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Openreach Trial New FTTP on Demand Pricing and Coverage UPDATE

Monday, November 1st, 2021 (3:48 pm) - Score 12,456
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Openreach (BT) has today announced both a UK coverage expansion of their niche FTTP on Demand (FTTPoD or FoD) broadband ISP product and the introduction of a new FoD “near network commercial trial“, which looks as if it could make it significantly cheaper for some areas to order the full fibre product.

Firstly, it’s easy to get confused between a normal gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service and FoD, thus a little explanation is required. In a normal native FTTP rollout Openreach foots the bill from its own pocket to install the fibre cable down your street, but in a FoD installation it’s the customer who chooses to pay for the expensive civil engineering side of that build (often there would be no other prospect for FTTP without it).

NOTE: After your FoD contract is up with an ISP, you should be able to switch to any normal FTTP broadband provider and package on Openreach’s network.

Put another way, FoD enables you to get a gigabit FTTP line built right to your property, even if FTTP wasn’t previously planned or natively deployed to your area. All of this sounds good, but the high cost of building such infrastructure has tended to make it far too expensive for ordinary consumers (desktop quotes often run into the tens of thousands).

The FoD product itself is thus typically aimed more at small businesses or homeowners with very deep pockets and an awful lot of patience (such builds can take a long time to deliver). Groups of premises can also apply via a linked order, which is often the cheapest way as the costs can be shared, although for some areas the Community Fibre Partnership (CFP) model may be a better fit.

The good news, we think, is that FoD appears to be going through a few interesting new changes and some of these might make it more accessible.

FoD Coverage Expansion

The first change relates to an “expansion of availability“. The official briefing for that announcement tells us nothing of any use, although our sources have enabled us to uncover what it means. Previously, if you wanted to take FoD then you needed to be in an area that was already covered by their slower (hybrid) Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service.

The big change is that FoD is no longer limited to areas with FTTC coverage. In other words, even those who currently only have access to pure copper line based ADSL2+ broadband services can now also order FoD, although the cost of doing that would probably be eye watering. But you’d still need to live within a FoD enabled exchange area.

FoD Cost Changes

The biggest news today is perhaps the launch of their “FTTP on Demand near network” commercial trial, which will run for 6 months starting on 1st December 2021 and ending on 31st May 2022 inclusive. Since cost is a major factor in any FoD order, then any changes on this front are usually of huge interest.

Under the old system, the biggest cost (after spending hundreds of pounds on the connection charge) often occurred due to Excess Construction Charges (ECC) or similar. However, Openreach’s £15bn investment, which aims to expand the reach of their FTTP network to cover 25 million UK premises by December 2026, has presented an opportunity to trial a different approach to FoD’s build costs.

For eligible orders, the FOD build charge under the trial will now be set as follows:

➤ £1,625 where a splitter exists, but a connectorised block terminal (CBT) needs to be built (the CBT usually goes on top of a telegraph pole or in an underground chamber near-ish to your home/office)

➤ £2,650 where a new splitter build is required, as well as the CBT build

We have seen quite a few cases, often at the edges of Openreach’s native FTTP rollout, where one side of the street gets the service and the other is left untouched (i.e. areas near, but not covered by, their commercial FTTP build). The new approach to FoD, while still a pricey endeavour for potential customers, might well provide a more rationally costed approach to solving issues like that.

However, orders that don’t meet the qualifying criteria will progress at the standard FoD build charge. In addition, Openreach still only has a limited amount of capacity for handling FoD orders (their engineers are mostly focused on the national FTTP rollout), which, if such an approach were to prove popular, may create longer delays / lead-times (the high costs will probably continue to prevent that).

The briefing states that, as with standard FOD orders, the FOD build may also result in additional premises being enabled to use FTTP nearby, served by the same CBT. In which case, the exemption per premises passed by PON (Passive Optical Network) will not be applied to the fixed build charge.

