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Openreach Remove 35ft Poles from Exeter UK Street After Locals Moan

Thursday, Jan 10th, 2019 (8:16 am) - Score 7,825

Openreach’s (BT) attempts to bring “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband services to the suburbs of Exeter (Devon) have been met with anger on Armstrong Avenue, where residents complained that the new 35ft telegraph poles are too tall, “ugly” and some also appear to be bent. Thankfully a solution has already been found.

In this case Armstrong Avenue is already quite well served by Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) technology and Virgin Media’s ultrafast cable network. Instead Openreach were in the process of rolling out Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology to this street as part of their on-going “Fibre First” programme (3 million premises by the end of 2020).

However not everybody is a fan of wooden telegraph poles and if you haven’t had them on your street before then their appearance may not go down well, although equally they are still a fairly common sight in many parts of the United Kingdom (a lot of cables run underground but doing that is often slower, more disruptive and more expensive).

According to DevonLive, locals were less than pleased after the new poles appeared just before Christmas. Apparently the operator notified the council on 11th December and the works began on 15th, taking only five days to complete (Permitted Development Rights). Ward councillor Percy Prowse said: “The contractors told me that the poles they were erecting were too big and excessive considering they [need] to hold one cable.”

Residents will at least be pleased to hear that Openreach has agreed to remove the poles and better yet, the area will still be getting FTTP.

A Spokesperson for Openreach said:

“In those small areas where there isn’t any existing infrastructure, we need to build brand new network, which can include poles. We look at ways of informing residents as early as possible about new infrastructure but retain the overall right to site poles to provide network where necessary.

We have worked closely with the Highways Agency and the local authority for all other relevant permissions.

We’ve listened to concerns from residents and Councillors regarding the new poles we recently erected and we absolutely agree that the poles in Armstrong Avenue aren’t in keeping with the local environment and we will remove them as quickly as possible.”

Under the new plan Openreach said they intend to pilot a “new” type of Micro Trenching technology that has been developed in Germany. Regular readers will know that Micro Trenching (i.e. digging a shallow and narrow trench at speed into the pavement for new cables) has been around for several years and is often used by civil engineers.

Hopefully the locals don’t find more reasons to complain when civil engineers turn up to block their driveways and slice through the local pavement. Well they did ask for it to go underground and in this case their wish has been granted, although in other areas such complaints have resulted in locals being left without access to faster broadband for longer than expected.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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20 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    I agree with the residents. For many years I lived in an area where all cables were underground, but where I live now Openreach’s cables are carried for the final few yards on hideous poles, although the backhaul to the exchange is underground. If Virgin Media can put its cables underground to the premises, so why cannot Openreach?

    1. Avatar photo Kyle says:

      I see a lot more tatty and frankly hideous Virgin Media cables and covers attached to walls and buildings, than I ever have with Openreach.

    2. Avatar photo james says:

      fools. dont whinge when your left behind, most of the street furniture around here is messed up

    3. Avatar photo Joe says:

      just cost

    4. Avatar photo Kits says:

      My next door neighbour moved in less that 12 months ago, she ordered VM. Her install has a plastic cover over her cable on her garden wall pavement side looks flimsy so easy to perhaps kick off. Inside her garden the black cable is stapled to the wooden fence between the two properties. So as the panels rot the cable will start to fall to her lawn I wait the day her lawn mower goes through it. When Cable and wireless fitted my connection they dug a trench in the garden and continued under ground to the house. It is no longer in use since they never fixed a speed issue for 12 months. I left as I was fed up with unusable broadband every night and at weekends.

  2. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    Oh sweet! Wasn’t sure if Openreach were able to use microtrenching for fear of other operators complaining they don’t have enough passive infrastructure to access.

    Very cool.

  3. Avatar photo Mark Draper says:

    Typical Openreach, chasing subscribers in an already well-served urban area. If Devon County Council are helping to fund, why on earth don’t they direct the work to areas in geater need? Yes, fewer homes would be connected (so fewer customers for Openreach and fewer satisfied votersj but surely that is what state aid should be all about – helping those in greatest need.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The Fibre First programme is commercial, no state aid is involved. Openreach can deploy where they like and that’s usually where it makes most commercial sense in competitive urban areas.

    2. Avatar photo Ian says:

      Openreach are part of BT Plc. The PLC being an important part, they are not a charity and have shareholders to be responsible to as well as well over £100K of staff to pay.

      Why should people living in far flung remote places have broadband as a right? they choose to live there just like you wont have a bus every 10 mins either.
      don’t see VM on ANY other operator doing anything unless it makes commercial sense and so should be same for OR !!

    3. Avatar photo Gerarda says:

      Fibre First maybe a commercial roll out but you have to wonder who in Openreach takes the decision to invest resources in this when they have FTTP infrastructure installed last spring sitting idle due to lack of resources to commission it.

      I suspect it’s a case of management by silo.

    4. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:


  4. Avatar photo FrankButcher says:

    Looking at the Devonlive article that estate looks like it was built in the 1970’s so it’s a bit surprising that they don’t have ducts. I can only assume that the existing copper was direct buried for some reason.

  5. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    I am assuming the OR planner was seeking the cheapest/simplest solution but using poles where none existed is illogical. The likelihood of significant demand for Giga on a residential estate like this has to be very low and individual properties can be addressed individually. In addition these houses already have VM Ultrafast options.

    My initial view would be that OR should utilise G.Fast close to theses houses (and other situations like this) to avoid the disruption and cost. But if the cables are buried (or laid communally) it may also be jelly filled aluminium or poor copper (due to copper shortage).

    Reverting to micro trenching has to be expensive against the potential market share OR will achieve and the percentage of residents that would benefit. But good to see OR being more flexible in practices.

    1. Avatar photo Joe says:

      Exeter is a real hotspot for competition atm so I imagine that that may be driving this.

  6. Avatar photo james says:

    And yet when a lot of us whinge to GET this sort of thing F all happens! – Irony!

  7. Avatar photo davidj says:

    “35ft telegraph poles are too tall, “ugly” and some also appear to be bent.”

    Nobody likes a bendy pole LOL

  8. Avatar photo Polish migrant says:

    Poor Poles! What about other migrants?

    1. Avatar photo Tim says:


  9. Avatar photo Bob's your uncle says:

    Micro trenching is terrible it causes pavement subsidence and is banned in a lot of places. An armoured fibre is installed no duct so you’ll get problems in the future where they go faulty and the street has to be dug up. The poles aren’t unnecessarily big enginees have to climb them so they have to support the weight. Doesn’t matter how light the cable on it.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Microtrenching is fine. Less of a risk than full size trenching. Where has it been banned? It’s not been used in that many places.

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