competition” over sensible technical limitations … especially if the limitations gives BT any perception of advantage. LR_VDSL died from this same attitude.

      (I say “majority can be overcome” because there seems to be some wiring designs in that analysis that would still suffer issues. The best answer, IMHO, would be to force BT to normalise bad wiring practices when they are encountered … but recognising that might prove tricky)

  8. Avatar bwstu says:

    Are any ISPs actually offering 500/1000MBps yet. All I’ve seen is Spectrum, which is bristol / wales only.

    1. Avatar simon says:

      only certain parts of wales if their wires are pointing in the right direction. They are at my exchange but apparently i live on the wrong side of it so nothing is available to me.

      madness.

  9. Avatar simon says:

    lets hope virgin do something on the current network which will benefit everyone

  10. Avatar Adrian says:

    My property was supposed to be enabled for FTTP but after three months with an order with BT I tried Spectrum but they confirmed that although FTTP is available in my area there were problems with wayleaves which meant the order would be delayed or may not even happen. It appears I am not an isolated case.

    1. Avatar simon says:

      WHich is odd as VM told me wayleaves are no longer needed as on May this year..

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Who in VM told you that?

    3. Avatar Rahul says:

      I’ve got a similar problem with Hyperoptic. All 30+ residents registered their interest as I am a Hyperoptic Champion of my building.

      But Wayleave has become the biggest obstacle last 3 years. Three Hyperoptic Representatives have literally begged me to try and convince the Building Authorities to sign an agreement with them for the Survey and Installation permission but I have failed to convince my Building Managers thus far.

      Now from a few months BT Openreach are also planning to upgrade my area/exchange with FTTP. But of-course like I said before this wayleave problem will remain an issue again. Initially I was excited by the announcement, but I am no longer excited now.

      As I’ve said so many times here and most people are in agreement that these red tapes are the biggest reason why the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in terms of FTTP deployment. Many Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, etc have loose law and order. This has meant that many providers have easily deployed Fibre cables without any restrictions disrupting their projects.

      If you have issues with Wayleave, Adrian your best bet would be to try and speaking with your Building/Housing Managerial team and inform them of this project. If they say “no” well then tough luck you might not get Full Fibre for many, many years. It all depends on that authority if they are nice and considerate and understand your problem then there is hope.

  11. Avatar Graham Long says:

    Good to see Exeter is being lined up to get BT Full Fibre rather than the BT Fake Fibre (FTTC) which they have to make do with today. The good people of Exeter will then catch up with the rural villages in Devon that already have Gigaclear Full Fibre (FTTH).

  12. Avatar Darren Banks says:

    We live in Hill Barton Vale in Exeter. OR are installing FTTP to only the newest houses leaving the rest of us in the very same development (Persimmon and David Wilson) with no FTTC as the cabinet does not have it installed and there are no plans to do so. Therefore we are locked into a very poor ADSL2+/ADSLMax, or pay huge costs on data-capped 4G! This announcement is totally meaningless to us unless OR will overlay fibre on to the existing copper lines which they’ve slay indicated that they will not.

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