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H2 2018 – Rise in Full to Capacity FTTC Broadband Street Cabinets

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018 (4:22 pm) - Score 5,755
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A new report has estimated that around 4.6% of premises in the United Kingdom could be affected by full to capacity FTTC (VDSL2) based “fibre broadband” street cabinets on Openreach’s (BT) network, which is up from 4.1% in April 2018 and might stop you from being able to order a new service.

We first covered the challenges of “full” street cabinets and their impact upon consumers in 2016 (here), which explained why such cabinets fill up, the problems that it can cause and how long it may take to resolve via upgrades (i.e. anything from a few weeks for a simple line card change to several months or possibly longer if additional civil engineering is required).

During that same year we understood that 1,970 of the then 77,033 live VDSL2 street cabinets were full and awaiting an upgrade (around 2.6%). Back in March 2018 several ISPs informed us that Openreach’s official figure was around 3% for cabinets stuck on a waiting list and a report from September 2018 said the same.

Meanwhile Thinkbroadband have continued to run their own independent analysis, which in April 2018 put the figure at 4.1% (here) and this has now risen to 4.6% (i.e. it impacts 3,120 out of the 81,409 VDSL2 cabinets in their database). The data found that around 90.2% of the UK can order a superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service via Openreach’s network, but this drops by -4.5% points due to full cabinets.

NOTE: The “all tech” figure below includes the impact upon availability when considering all networks, not only Openreach’s.
Standard Coverage Figures Change Due to Capacity Issues
Region % 30Mbps+
(all tech)
% Openreach
(any speed)
% Openreach 30Mbps+ 30Mbps+ (all tech) Openreach (any speed) Openreach 30Mbps+
UK 95.4 93.2 90.2 -2.5 -4.6 -4.5
London 97 91.7 90.6 -1.5 -4.1 -4
Northern Ireland 87.3 97.2 85.2 -2.8 -3.5 -3.3
Scotland 93.4 92.4 88.4 -3.1 -4.4 -4.3
Wales 94.5 96.3 93 -3.1 -3.9 -3.7

Take note that TBB’s data only considers the impact of capacity via Openreach’s national network and not that of other platforms. Different networks handle different types of capacity issues in different ways and not all are as transparent about such issues.

Unfortunately if you happen to live in such an area then this can cause frustration when attempting to order a new Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) based package or migrating your service, particularly if the ISP accepts the order and begins the switch only to later tell you that they cannot complete it.

Mercifully ISPs have got better at reporting when cabinets are stuck in the waiting queue for new capacity, but support staff don’t always correctly reflect this to new customers. On top of that there remains a lot of uncertainty over the question of how long consumers will have to wait before the issue is resolved.

An Openreach Spokesperson said:

“Resolving issues that can cause delay in adding extra customer capacity in our network is a top priority for us and we have made significant progress over the year in reducing average waiting times. We have introduced a number of innovations such as fibre connectivity that uses power from one existing fibre cabinet to power a second cabinet – which has helped reduce the build time taken to commission and build new fibre cabinets by up to 12 weeks.

We’ve also introduced a raft of new measures to help speed up the building of extra capacity into our copper cabinets, such as cabinet top boxes which extend the size of our cabinets creating space for the extra connections required to provide additional fibre capacity.

In addition, we are working closely with our vendors Huawei and Nokia to develop quicker alternatives to building new fibre cabinets – which can traditionally take up to nine months to complete. We are about to launch technical trials for a fibre cabinet side-pod and new fibre cabinet equipment capable of supporting double the current capacity. Following successful trials we are aiming to start deploying this kit in the next financial year.

We continue to invest heavily in our fibre broadband network and have already upgraded and increased capacity on more than 25 per cent of our entire estate – over 22,700 fibre cabinets . We plan to have upgraded more than 40,000 fibre cabinets by the end of this financial year.”

We should point out that in some cases Openreach’s may need to build an entirely new cabinet in order to cater for rising demand, which can be problematic due to labour / hardware costs, the need to seek planning permission, permits for road access, wayleave agreements, power supply requirements, local objections and so forth.

In addition, local demand is something that can go up as well as down, particularly if a rival network enters the area and steals away some of Openreach’s users. Installing more capacity than needed can carry an extra cost and so this is one of the reasons why big operators often prefer to scale as demand grows, rather than cater for 100% of local lines from day one.

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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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28 Responses
  1. Avatar Paul W

    My cabinet is currently fully. I found this out when trying to order fttc for a family member who lives 5 doors down from me a few months ago. It’s still full,there is now work going on at the cabinet but I’m unsure if this is to make room for capacity or to fit g fast.

  2. Avatar craski

    “if a rival network enters the area and steals away some of Openreach’s users”

    Steal implies these customers belong to Openreach!

  3. Avatar Mike

    I think 5G will free up quite a few slots.

  4. Avatar Peter French

    Open Reach (& BT) Lie, or are, at least dishonest. I live in rural N. Norfolk. We were advised by Open Reach that out green cabinet was “” in the testing phase”” – this being the case when I asked the government body for a grant to install satellite internet, I was refused as Open Reach said they were within 4 weeks (average) of finishing.
    The latest date is end Dec/18…. Do I believe this – NO!
    I have tried EVERY means to expedite this to no avail.

    • Avatar Geoff

      Could not agree more Peter. Openpray.are a bunch of jokers who cannot be called a broadband infrastructure service provider by Any level of service measurement. They should be banned from installing fttp or g.fast until all cabinets in the country are made into at least fttc to achieve somewhere near a level playing field for all Commercial bb providers. The toothless ruling body Ofcom are also utterly useless in terms of ensuring an equality of service over the Openpray network.

