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Openreach Finish City-Wide FTTP Broadband Cover of Salisbury

Friday, June 12th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 3,998
fttp_street_splicing_openreach

Openreach (BT) has today announced that they’ve “fully fibred” the cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire (England), which means that 22,242 premises in the area can now access their gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network and 800 premises have already upgraded; the work only took 12 months to complete.

In short this means that Salisbury is the “first entire city in the UK to gain access” to their FTTP network. Readers may recall (here and here) that the city was, for obvious reasons, also chosen to take part in Openreach’s Exchange Upgrade Trial (i.e. switching off copper and going full fibre) – under the current plan they intend to put a “stop sell” on new copper services (broadband and phone) from December 2020.

The migration trial in Salisbury is due to run until December 2022, although the overall process of moving consumers onto an all-IP network and FTTP (both have to happen before copper can be disabled) could take several years longer to complete across the UK. The good news is that Openreach are already accelerating their plans to move away from their old analogue phone (PSTN / WLR) services (here).

On top of all that Salisbury has also helped the operator to trial a number of other previously announced improvements to their “full fibre” roll-out process. For example, engineers were the first to use new super small Connectorized Block Terminals (CBTs) that discreetly connect fibre cables to people’s homes (these slimline units can connect up-to 8 premises in one go, without having to erect new poles).

NOTE: More than 200 CBTs have been deployed across the city centre, serving c.1,500 premises.

Other innovations included Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), which allowed Openreach’s engineers to see and map out a clear route for new cables without any drilling, probing or digging – speeding up the whole process and minimizing disruption.

Achievements of Openreach’s c.60 Engineers in Salisbury
• Installed over 500km of new fibre-optic cables
• Cleaned and de-silted over 7km of underground duct
• Cleared 722 blockages
• Dug nearly 30km of trenches

One caveat in all this is that technically not every home or business in Salisbury can order FTTP just yet. The reason for this is because around 8% of premises are not considered Read for Service (RFS) yet. The issue here is similar to the one that KCOM faced in Hull last year (in fact a lot of operators have this problem).

Essentially Openreach has built the fibre everywhere, but they haven’t yet managed to get it into all of the city’s larger apartment blocks (MDU) due to the usual admin and access problems (landlords can be hard to contact and don’t always respond favourably). A new law should improve this but it is still going through Parliament (here).

Clive Selley, CEO at Openreach, said:

“There has never been a better time to upgrade to a Full Fibre broadband service. This new digital platform can help the UK’s economy bounce back more quickly from the Covid-19 pandemic and that can start right here in Salisbury. A full recovery is likely to be measured in years rather than months, but there’s strong evidence that points to Full Fibre broadband being able to turbo-charge that process.

And from December if you live in the city of Salisbury and want to change your broadband, you’ll have to upgrade to Full Fibre as we start to move closer to a digital world. It makes no sense to run two networks side-by-side, so we’re planning to retire the old, analogue network entirely.

For Salisbury’s homes, shops, GP surgeries and schools, it will mean fewer broadband faults, faster connections, and a consistent reliable network that will serve the city for decades to come. From home-working to healthcare, digital trade to entertainment, the possibilities that this new network can bring are almost limitless.”

As city’s go Salisbury is positively tiny, but it’s a useful testbed for Openreach to experiment before they adopt new approaches to help boost the roll-out of FTTP in other parts of the UK. All of this will be essential for helping the operator to achieve their deployment target of 4.5 million premises by March 2021 (currently 2.6 million) and then 20 million by the “mid – to late-2020s” (expected to cost a total of £12bn).

Meanwhile the take-up of 800 premises might not seem like much, but it’s important to remember that they’ve only just completed this build (at the end of March 2020) and natural adoption always takes time to grow (we usually recommend allowing 12-24 months after build has completed before judging such things). Issues of cost, awareness and COVID-19 will all play a role.

However the Exchange Upgrade Trial should in theory produce a much sharper take-up over the next few years, which makes it one to watch.

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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
36 Responses
  1. NGA for all says:

    It is good to see, but many will be confused why BT Group needed BDUK susbidy for 38 cabinets in the city, using monies intended for rural. Investing £300-£400 per premise FTTP is viable but investing ~£80 per premise needed gap funding.

    1. CarlT says:

      Money wasn’t intended exclusively for rural and the constant repetition of this inaccurate statement doesn’t change that fact.

      https://www.gov.uk/guidance/building-digital-uk#current-fixed-broadband-infrastructure-projects

      Business cases and circumstances change. Things are quite different now to where they were during the early FTTC build.

