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North Yorkshire UK Questions Superfast Broadband Coverage Claims

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 (5:39 pm) - Score 920
bt fttc fttp fibre optic broadband cabinet uk

The North Yorkshire County Council has pledged to launch an investigation into any cases where people struggle to achieve “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speeds, which is focused upon areas that have been upgraded by Openreach (BT) as part of the state aid supported Superfast North Yorkshire project.

According to the Northern Echo, a number of concerns have recently been raised after “broadband suppliers” (we assume they mean ISPs) told people living in areas where the new “superfast” network had been introduced that the minimum desired speeds (24Mbps+) remained unachievable.

At present the SFNY project is working to reach more than 94% of premises in the county with a “superfast broadband” capable network by June 2021 (currently at around 91%) and after that it could reach 97% (here). As part of that Openreach have been expanding the reach of their hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) network and a little ultrafast “full fibreFTTP.

Councillor Don Mackenzie said:

“Generally speaking, premises that are more than 1,200 metres from a cabinet will see download speeds drop off.

“If people want to know about the service that they can expect they should visit the Superfast North Yorkshire website. If people have ongoing concerns about speeds we will carry out an investigation for them.”

Unfortunately the article doesn’t offer any practical examples, which would have enabled us to probe deeper into the context and establish what is actually happening. Example cases are vitally important because otherwise understanding the ‘coverage vs expectations of performance’ issue can became a notoriously difficult minefield.

FTTC (VDSL2) technology tends to rely on a run of thin copper wire between homes and the local street cabinet, which sadly suffers from signal degradation over distance. Contrary to what Councillor Mackenzie says above, the speeds actually start to drop off from around 150-200 metres+ (at this distance you should get c.80Mbps but it steadily declines as the lines get longer, until falling below 24Mbps on the longest runs).

The official “superfast” coverage figures only factor in lines that are estimated to deliver 24Mbps+ speeds, although the raw network footprint will go much further. As a result this can sometimes create confusion were areas at the edge of coverage (longest / slowest lines) may see an upgrade take place, but won’t fully understand why they are then unable to achieve 24Mbps+ speeds (i.e. they still get an improvement but it’s sub-24Mbps).

Equally other factors may come into play to create further confusion. For example, issues such as slow home WiFi, poor home wiring, congestion on your home network and various other factors, which exist external to the new network (i.e. not within the operator’s control), often still end up being incorrectly blamed on the broadband line.

Suffice to say that getting to the bottom of such complaints can be very difficult and local authorities must share some of the blame here. Many councils have consistently failed to articulate the difference between “superfast” (24Mbps+) capable coverage and the overall “fibre” network coverage (including sub-24Mbps speeds).

Lest we forget that network faults, local interference and other infrastructure damage also have a role to play. Likewise consumer awareness is another factor, with some people often incorrectly assuming the upgrade to faster speeds is automatic.

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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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10 Responses
  1. chris conder

    Good for Yorkshire, some thrifty folk there. The council fell for the superfarce sales talk, but they will want to see everyone getting what they were promised, and the sad fact is that they never will. Soon all the other councils will follow this path. They were promised a jet and get a clapped out donkey.

    • TheFacts

      Where were they promised a particular speed?

    • GNewton

      @TheFacts: Why do you care? You don’t even seem to comprehend how ASA, and many local councils, deceived people into thinking they got fibre broadband when in fact they only got VDSL. A first step would be to show some honesty here.

  2. Meadmodj

    The data should be available to OR as the observed speed is shown on the BT Wholesale Availability checker. Investigation should be automatic if a product is not performing. It therefore should be easy to identify either clusters or individual properties that may have either a line or internal wiring issue. The other problem is this stupid dependance on Post Code. That is the database says the Post Code is OK but not all the premises in the Post Code are not covered by FTTC, VM etc.

    Ofcom need to understand that Post Codes are for Royal Mail rounds not networks. This issue appears as important to “Superfast” as it will for USO eligibility.

  3. NE555

    There’s also a small chance that the property has FTTP, but the ISP doesn’t support it. When the customer asks their ISP what they can get, the ISP offers ADSL only.

    The wholesale checker would show FTTP in this case – but the customer would have to know that they need to move ISP (and their existing ISP is unlikely to tell them that, for obvious reasons)

    • Meadmodj

      That’s why Ofcom need to move to actuals and not properties past. There are so many variables and they are intending to use their Post Code based data for the USO. My road is shown to have 7Mbps minimum and 200 max. However not all the houses are provided with a VM pavement box and the 7 indicates someone is still on ADSL. We really need to combine ISP databases like ThinkBroadband attempt to do.

      As for FTTC my point is OR know the line settings, whether it is ADSL or FTTC and whether it is performing. We have people who are given FTTC but the performance is not acceptable and people who are denied service when FTTC, VM etc are.

  4. CarlT

    Really hope they actually do this correctly. A number of councillors all over the place aren’t the greatest at grasping many issues. Fond memories of a councillor trying to pull up Virgin Media for digging over people’s private drives – they were building in public pavements that happened to have dropped kerbs.

  5. Techman

    Absolute joke that people have been waiting years for a better connection only to get a sub 15mbs line and be told they should be happy they are now “superfast”. What an absolute farce. There is plenty of clawback money available yet none of the local authorities report on this and indeed appear to have given up judging by the state of thier websites that havnt been updated in years.

    I can understand 1 or 2 remote properties getting sub 24mbs speeds under BDUK but when a collection of streets in a town with 80 properties all get sub 15mbs speeds then something is very wrong. Its not like it would have been too expensive to upgrade either, i myself got an fttod quote for mine and 12 other properties and it was 17k. BDUK literally did the least possible for us.

    • Brian

      The BDUK project has been to spend the minimum possible to achieve the best sound bites for politicians.
      This has been compounded by the overselling of FTTC capabilities to politicians in the first place, being told that the urban solution was suitable for rural applications.
      Hence the project has failed so many.

    • A_Builder

      @Brian

      You have hit the nail on the head.

      FTTC was a useful bridging technology until full FTTP was rolled out for areas with short copper lines.

      Unfortunately the OR begging bowl approach was to deny, deny, deny that FTTP had any real generalisable role to play and hope that a copper based solution could be hashed up. With the abandonment of LR-VDSL that bit the dust and the mask fell away.

      So yes, time and money have been wasted on a stopgap that performs very poorly and unevenly in a lot of rural situations. And given the very often large amount of copper rewiring involved in the rural FTTC solutions it really is questionable if a lot of it made any real sense at any point in time. If you are going to start to replace lots of copper you might as well put in fibre or at least dual copper fibre.

      And yes I would agree that FTTC was oversold as ‘fibre’ and ‘future proof’. Whereas as we are all rapidly discovering the fibre backbone to the FTTC was not positioned, in a lot of cases, where it would make sense to do FTTP take off’s.

      So the whole argument around the fibre backbone not following the copper routes to PCPs falls apart all by itself because it needed to follow different routings for FTTP to make sense as the PCP/copper layout was historical.

      So we are therefore drawn inexorably to the conclusion that there was a lot of flawed logic in the whole approach as it all disappeared down the rabbit hole……

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