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Openreach and the Case of a Tricky FTTP Transition Problem

Saturday, June 4th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 14,256
FTTP Openreach Female Engineer over Splitter

Imagine if your FTTC (VDSL2) broadband line was cancelled and couldn’t be re-provisioned by your ISP because “full fibreFTTP was now the only option available. Fine. But now imagine if you tried to order FTTP and found that UK ISPs were quoting you up to £12k for installation. This could become more common.

As most people will hopefully know by now, Openreach (BT) is currently involved in somewhat of a hugely complex digital switchover across the UK, which tends to reflect a mix of two different, albeit complementary programmes.

NOTE: Openreach’s full fibre network currently covers 7.2 million premises, rising to 10 million by March 2023 and then 25 million by December 2026 (around 80% of UK homes and businesses).

On the one hand, we have the withdrawal of the old analogue phone (PSTN / POTS) service on copper lines, which is being replaced by an all-IP (digital) solution and is due to complete by the end of December 2025. On the other hand, we have the £15bn rollout of gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology and the eventual withdrawal of older copper line based products (ADSL, FTTC etc.).

Now in theory Openreach should not be withdrawing FTTC and / or ADSL based broadband products in areas where FTTP is not yet available. But historically, we have seen plenty of cases where Openreach’s or BT Wholesale’s databases have not always lined up with reality, which can cause confusing problems for consumers, and today’s case may highlight a new challenge for the switchover to FTTP.

The Cost of Availability Confusion

In this case, the problem appears to have been centred on a home connected to the Betchworth exchange in Surrey, which is an FTTP priority area (i.e. one where Openreach is introducing a “stop sell” for older copper products). Properties connected to this exchange should thus either end up with a choice between taking an FTTP line or, if that is not yet available, being able to take a standalone (SOGEA) Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) broadband service.

Unfortunately, that isn’t quite what happened to Bryan, who lives in a rural community within the same exchange area.

Example of the BTW Checker Result for Bryan’s House

BT-Wholesale-FTTP-Priority

Until recently, Bryan was fairly comfortable with his hybrid FTTC service, but this all changed after an error resulted in his FTTC connection being accidentally terminated by the ISP. Then the problems started..

Bryan told ISPreview.co.uk:

“I had been trying to get FTTP installed but the fibre runs about 150m from my home so there are ECCs [Excess Construction Charges]. So I had stayed on FTTC as that was available. However, someone had misplaced an order against my address and to cut a long story short, it resulted in a termination of the service.

Now Openreach won’t accept an order for FTTC as the exchange is FTTP priority, yet I can’t get that without a 6K bill.”

Bryan lives in one of those rare but awkward situations where the end of his driveway, where the new fibre optic cable runs down the local street, exists some 150 metres away from his house. You’re more likely to see this issue on farms, but a fair few rural homes can also be set back quite far from the road. Most network operators will typically charge significantly more to run the fibre over such a distance, which may involve additional trenching (i.e. it can get expensive).

Interestingly, Bryan was given some wildly different quotes for ECCs by ISPs. For example, Sky Broadband quoted almost £12k, while BT came in at just over £6k +vat. We note that Sky refused the order because they apparently don’t deal with situations where the ECCs exceed £1,000 (understandable, albeit problematic for those in this situation). It’s unclear why the quotes were so wild, but they usually stem from desktop surveys (not the most reliable).

However, for Bryan, all of this created an additional problem, since Openreach’s database cannot always identify such situations. In other words, Openreach had no reason to retain FTTC as an option, once terminated, because they would have expected that the customer would already be covered by FTTP.

An Openreach spokesperson said:

“We’re working with Communications Providers across the UK to phase out copper-based products and upgrade their customers onto newer fibre-based ones. For the vast majority of people in ‘stop-sell’ areas, this means that if they decide to order, change or upgrade their service, we’ll upgrade them onto our newer, more reliable Full Fibre network. But for some customers who can’t get Full Fibre yet, we’ll offer them an alternative (like Single Order Next Generation Access / SOGEA).

In this case, the customer’s copper line was mistakenly cut off and they were only offered a Full Fibre replacement – so we’re working to fix this. Our ordering systems suggested that Full Fibre was the only technology available and, because of the distance from the edge of the customer’s property to their home, they were also quoted an Excess Construction Charge (ECC). We’re sorry for any inconvenience this caused.”

