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System Error and Costs Stop Openreach FTTP Build in Shifnal

Sunday, April 18th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 7,320

Residents on a relatively new build homes development in the rural Shropshire (England) market town of Shifnal have been left confused after Openreach, which had been deploying a 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in the area, suddenly abandoned the build due to a “system error” and cost issues.

We’re using the term “new build” quite loosely here because the development of c.200 houses, which was conducted by Barratt Homes / David Wilson, was actually completed around 2017/18. In short, the developers have long since stepped away from any responsibility for the estate.

At the time new homes on the site were being served via Openreach’s Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service from a cabinet about 1 mile away (i.e. not the best performance), which was still fairly normal for 2017 and came just ahead of the Government’s big push for more FTTP and gigabit-capable connectivity.

However, a spot of better news seemed to emerge early last year, which came after Openreach’s (BT) availability checker began to report that FTTP was due to be rolled out across the site and work has since progressed.

James, Local Resident of the Site, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Over the last 12 months, I and other friends/neighbours have been in periodic contact with the “Fibre Enquiries Team” who have continually confirmed our addresses would get FTTP and numerous dates have been provided for the work to be completed and numerous “Available to order” dates have come and gone.

Things seemed to improve when a number of properties, clustered in the centre of the estate, were able to place an order for FTTP earlier this year. This was confirmed by the Openreach Fibre Checker, the BT Wholesale checker, BT Consumer website (amongst others) and confirmed by residents themselves (I’ve been into two properties in the “cluster” and seen the ONTs on the wall where the Fibre terminates).”

All appeared to be going well until last week, when James said he was informed that “funding had run out and the rest of the estate will not have FTTP installed.” When questioned on why Openreach employees had confirmed, for the best part of a year, that FTTP would be available, and were even given completion dates, they informed him that this was due to a “system error“.

Admittedly, situations can arise where the cost of a deployment may suddenly increase due to unexpected complications like significantly blocked cable ducts (i.e. pushing a build beyond economic viability), although we’ve never heard of such things being blamed on a “system error” before.

The headend exchange is roughly 8 miles away and Openreach appears to have done the costliest part of this build, which has taken the fibre optic cable from there and delivered it into the centre of the estate (some properties have already been able to order it in the centre). Despite this, the operator is now saying that they won’t do the rest of the homes (these are all within a 100-yard radius). Naturally we sought a comment.

James added: “I could understand if they’d surveyed the estate and come to the conclusion it was too remote, too rural or there were too many obstacles to overcome to make it financially viable – that I could respect. However, to go to the lengths to install FTTP to 15 – 20 houses in the middle of the estate AND THEN saying funding has run out strikes me as very strange indeed.”

A Spokesperson for Openreach told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Due to the complex nature of building the Full Fibre network, our plans occasionally change. For a variety of reasons this can cause some areas to be removed from their expected fibre roll out. In Shifnal we have already built Fibre-to-the-Premises, or Full Fibre broadband, to a number of premises in the area, but further planning and survey work revealed that build costs are too high to allow us to deploy our commercial network to more premises in the area.

Unfortunately, a few residents were given written confirmation that they would be able to access Full Fibre – before all our planning and survey work had been completed, and we’d like to apologise for any inconvenience and disappointment that may have caused.

This doesn’t mean further premises will never receive fibre. It’s worth regularly accessing our Fibre Checker, as we’re constantly working towards our ambition of 20 million homes and businesses connected to fibre in the coming years and these may be added to future plans.

On top of that, there’s our highly successful Community Fibre Partnership scheme which is reaching areas not in anyone’s current commercial plans.”

According to Openreach, the local deployment was a retrobuild for an existing estate (i.e. the area was too old to benefit from their latest discounts for new builds). The operator recently completed a new bout of detailed engineering survey and planning work, which revealed that a large amount of new fibre spine cabling would have been needed to reach the remaining properties (the existing ducts were already full).

Simply put, the cost of this extra work pushed the estate out of economic viability. The operator’s reasoning does make sense, but in such a densely packed residential community we suspect that locals will find Openreach’s excuse quite difficult to swallow.

The next concern will be whether those remaining homes can be de-scoped fast enough from their commercial build to ensure that they stand a chance at a state aid supported build under the Government’s new £5bn Project Gigabit programme. Openreach are aware of the need to do this.

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47 Responses
  1. Mike says:

    At least now their Internet will match the quality of their Barratt Wilson homes.

