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The H1 2019 Impact from Full to Capacity FTTC Broadband Cabinets

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019 (11:26 am) - Score 7,387

The latest independent data has predicted that 3.8% of UK premises could be affected by full to capacity FTTC (VDSL2) based “fibre broadband” street cabinets on Openreach’s (BT) network (down from 4.6% in December 2018), which might stop you from ordering a new service.

ISPreview.co.uk first reported on 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).

At present Openreach currently has 88,500 live Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) offering street cabinets (DSLAMS) via around 5,300 enabled exchanges, which equates to a UK footprint of about +91%. At any given time a small but variable proportion of these may run out of spare ports for new lines and that can prevent new orders being completed (i.e. waiting list) until extra capacity is added.

Thinkbroadband runs their own independent analysis of this problem, which in April 2018 put the figure at 4.1% and this then increased to 4.6% at the end of 2018 (i.e. it impacted 3,120 out of the 81,409 VDSL2 cabinets tracked in their database at the time), before falling to 3.8% now. A fall here is good news.

The analysis suggests that in ideal circumstances (i.e. no capacity problems) around 90.7% of the UK should be able to order a superfast broadband (30Mbps+) service via Openreach’s network, but this drops by -3.7% points due to full cabinets or -3.8% when looking at any speed on their network.

NOTE: The “all tech” figure below includes the impact upon availability when considering all networks, not only Openreach’s.

Standard Coverage Figures (%)

Region 30Mbps+ (all tech) Openreach (any speed) Openreach 30Mbps+
UK 95.7 93.6 90.7
London 97.1 92 90.8
Northern Ireland 88.6 97.6 86.7
Scotland 93.5 92.8 88.8
Wales 94.7 96.4 93.2

Change Due to Capacity Issues (%)

Region 30Mbps+ (all tech) Openreach (any speed) Openreach 30Mbps+
UK -2.1 -3.8 -3.7
London -1.5 -3.9 -3.9
Northern Ireland -1.2 -1.5 -1.3
Scotland -3.0 -4.4 -4.3
Wales -2.9 -3.5 -3.4

Take note that this data only considers the impact of capacity via Openreach’s national FTTC/VDSL2 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. Likewise newer G.fast and FTTP services on Openreach’s network are not yet a factor above and we don’t imagine port capacity will be an issue for FTTP due to how it’s deployed.

Unfortunately if you happen to live in such a “full to capacity” area then this can cause frustration when attempting to order a new FTTC 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. Some providers can be quite appalling with how they handle these situations, but in other cases the ISP may simply be caught out by a sudden change in status (post-order).

Furthermore there remains a lot of uncertainty over the question of how long consumers will have to wait before the issue is resolved and this is not well communicated by either Openreach or ISPs, which partly reflects the fact that it’s difficult to be accurate with such things.

An Openreach Spokesperson said last year:

“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.”

We should point out that in some cases Openreach’s may still need to build an entirely new cabinet in order to cater for rising demand, even though they will often manage to avoid this, 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 thus some of Openreach’s existing lines may become available to new 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.

NOTE: Openreach’s last official figure was around 3% for cabinets stuck on a waiting list (September 2018).

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
30 Responses
  1. Joe says:

    I never realised the UK was made up of London, Scotland, NI and Wales 🙂

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Sadly TBB don’t give a consolidated figure for England, only lots of regional ones and you can find that on their page.

    2. Joe says:

      Yeah I read their site and knew but it made me chuckle with the juxtaposition 🙂 London pretty much thinks its England anyway!

    3. Andrew Ferguson says:

      England for those worried about it specifically is running at a 2% impact.

  2. chris conder, says:

    everyone knew this would happen years ago… some pcp cab areas will need loads of fibre cabinets. it is all part of the superfarce. OR bung one in and declare the area is superfast fibre enabled. Yet the ‘fibre’ cabinet only serves a small proportion of the lines, and not the EO lines, so many don’t have superfast at all.

    1. Joe says:

      (sighs) You know perfectly well the numbers of EO lines has fallen dramatically and continues to fall. There may be a temp spike in cabs but they will be declining dramatically as fib rolls out fully.

    2. TheFacts says:

      @CC – Please name a cab area that will need loads of fibre cabs. 384 may be the cab max currently, you can check.

    3. Techman says:

      @joe, yeah for EO lines they just stick you on a cabinet 2km away outside the exchange rather than one that is 30 metres away and with tax payer subsidy to do so. Seems a fair solution!

