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BT Issues 2022 Progress Update on the UK 10Mb Broadband USO

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022 (3:09 pm) - Score 4,128
10Mbps UK Broadband USO

UK ISP BT has today issued their latest biannual study into the progress they’ve made toward delivering the 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband, which reveals that they’ve so far built a USO connection to over 4,600 premises, with more than 2,300 further builds in progress.

The USO officially went live in March 2020. The obligation was aimed at those who can’t yet receive a 10Mbps+ capable broadband speed and aren’t currently planned to get one in the next 12-months. Ofcom states that 123,000 UK premises (0.4%) currently fall into this gap (i.e. those outside of both fixed line, fixed wireless and suitable 4G mobile coverage), but a big chunk of that is still too expensive for even the USO to handle.

NOTE: For many of those extremely remote areas, the cost of a USO connection will be significantly in excess of the industry £3,400 contribution (end-users have the option to pay excess costs or decline the USO solution).

Back in 2020 we reported on various examples (here) where people had been hit with quotes for excess costs that ran from tens of thousands of pounds and went all the way up to £1-2m. Since then, various improvements have been made to the USO (here), but there’s no escaping the reality that some properties will not be economically viable to reach via fixed line or 4G solutions under the USO.

The government are currently still exploring how to reach those who live in these so-called “Very Hard to Reach” areas (here) – also known as the final c.0.3% of premises – and the outcome of that is due soon, but for now we’ll focus on what the USO has been able to achieve. In the meantime, the USO gap is slowly continuing to shrink, thanks to the expansion of 4G coverage (SRN) and the rural gigabit vouchers (Project Gigabit) etc.

The USO Report (May 2022)

Overall, by the end of March 2022, BT had built a USO connection to over 4,600 premises, with more than 2,300 further builds in progress. The number of USO requests has risen sharpy since the end of last year, although after checking a significant proportion of these are often found to be ineligible for the obligation (e.g. in March 2022 alone there were 695 USO requests, yet well over half of those are often ruled ineligible).

As for confirmed orders, it’s noted that BT has generally been delivering these within slightly over 12 months (Ofcom allows up to 24 months for total build completion). But around 2% of the provisioned lines have suffered faults, and fault repair times for those tend to vary between around 30 to 100 hours.

The current report only covers the period between 1st October 2021 and 31st March 2022, but you can check out last year’s report for data that goes back further (here). Aside from that, the latest report doesn’t say very much and is largely just a broad statistical update on the USO’s progress – see below:

BT Broadband USO Progress May 2022

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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. William Grimsley says:

    It is shocking how some parts of the UK still can’t receive even 10 Mb/s, compared to parts of the EU that have had widespread FTTP for years!

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      To be fair, much of the EU has a bigger problem with rural broadband coverage than we do, even in quite a few of the countries where FTTP is dominant. You can get an idea by looking at the NGA coverage (30Mbps+) across EU countries, while in the UK we’re at around 97-98%. But that’s one of the few areas where the UK does well.

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/11/the-eu-publishes-2021-broadband-connectivity-progress-study.html

      You can see this better by looking at the older 2020 report, back when the UK was still being included:

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/06/uk-ranks-8th-in-2020-eu-broadband-connectivity-progress-study.html

      The UK USO is also better than a lot of EU USOs, which often target slower speeds.

    2. William Grimsley says:

      Fair enough, Mark.

  2. Anthony Goodman says:

    As someone who now has 560mb/s FTTP. I would class 10mb/s as state sanctioned torture.

    1. William Grimsley says:

      Yep, I couldn’t imagine going back to the old ADSL days… 5 Mb/s on a good day, haha!

    2. Thief says:

      At one point my in-laws were having trouble with Windows 10 feature updates because it was saturating their 1.1 Mbps internet connection… (ADSL with the exchange in the next village).

      Then, FTTC rolled out to their cabinet and now there’s 70 Mbps+ across the entire village.

      It really was like night and day. ~1 Mbps was already unusable with modern devices, I suspect the 10 Mbps USO is _barely_ enough to use the modern internet!