    • Avatar Joe

      Caps is just tiresome – don’t do it.

      Splitting OR woulnd’t suddenly give you a cabinet – it would probably delay it.

    • Avatar Fastman

      You clearly don’t understand how the network is built especially if this a new cab inserted into the network to reduce line distance. There are some specific rules about dealing with people who may already have a low speed fibre service and these have to be done first . So they do not lose service

  5. Avatar St. George

    There is no capacity in my cabinet even though most of the people living in the area are of an age that they have no interest in the internet.
    Poor management!

  6. Avatar saf

    Where a customer takes up Gfast does this then free up a VDSL 80MPS port for another person to use in the same cabinet?

    And what if someone on Gfast wishes to downgrade to FTTC 80MPS but the ports are all taken, what happens then?

    Or can the existing gfast port be used to downgrade to the FTTC 80 MBPS service?

    • Avatar Paul W

      Correct me if I’m wrong but I think you stay on the fttc port in the cabinet and the gfast port just enhances the signal so to speak. so there will be no free port, and if you go back to 80mb fttc you just stay on the port in the cabinet but don’t have the enhanced gfast port active.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Happy to correct. When you move to G.fast you do indeed free up a port. Your line is no longer going through the FTTC DSLAM.

      G.fast and VDSL are completely independent of one another.

    • Avatar JimWeir

      If you take G.Fast your copper pair used a GFast pod and frees up a VDSL port in the FTTC cab

      The G.Fast Line cards can support VDSL but whether they will configure this is upto Openreach.

    • Avatar Paul W

      Interesting, thanks.

    • Avatar Tim Jefferson

      How do you tell whether you have Gfast or VDSL

    • Avatar Fastman

      You will only have gfast if you have specifically ordered it from your service provider

  7. Avatar Midgetgem

    I have worked worked for the fore mentioned telecommunications company & its just as bad if not worse ha ing to deal with irrate customers who have been waiting for 2hrs or more in a que only to be told sorry wrong dept sales staff then have to transfer them for even more waiting & going round in circles staff are not correctly informed of whats going on not to mention daily system crashes I could go on & on both companies only give a damn about annual turnover & keeping ofcom sweeet as long as the fat cats are happy nothing will ever change sky high charges for a an awfully inadequate service & demand will keep increasing year on year

  8. Avatar Meadmodj

    This all dates back to the Government’s and hence Ofcom failure to ensure that broadband was considered an essential utility from the start. BT (hence OR) always had a telephony obligation but never a broadband one. DSL technologies offered an interim solution but from the start all parties knew we needed fibre. The future requirement was ignored during ADSL and again with the introduction of FTTC and fibre was still ignored as commercials changed.

    Without the essential requirement commercial companies have to make a ROI and therefore calculate capacity based on forecast demand/take-up. FTTC, VM and FTTP will all be provisioned in this way. Some technologies and practices are easily to augment than others but similar debates will be with us in the future. It’s like a water company only provisioning 50% of the capacity needed and allowing low water pressure.

    g.Fast, FTTP and 4G/5G will assist but it will not help those in areas where FTTC will remain the only choice for some time. The low take-up forecasts in BDUK areas also didn’t help so how Gov/Ofcom can keep saying 98% are covered by Superfast but a good percentage of people can’t get it they actually asked for it beats me.

    We are running out of existing capacity and FTTP is a long way out for many. Ofcom need to ensure investment (all) is focused with 100% coverage obligations and registered in advance so that any augmentation investment is also focused.

    Their current strategy is to have multiple Ultrafast (or better) for some, FTTC for the many and others still languishing on ADSL or none even with the USO. OR must be allowed to increase revenues for investment, FTTP overbuild by providers should be discouraged in the short term and more honesty needed regarding status of UK broadband.

    • Avatar Joe

      “OR must be allowed to increase revenues for investment, FTTP overbuild by providers should be discouraged in the short term and more honesty needed regarding status of UK broadband.”

      Well that’s certainly the problem. Ofcom has been far more interested in brining prices down than allowing a strong margin and mandating better tech as the price.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      ‘We are running out of existing capacity’ Where?

  9. Avatar TheFacts

    You cannot say that is the % of UK premises.

  10. Avatar Fraggy

    Does anyone know what the average turn around on FTTC cabinets at capacity is? I’m moving to a new house in a month, and it’s gone from full, to available for a week, back to full. Can’t get any answers from Openreach, BT, or Google. Thanks.

    • Avatar Fastman


      this new house is a brand new house or a new house for you

      if its a brand new house and there is not a cabinet at entrance of the site . this could be not good news

      This means the developer only asked for copper lines only and so this development is tacked on to a cab that was already serving a defined community before the development was considered

      if this is the case there might be a significant wait depending on whether that Cab was build as part of a BDUK programme or funded by another way . which cabinet are you on please

    • Avatar noodle

      I’d also like to know what the ETA is for this, I put an offer down on a new build house (~6 years old) and did a rudimentary check with a couple ISPs at the time, they all said fibre was available. Checked a couple days ago and now fibre isnt available at all (unless you go with BT in which case they say there is fibre until you get to the checkout page and *then* they downgrade you back down to ADSL, real classy BT)

      Openreach have told me there’s so current plan to up the capacity. How long could I be waiting? Im still early on in house buying process and sadly this is a big enough issue that if an upgrade is 1+ years down the line, Ill look elsewhere! Its so disappointing, as this only exacerbates the London bubble, and this is a bloody commuter down I’m looking at.

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