    1. CarlT says:

      You’re familiar.

  2. Sunil shah says:

    Typical ,no change there then.

  3. Mr Angry says:

    I fail to understand why the process of getting what is now regarded as an essential service is so complicated.
    I looked into the voucher system, and decided that there was a risk of bailing out by potential subscribers, leaving me with a
    hefty bill.

    My location may get FTTP by 2024, we are in the not commercially viable enough zone, despite there being over 7000 properties
    in the area.

    OR have just installed g-fast on the most congested pcap/dslam in the town, despite reports that they have stopped roll-out
    of g-fast.

    Mind you if you have the money you can get fibre installed to a rural location nealy two miles from the town, in the countryside.

    However all around me are lots of Red Wall constituencies, so come the next general election things may get better 🙂

    1. Peach says:

      This could have been a VDSL sidepod, they look the same as the g.fast sidepods

    2. Me says:

      Telephone is considered an essential utility service, internet access isn’t. If it was then it would fall under the same rules as all the other utilities and would be treated differently.
      Which is hilariously hypocritical when you consider how often the British government implores you to go online for various services.

      Regarding this case I do not find their excuse acceptable at all, firstly no doubt Open Reach will have claimed tax payers funding from the government for the build under the various schemes, and secondly confirming in writing residents will get the fibre service, in fact I’d question if that makes Open Reach liable and open to court cases? Not sure how the consumer laws cover that. The only hope the residents now have is if an alt net is able to offer something, but as they cannot use Open Reaches cabling from the exchange as I understand, I doubt they will which will leave another FTTP not spot. But if a new build was created next to the current estate then they would all get FTTP.
      Oh well just another good example of the complete mess England’s FTTP roll out is in.

    3. Mr Angry says:

      No, its G-Fast, thats what the installer stated.

    4. NE555 says:

      Does availability checker show G.Fast availability for properties near the cabinet?

      Even if it is G.Fast, as long as a few people migrate that will free up VDSL capacity for other users.

    5. Fastman says:

      me says Regarding this case I do not find their excuse acceptable at all, firstly no doubt Open Reach will have claimed tax payers funding from the government for the build under the various schemes

      this onw have been under BDUK as the postcodes wont have exisited – and if its been done under retro newsites that a Openreach commercial programme — so thats a commercial decision and nothing to do with government funding

      so massive disinformation of the highest order

    6. Mr Angry says:


      There is already is a sidepod on the dslam, this is on the pcap associated with the dslam (alongside, same number)
      Not showing up on the checker, yet.
      Mainly businesses within 100m who are getting 80Mbs capability already.

  4. Jon says:

    I live on an estate with this problem.

    The bellway development built between 2012 and 2013.

    For some reason half the estate had FTTP installed in 2017. The other half is stuck on FTTC (35mb ish)

    I have pushed and pushed Leicestershire CC, superfastleicester, openreach, bellway all failing to get anywhere.

    FTToD quote was £10k + VAT.

    Driving me nuts seeing houses a couple hundred yards away with FTTP on there walls outside.

    Was planning to try a CFP but under the new gigabyte voucher scheme the estate isn’t eligible.

    1. Aitch says:

      Where in Leicestershire are you?

    2. Jon says:


  5. Leex says:

    Still don’t get that they stopped half way doing it that’s usually a virgin thing, this makes it super annoying for locals, as they have already got the main fiber node there

    they should finish the area off as they have the fibre node already there just needs to get to the houses and they are going to have to come back anyway to finish it off in next 7 years any way, just finish it now and don’t have to spend significantly more later on to finish it

    If the area was to remote (excuse) why did they start the fttp install in the first place

    1. Me says:

      But they can’t use the excuse of it being too remote, because as you stated the node is already there, it is literally a case of wiring the houses up from the node right? The cheapest part as I understand if the build. But this is Open Reach, they no doubt claimed the tax payers funding for the build, wired all they wanted to to ensure a healthy profit and then scarpered.
      The trouble is that you have politics government and huge PLC monopoly’s involved in the roll out. Now if they used the ‘too rural’ excuse to begin with then that’s that, but to physically build the link all the way to the estate then ditch it? Comes across as an excuse to maximise profits to me.

    2. CarlT says:

      They’re maximising profits by doing the most expensive part then, for the sake of the cheapest part, not proceeding with the work and losing out on revenue?

      I can’t say this makes sense to me. Sunk costs are sunk costs. What’s left to do can’t be cheap else they’d do it.