      This investment is part of a copper switch-off which brings extensive operational and maintenance savings.

      Most people aren’t curious about it as they aren’t dwelling on the past obsessively but looking to the full fibre future with optimism and appreciate the differences between where the nation, economy and Openreach are in 2020 relative to 2012.

    2. GNewton says:

      @NGA for all:

      These are valid questions. Most of the BDUK was a farce anyway.

      While it’s nice to see some places like Salisbury finally getting some fibre broadband, this should have happened more than a decade ago.

      Seriously, will we next see a news headline for “Electricity lines upgraded in town X”, “Water pipes built for new estate Y” etc? You’d expect a telecom to install fibre lines, that’s nothing special.

    3. NGA for all says:

      Without the inquiries you would not have the separation of Openreach and the subsequent change in focus. For rural there is still much to be done.

      The costs have not changed, even the business cases have not changed that much. PSTN switch off could be in the near future, the reliance on copper will continue for some time at least 2040.

      The location of and re-utilisation of £788m is worth some attention, given the likely impact of Covid19 on the £5bn proposal. This work will now continue until 2026 (as per the BDUK website so the lessons still need to learned.

      The biggest change from 2012 to 2020 is not any changes in the ‘nation’, but the realisation that the infrastructure is fundamentally up-gradable and affordable.

    4. CarlT says:

      The costs have changed due to various improvements and efficiencies in deployment – some of which are highlighted in this article.

      The business case has changed – some of those are in the article.

      The regulatory and political environment has changed profoundly – some of this remarked on in the article.

      For those not so fixated on BDUK the pandemic makes the case for spending heavily on infrastructure projects far stronger. The economy shrunk by a quarter in 2 months. Investors are paying governments for the privilege of borrowing cash from them.

      Given the huge shortfalls in local government funding perhaps a really good solution would be having that central government money brought into play ASAP and the other monies returned to local authorities, with interest.

      It is local authorities that need to tighten belts, again, now. Not central government. The UK can, and is going to have to, borrow like crazy for a while.

      Much as there are those who’d be delighted for us to be still talking about the original BDUK programmes in 2030 it’s likely nearing the end of the road with a hopefully comprehensive national programme being prepared.

      Boris likes his big projects. This is right up his alley.

    5. NGA for all says:

      Underlying costs have not really changed. The sentiment has changed for now but that could change if demand is not sufficient.

      There is 800k rural to finish about 11% of the original target area.

      Central Gov 2 Trn in debt and LA finances are also impossibly tight, so funds within the programme and owed will be one of the few opportunities to complete works.

      I would not attempt to guess the mind of the PM. If folk have taken 8 years and not yet completed rural, then nature of something ‘big’ looks wishful in my opinion, given the current momentum is already high. The most recent 21k fttp in rural reported by ThinkBroadband for this past month is the sort I change I would expect to see. If that was sustained Rural could be done by ~2023. The money exists, so why not?

    6. CarlT says:

      Potentially because, for those without nearly decade long fixations with it, it’s boring to think about it given it’s going over and over the same stuff with the same, well, person, popping up on the same articles asking the same rhetorical questions and making the same statements of varying veracity.

      There are really good reasons why the engagement with your comments on this have profoundly reduced and most of the time you’re left to scream into the ether, Sir.

    7. FibreFred says:

      Great news!

      Mr Newton wants to see more fttp and we get an article detailing the completion of a great fttp rollout, and he moans it shouldn’t be news.

      Priceless….

  2. JamesW says:

    Could they not, “force” people to upgrade when they renew there contract/deal with there ISP?

    This would make the roll out a lot quicker? And could be adopted throughout where Fibre is available.

    Or make the copper service more expensive to make it more appealing to do the switch. I don’t mean an incentive. I mean put it £10 extra on top of fibre to sort of twist the consumers arm. As long as the fibre package WILL do exactly what they need.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The current migration approach envisages a period of soft switching (i.e. voluntary and encouragement by ISPs), but it also expects that toward the later stage operators and ISPs will have to force a change of service.

    2. joe says:

      @ James Ofcom won’t let them do that….I wish it would

    3. NGA for all says:

      Creating a ‘sun-set’ date will be permissible at some point. It would be good to declare now some date like 2035-40 for such an occasion. It will not be 2025. Rural upgrades begun 2012 will not be finished by then.

    4. A_Builder says:

      @joe

      I think OFCOM will allow forced migration provides social tariff FTTP is available as a fallback.

      I can also see OFCOM removing them price cap on copper where FTTP us available capped. Provide migration is offered free and frequently.

