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10Mbps UK Broadband Universal Service Obligation to Go Live UPDATE3

Thursday, March 19th, 2020 (12:02 am) - Score 21,046
10Mbps UK Broadband USO

The UK Government’s new legally-binding Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband – supplied by ISPs BT and KCOM – will tomorrow go live. The aim is to ensure that anybody living in a digitally disadvantaged area can request a “minimum” download speed of at least 10Mbps (1Mbps upload), but there are caveats.

Universal Service Obligations (USO) are designed to set a minimum expected performance level and thus the old obligation (here), which has been in place since 2003, only enables you to request a basic telephone service, which must also be capable of delivering “data rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access.” In practice this could technically be satisfied by a dialup (narrowband) connection but all that is changing.

At present fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) ISP networks are estimated to cover more than 96% of premises across the United Kingdom and by the end of 2020 this could rise to around 97-98%. The focus of this new USO is thus primarily on helping to cater for those in the final 1-2% (around 155,000 premises currently fall into this category, if you include 4G services, or 610,000 premises if you only look at fixed broadband).

Crucially the new USO is NOT an automatic upgrade, which means it will give people the “legal right” to “request” a 10Mbps+ connection from a supporting ISP but such “premises will not be eligible for a USO connection if they are included in a publicly funded broadband rollout plan within the next 12 months.”

On top of that anybody who requests such a service might be left to wait awhile before it’s actually delivered. Ofcom states the “maximum time that consumers should have to wait to receive a connection is one year from the request date” (the regulator expects ISPs to be quicker than this, provided it doesn’t result in disproportionate costs being incurred – details below).

NOTE: The USO is set at 10Mbps+ but many of those who benefit from it should get even faster speeds.

10Mbps USO Specification

* A minimum download “sync” speed of at least 10Mbps (Megabits per second).

* A minimum upload “sync” speed of at least 1Mbps.

* A medium response time with end-to-end latency of no more than 200ms for speech applications (this rules out Satellite).

* A maximum sharing between customers (contention ratio) of 50:1.

* A minimum data allowance of 100GB.

* A technology neutral design (can be delivered via a mix of fibre based and / or wireless solutions).

* BT/KCOM will have 30 days to make an assessment about whether or not a consumer is eligible for the USO after request.

* BT must deliver every USO connection as quickly as possible and deliver at least 80% of connections within 12 months, 95% within 18 months, and 99% within 24 months of the confirmed USO order (intended to help manage the expected rush of early requests). KCOM must deliver a USO connection as quickly as possible and no later than 12 months after someone places their order, unless there are exceptional circumstances that make it more difficult.

* The USO must adopt uniform pricing (i.e. cost the same no matter where you live), with a maximum cap of £45 inc. VAT a month. People who only have access to a service priced over £45 per month will also have the right to request a USO connection.

* The UK Government stipulated in its legislation (Digital Economy Act 2017) that the definition of the USO speed should be reviewed when at least 75% of premises in the UK subscribe to a broadband service that provides a download speed of at least 30Mbps (we’re around 50-60% today).

The USO is to be funded by the industry (e.g. ISPs) – via a Universal Service Fund (USF), have a cost threshold of £3,400 (i.e. you may have to help pay for it if the cost per property goes above this or forget the USO try something else) and support a form of demand aggregation (i.e. multiple properties can be used to bring the cost down by considering predicted take-up).

NOTE: The £3,400 cost threshold is the same level as existed under the old USO.

On that last point, Ofcom states that where network infrastructure can be shared, build costs should also be shared between premises to determine whether the cost of provision to an individual premises would fall below £3,400. Using the regulator’s own example, if a cabinet served 100 premises and the cost of deploying FTTC was £100K, then Ofcom’s forecast take-up of 70% would mean that the cost of upgrading that cabinet could be just £1,429 for each premise (note: other technologies, such as FTTP and 4G, can also be used).

The regulator’s analysis of this £3,400 threshold suggested that it could enable coverage for up to 99.8% per cent of UK premises. Previous estimates from Ofcom and the BSG have noted that the 10Mbps USO could cost anything from around £200m and all the way up to £1bn (here), depending upon its design and technology choice. We suspect it may be even less than £200m given the somewhat watered down approach now being taken.

Ofcom appears to have largely accepted an argument from BT (EE), which said that the majority of the USO could be delivered via a 4G based wireless broadband (mobile broadband) connection. Likewise KCOM should have no trouble catering for the USO within their East Yorkshire and Hull network because this is now almost entirely reached by FTTP.

The above leaves around 155,000 premises and BT has suggested that 110,000 of those may be too expensive to reach via the USO (likely to need more public subsidy/vouchers or something like Openreach’s co-funded Community Fibre Partnerships), which suggests that fixed line FTTC/P “fibre broadband” technologies may only end up catering for a very small portion overall.

Closing Thoughts on the USO

At this point some may ask why only BT and KCOM – the two designated Universal Service Providers (USP) – are delivering the USO. The reality here is that other ISPs have largely rejected any notion of taking on such a significant legal and financial burden (here). Others will of course also complain that 10Mbps is a fairly weak minimum, although the costs would rise significantly for a faster obligation (consumers end up paying).

A faster USO might also risk creating market distortions or enabling BT to rebuild a monopoly position, which could disrupt investment and alternative networks. Lest we forget that the faster the USO, the harder it is to deliver and thus the longer the likely wait before roll-out. Those arguing for a “full fibre” USO would similarly do well to consider how many years and how many billions it might take before related requests could even be delivered (the industry would never agree to fund that by itself).

A careful balance is needed to weigh against these risks and hence the 10Mbps was chosen, although many would agree that 10Mbps is quite weak and we look forward to the day when Ofcom reviews this speed. Similarly the decision to allow highly variable 4G services to cater for most of the USO has perhaps watered it down a little too far.