  3. Timmy says:

    Actually all european countries easily have 1000mbps/100mbps for less than 10 euros in some countries. Even in remote areas on copper they achieve 400mbps/100mbps at minimum. So england still behind the whole europe years. Especially upload speed is extremely low and stops productivity for everyone. Not sure what BT is doing with all the billions they get from customers. They should invest in fiber optics with all the money they get. Instead they use old cables and sell them as fiber. They are biggest liars also all the advertisement on TV IS FAKE. Brainwashing people with nonsense. Still use telephone lines to connect internet and say it’s fibre. Big shame. The other thing many websites are blocked for no reason. The only way to bypass is with VPN. Horrible country when it comes to broadband.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      @Timmy
      Presumably your post is intended as satire given the many incorrect statements that it contains?

    2. Alex A says:

      “Actually all European countries… in some countries” contradictory, and not true, in the UK at September 2020 we had 15% FTTP, Germany had 16% with the UK increasing at a faster rate.

      €10 is also not accurate, while it is true in the poorer countries they aren’t a fair comparison due to lower typical pay. In France Orange charge €42 pm (£35.50) for FTTH, this is up to 400mbps though it is the cheapest FTTH option on Orange.

      “The upload speed is extremely slow” people make a bigger deal out of this than it actually is, the upload speed is fine here (VM is a bit low though.)

      “Even on remote areas on copper they achieve 400mbps” please provide proof as I’m going to assume this is incorrect. Unless you mean coax cable (unlikely for rural areas) its just impossible for rural copper lines to get those speeds.

      “Not sure what BT is doing with all the billions they get from customers. They should invest in fiber optics with all the money they get.” Not sure if you live under a rock since BT have been doing this for the past few years.

      I’m not getting into the copper advertising debate…

  4. TBC says:

    The Spanish government and the balearic government got funding from the EU to provide FTTP to everyone and within 6months to a year even our tiny remote village of like 15 houses had 1000/1000 FTTP.

    There is no reason for openreach to provide asymmetric fibre, anyone saying upload speeds don’t matter clearly don’t upload large files for work.

    1. Jake4 says:

      There are a few reasons why Openreach currently doesn’t offer symmetric speeds for FTTP.

      One of the reasons is to justify businesses getting a leased line, and another is the current GPON setup that Openreach uses has a downstream rate of 2.5gbps and 1.25gbps up is shared between up to 32 premises.

    2. Bon says:

      @jake4 is this just you speculating or do you know for sure? Because plenty of alt nets use gpon with the same bandwidth limits and have no problem offering 900Mb up, and I’d argue leased line users would be more interested in the SLA and contention ratio than simply upload speeds.

    3. Alex A says:

      While GPON is asymmetric you can still do 900/900 over it with the limited upstream bandwidth rarely being a problem due to the much lower demand on upload.

      From what I understand Cityfibre bill it to ISPs as access to a up to 32:1 (or 8:1 for a higher price) GPON connection with a gigabit interface. Id imagine that they would have some usage limits.

      Openreach price it on speed tiers so they drop the upload speed so people who would be saturating it most of the time will need to get a leased line connection.

  5. James says:

    It’s true in my experience, there is misinformation in the uk regarding service availability and speed. From all ISPs. My home is not entirely rural (RG27) but as a creator of content I need upload to work as well as download performance. Look up my address on OpenReach or any isp and “great news you can have 80mbps fibre!”. It’s a blatant lie of course. We are not near FTTC. Certainly no FTTP for the foreseeable. No cable. Variable 4G (no 3 service for example). No 5g planned. My upload speed is 0.9mbps. Yes that’s 900kbps. In 2022! And 16mbps download on a good day. Ancient copper infrastructure along poles served us – which quite often results in service dropping out to the whole neighbourhood intermittently. So if you think you are having issues – consider the above (unfortunately common) scenario with grainy and jumpy zooms. No cloud backups. Forget large file sharing…. OpenReach and others are doing UK citizens a great disservice- and worse are lying about their performance.

    1. Boss number 1 says:

      Stop whining and move house then

    2. MilesT says:

      Definitely could move within RG27 postcode and get better speeds.

      Or solutions like Starlink when that becomes more mainstream

  6. Martin says:

    I’m sure USO is very good if you can fit into the very small box that makes it suitable for you…

    In the centre of Reading we are on an exchange only line, with only option under USO being a 4G solution, however this doesn’t features we require like static IP or low latency connection, instead we are stuck on a 7mbps download and 1mbps upload…

    Daft thing is our site has AA road all around us, on opposite side of the road they have FTTC… so why didn’t (or can’t) it cross the road…

    1. Thief says:

      I have heard that sometimes locations are directly connected to the local exchange, which hasn’t had VDSL hardware installed for FTTC-equivalent direct connections, only fiber switches for supporting FTTC cabinets. Is that what’s happened to you?