The operator added that eligibility of an order for the trial “will be determined by the Openreach planning process following completion of the standard FOD site survey and communicated to the relevant CP in a note provided with the build charge notification,” which sounds to us as if eligible customers won’t be able to see if they’d benefit by just requesting a basic desktop quote for the work (i.e. you’d have to proceed with the order and get a full site survey done, at cost, first – not ideal). We’re checking this. As usual, those aren’t the only considerations.

Qualifying criteria for FOD orders within the trial will be based on specific network conditions and are as follows:

➤ Head end capacity and spine capacity exists.

➤ Distance from either the planned NGA aggregation node or an existing FTTP splitter to the target FOD end customer premises is 500m or less.

Exclusions:

➤ Multi-Dwelling Unit, Multi-Occupancy Unit and FOD ‘cluster’ orders.

➤ Orders requiring civils work or presenting DIG (direct in ground) infrastructure.

➤ Orders requiring significant internal work as part of the ONT installation (e.g. greater than 30m reach internal wiring) will not qualify for the trial.

Readers can view more details on FoD pricing here and here. We are quite keen to see some practical examples of real-world cost quotes between the old and new trial system, so if anybody gets this next month, then please do share.

UPDATE 2nd Nov 2021

We’ve got a few extra details back from Openreach. Firstly, the coverage expansion for FoD will take effect from 19th March 2022, so it’s not immediate.

Openreach also confirmed that the “desktop quotations will not provide confirmation that a site is eligible for the fixed charge, this will only be determined by a full site survey.” In other words, we may have to wait until the change is fully implemented (outside of trial) before it becomes easier to assess its impact. This is because there are very few FoD orders made, but it’s currently quite easy to get a desktop quote without committing £££.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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28 Responses
  1. anonymous says:

    Devil is in the detail but this is definite progress.

  2. David Lomax says:

    Previously been quoted £12k from Openreach via Cerebrus networks. Will give this a try! Not sure if I qualify.

    1. David Lomax says:

      Well that didn’t work. Spoke to Cerebrus networks. They buy from BT Wholesale, not Openreach, wait until the trial ends, bla bla. Don’t understand how to get this as a consumer. Help!

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Yeah we’ll have to see what suppliers and ISPs actually take part, and then it’s not clear if you’d be able to see the new quotes by just getting a desktop survey (possibly not) – unless the order were to proceed.

    3. Franz Kafka says:

      I asked Cerberus for some quotes. They / OR must have a random number generator that also makes quotes. First one was £18,700 . Second one was £34,000 (and this was after a supposed wholesale cost drop for FTTPoD). I gave up since it seemed like they were just making them up as they go. I know that OR have a tool, I still think the “tool” is a random number generator.

    4. Shaun says:

      @Franz
      If you are deadly serious about FoD then I’m afraid you will have to bite the bullet, pay a few hundred and get a survey done. Whilst the free no obligation desktop survey quote is reasonably accurate for many, equally for many others it won’t give realistic quotes. But as a very rough guide, the closer you are to your FTTC cabinet then the cheaper FoD will be, as fibre aggregation nodes aren’t usually too far away from FTTC cabs.

  3. GNewton says:

    All good and well, but the real issue was, and probably still is, the lack of available order fulfilment capacity of FoD products.

    Fod has been for all practical purposes a dead product because only a very limited total number of orders per year (no more than a few hundred) were even accepted in the first place, and the time it needed from the initial order to the finished fibre connection would in most cases be well over a year, sometimes 2 years. In most cases alternative solutions like leased lines, or bundled VDSL-lines, are faster to order and to be installed.

    Hence this whole FoD thing looks more like a ‘fibre to the press’ exercise to me than a genuine product!

    1. Fastman says:

      in a village or where a community exists or could exist FOd is normally the wrong answer to the wrong question ,as its a bespoke product based on a a very few premises / single premises — best commercial answer would be to look for an operator to build proactively (if that the case) or use the community fibre programme that openreach offer

    2. Fish and Chips says:

      I got my FoD circuit installed in under 4 months back in 2017. Not sure if I got lucky or if install times of ~ few months were the norm in those days. Mine was a band D install – in those days build costs were based on construction bands A-G with A being the cheapest.