The good news is that Openreach has now fixed the problem and Bryan should be able to reconnect via a copper-based SOGEA (FTTC) service, as per their normal approach. However, the case above raises a bigger concern, since such situations are likely to grow as FTTP continues to be deployed.

On top of that, the day will come when copper needs to be completely withdrawn and areas with FTTP will go through this transition first, possibly even reaching the phase of forced migrations further down the road. Suffice to say, Bryan might be able to fall back on FTTC today (once the current problem has been fixed), but in the future he may find himself running into similar problems.

How big is this issue? The need for ECCs like this is rare (i.e. homes or businesses that cost over £1,000 to install). Openreach indicated to us that the figure could equate to under 1% of their total full fibre footprint, which is still a lot of properties. If we simply assume the figure to be 1%, then that would be up to 72,000 premises out of their current 7.2 million premises coverage, or up to 250,000 premises once they hit 25 million.

Clearly, there’s the potential for a lot of very angry and vocal consumers in amongst that group. We think it would be wise for Openreach and ISPs to invest more time and effort into both identifying such situations and figuring out a better way to respond and handle them, when they occur. ISPreview.co.uk has been informed that this is an active topic of discussion.

In the meantime, most of those affected will be oblivious to such issues until the day they try to order FTTP – most likely after an availability checker has, perhaps misleadingly, told them it will be “available“.

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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
64 Responses
  1. TrueFibre says:

    Good auld Openreach Full of Mistakes

  2. Phil says:

    I hate Openreach – always mistake and always error on the system software! SORT IT OUT OPENREACH!

    1. Grammarpolice says:

      Your English is full of mistakes too. Sort it out.

    2. Have Some Sympathy says:

      He’s dyslexic….

  3. Nick Roberts says:

    Fluffing big tail wagging much smaller dog aka the disaapearance of “Customer Services”. But lets not resist the creeping corporate authoritarianism and arrogance, after all Comms companies are the New Royalty, so for heaven’s sake lets be deferential. Bow, scrape.

  4. Ian Cole says:

    You are lucky, I was quoted £350k, the fibre is less the 30m from my property, when inspoke to the op team, I couldn’t be connected to fttp, that was 4 yrs ago, op said they couldn’t connect me, I have to go down the cfp route, which would of cost £350k for 100 premises l, being a very rural area, no one was interested as soon as the project cost was mentioned

    1. The Thing says:

      “the fibre is less the 30m from my property”

      It means diddly squat. It’s distance to nearest fibre aggregation node which is important and could be many many miles away from you.

    2. MrTruth says:

      @Ian Cole

      I think you’re over dramatising your story, if every one of those 100 properties had paid it would have cost you £3,500 not the click bait of £350,000

    3. simon says:

      Just wondering if BT would have covered the first £2800 per property 4 years ago – like they do now?

    4. An Engineer says:

      BT have never covered the first £2800 for regular brownfield FTTP. They cover that ballpark for new build and for USO.

      If the budget were £2800 per premises passed Openreach would be bankrupt and commercial coverage would get to the high 90s%.

      Most of the Openreach coverage right now is coming in at around the £300 per premises passed level with the more rural stuff at £5-600 last I heard. Openreach can’t go all that much higher.

  5. A Fulton says:

    The problem here is that the government set up Openreach as part of a fake market were individual customers are not customers of Openreach but the “service providers” Arbitrary charges are made for essential services by companies only interested in their own profits for shareholders at the expense of taxpayers. The longer recurring problems exist for these companies the more money they can extract. The government don’t have appropriate regulation in place as they and their supporters may be shareholders.

    1. simon says:

      I was once told BT only spend other people’s money.

  6. Meadmodj says:

    This appears to be triggered by an error which has then been compounded. BT quotations should be lower as they may include the USO obligation (BB or telephony).

    OR can flag on their database any premises in a “stop sell” area that cannot commercially be provided with FTTP and continue to have ADSL/FTTC.

    However the issue will be when we approach the actual copper/local exchange withdrawal and these premises are still uncommercial and the USO contribution, Giga voucher or BDUK New Procurement do not cover these premises or to an insufficient amount.