      The good news is that in that case you _should_ eventually still get FTTP.

    2. Martin says:

      Yes we are directly connected to the exchange, only way we’ll get FTTC currently is if the remaining 100ish lines that are not in use are ordered, then any others would need routing to a cabinet instead…

      However I think that’s unlikely on our site, as main property has switched over to VoIP

  7. Chris Jones says:

    Some years ago, when the USO first appeared, I applied and was told that because my line (mixture of copper and aluminium and approx 1.5km from the FTTC cabinet) was rated as able to receive 15Mbps I did not qualify. At that time the best I was getting was 9Mbps download and 0.9Mbps upload. A neighbour only approximately 100 meters nearer to the cabinet was getting 23Mbps download, but his line was clearly all copper.

    My conclusion was (and is) that the USO is almost entirely useless.

  8. CJ says:

    BT are offering their 4G home broadband product at addresses where the FTTC cabinets are out of capacity and ADSL is too slow to meet the USO.

    The price of £45.24 for 15Mbps on a 24 month contract is clearly calculated to stay just within Ofcom’s definition of affordable during the contract term: two increases of 3.9% would take it to £48.84 vs. £48.90 for affordable. (Both numbers will also increase by CPI.)

    A third annual increase would take the price above the Ofcom definition of affordable. I’m sure BT would argue that the customer can re-contract for another 24 months to keep it affordable, but that doesn’t feel like it’s within the spirit of the USO even if the lawyers are happy that it meets the letter of the law.

  9. JmJohnson says:

    Tbh… the Gov should have just built 12 new houses near each property.
    Openreach would then have ran FTTP to those developments and through developer request connected the original properties at the same.
    It would have been a home run… more housing, profit for more housing and FTTP for the original property.

    1. Fastman says:

      Jm johnsont that is not the case certainly for the number of premises you mention — 20 plots (houses) and you are probably looking a no developer contribution for fttp off from the chosen FTTP infrastructure provider the developer chose (that might / might not be openreach) sub 20 plots it sget more tricky and in my previous role encountered many small developments sub 15 plots rich across cities and towns and villages where the developer had done the cheapest option (but could have contributed to an FTTP option but chose not to) ISP review has picked up on a number of these over the last couple of years and im sure will continue to do so

    2. JmJohnson says:

      About 3 years ago Openreach announced
      that they’d install FTTP to developments of 12+ instead of copper. This was a few years after their announcement of FTTP for larger developments.

    3. Fastman says:

      it was reduced to 30 after the original number of 300 plots. according to openreach web site there is contribution under 20 premises so your information is incorrect .

  10. MilesT says:

    What would concentrate BT’s mind would be to redefine “affordable” for USO to be the same price as “social tarriff”, and broaden range of alternatives to include high speed sattelite, or subsidising competitor buildout for community or WISP options (but not 4g/5g).

    And state that social pricing must apply to all connections that can’t achieve at least (say) 10/1 consistently confirmed by independent measurement i.e. Samknows (and there is no other option available that can achieve higher).

    1. Fastman says:

      The USO was set up in same way as you can demand a telephone service (which is currently £3750 any more that provider can demand a contrbution except 99,999% dont ever cost that and the 0001% that do make the front page of the daily mail.

      Problem is with USO a lot more cost more than this which has meant a number of nasty shocks for people gaining quotes

      this is one of the reasons why there were no takers for USO and it was left to BT and KCOM as part of their condition of licence to offer a USO service

      each premises eligible for USO was mapped to a technology (FTTP or 4G) so anything under £3750 based on your Technology and mapping gets no cost passed on any thing over 3750 get passed onto the requester

  11. Nick says:

    The USO is not fit for purpose. We have a sub 3Mbs connection and qualify for the USO but BT offer their 3G, which I am sure we won’t get to the 10Mbs. You have to sign up for 24 months and compared to other deals else is incredibly expensive for what you get. It’s designed so people dont take it up and that’s shown in the figures here.

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