  6. Meadmodj says:

    This may be frustrating but inevitable. OR have a clear policy of contiguous roll-out and if you look at their map you can see clusters of activity that long term will all join up. The cost of rollout is different than changing out existing copper service in isolated areas (build, parallel running and ISP changeover). New Build continues and their will be tactical deployments of FTTP but these will be subject to justification however simple it may look.

    OR have different criteria for New Build because unless another provider installs broadband they still have a telephony obligation and if the cost is above commercial norms accounting wise utilise a USO subsidy definitions.

    Despite OR plans they are late and their money is still limited. So if they can invest X somewhere else where they can get more premises converted then that is what is going to happen.

    It would help if BDUK brought forward contract awards not just for the current ones but for future Out-In so that all potential providers can plan and publish their longer term commercial plans.

  7. A_Builder says:

    It is a very odd excuse to say the ducts were full AFTER installing the connection from the headend.

    The ducts will presumably have been full at t=0.

    However, I don’t really believe that the ducts were totally full in all cases.

    If ducts are full then consideration needs to be given for copper -> fibre transition in one hit. If all the ISP’s on the exchange agree to that then there is zero reason to retain the copper clogging the ducts.

    1. Shower says:

      More likely they used the last available existing fibres somewhere on the route to the headend to get the first homes working then found blockages/extra costs/full ducts when they needed to pull in more meaning it was now uneconomic. A Bridge or motorway crossing being a pinch point etc.

      Pulling out copper to put in fibre is maybe a tad simplistic. People may put up with no internet for a few hours if they are getting full fibre but
      1. There is no guarantee the people who would need copper removed to allow fibre are the ones getting fibre as the issue could be far from the homes.
      2. Even in the best case, there would likely be at least days of no broadband to do that.
      3. What about the cost to providers in terms of new connectivity to FTTP equipment in the exchange. If you have one customer benefiting would you pay for a new connectivity? If you can’t fix everyone then scheme will fail

    2. CarlT says:

      I genuinely can’t think of a feasible way to move even a handful of properties off copper and onto fibre at once let alone the quantity needed to make a dent in ducts.

      There’s far too much that can go wrong to make this acceptable to Ofcom, CPs and customers.

      Even if it works flawlessly as far as cable replacement goes service calls will be required.

      FTTP would have to be up and running to the customers whose copper is being recovered beforehand with all customers moved off copper services.

      Only way to do this that comes to mind would be remote OLTs served by temporary microwave links bypassing congested ducts.

    3. Dazza says:

      It would be relatively easy to do this from a technical perspective:
      1. Use the existing fibre to back haul a local 32 port OLT to the headend exchange and switch the existing fibre subscribers over to local OLT ports. This would have to be done in a single (e.g. overnight) step.
      2. Install fibre everywhere else on the estate.
      3. Switch subscribers from ADSL/FTTC to fibre.
      4. Remove all the copper freeing up the ducts.
      5. Install the 32 fibres back to the headend exchange needed to allow the local OLT to be removed.
      6. Switch each GPON from the local OLT to the newly installed fibre.
      7. Remove the local OLT.
      The overall timescale doesn’t really matter once you’ve done (1). This would effectively be a subtended head end install which according to previous news items is a standard thing so the network configuration shouldn’t be non-standard at any point during the above.

      It is much more challenging from a regulatory perspective – this is effectively termination the provision of copper services locally and there is an industry expectation that notice for this is 12 months plus.

    4. Shower says:

      @Dazza. Your point no.1 would be the hard
      / impossible bit in reality. For one it only considers broadband. What about all the people who only use voice services, do they get cut off? All those businesses whose credit card machines dial for each order might object.

      The second obvious thing is backhall to where. There is no guarantee all the homes fed by copper go back to the same equipment. So their isp would need to do something and what happens if it’s not sensible to spend money I.e. only 1 customer but lots of spend or not every provider doing FTTP.

      Third is that if you have Adsl there is no guarantee the existing router can do vdsl so it won’t be just flicking a switch. Due to interference adsl and vdsl being injected at the same point will cause issues. So you would need service calls to get everyone onto vdsl first. Something many years after vdsl has been launched still hasn’t happened. Again not simple.

      I’m sure there would be many more issues if it was looked at and why these types of things don’t happen.

    5. Dazza says:

      On the contrary, point 1 is the easy bit, you are simply replacing a FTTP service with a locally terminated FTTP service which will be pretty much invisible to the existing FTTP customers.