    As can be seen at https://www.openreach.com/fibre-broadband/where-when-building-ultrafast-full-fibre-broadband (using post code RH3 7LJ) Betchworth is now “build complete” so that’s it. OR have no obligation to go further at this time and like any other company if a product eventually becomes unprofitable it can be withdrawn (less on copper the higher its individual cost).

    So this issue is for Ofcom/BDUK as they control all of the options above and the amount of subsidy.

    In the meantime for those affected I would recommend being with BT as they can factor in the USO contribution and hence hopefully cover more premises.

    Currently the Government target will be met by Industry with multiple overbuild in places.

    This issue will not just apply to OR as many areas of the country will be practically/commercially dependant on one fixed Network provider.

    I think Ofcom seriously need to look at the supplier obligations in geographical areas where a particular supplier will have market dominance for FTTP whether that is OR, Gigaclear, INFL or other. They also clearly state whether how they are to address it within the, what are now, short timescales.

    1. John says:

      The USO wouldn’t be available for a property showing WBC FTTP availability.

      The USO is there to build the network to you. Once WBC FTTP is shown as available you are deemed as satisfied under the USO, whether you are connected or not.

      Therefore the USO can’t be used to pay for ECC’s for an FTTP install.

      It can be used for FTTPoD because at that point you aren’t deemed served.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Then OR (and others) may need to be more flexible. By possibly providing Fibre To The Gate product (ONT location). In that way those living with long drives can build/provide a small structure or waterproof cabinet possibly powered by Solar so that the householder can seek alternative solutions to their premises and be responsible for it (P2P WIFI, G.fast Ethernet extender, media converter/fibre).

    3. An Engineer says:

      Even ignoring every other factor that would be a support nightmare for CPs, Meadmodj, and none would use it.

      Not happening. Far more expense and effort than £30-£50 a month for FTTP is worth.

  7. Alistair Webb says:

    A.Fulton spot on. Focus on utilities must be as a society “Qui bono” if we’re to progress in an entirely new climactic and society circumstances.

    1. A little advice says:

      People always say this when they are looking for others to contribute toward their costs.

  8. Phil says:

    Openreach are always in flavour for any businesses, not interesting in any residential as always is. Too many ISPs are doing businesses for profits. Same goes to BT and Openreach with BTWholesale with shareholders greedy profits.

    1. An Engineer says:

      So you are *still* upset that you can’t order FTTP yet, Phil?

    2. simon says:

      Incorrect. I am a residential customer but I chose to have a Business service installed – I can assume you they were very very interested – In fact the OR team said it was the first time they had ever put a Leased Line into a residential premises.

      What you mean is, they aren’t interested in people who want a top performing guaranteed high quality service for £30 a month…

      Ring them up say you want a business service at your address, you will soon see the difference..

    3. Anon says:

      I wish I had a lease line like Simon 🙁

    4. An Engineer says:

      Oh not this stuff yet again 😐

    5. simon says:

      @An Engineer

      Sorry if the truth repeated is such a bore to you – But it is the truth none the less 🙂

    6. Anon says:

      @Simon

      Wow you tell him Simon, they could create a super hero called ‘Lease Line man’ who goes around improving other people broadband just like you 🙂

    7. simon says:

      Not quite Anon, But I am considering getting the kit to lease my connection to my neighbours – seeing as CF have now said they won’t be doing our street – and I am the only one with real fibre – thanks for the confirmation that I could do it and help to improve people’s connections.

      I got the LL as only ADSL is available around here and I am selfish bastard but I might change – the pep talk was inspirational! 🙂

    8. An Engineer says:

      Get help, mate. This really isn’t healthy and I’m not going to reward it with any further attention or validation.

    9. Anon says:

      Who asked @An Engineer to validate anyone’s comments, I think his ego is hugely inflated.

    10. An Engineer says:

      You’re entitled to your opinion, though not your own facts.

      You are probably right on this one to be fair. That is a bit egocentric of me. Sorry about that. This is why I’m an engineer not a psychologist 😐

  9. Kane says:

    Open reach also want nothing to do with installing fttp in flats/apartments in my experience which is clearly going to cause massive issues going forward.

