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Ofcom and Openreach Trial Cheaper UK FTTC Broadband Upgrades UPDATE

Monday, November 25th, 2019 (11:24 am) - Score 8,964
telegraph pole three openreach bt engineers

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has begun a consultation on the proposed introduction of a new “bulk upgrade process,” which requires an exclusion in Openreach’s (BT) quality of service regulation but would make it more efficient for them to upgrade slower lines to FTTC (VDSL2) based broadband ISP connections.

Apparently ISPs that use Openreach’s network have been calling for a “more efficient and cost-effective” way to upgrade existing retail customers to higher-speed products, which is particularly important given all of the discounts and offers that the operator is currently promoting in order to encourage stronger take-up.

The proposed solution to this is a voluntary new installation process that will allow providers to upgrade their standard broadband customers (e.g. copper line ADSLMax / ADSL2+) to “superfast broadband” (FTTC) products in batches, at a given street cabinet, and at a lower price per line.

Openreach started a trial of this new approach on 28th October 2019 and no doubt their plans for a full launch will be subject to both the results of that and this consultation document.

The Regulator’s Proposal

We are proposing to agree to Openreach’s request, given that a more efficient and cost-effective upgrade process would benefit people and businesses. This means orders completed using Openreach’s ‘Bulk Grouping provision capability’ would be exempt from certain quality of service regulation requirements for the remainder of the 2018-2021 review period.

We will monitor Openreach’s service performance, using information collected from Openreach about orders using this process. We remain open to imposing additional standards on these orders in the future if we consider it appropriate.

Assuming all goes well then the new method could be introduced from sometime during “early” 2020. We suspect any cost savings would not be passed on to consumers but that would be up to ISPs.

UPDATE 27th Nov 2019

In speaking to Openreach about this it has become clear that the way Ofcom wrote their consultation did not give the correct reflection for the proposed exclusion. For example, Ofcom repeatedly mentioned “ultrafast” and “superfast” products but in fact it only applies to “superfastVDSL2 based FTTC lines.

The regulator also stated that reducing costs in this way might require Openreach to delay completing some jobs until there is a sufficient volume from a given ISP at a given cabinet, which in turn would attract different contractual terms. However Openreach says the discount is not dependant on delaying job completion, it’s the same street cabinet (PCP) jobs being done by one engineer (i.e. more efficient).

Openreach said they will not delay completion of any jobs awaiting volume. ISPs will prepare bulk upgrades for existing customers and supply Openreach the details when they are ready to place orders.

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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.
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14 Responses
  1. A_Builder says:

    Ultimately the CP can decide how the service is being delivered. All they are contracted to do is deliver the SLA.

    I’ve had a close read of all our copper contracts and none of them specify exactly how the service is delivered just what the service is.

    So I cannot see that anyone would have any recourse if the CP decided that a bunch of our FTTC connections turned into FTTP (here is to hoping) and provided the FTTP was as fast or faster than the FTTC the service would be provided as contracted. This would be a bit different if it was EoVDSL2+ as this is quite a specific type of product.

    So I can see CP’s bulk upgrading everyone on ADSL to 40/1 FTTC (or whatever is chosen). As it gets rid of a lot of gripes about performance.

    One of the interesting things there has been deathly silence on is delivering ADSL2+ from the DSLAM where the line length is too long for FTTC to be effective. I can foresee this being a necessary bridging technology and it can be implemented on line cards that do commercially exist.

    1. Peter says:

      Don’t forget there is a 18/2 FTTC package that Openreach offer as well

    2. NGA for all says:

      If ISPs speed up they can add to the clawback and help to drive fibre further.

    3. MrNew says:

      Surely this consultation is about moving existing customers from one available product to another available product, This is not about installing FTTP and immediately upgrading customers to it.

    4. AnotherTim says:

      @MrNew, I think you are correct. I had hoped this was going to be about upgrading areas with only ADSL available, but it does look like it is just a way of reducing costs by batching orders when migrating lines to faster connections where they are already available.

    5. A_Builder says:

      @ AnotherTim

      I think it is about both.

      OR rightly want to get people using ADSL -> FTTC or FTTC -> FTTP and talking about how great it is.

      Remember OR save money by getting rid of as much ADSL as fast as possible as this gets rid of thousands of man hours fault finding very long lines where it is good enough for POTS but not good enough for DSL.

      Or look at it a more beneficent way upgrading customers makes more happy customers and resources can be focused on FTTP rather than running around fixing old garbage.

    6. AnotherTim says:

      @A_Builder, actually I don’t think it is both. I don’t doubt that OR would like to see everyone upgraded to FTTC/FTTP, but I don’t think this scheme is for that. I think it is for ISPs that want to drop ADSL where FTTC/FTTP is available, but want to do it on the cheap.
      There is a growing number of ISPs that no longer provision ADSL, and I suspect quite a few of those would like to drop ADSL even for existing customers asap. Having a way to bulk upgrade customers, even if only to an ADSL speed FTTC product, would help them do that.

    7. MrNew says:


      I was thinking the exact same thing

  2. Michael McArthur says:

    I just want access to fibre to allow me to work properly from home.150 m from a green cabinet and told it is a no go

  3. NE555 says:

    Usually upgrades from ADSL to FTTC are customer-driven: the customer chooses a new product at a different price point, and typically starts a new contract.

    So it’s hard to see how these batches would occur in practice. Perhaps in response to a bulk marketing campaign? Even then it’s not great when someone phones up their CP and says “yes I’d like to buy faster FTTC please”, and the response is “sure, you’ll have to wait 2 weeks and you can’t choose the date of your appointment”.

    If the customer doesn’t get some direct benefit from this – such as a reduced price – then overall it just makes the migration experience worse for the customer.

    Maybe these are micro-batches of two or three orders? Reducing the engineer visits to the cabinets by a factor of 2 or 3 would still be worthwhile. This might be doable if migrations took place once a week, say. The end user would still be left with little or no choice of appointment though.

    1. A_Builder says:

      I think in this case it is an opportunity for it to be CP driven.

      What CP wants to waste man hours on “my ADSL is unreliable calls” that usually run to many engineer visits when the problem can be solved by a migration.

      Bear in mind if the router the CP supplies does ADSL/VDSL/Gfast the whole upgrade can be done remotely and sync verified remotely with no home visit if the faceplate is appropriate.

  4. CarlT says:

    Haven’t some ISPs expressed an intent in upgrading all customers to FTTx where possible?

    Seems Openreach are producing a product to cater to that. Things working as they should be.

    1. A_Builder says:


      FTTx requires less support and has lower % faults than ADSL

      No brainier to move users – oh and then up grades from 18/2 or 40/1 are in the software for one generational upgrade -> 76/18 on FTTC or whatever/whatever on FTTP.

  5. Nicko says:

    Why the fook OR haven’t developed, as a quick interim measure to get everybodies speeds up to a common level, a 5G mesh wireless repeater that could be fixed to the guttering barge board (Or at similar height) of properties and on the telegraph poles down each road and bounce the broadband along – property owners could be incentivised to adopt a repeater box by offering zero line rental Leaving them free to re-deploy men and materials to get FTTP done (Boris style) and remove the old copper.With 40/10 FTTC signal being good for 300 metres, a box on 1 in 3 telegraph poles might be a quick way to getting the signal to local villages – cheap enough to do IF the boxes were made in sufficient quantity.

    I’ll tell you why, too much money to be made in the short-term stringing the whole bloody process out.

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