    5. joe says:

      A_Builder Ofcom might do many things in the future but its not allowing them now. And thats slowing update and fttp deployment.

    6. JamesW says:

      Maybe Ofcom should allow there to be an 18 month (or 24 month) maximum cut off allowing copper still to be used. This would allow all within or just starting a contract days/weeks prior to FTTP installation to carry on with there contract. But at the end they will need to switch to FTTP to have a service.

      You would then have a higher uptake month on month.

      I assuming that ANY new service that an ISP offers should only be FTTP where available rather than a copper service.

    7. CarlT says:

      The sunset dates will be strictly by exchange area. The process is well established.

      It won’t be nationwide so no worries waiting for those less fortunate with coverage.

      I see a couple of areas pretty local to me on the list to begin that process.

      Some others may well find their copper is switched off due to equivalent wireless solutions being provided, there are a few options.

      Either way it’s all good. Plans are in place and being incrementally carried out. The UK is, finally, getting off its copper-heavy diet and that’ll benefit us all profoundly.

  3. DL says:

    I wonder if that 500km of fibre includes thrown away fibre. We had two FTTP installs this week (from one connectorised block). The engineers who did the last bit (from the block to the premises) were scathing about their colleagues who had specified that each property required 150 meter connectorised fibre cables, when in fact they only needed about 20m each. Therefore they had been sent out with 2x 150m reels. They then had to attach them to the CBT and cut off 130m x 2 of fibre. I asked if that could be reused. They stated “no. It will be thrown away.”

    Good old Openreach.

    1. DL says:

      Oh yes, another bit of fantastic organisation: there were actually three properties due to be connected. The third is about 200m away from the other two. Did they do that one at the same time? No. Of course not. That one will be connected in a month’s time.

      I wish that there was a competitor that we could use but there isn’t.

    2. Fastman says:

      hhhmmm

      CBT has to be within 150 metres of the premises I assume the amount is standard as that ensure if the CBT is placed then there is enough fibre to deploy to the premise in question

      if you are deploying at scale you ensure you can meet all premises

  4. Samuel says:

    800 out of 20,000 take up? gosh those numbers are terrible.

    1. DL says:

      Being a city they will already have very good speeds so not much demand for FTTP.

    2. DL says:

      Also the build is only just completed. Let’s see what the numbers are like in a year’s time.

    3. Tempest3K says:

      I don’t think it’s bad at this stage, you need to remember that Virgin cover a large part of the same footprint and most people are probably still in contract on cable or FTTC/ADSL at this point in time.

    4. Ribble says:

      No, they are irrelevant at this point in time

  5. James Brown says:

    Good news for the residents of Salisbury. I hope this is a success for all concerned. I assume this means Salisbury will get an All-IP migration (VoIP) at the same time as moving to fibre?

  6. Alfie says:

    ‘around 8% of premises are not considered Read for Service (RFS) yet’. This is contrary to suggestion in video of whole city being connected in 12 months. OR should not under estimate challenge of 8% that include MDU. Even with access OR need to get their house in order to make this a timely and efficient process that doesn’t need electrical sub contractors to redeploy internal cabling

  7. George B says:

    Well done to Openreach. Lighten up moaners. This is a real achievement. The first of many cities, I’m sure.

  8. Declan M says:

    That’s great going 20,000 premises in 12 months especially in a city!

  9. WilliamJ says:

    I live in Castle Street, can literally see the exchange out my window, no FTTP for me though.

    A bar a few doors away (same street) can get it (although ironically they were one of the last to be deployed in the area).

    An Estate agents also a few doors away from me can not get it, and i know for a fact all the staff in there including the owner of the company and building wanted dare i even say were desperate for it.

    80% coverage don’t make me laugh.

    1. The Facts says:

      @AF -what do the numbers mean, lot of 80s.

    2. Andrew Ferguson says:

      Oh I don’t know might be something related to speeds or could be a random number generator

    3. Fastman says:

      and what sort of building is this estate agent you mention , shop front office , multiple dwelling unit — could be all manner of reasons why not connected – , wayleaves, permissions, objections all sorts

  10. Openreach says:

    Why is Salisbury so special to Openreach favour! Lucky sod!

    1. CarlT says:

      Somewhere had to be first and, to be honest, there are plenty of cities that have far more FTTP from Openreach than Salisbury.

      Edinburgh, Birminghan and Leeds, for instance, have multiple exchanges larger than Salisbury covered by Openreach FTTP with more build ongoing.

    2. Fastman says:

      happy again I see whoever are to day

      why it might be Salisbury as Salisbury was in the news for all the wrong reasons previously

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