    3. FibreFred says:

      The product you continue to say is dead is still alive

    4. John says:

      “All good and well, but the real issue was, and probably still is, the lack of available order fulfilment capacity of FoD products.”

      Nope.

      My info is FTTPoD order capacity hasn’t been reached or required any wait times for orders to be accepted for many months, possibly even a year now.

      I’ve been involved in 3 orders progressing through survey and acceptance in the last 6 months and all were done with no wait times.

      All were placed through Cerberus who advised us during the desktop quotes that they no longer faced the same order capacity issues seen in 2019/20.

      The previous order limits weren’t ever a serious problem and only delayed or prevented a few dozen orders over a short period of time.

      The was more complaining about the order limits in this sites comments section from users who never had any intention of ordering FTTPoD than there ever was from providers or actual customers who wanted the product.

    5. GNewton says:

      @Fastman: I agree, FoD is not the right product for community projects.

      The article says that the FoD product itself is typically aimed more at small businesses. However, it is severely restricted for the upload speeds, it is not a genuine symmetric gigabit-capable product. Even for a meagre 100Mbps upload speed you’d still have to bundle 2 or 3 FTTP lines. Hence, for small businesses other options will make more sense.

      The Openreach products are often out of touch with real world scenarios or demands, with the FoD being just one of them.

    6. GNewton says:

      @John: Thank you for sharing your experience with FoD here. Maybe things are getting back to a more normal order fulfilment process soon.

    7. New_Londoner says:

      @GNewton
      Quote: “Even for a meagre 100Mbps upload speed you’d still have to bundle 2 or 3 FTTP lines. Hence, for small businesses other options will make more sense.”

      The choice of speeds is up to the ISP rather than Openreach. IIRC Openreach offers a gigabit download speed line with 220Mbps upload option and may have symmetric options for businesses too. Either way, you certainly don’t need to bundle lines to get 100Mbps+ upload speeds.

      We should remember that many network operators use GPON-based infrastructure, so asymmetry between upload and download speeds is not peculiar to Openreach.

    8. anonymous says:

      The extent of the asymmetry is, though. There is absolutely no technical reason at all for them to be as they are.

      VM have huge asymmetry on their network, 25:1 rather than the 2:1 GPON provides, but offer at worst about 20:1 ratio and on most products around 10:1.

      Apart from an altnet that charges for upstream uplift the most asymmetric on GPON I can see is KCom. They sell at a 5:1 ratio at worst.

      Obviously we are where we are but putting it down to the limitations of GPON isn’t fair. Openreach could double residential and business FTTP upload with no capacity planning issues.

    9. GNewton says:

      @New_Londoner: “may have symmetric options for businesses too. Either way, you certainly don’t need to bundle lines to get 100Mbps+ upload speeds. ”

      So what fibre broadband product would you suggest to a rural business premise where there are no 4G or 5G alternatives? What symmetric gigabit-capable FTTP products does Openreach provide to ISPs?

    10. NE555 says:

      1000/115 and 1000/220 FTTP are more than enough for most businesses.

      If you need any more, then there are leased lines available from Openreach and other providers.

    11. FibreFred says:

      Banging the symmetry drum again.

      Not sure how many times he needs to hear it from so many different people.

      If “you” need a symmetrical product “you” do not represent the majority of the customer base.

      Simple as that

    12. anonymous says:

      ‘So what fibre broadband product would you suggest to a rural business premise where there are no 4G or 5G alternatives?’

      If a business needs more than 220 up it has enough people working there or data transfer needs are so heavy that a dedicated service or multiple, diverse connections are a plan.

      Relying on a single broadband connection in those circumstances is negligent as it’s clearly mission critical.