    4. Andrew Ferguson says:

      And if you are on a cabinet 2km away then it will not qualify as superfast

      The reality is that while some EO lines do get added to cabinets at this sort of distance a good many others are well within the range of the new cabinet to superfast speeds.

    5. Techman says:

      @Andrew Ferguson so why have openreach charged bduk to carry out this work?

    6. Andrew Ferguson says:


      In short…
      Because Governments decided that they did not want to wait for commercial roll-outs to reach all these areas

      NOTE: Openreach can only charge in areas where it has been agreed they can charge the local BDUK project, i.e. what is defined within the contract.

    7. Techman says:

      @Andrew Ferguson I meant why have Openreach charged BDUK for upgrade work that did not give any increase in speed whatsoever

    8. Andrew Ferguson says:

      The BDUK contracts only pay out for premises that can get superfast speeds.

    9. John says:

      “Please name a cab area that will need loads of fibre cabs. 384 may be the cab max currently, you can check”

      PCP15 ESDAL

      Currently has 2 x 256 port ECI DSLAMs and 1 x 288 Huawei DSLAM.

    10. Fastman says:

      Please name a cab area that will need loads of fibre cabs. 384 may be the cab max currently, you can check”
      PCP15 ESDAL
      Currently has 2 x 256 port ECI DSLAMs and 1 x 288 Huawei DSLAM.

      probably a development where there there were about 50 premises shown when budk started ano now about 300 + due to developer asking for copper (majority of those will not have been there when intervention area drawn)

    11. Brian says:

      Long lines isn’t just a EO problem, in my instance the exchanges cabinets are located close to the exchange, so 4km from the cabinet, and 3km from the recent infill cabinet. FTTC was always going to be unsuitable for rural areas.

  3. alan says:

    that’s a laugh 30+ speeds in the uk yeah right open reach what that bodge up network .

    1. TheFacts says:

      Nearer 80M for many. Dont hear any significant call for beyond that so the rollout of superfast benefited many quickly.

      CC will be praising the FibreFirst scheme.

    2. Mike says:

      If you need more than 30Mbps then get a second line and load balance it or move to 4G.

    3. alan says:

      I cannot even get 30+ speed that’s how good the shambles of a network it is

    4. GNewton says:

      “If you need more than 30Mbps then get a second line and load balance it”

      We know from customers’ experiences that this is often an unrealistic option.
      For many, even to get a meager 100Mbps upload often requires more than 5 VDSL lines. OpenReach in all too many cases simply won’t supply that many local loops to a premise. And load-balancing equipment was often unreliable. Not to talk about excessive real world cost of this option. Often it makes more sense for a small business to move to a better location. This is still a sad reality in this country with its broadband postcode lottery.

    5. CarlT says:

      100Mb upload is ‘meagre’?


  4. Phil says:

    My cabinet are in waiting list.

    Address *** *************, ***********, *** *** on Exchange CUCKOO OAK is served by Cabinet 8

    Featured Products

    Downstream Line Rate(Mbps)

    Upstream Line Rate(Mbps)

    Downstream Handback Threshold(Mbps)

    WBC FTTC Availability Date

    WBC SOGEA Availability Date
    High Low High Low
    VDSL Range A (Clean) 80 68.9 20 19 63.4 Waiting list —
    VDSL Range B (Impacted) 80 67 20 19 60 Waiting list —

    1. AndyH says:

      Max, you have more names on here than a phonebook!

    2. RIbble says:

      It’s back available now, Max.

  5. adslmax says:

    AndyH I heard from openreach press release: This briefing is to inform NGA CPs that the tactical DLM reset process (briefing NGA004/18) will soon be ending

    Look like it will allow all isp to do remotely DLM resetted everydays soon.

    1. James says:

      I work for BT in provisions/order management and a lot of the time we will still accept the order, and then we have to have the unfortunate conversation with the customer. It’s very annoying.

  6. James says:

    I work for BT in provisions/order management and a lot of the time we will still accept the order, and then we have to have the unfortunate conversation with the customer. It’s very annoying.

  7. Andrew says:

    They can join 1-15 home together with a small join then take smaller joins to homes wht should increase speeds,,, or next idea is made boxes WiFi node for v5 sytem,,, Virgin tried to use owner boxes for WiFi node, for home n for street.

  8. misterlol says:

    This country is a joke in terms of internet availability (and Brexit). It’s 2019 and people living in the same area have to compete for slots in a cabinet to get access to the same speeds.

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