The big question now is whether, come tomorrow, we start seeing a rush of early requests that swamp existing resources. On the other hand there’s an expected issue of awareness and whether or not consumers will understand the “what, where and how” of making a USO request in the first place.

So far those who have contacted BT’s sales staff about the USO have not been given any guidance on how to request it (most staff didn’t even know it existed), so we hope a clear process will be introduced tomorrow. Ofcom informed us that BT will also be writing to potentially eligible households to make them aware of the USO and offer advice on next steps, which is expected to be complemented by advice on their website (the regulator will also upload advice).

uso_eligibility

UPDATE 20th March 2020 (9am)

BT’s website now appears to have a page live for the USO – https://www.bt.com/broadband/USO. Just a warning though, don’t expect BT’s customer support lines to be much help, many of their agents still seem to lack awareness of it and in some cases are giving people the run-around to different departments that are equally hopeless. We expected better, they’ve had plenty of time to prepare.

Likewise some people who should be eligible, due to receiving sub-10Mbps speeds, are being told they’re not (if you already get close to 10Mbps then this may be an issue of estimation vs different real-world experience). Clearly there’s some work left to do.

UPDATE 20th March 2020 (10:12am)

A Spokesperson for Ofcom just told ISPreview.co.uk: “The scheme is now open and people can apply. However, due to the ongoing situation with the outbreak of coronavirus, I’m sure you can understand that providers’ resources are under significant demand at the moment. We are therefore advising people to visit the dedicated USO information on BT/KCOM’s websites in the first instance, where possible, rather than calling the providers’ call centres.”

UPDATE 21st March 2020

We spent what little spare time we had on Friday trying to check through a number of complaints about the USO checker on BT’s website and confirm some of the issues, which alongside Thinkbroadband we’ve now been able to do. Most of the issues so far have tended to centre around three key problems (see below).

The first thing we’ll say is that BT’s plans for the USO appear to have been dented, particularly on the support (staffing) front, by the COVID-19 situation. Nevertheless BT are aware of some of these issues, but right now the advice is to be patient as we are not in normal times (the fix may take longer).

On the other hand some criticism is justified since the USO has been coming for a long time (plenty of window for development), while COVID-19 is only very recent, so we don’t fully accept their excuse on this front. Nevertheless we have had some feedback from BT, although we’re not certain if it’s directly quotable and thus I’ve paraphrased it in to a shorter response below (while also giving our own opinion).

Key Issues with BT’s USO (Website) Checker

1. Some people are being told to get a 4G (mobile broadband) solution when in reality the mobile signal or local mobile capacity – from all operators (especially EE) – in their area makes actually attaining a 4G signal in the first place impossible or extremely difficult. Even if they can, receiving 10Mbps+ may be a forlorn hope.

BT’s Position: The operator said they use a 4G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) solution for the USO, which they said “may not result in the same service as that received via a 4G mobile handset / mobile phone signal” (i.e. a proper FWA approach is where they install an external antenna on your home, which may indeed result in a better outcome – EE have been doing this for awhile).

BT says that the best approach may be to follow through with the process, get the mobile router and see how it goes. The operator adds that, in the event that it does not deliver, then customers can return the product if they aren’t happy with it or, better yet, ask for an external antennae, which may further improve the service. We don’t know what happens if neither helps.

In our view the big problem here is that none of this is made very clear via BT’s checker. Consumers need to know what they’d actually be getting and what the processes are. This should be an easy fix with a bit of extra text and some pictures of the hardware. Equally the very inclusion of highly variable 4G technology was always bound to cause issue like this.

2. Some people, who in the real-world can only receive sync speeds a few Megabits below 10Mbps (via best technology available to them), are being told that they can’t benefit from the USO, which magically estimates their line as able to deliver better than 10Mbps. Sadly no option to request a manual review is given to these individuals.

BT’s Position: The operator acknowledges that some issues like this were always going to occur due to the highly variable nature of older copper line broadband solutions, which can also be impacted by poor home wiring and various other factors that aren’t always easy to pin down. Edge cases – those lines closer to the USO level – are most likely to run into problems here.

For Edge cases BT suggests consumers go through a technical check process with their existing ISP first to ensure that the line isn’t faulty (we suspect quite a few ISPs will shun this at the first hurdle, unless a real fault is clearly identified; this could also risk additional costs from engineer visits if no issue can be found). “If problems still persist and the synch speed is still a marginal issue in terms of 10Mbs, then we are happy to discuss this further with the customer,” said BT.

In our view there is again a lack of clear information on the checker to help people through cases like this. Likewise some of the complaints we’ve seen on this one have been more than mere edge cases (a few people have reported speeds well below 10Mbps in the real-world and still get denied the option of a USO). Upload speed also seems to have been entirely overlooked in this, even though 1Mbps is mandated.

A better process is needed to support such cases, although it will be difficult, but they should have access to enough data to determine whether a line is at least within a fair range of eligibility, even if it may not at first appear be quite hitting the mark.

3. The checker failing to recognise that alternative network (altnet) operators exist and thus unnecessarily recommending USO solutions (e.g. 4G mobile), when a better network is available.

BT’s Position: The operator claimed they don’t generally have access to altnet coverage data, particularly at individual premise level, and thus this is not referenced. Only if a customer can’t get 10Mbs with BT will they be referred to the broadband USO Helpdesk. Once there, a few specialist agents for the USO have access to a specific Ofcom database which has the information about altnets.

In our view (ISPr), and that of TBB, this is not made clear enough in the messaging on BT’s USO site (there’s no mention of altnets at all) and indeed this is the website that most people will end up using. We aren’t saying that BT needs to promote other ISPs but they do at least need to be confirming in clear text (not small or hidden print) that they aren’t able to check the availability of alternative networks. Ideally Ofcom and BT should be coming up with a generally better solution where altnets are concerned (we feared this might be an issue back when the USO was first being designed).