      As far as business connectivity issues go 220 upload not being enough is a real first world problem. Unless you’re in a very few businesses the IT team needs a gentle wobble.

    13. New_Londoner says:

      @GNewton
      You asked what fibre broadband product I would suggest to a rural business premise where there are no 4G or 5G alternatives? Well, in the context of this article FTTP, whether FoD or not, would be a great place to start.

      As for symmetric, gigabit-capable FTTP products that Openreach provides to ISPs, I may be misremembering but I thought they were in the Openreach portfolio, possibly priced for business customers. No doubt someone on here will correct me if I’m wrong. Of course, as another poster pointed out, Ethernet products are available and really ought to be considered for any business dependent on data given the SLAs that they come with – yes they are more expensive but ought to cost in versus any possible loss of business from a broadband outage.

    14. ColinTD says:

      Just had a 500/70 FoD line installed by Cerberus, with 2 other properties. After Government and matching Hampshire grants just over £1500 for build. Frankly a bargain out here rural Hampshire, and transformational for two home working adults and two kids.

  4. Mark says:

    As usual it’s a mess, if they can’t make a profit they’ll not do it for free, meanwhile your still paying taxes which fund for other areas to have fibre to the door for free.
    This is a just another scheme of carrot in front of the donkey, make it look like they are doing something without doing anything, where it seems confusing who will take part in the scheme and how you qualify for it. Some say it’s progress? It’ll be progress when you can pick up the phone call your ISP and say I’ve got a spare couple of grand, can I book for you to install FTTP, but no I’d imagine theirs a lengthy consultation period to see if you qualify first, and that’s IF your ISP will offer this.
    Meanwhile Starlink are expanding their network, and you just go online, place an order, kit arrives setup and go.. or likewise if your lucky enough to get 5G or decent 4G, wireless services are frankly embarrassing Open Reach and the governments incompetence. IMO.

    1. John says:

      FTTPoD isn’t a scheme your need to qualify for. It’s a commercial product you buy with eligibility criteria.

      The only real exclusion is you can’t order if you live in an MDU.
      It also can only be ordered by anyone who is connected to an FTTC enabled cabinet, even if that cabinet is too far away to order FTTC from. That requirement goes away in March.

      There’s no consultation period to see if you qualify. You request a quote and will be told immediately if it is available to you.
      You can’t just pick up the phone and call any ISP to order this though.
      Companies are free to pick and choose which products they sell and this is very much a niche product that isn’t intended for mass consumption and as such only a small handful of providers sell this.

      “make it look like they are doing something without doing anything”

      Over 300,000 properties covered with full fibre by OpenReach in the last month alone.
      Yet they are doing nothing Huh?

    2. Mark says:

      @John, all you’ve done is confirmed my points, nothing more, no they are not doing anything IMO. 300,000 homes in a week, in areas of high profits no doubt. Doesn’t change the fact quite a lot of homes are paying taxes so these certain areas get free fibre to the door, whilst you are forced to pay at least what 2 grand for the sale privilege? I also highly doubt they connected 300,000 homes in a week as at that rate they would do the entirety of England in 16 months, not the several years it will take according to them.

    3. anonymous says:

      He said 300,000 in a month, Mark.

      We all pay taxes to support things we don’t benefit from. Blame the government if unhappy at the BDUK process. Pretty much everywhere will get FTTP eventually. This is paying to jump the queue.

  5. Winston Smith says:

    How do you find out if you’re within 500m of the requisite hardware?

  6. Jason Chatham says:

    What is the process for trying to get this ?
    website link or telephone number appreciated….

    1. NE555 says:

      First, wait until Dec 1st when the new pricing trial becomes active.

      Then contact one of the (very few) business ISPs who sell FTTPoD. There’s a list at https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/fttp-providers (see “On Demand” at the bottom)

      I’d suggest you talk to Cerberus: they have national coverage and are up-front about pricing.
      https://www.cerberusnetworks.co.uk/connectivity-broadband/fibre-demand

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