    1. An Engineer says:

      They do it all the time. It’s legally more difficult but they do it all the time.

    2. Never Zen says:

      @Kane

      Only an issue when the freeholder is playing games by demanding lots of money before they will sign a wayleave agreement.

    3. Engineer says:

      More likely the Freeholder refused permission to Openreach or never got back to them. Or wanted too much money for a wayleave. Flats are an easy win for Openreach so wouldn’t miss them out on perpose. So if you’ve been missed of find out who manages your flats and ask them.

  10. Sam says:

    This is exactly what I think. Just roll out FTTP first then do DV switch over. Ive switched over to DV but i dont have FTTP, therefore i cant switch isp as freely because only a handful support DV… its really peed me off.. what was working perfectly fine now isnt and ive got to either wait for FTTP or lose my number if i want a better price..

    1. Something Strange says:

      This is simply not true.

    2. Sunil Sood says:

      If you switch to an ISP who don’t support Digital Voice, won’t the voice service just be provided over the PTSN?

    3. simon says:

      I once has a physical line installed by Sky as they didn’t support DV in that area – back early last year this was.

    4. An Engineer says:

      Simon, which broadband product was this you purchased from Sky with no DV option?

  11. Jason says:

    Mmmm there should be a law that makes access to broadband a legal right (like access to a phone line)… Or at least there should be cheaper solutions to hiring contractors to cover the distance from the street to the house…

  12. Ad47uk says:

    I call them out of reach, because they are. Typical Bloated Toad.
    I know someone who moved into a flat that had FTTP, she did not want FTTP because of the prices, but could not get FTTC. Why not? The cables were still there and ADSL were still available in the area according to the out of reach site.

    1. MrTruth says:

      Some people are never happy, they complain there is no FTTP and when it arrives complain they can’t still order FTTC or ADSL because of a Stop Sell. I’m surprised you ain’t complaining about the lack of dialup ISP’s.

    2. Alex A says:

      There may not be a FTTC cabinet or it might be full. Have a look around, plenty of ISPs have cheap FTTP, e.g vodafone and others like EE and BT will do the same price FTTC or FTTP and have done for years.

    3. Ribble says:

      Your a funny old soul Adrian!

    4. Ad47uk says:

      @MrTruth, I think the problem was the price, before she moved to the flat I think she used Talk Talk, now this was a few years ago, and I think the only ones available on Open reach FTTP then were BT and Zen. You were looking at 30 odd quid a month or more. Things have changed a little since then, with more providers using Open reach FTTP network,

      @Alex A, They were new build flats and no doubt had fibre put in them, but I still think people should have a choice, certainly then, when FTTP was only supplied by a couple of different providers and the prices were pretty high.

      I still am not sure what I am doing when FTTP gets here, I doubt open reach will lay their FTTP network around here for a few more years, zzoomm is the one that is doping the rounds and by all accounts will be up around where I live by the summer, but I have my doubts.
      I am paying just over £23 a month for around 35-38Mb/s, which to be honest is fine, not sure if I want to pay £33 a month even if it is for 150MB/s. If Plusnet don’t give me a good offer when the contract ends, I may look at shell energy broadband, they are around £23 a month for the same sort of speed. £17 for ADSL, if I lived closer to the exchange I would certainly go back to ADSL.

    5. Plusnet Retentions says:

      No-one cares about your broadband purchasing decisions Adrian. They didn’t the first time you talked about them and don’t the three thousandth time.

    6. Ad47uk says:

      @Plusnet Retentions, what ever username that is supposed to be. Zzoomm may care when they come around here to get people onto their network

    7. Plusnet Retentions says:

      If they’re desperate they might but I’m sure you’ll bore them after saying the same thing a few times to the salesman.

      Sure you wouldn’t be better off on MoneySavingExpert than broadband enthusiast sites given all you care about is pricing, no regard to quality and seems you’d be happy with dialup at the right price?

      Feels like you’d go to a car enthusiast site to talk about your Ford Focus or a PC builder site to talk about your second hand laptop from 2015 and how that’s all you need, don’t see the point in anything better, people are wasting their money, etc.

      You could save yourself a lot of typing by saving your standard post into Notepad, just hit the key points.