      Point 3 is the hard bit, you are effectively bringing forward something planned for 2025 – 2035 (removal of exchange based copper services) to now. As I said, the regulatory issues would huge – not all industry players (e.g. ISPs, merchant terminal providers, etc.) are ready for copper switch off yet.

      I’m not sure why you mention ADSL vs. VDSL, both would disappear, replaced by FTTP in my scenario (as is likely to happen in pretty much all built up areas by the early 2030s).

      And the answer to your first question is that yes, by around 2025, if you want a plain voice service and refuse all alternatives then you will simply be cut off. Plain voice telephony is being replaced by VOIP and pretty much the whole industry (including OFCOM) is supporting that.

  8. Chris Sayers says:

    We have recently had FTTP installed, we are fortunate that we live on an estate that’s served by poles, the other parts of the village are mostly duct’s, it does not look like other area are going to get FTTP any time soon.

    Am so pleased we got this as we ditched VM.

    I do feel for those who can’t get FTTP installed.

  9. M says:

    I feel sorry for the people in this estate, but that is the current complete mess of the British FTTP roll out, I’d suggest they look into satellite broadband and scrap Open Reach and BT all together, not pay the, a penny for telephone or Broadband services, vote with your wallet.
    However in the not too distant future this will devalue your property compared to those with FTTP. Food for thought.

    I would look at this from a business perspective, but the government has muddied those waters by being heavily involved and offering billions of tax payers money to get services installed. Then it no longer becomes purely commercial in my eyes as everyone pays taxes, you expect services to be provided as a result.

    1. CarlT says:

      Everyone doesn’t receive the same services despite paying taxes. A lot of the time this is due to value for money or return on investment.

      Government hasn’t provided anywhere near enough funding to deliver universal FTTP. Openreach funding has been gap funding with money returned to the local authority where the gap was no longer there.

      Many other projects where people can feel far more aggrieved about paying taxes but not seeing the benefits. Most households in the UK do not pay their way in terms of taxes versus services received and making taxation more transactional probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

    2. M says:

      Well firstly that’s just your opinion that ‘most’ households do not pay enough taxes for the services received. I agree government hasn’t spent enough wasting it on things like HS2, or the worlds most expensive nuclear power plant or an Irish tunnel. But it’s still has and is spending billions on it, and for fibre to be laid down and then the project scrapped sighting ‘costs’ like this report, is hardly defensible.
      And most places actually do receive the same services for taxes, because profitability isn’t a requirement by councils for road repairs, or rubbish collection, or for NHS hospitals or the Police, Fire or ambulance services. I think your a bit misguided with your thoughts on that.

    3. CarlT says:

      ‘Well firstly that’s just your opinion that ‘most’ households do not pay enough taxes for the services received.’

      No, it’s a fact. Most households do not pay enough tax to cover the services they draw.

      I believe even removing retirees from the equation the majority of households draw more that they put in.

      Just a function of the average household income and how top-heavy income tax is here.

      Most places don’t receive the same services for taxes. Last I checked my city has no metro, underground or other mass transit network. The city next to me is the largest in Europe without one.

      Frequency of bin collection alongside other things related vary from local authority to local authority. Road repair is an obvious one with very different conditions of roads.

      Fire, police and NHS service provision vary between areas.

      Haven’t you seen news stories about postcode lotteries as different trusts are in different places?

      Individual services provided both in terms of quality and number vary outside of the legal minimums.

      Local authorities don’t have profit motives but neither can they spend like crazy. Many of them in this part of the world see much of their funding disappear on essential services.

      The equivalent of this in the broadband world isn’t FTTP for all, it is the universal service obligation.

      Openreach and others are building out FTTP and increasing investment. If you have some way they could do this faster without going bankrupt in the process I’m sure Openreach and others would be all ears. Limited supply of equipment and manpower. As demand goes up so does cost. Companies pay too much they end up going bankrupt – see ntl and Telewest.

      The area I lived in previously Virgin Media infilled 10,000 properties. The cable company that originally had the franchise went bankrupt mid-build. Both constituents of VM went into bankruptcy protection in the early 2000s.

  10. Guy says:

    Simple. If FTTP has been built to some homes. Take a 1Gig service and then deploy via wireless or via PIA access to the ducts.