At present it does feel a bit like the USO is being treated as an afterthought, but we are pleased to see that BT have recognised some of the early problems. The operator asks for patience as they attempt to resolve the issues, so if anybody is affected by these problems then it might be worth coming back in a few weeks or months to try again.

Leave a Comment
98 Responses
  1. Avatar Lisa says:

    Allowing capped 4G makes this a complete a joke

    1. Avatar MartinConf says:

      That was always going to be the case

    2. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      I’m sure that someone on a slow connection would prefer to have the option of 10Mbps (or faster) 4G than to stay on, say 1Mbps ADSL.

    3. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @New_Londoner

      There has been nothing stopping someone on a 1Mbps ADSL switching to 10Mbps 4G (where available) for sometime now regardless of the USO coming into affect tomorrow.

    4. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @MartinConf
      Agreed, however the USO is aimed at premises where there isn’t currently a viable option.

    5. Avatar Andrew L says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Just imagine the poor kids growing up in a household where mum and dad have opted for 4g ‘super fast’ connection capped at 100GB. They can forget about learning new stuff on YouTube, or creating their own videos, maybe video conferencing with teachers or mates or whatever. Not to mention xbox gaming, one game will easily be 60GB. Basically use any of these services and you’ll burn through your cap in days. Talk about digitally disadvantaged! As a rough guide we use around 600Gb/ month in a household of 3.

  2. Avatar David says:

    Just wondering if this is a sync of 10Mbps or actual through put of 10Mbps

  3. Avatar Tim says:

    What technology will BT use for this and will speeds higher than 10Mbps be offered.

    Let’s say 4G isn’t an option.
    Too far for FTTC from existing cab.
    Fibre is in the road (leased lines and fibre for other FTTC cabinets pass).

    So will they use FTTP on demand?
    Or will they install a new closer FTTC cab?

    Does ordering USO service limit you to 10Mbps?

    1. Avatar joe says:

      Bt will use whatever tech is available to deliver under the 3400 threshold. That might see a tiny bit of fttp/fttc but mostly 4g.

    2. Avatar joe says:

      No it doesn’t cap your speed. Indeed any USO will easily clear 10/1

  4. Avatar Brian says:

    Its sync at 10Mbps, the actual throughput isn’t specified. How the contention ratio can be met by 4G is beyond me.
    If 4G isn’t an option, and you’re to far from the FTTC cab, they would have to price FTTP. Then as its USO £3400 would be deducted from the quote.

    1. Avatar Tim says:

      But what about the monthly cost.

      FTTPoD was £320+VAT per month for a 330/30Mbps service when I had it quoted late in 2017.
      Install was £7,675+VAT.

      Even with £3,400 knocked off this price it still isn’t piratical.

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      So far as I’m aware FTTPoD is NOT part of the USO, only native FTTP may be an option (most likely by aggregating the measure of take-up vs cost threshold – as explained above). FoD is aimed at businesses, not homes.

  5. Avatar JTScotland says:

    In the diagram (point 3 – will affordable decent broadband be available within a year?), would this be satisfied by a 4g mast going live or does it mean landline based?

    I know the article mentions 4G could be a solution but wasn’t sure if that meant a pre-existing 4g service
    Plans for 4 g have a habit of being delayed as I know from experience!

    1. Avatar joe says:

      If 4G is coming in a year then that will meet USO so you will get that as I understand it.

  6. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    Ofcom now appear to be gunning for BT over the USO information provided for 2019 Connected Nations report. Apparently BT has updated their estimates. I remain frustrated that Ofcom themselves have not modelled every premise with less than 10Mbps and combined 4G maps.

    The USO can only be regarded as a very short term expedient. The DCMS/Ofcom need to explain clearly how any USO not provided by FTTP will move towards Giga. In addition Ofcom said they would review the USO once 75% were on superfast. ISPs have been encouraging users to upgrade to FTTC if available and some of the requests for USO are likely to assist this where FTTC is present.

    My view is it shouldn’t simply be “accelerate Giga capability” but a clear series of USO upgrades by dates, emphasis on long term solutions and clear guidance on how the £5b will be distributed/auctioned to providers.

  7. Avatar Buggerlugs says:

    10mb in 2020 is going to be the minimum accepted? Just how utterly useless is a 10mb connection in this day and age???

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      Still 2.5 times faster than 4Mbps

    2. Avatar 125us says:

      It’s 10Mb faster than the service any other providers are willing to offer a USO for.

  8. Avatar Buggerlugs says:

    And when has “superfast broadband” ever been accepted as 24Mbps+?????

    I personally do not accept 24Mbps+ to be anywhere near the definition superfast.

    I would say no less than 100Mbps 24/7 should be the “superfast” requisite to aim for.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      Whilst you’re welcome to invent your own definitions, don’t be surprised if these are ignored by the industry. 24Mbps was indeed the original definition of superfast, although the later BDUK contracts moved to 30Mbps. 100Mbps is generally regarded as the threshold for ultrafast.

    2. Avatar TheFacts says:

      When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

  9. Avatar Mike says:

    Looks like #3 / #4 will get most ISP’s off the hook.

    1. Avatar NE555 says:

      As the article explains, “most ISPs” are not relevant here.

      Only BT and KCOM are participating in USO – all the others who initially expressed an interest dropped out.

  10. Avatar RaptorX says:

    Don’t think this is very much when even bog standard ADSL can hit 20Mbps and fibre is way faster still.

    1. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @RaptorX

      I think you need to get in the real world.