  11. JK says:

    This really doesn’t surprise me. I’m in a similar situation in a Fibre First area. I’ve had fibre laid down my road (a cul de sac, so not to serve another road) but none of us can order. Have been told it’s too expensive and to try a community partnership but they haven’t acknowledged installing fibre or that they put a leaflet through our doors saying we’re in a full fibre area.

    1. Fastman says:


      only option to developer was FTTP or copper (FTTC never an offer)
      site could onyl be delivered as Cooper or fTTP
      evelopers get paid to have infrastructure on site
      depends when Site was registered with Openreach as well

  12. Nick says:

    I seen they build brand new homes in Wellington, Shropshire by Bovis Homes – Openreach put copper phone lines in the new build are a joke really. They only getting either ADSL2+, VDSL or G.fast.

    No FTTP? What? It’s 21st century!


    1. CarlT says:

      Not great. Wonder why they didn’t ask for FTTP?

      Openreach can only deliver what’s been asked for and this must’ve been started a while back.

    2. André says:

      Builders are dinosaurs and it’s not easy to get them to change how they do things.
      Bovis has a particularly bad reputation.
      It think CarlT may be right that the development started a while ago and FTTP wasn’t considered then.
      My own estate is now on the “stage 3” build and even though FTTP is widely available, the new homes are still being built with a copper line, which seems odd.

    3. Fastman says:

      developer will have been paid to put in what was requsted or asked for by Developer

      if the site had been registered before 2016 it would have been copper

    4. A_Builder says:

      In the alternative it is open for OR to query if the developer would like FTTP rather than FTTC.

      You may have hear of Fibre First so it is surprising that OR are wasting developers candle by still putting copper in.

      It is also amazing that a developer would do that as FTTP would lift the prices by more than the amount of bother involved.

      This makes bad business sense for OR.

    5. Roger_Gooner says:

      Doesn’t Virgin Media have a network in that area? I find it almost unbelievable that in the 21st century a developer won’t contact either VM or Openreach for their cabling before the build commences.

  13. JP says:

    Openreach really don’t seem interested in serving fttp to existing builds unless an existing network exists for easy install.

    The only reason I think any house built prior to 2010 have received FTTP is due to overhead infrastructure being in place.

    Even Fibre First exchange, completely skipped areas with underground network and just did the areas which where new build or served by telegraph poles.

    1. Thomas Bibb says:

      Exascale have a growing network in the area and would be more tha happy to try and help the residents in Shifnal.

      Please email servicedelivery@exascale.co.uk and we will work with the community to bring Gigabit Full Fibre to your homes and businsesses.

    2. CarlT says:

      Afraid experience in Leeds says otherwise, right down to digging entirely new trench along streets with either unsuitable or non-existent ducts.

      Simply not true that Openreach ignore anything bar overhead network for anything built pre-2010.

      Tons of premises across the exchanges in Leeds are underground.

    3. JP says:

      I said that it seems like they are, glad to hear this isn’t the case in Leeds but certainly been the case in many areas I know of.

    4. A_Builder says:

      Balham has been widely covered with FTTP even though a lot of it is very old underground ducts that predate GPO – various shades of telegraph on a lot of the lids!

  14. Gary says:

    Not much to say really to people buying newbuilds or otherwise without FTTP when it’s apparently a massive issue that there’s no FTTP. Should have been on your solicitors list of things to confirm/negotiate before you signed the papers.

    1. Gary says:

      Not a comment on the actual article, I do feel for those people who were reasonably expecting Fibre then had the rug pulled right at the last post.

  15. Nick Roberts says:

    Careful, as Kevin says, you might get EE envy . . . . Not until you find out that deployment of 5G is in the same, if not worse, under-invested, raggedy-tooth, state – not exactly a patchwork of connectivity, more a sort of Dudley Moore wisp of gauze that randomly falls so as to protect the modesty of assorted statues.

    Take 5G in Harrow, NW London, only EE and Three are slated as 5G oroviders . . The reality . . . . EE signal is so weak it can only be received outdoors and Three’s is restricted to local hilltop reception. So, hilariously, the viable signal boundary for Three only extends to the lower edge of the playing fields of the famous school on the hill and no further.

  16. Nick Roberts says:

    “Mr President, we have a telecommunications bullshit gap.”

  17. Shaukat says:

    We live in a newish build Barratt estate, well it was back in 2014, a 50 or so homes, it is not only hard wired for virgin media, even the apartments, access to 1Gb broadband. Those at the front of the estate (facing the main road) also have access to g.fast. this is on the edge of the Birmingham / black country conurbation.

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