      Not EVER bog standard ADSL can hit 20Mbps or even close to it

      Hybrid fibre is not necessary faster than ADSL, it all comes down to the distance between the necessary equipment (e.g. from the Exchange or DSLAM) to the property.

    2. Avatar RaptorX says:

      Oh *someone* just had to try to negate what I’m saying My statement is correct and it stands.

    3. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @RaptorX

      Yes in life when people are wrong others will correct them (don’t be a snowflake) so get use to it.

      To put it another way you’re peddling fake news, you’re statement is simply not true and that is a fact.

    4. Avatar RaptorX says:

      Sorry, but you’re wrong. I’m one of those people with reliable 20Mbps ADSL, so it’s perfectly possible under reasonable conditions. And fibre is generally way faster, no? Or did they go backwards with that, maybe?

      Better get your facts right before you “correct” someone and start calling them snowflakes.

    5. Avatar MartinConf says:

      @RaptorX

      You think what you want

      I would say 90% of people who have ADSL don’t get 20Mbps or anything near to it, some don’t even get 0.5Mbps

      Think of it this way, because a few people have gone to the moon does it mean we can all go?

  11. Avatar Buggerlugs says:

    Superfast, ultrafast…..its all just a way for the telco’s to obfuscate what they are selling to the public. Anyone with xbox live using a “superfast 24mb” connection is going to be seriously disappointed with how “not” super the reality is.

    It means absolutely nothing, because its completely relative.

    Its purpose is nothing more than a vehicle to protect themselves from an already toothless regulator.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      There’s only one poster I know who loves to use the word ‘obfuscate’. An anagram of Mad Visa Jar. Good work on the brevity though, under 1,000 words this time, but still mostly meaningless.

    2. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Buggerlugs
      Quote “Its purpose is nothing more than a vehicle to protect themselves from an already toothless regulator.”

      Why do you believe that Ofcom would be at all interested in the label given to a service when determining whether there is any regulatory infringement? What examples can you link to where this was the case?

  12. Avatar gerarda says:

    Openreach’s existing resources are already so swamped that they can’t fix broken pole and attached phone and FTTP lines inside a month.

  13. Avatar Nonneophyte says:

    Wooh a whole 10 mbps how marvellous. 20 times slower than I actually get when it isn’t raining from virgin.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Nonneophyte
      Fantastic. You’re obviously not an intended beneficiary of the USO, along with 96% of premises across the UK.

  14. Avatar sammo02 says:

    As someone who has waited 6 years for a decent broadband connection and who lives in a non rural location on the edge of London, I am very interested to see how I make a claim for a minimum 10mbps connection. We get 2-5mbps on ADSL, 0.5mbps upload and have been strung along several times by openreach roll outs and virgin expansions. 4G coverage is bad to non-existent depending on the weather. I would take anything better at this stage. Nothing from BT yet though on how to apply though, so I doubt there will be a sudden rush with such little awareness.

    1. Avatar Jazzyjeff says:

      Given coronavirus, do you think the call centres and Openreach could handle a sudden rush for USO requests right now?

  15. Avatar Mike says:

    So how do we order? Is there a dedicated website or phone number at BT?

  16. Avatar Alex says:

    BT’s “wonderful” USO website tells me:
    “You can already get speeds of 10Mb or more:
    That means you’re not eligible to request a network upgrade for this address”

    I assume you… after years to talking to ISP and OpenReach checking the line; my gateway/hub cannot achieve a sync speed of 10Mb down nor 1Mbps up (which they seemingly completely fail to analyse despite being a requirement of USO) and the website refuses to let me proceed. Brilliant(!)

    1. Avatar Alex says:

      *assure 🙂

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      The data will be specific to an address which of course may include historic anomalies. If the address indicates USO may be applicable it displays the dedicated Call Centre number for you to register with. If it confirms the Post Code is not applicable then the user can follow the BT available products. This should give them a quote including an anticipated speed range. If there is a proven issue you can complain to the universal service help desk on 0800 783 0223 so they can help you.

      You may also be blighted by another publicly funded initiative.

      There does not appear to be an on-line process which probably highlights that there will be lots of issues here which will include all the usuals like bad/old home wiring, incorrect NTE/Filter, bad external line plant, 10Mbps can be achieved by a FTTC product etc. and BT need to go through these with the customer.

      It is not going to be straight forward for some.

    3. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Note the site also specifies “You can’t get a connection through a 4G hub” although no criteria is given. It would appear BT is not linking directly to a BT hybrid or an EE product if 4G is available. Probably to ensure they are not criticised as most main Mobile providers offer Mobile Broadband products.

    4. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      I only have limited Post Codes to test but the 4G criteria appears to be that if you have Indoor 4G you are not eligible (reflecting wide availability of existing Mobile Broadband products).

    5. Avatar SuperFast Dream says:

      @Alex has a point and so do you @Meadmodj.

      I am also coming up as able to receive greater than 10Mbps, although on ADSLMax I can receive 5Mbps (0.4Mbps up), ADSL2+ takes that up to 7Mbps (with 1Mbps up), FTTC drops down to 2.1Mbps (I can verify them all as I have had them all, along with some rather embarrassed BT engineers that felt I was mis-sold a product or two). There has been absolutely no change to our infrastructure since having each but I now run with 4G Broadband and with my external antenna I can connect to a mast at circa 50 – 60Mbps, my service is not with EE. Fortunately, Project Stratum which is due to start at some point this year (anticipated), highlights my property as in need of intervention so I possibly also have that to look forward too. 60Mbps sounds great but it does have its limitations without further cost, poor ping rates, CGNAT complications and lack of static IP for example.

      I can only envisage 1 of two possibilities as to why the USO checker advises I can already receive 10Mbps in that case: 1) EE’s coverage map has me down as being able to receive 10Mbps+ indoors or 2) the Btw checker that I suspect BT may use as their backbone, is reflecting old data whereas it used to advise that I could receive 13Mbps on FTTC, which took me two solid years to get corrected to reflect the 2.1Mbps actual. Unfortunately, I can’t check the Btw checker accurately at this time as I have done away with the landline.

      I also have family that are served by the same dp but they are closer to the dp than me, yet both are entitled to the USO according to the USO checker, hmm…

      Will I ever get an accurate picture from BT as to how they have arrived at my ineligibility calculation, I really don’t know…

  17. Avatar James Alderton says:

    Well, what a surprise! Since the USO came into force the dsl checker suddenly tells me I can get more than 30Mbps instead of about the 7Mbps I was being offered(and sometimes actually getting) before. Since I don’t believe the technology has changed at all over the last few months I think the checker is at fault and simply wrong, but it does exclude me from the USO.
    This is all a bit irrelevant though, since I now use 4G on Three which really does give me synchronous 30Mbps – up and down – for less money than the cost of the phone line alone.

  18. Avatar jet14 says:

    Hello, just wanted to ask is this going to be a free basic service or how much is it going to cost ? as nearly vast majority have good speeds available apart from rural areas etc!

  19. Avatar Malcolm Beaton says:

    Yes as I thought a total farce – it says I am not eligible as can already get speeds of 10mb or more but I only get around 5.5mb – 6mb – if I look at the available BT deals they offer me 4mb to 11mb as my download speed range with a stay fast guarantee of 1MB

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Then you must be being excluded by another criteria (BDUK, Altnet, Indoor 4G etc). Raise a case and they can clarify.

      It’s disappointing that the BT USO site does not display the criteria detail applied and assumptions being made.

    2. Avatar Jazzyjeff says:

      It does say that if you have any questions where your speed is showing you’re not eligible, to contact them:

      If you have any questions, you can contact our universal service help desk on 0800 028 2020.

    3. Avatar Andrew Ferguson says:

      99.999% certain the public checker is NOT checking for alternates.

    4. Avatar Malcolm Beaton says:

      Phoned them regarding this and they confirmed the speed I can get is below the USO but they say that Openreach are planning to put fibre within the next few months although this will be delayed due to the Corona outbreak – Openreach site does not give any timescale – lets see what happens – hopefully they will do what Hyperoptic failed to do …

    5. Avatar AnotherTim says:

      “It’s disappointing that the BT USO site does not display the criteria detail applied and assumptions being made.”
      It appears that it does have different responses based on why you are ineligible – I get a “you already have >10Mbps” (my max observed sync speed is just over USO, although it is usually below that), my neighbours gets “you can use 4G” (they no longer have ADSL as it was too slow).

    6. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      @AnotherTim. I just thought it would be useful for those rejected for USO to understand why.

  20. Avatar D Smith says:

    I receive approx 7mb/1mb however upon using the BT USO online checker it states “you can already receive above 10mbps” and therefore not eligible. They appear to automatically blame the wiring – so i should get my property rewired? How much does that cost? They seem to be using any excuse to avoid having to provide a decent connection as expected

  21. Avatar Rural Broadband says:

    As expected, the USO is a joke, and not fit for purpose.

    This is what I get:

    “You could get a faster connection with mobile broadband and our 4G Hub
    To order a 4G Hub call us on 0800 783 0226 – lines are open 8am to 8pm”

    My real world experience is that 4G is not fit for working from home using a VPN or anything that requires a stable and/or low latency such as gaming.
    I currently have 2x ADSL @ 4.5Mbit each and 2x 4G which vary wildly between 1 and 6Mbit each with a different provider not EE, but it was the same when I had EE 3G/4G, I also have MIMO LTE, and can only get a decent signal with externally mounted antennas. I am 2.5 Miles from one antenna, and 3 miles from the other.
    I would be happy if the 4G speeds were better so the lows wouldnt be as low, but I would still need to keep the ADSL line to be able to work from home.
    The 100GB data allowance is also very low, and would last me under a week.
    I tested one of the 4G connections and within approximately 300m of the transmitter i can get 40Mbit as soon as I go 1 mile in the direction of my property it drops to 6Mbit (or less).
    All this costs me £160 per month get no more than a max of 24Mbit.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      How are you burning 100GB in less than a week with connections that slow?

    2. Avatar Rural Broadband says:

      It is approximately 2GBytes per hour for each of the ADSL lines @ 2GB = 4GBytes/hour on alone, which is 4×24 = 96GBytes per day. So 100GB is around 1 day worth of ‘good’ data connectivity.
      I dont torrent either but seem to consume a lot of data.
      Reason, I just have a family, smart TV’s, games consoles, phones, tablets.
      I have a dedicated server for handling the networking.
      I keep most video streaming on the 4G connections, along with updates (e.g. game installs/updates). I move the actual devices to the 4G connection, then swap to ADSL to be able to play the games without disconnections or randomly high latency.
      I also have a traffic shaper – which cant help when a connection gets maxed out.
      The playing games and work have been tested as single directly networked devices on dedicated 4G connections, and it is not good enough for either.

  22. Avatar gerarda says:

    Openreach’s records on line lengths, which dp you are connected to, etc are prone to error. Getting them to admit it is difficult but can be done, and is one of the things for which they seem to accept a direct approach.

  23. Avatar NeilG says:

    This does seem farcical, yes.

    We’ve always struggled to get any decent speed on FTTC. When we moved in, we were at 3Mbps down / 300Kbps up. This was ~2 years ago. The OpenReach broadband checker indicated this was likely the best we could get, and that was the case until the last few weeks.

    At that point we decided it was not worth having FTTC, so don’t currently have a landline to check the sync speed. I think it’s unlikely this has changed. Norfolk Better Broadband show us as a postcode that cannot get FTTC, and without any plans to deliver it. Many ISPs won’t even offer us FTTC when we enter our address. e.g. Vodafone :

    “We’re sorry – unfortunately we can’t provide broadband to this address”

    Checking the BT OR checker now says :

    VDSL Range A (Clean) 12 6.2 1.2 0.8

    Where they are presumably assuming the highest. Not only is our experience 3Mbps/300Kbps, the checker was indicating this range until very recently.

    So, the USO checker says we are ineligible. How do we challenge / appeal that?

    Incidentally, we have only 2 close neighbours, one 50m away, the other ~200m and all 3 of us are at the end of the cabinet cabling, which is a little over 2km away as the crow flies. For their addresses, it says a max of 4.3-5.9Mbps, which is more inline with our previous experience.

    Do I really have to go to the expense of having FTC reconnected to show how bad it is, and would they even accept that? Would they refund the costs once I prove I cannot sync at anywhere close to 10Mbps?

    Ofcom really need to have a better way to oversee this and not leave the policing to BT. I’m pretty frustrated by this – we also get very poor 4G coverage (none in the house), and the USO was a small hope that we may eventually get decent broadband.

  24. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    The DSL checker and the USO eligibility are two different things. Read the USO eligibility criteria and check these against your address before criticising.

    1) You don’t have access to a decent and affordable connection from us or any other provider (10Mbps)
    2) You’re not due to get access to one through a publicly funded scheme within the next 12 months
    3) You can’t get a connection through a 4G hub (indoor 4G)

    Those that genuinely are not getting 10Mbps on a DSL line and do not have indoor 4G should raise a case. The more USO cases raised will highlight any anomalies in the currently available data (not just individual lines). In addition it will consolidate information that will assist Openreach to engineer FTTP within cost or an expedient line plant upgrade.

    Ofcom have defined the specification, timescale and funding of the USO. Now additional funding is promised it is within their remit to change the USO definition and with the DCMS remove FTTP funding issues for the known USO premises.

    1. Avatar NeilG says:

      @Meadmodj, what do you mean’raise a case’?

      1) I cannot get 10Mbps at my address
      2) There are no plans by anyone to deliver such a service in the next 12 months
      3) I do not get 4G indoors where I am, confirmed by coverage checkers and trying phones fitted with EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 SIMS

      This morning I attempted to submit a request under the USO, using the online form, and it refuses to allow me to proceed when I enter my address. It only offers to sell me BT fibre with a speed guarantee of >=4Mbps!

      Hence the question about next steps. If you have some insight on how to proceed and ‘raise a case’, please share…

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Under Complaints “call the universal service help desk on 0800 783 0223”
      There is no on-line process only an on-line address checker with no criteria/met detail.

  25. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

    The address checker pushes me to 4G. Interesting because EE has absolutely no indoor or outdoor signal here, but O2 and Voda have fantastic signal, wondering if they have done a deal to use other 4G networks?

    1. Avatar Lee says:

      They don’t need to do a deal. As long as you can get 4g with any provider over 10mbps you are ineligible.

  26. Avatar Tim says:

    Great news!
    You could get a faster connection with mobile broadband and our 4G Hub
    To order a 4G Hub call us on 0800 783 0226 – lines are open 8am to 8pm

    … Well that’s pointless!
    EE’s 4G signal is poor at this address
    If a signal is picked up it is Band 20 and only 5Mhz so only has a per cell capacity of 37.5Mbps. This could end up being shared between 100’s if not thousands of users. So there simply isn’t enough capacity.

    1. Avatar Adam Jarvis says:

      ‭Spot on. Rural Mobile Broadband is utterly useless to provide blanket multiple HQ video streams to multiple users.

      Damp Squib comes to mind, as per usual. How much has this USO process cost to implement to achieve the square root of bugger all.

      Honestly, just close down utterly useless Ofcom (we’d be no worse off) and spend the money putting fibre in the ground, it’s the only thing that matters right now.

      The elephant in the room in all of this:
      There needs to be a massive increase in the upload capacity of the core network.
      That means Full Fibre, you can’t do that any other way. Coronavirus is showing how utterly useless the ADSL/FTTC network is for remote working purposes in terms of upload, forget the BT hype about resilience.

      The USO is an absolute smokescreen of Government incompetence, obfuscation, marketing/BT protectionism and complex overthought regulation (job protection by those at Ofcom) to achieve what is now an outdated, pointless 10Mbps USO.

      Plenty of people at the time (including me) said it should have been at least a 30Mbps as a minimum, USO from the start to force at least FTTC installation.

      Most could see there would be inner-city/urban areas moving more towards full fibre through competition with Virgin, so existing equipment could be removed from there to service in the rural in-fill with FTTC.

      ** Ofcom should admit this has been a failure right now and should up the USO to 30Mbps from today **

  27. Avatar Francis says:

    Whoo “Great news!
    You could get a faster connection with mobile broadband and our 4G Hub”

    And at only £40 a month for 200gb with a 24month contract. How green you must be at my luck. Requires no engineer or installation so presumably just a mifi.

  28. Avatar Buggerlugs says:

    £40 a month for 4g with 200gb….hell you’d be pushed to manage that with the a-typical poor download speeds 4g offers (due to lack of capacity). Plus shop around you can get it at half that price, or buy a cheap 4g router/box and go voxi (voda) for £10 a month for unlimited data.

    1. Avatar Rachel Taylor says:

      Hi Buggerlugs, I’m just a low knowledge user in the sticks with a home business. Myself and 4 other properties are trying to get a quote for Fibre to the premises via the USO and getting nowhere fast. We only get 0.8M now down the line. The BT sales team hadn’t even heard of the USO when i spoke with them this week… You mention getting unlimited data on 4G for £10 – I’m paying £52 for 500G/month on EE. Can you let me know any more details please for the unlimited data? thanks 🙂

  29. Avatar Whitford CFP says:

    Hi,
    I am trying to help neighbouring communities obtain better Broadband as Gigaclearcontracts in Devon and Somerset were cancelled back in October 2019.

    Earlier in the process of delivering the USO guidelines there was mention about pooling the costs together as a group.

    Today noticed on BT website there is no mention of this or what process they must gone down such as a CFP.

    please could someone shed some light on this as i do not want to provide residents and business in those areas with incorrect information.

    kind regards

    Matt

    1. Avatar joe says:

      Unless anyone knows diff CFP’s carry on as normal. You can aggregate multiple ppl’s £3400 as part of USO as well but if you have 4g they will just give them that.

      https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/community-fibre-partnerships/how-to-apply-for-a-cfp

  30. Avatar Whitford CFP says:

    Hi Joe

    Many thanks for you reply,

    so in order to aggregate the £3,400 in USO orders do they have to apply for this directly with BT when ordering or do they have to go through the CFP mechanism. As it stands it is not evidently clear.

    kind regards

    Matt

  31. Avatar JaneC says:

    My issue is that when I click on the “check postcode” box on the BT website it comes up with a message saying “Sorry, something went wrong. We weren’t able to check availability.” This is before you even enter your postcode. It has been like this since first trying on 21 March – are some people able to access it?

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      Think it might be some data held by the browser (cookie or something), was doing it with me, then opened in incognito window and it worked.

    2. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

      Try a different browser, I got the same result as you using Chrome but it worked using Explorer.

  32. Avatar Brian says:

    Returned already get 10Mbps for me, even though I don’t, adsl checker gives max of 5.5Mbps (currenty 4.5Mbps), and BT sales estimate 3 to 8 Mbps. Checked other premises on road, all return over 10Mbps, although they clearly don’t. Neighbouring road in valley returns premises eligible for network upgrade, the mobile signal in the valley bottom is terrible. A friend a few miles away, points him at 4G router.
    Thinking either something wrong with database, or we are going to be in early stages of R100 FTTP, but I’ll not hold my breath.

  33. Avatar NeilG says:

    So, to follow up on my post from Friday, I followed the OpenReach fibre broadband checker, and this interestingly leads you to the Ofcom checker.

    If I enter my details there, it indicates that the max speed I’ll be able to get with FTTC is 7/1Mbps, which is closer the reality of what I’ve achieved in the past, before I gave up on a fixed line (I was getting 3Mbps down / 300Kbps up through the BT test socket behind the NTE5 faceplate).

    The Ofcom 4G checker also confirms I have very poor signal coverage, and will not get data reception indoors, and may get it outdoors. In fact the pin on the map for my house is slightly wrong, by about 400m, and where my house is shows no coverage outdoors – which is pretty accurate. Depending on how we hold the phone, and where we are in the garden, the signal cycles between 1 bar and no signal normally.

    So, with the Ofcom data showing us within the criteria / requirements for the USO, how to proceed – since Ofcom don’t deal with individual problems? The USO helpline appears to take the position that the ‘computer says, so we can’y do anything’. Aren’t BT supposed to provide dispute resolution details as part of the USO agreement?

    These are of course difficult and unusual time, but surely BT had enough time to get the processes set up for this?

    1. Avatar Guy Cashmore says:

      I think you will have to follow the process, take the 4G option if that’s what they are offering and allow them to fail at giving you the required 10/1, return it and then you can demand an alternative solution.

    2. Avatar NeilG says:

      Right now I can’t even begin the process, as the BT USO website claims I can already get 10Mbps. This is presumably because the BT Openreach broadband checker says I can get between 6.2 and 12Mbps, and they’re assuming the top end. Ofcom checker says max 7Mbps, and when I last had a landline it delivered only 3.5Mbps.

      I’d be happy to be able to begin the process 🙂 but it won’t even get to that point.

      For now I think I just have to wait it out as Mark has raised these issues with BT. I’m not expecting a quick update, in these unusual time, and it is a 1st world problem after-all – just frustrating, as I’d hoped/expected to get the ball rolling as soon as USO launched…

    3. Avatar Gadget says:

      Don’t forget the USO requirement is irrespective of the supplier so may be Openreach cannot supply >10Mbps but if there are FWA or DOCSIS suppliers available it should then fail the USO test.

    4. Avatar NeilG says:

      DOCSIS in rural Norfolk? That would be something to see 😉

      There are a couple of fixed wireless solutions in east Anglia, but nothing that provides a services to us that would exclude USO qualification. I’ve looked at all alternative options in recent years, including FTTPoD which our cabinet is listed as offering, but not at a cost that would be considered reasonable.

      The only option that comes close to offering good speed at a price that isn’t completely prohibitive would be bonded FTTC, but not even that is what I would consider reasonable cost. 4 bonded lines would get us ~14M up / 1.2M down, at what? £200/m plus significant installation cost. Assuming 4 lines are even available where we are at the end of the cable run.

  34. Avatar sammo02 says:

    So I am now going throughn the USO process and have received an email from bt stating they have estimated the cost of a network upgrade at over £3.4k and that they will call me to tell me the cost estimate and if I want a more detailed quote and pay for the upgrade myself.

    Does anyone know how much this cost is likely to be? I understand its difficult to tell without a site survey etc… but surely ball park its likely to be a six-figure sum – BT in the past have said it was financially not viable to upgrade and pushed me towards starting a community partnership to fund it.

    So if that costs too much, I have no viable 4G, what happens then? No decent broadband I guess. Another dead-end process…

  35. Avatar Steve K says:

    I signed up to a new contract with my existing provider a few months before the USO. I can only get about 3Mbps with a guarantee of 0.4Mbps. When I applied for the USO I was pointed to a supplier I had never heard of who is offering a 30Mbps connection. My existing supplier cannot provide a better service than I have, nor can BT (who own them), can I get out of the remainder of my contract? I have been with my existing people for many years.

  36. Avatar R Walker says:

    Would be interesting to know if anyone has been informed that an USO request could be met without a contribution to the cost? BT has estimated an additional cost of £5k – £10k for each property in my village of 105 properties, located less than a mile from a neighbouring village which already has FTTP.

  37. Avatar NW says:

    Has anyone else been told that they can get satellite broadband that gives over 10Mb/s so they don’t qualify under USO?
    That’s what I got from an uninformed customer service dude when I called to enquire.

    I tried a 4GEE hub prior to that and got 3Mb/s.

  38. Avatar jKen says:

    I am unable to even attain speeds of 4mb and am being told my internet is faster than 10mb by BT. Am no expert but this does seem fairly illegal. Any advice for people who fall into this category?

  39. Avatar RM says:

    I just got a USO estimate back from BT with an approximate cost of £50,000!

    This is despite there being overhead fibre cables and marginal 3G/4G signal at the roadside of our property. They told me that they wont consider an external 4G antenna – only fixed infrastructure.

    Our estimated speed for fibre is currently less than we already get for ADSL and mobile signal is non-existent at the property, so no option but to stay as we are.

  40. Avatar nick craw says:

    BT always disappoint.
    0800 783 0226 is just a generic BT welcome desk. They don’t even know what USO is. Been through 4 people at BT, just passing me from pillar to post, back to answer Bot, back to hold, back to silence. Dropped me, probably deliberately. I rang back. They put me through to BT sport! Spoke to a guy. He said he’d found the USO team, but they were ‘not customer facing’, so I couldn’t have their phone number. He said BT USO team had sent out a few letters to customers, if BT was already your ISP. He said if I had none-BT ISP, get proof of <10MB from my ISP, they go to Ofcom web site. I said all lies. He said nothing more BT will do.
    BT always full of shit and lies.

  41. Avatar Dave says:

    I have just had a quote from BT of £50000, yes £50k for a 10Mb/s USO. I currently get 1.6Mb/s. The quote to me says BT cannot be bothered or it is their way of getting rid of me. I have provided them with details of their network local to my house and costed their work, all prices are available on the net, and it comes to about £2.5k. Waiting for their response.

  42. Avatar Wildman says:

    I can top that, just got detailed quote of £132,000 from BT for USO. Yes, it would require ~4 km of cabling, but unfortunately the first 2 km is to a small village that, according to BT, can get 10 Mb/s, so not counted. At least 10 people around here have also applied, but without the village to contribute we can’t get the 40 or so applications needed. However, if we were to proceed BT would be able to use the nice new fibre cable to connect them all to superfast services. We pay for their infrastructure, they benefit. How does that sound?

    1. Avatar Dave says:

      This tops yours,My original quote was £50,000, I have now had a “detailed” quote from BT for £165,500.40. The only detail is the 40p. No explanation of why the increase from £50,000. I wonder if anyone can beat that?

      Again I have provided them with details of their network local to my house and costed their work, all prices are available on the net, and it comes to about £2.5k.

      The problem is that Open Reach are an untouchable monopoly even BT themselves have trouble communicating with them. BT do not have breakdown of the costs, they do not have network schematics to challenge Open Reach.All in all a shambles of a system.

  43. Avatar Matt says:

    Have been chasing a USO quote since April – was quoted £45k with no detail in May, so without the promised detail I asked to go to dispute – I have been waiting for the deadlock letter ever since. I was informed today that Openreach have reconsidered their position on not giving out details of the quote. BT are now going to call all those who are wanting for more detail. However don’t hold your breath they quoted the available detail over the phone to me, and it’s high-level percentage breakdown nothing more, and in my case no explanation whether they have taken into account the FTTP roll out that is planned only 300m away or not.

  44. Avatar John Newell says:

    In a community of around 30 properties within a 300m radius, USO is being verbally estimated as £20K-30K per property. So £1M to install a FTTP solution since for FTTC the cabinet is 400m from the exchange and 2km from the community.

    Estimates are being provided, not quotes. Being fobbed off is a pretty accurate description. Especially since I get ( depending on how I configure my Draytek 2862 SNR) 9.9M to 11M sync speed, and so have been told I can get a BT service which meets the USO, despite no provider, including BT, making any such guarantee. 4-6M is offered.

    Openreach push the Community Fibre Partnership because they get the grants.

  45. Avatar Christie Kelly says:

    I’m currently about to start down this road of chasing up the USO – currently with Sky, in a flat, on a new build estate built less than 6 years ago. No Fibre, no upgrade plans, and 6-7mbs for £33 a month.
    I’ve spoken to sky who informed me they don’t have any obligation tp USO as it only applies to BT, and BT reckon 10mb+ is achievable with 4G wifi. I’m going to give it a go, but I’ve used mobile wifi before and our signal is terrible, so I’m looking forward to the battle ahead.
    Thanks for this article though, it was the clearest take I’ve found all day on explaining the USO.

  46. Avatar Amanda says:

    I’ve just been through the process of getting a quote from BT. My download speeds are around 7Mbps if I’m lucky, upload 0.6Mbps and I’m eligible under the USO for the ‘up to £3400 before VAT’ because I have no other options for broadband. BT have just come back and told me it will cost £30,000 – £40,000 to install! Looks like I’ll have to put up with the 7Mbps. Fortunately I don’t game or stream a huge amount, but it would be nice if OpenReach did more than patch our old, poor quality cables, that way what we have wouldn’t keep dropping out!

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