      Complain about Openreach not building.
      Complain about Zzoomm building.
      Complain about Zzoomm pricing.
      Complain about the hassle of FTTP install.
      Inform you don’t see the point in FTTP and you’ll only consider a move with steep discounts.
      Mention Plusnet’s low pricing and how if they cut you enough of a deal you might stay with them.
      If they don’t you’ll go for whatever is cheapest, regardless of quality or performance.

    8. Ad47uk says:

      @Plusnet Retentions. It is not all about price, quality of service is important as well. But price certainly at the moment with the cost of living rising do play a part. i know a few people who said about moving to zzoomm, but are now thinking of staying put. One said that at the end of their contract they are going to drop from the 80Mb/s package they have as 40Mb/s is cheaper, and it will do the same job, just a little slower.

      Still got a while to go before we see anything happening up here I think, they seem to be behind with the roll-out, so plenty of time to think about it.

    9. Ad47uk says:

      @MrTruth, It seems you know me from another forum as you know my name, but would you mind not using my name.

      When I first heard it was coming i thought great, just what we need, fibre is a great asset and I still believe that as there are many people who live a long way from their cabinet and get lousy speed, I know people who are getting 20Mb/s if they are lucky. So FTTP for them will be good and for people who will use the extra speed, then again it is a good thing and maybe for people who work at home.

      I thought, yeah I want that, it will be great, and then I started to look at it a different way. What I have now is fine, it does what I need and is NOW reliable, and the price is okish. I am not saying I will never go for FTTP, but I am in no rush, I am not going to jump at it when it comes.
      The amount of complaints about zzoomm puts me off to be honest and the hassle of having it installed.
      I still have 12 months I think before the end of this contract, so I have at least that long to mnake up my mind.

    10. An Engineer says:

      Ribble referred to you as Adrian here, Sir, and you have signed the odd comment with your name here.

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2022/06/openreach-and-the-case-of-a-tricky-fttp-transition-problem.html#comment-263603

    11. Ad47uk says:

      @An Engineer, I did not realise I put my name, I must have had too much to drink 🙂 Oh well fair enough

  13. doubled says:

    Cost is a huge driving factor of why to choose FTTC over FTTP for around £25/month you can get FTTC and voice services , if you move to FTTP then that cost rockets and will cost roughly £240 more over the year .
    plus on top of that with FTTC you already have the infrastructure in place, theres no need for an engineer to drill holes and run new cable, plus you dont run the risk of losing your landline number .
    So if FTTC is good enough then moving to FTTP is only full of negatives

    1. simon says:

      Even worse when BT enable FTTP from the poles but then refuse to service the houses as there is not enough Brick in them.. that’s 350 houses in 1 area i know unable to get service – been that way since 1985 but BT still installed.

    2. MrTruth says:

      @doubled

      The price may double or more if you moved to an ultrafast package like 150, 300, 500 or 900 but if you go for a 40 or 80 package then the price shouldn’t be much different.

      You do realise that the days of ADSL and FTTC in area’s where FTTP exists are coming to an end once the stop sell is in place. Bye bye ADSL and FTTC we won’t miss you 🙂

    3. Alex A says:

      FTTP prices should be about the same for the same speed.

    4. Ribble says:

      Tetra isn’t the only way to do an overhead install. A hoist or scaffold tower can be used in many circumstances.
      If there really is no option it’s more likely to be landowner/Landlord objections.

    5. Ad47uk says:

      @Alex A, you say costs should be the same for the same speed, that may be true if
      (a) the provider offers the lower speed
      (B) it is a open reach network.
      zzoomm which is coming here, the lowest speed they offer is 150Mb/s at £33 a month.

      With the way the cost of living is going, people need to save money somewhere and if reducing the speed of their broadband is one way, so be it.

    6. MrTruth says:

      @Ad47uk this story is about Openreach not Zzoomm in Hereford. you’re currently on Plusnet so changing to Plusnet FTTP at a similar speed wouldn’t increase the cost.

    7. Ad47uk says:

      @MrTruth, there is one problem here, we don’t have FTTP over openreach and to be honest I can not see it coming anytime soon.
      Anyway, if I changed to FTTP at the same speed,, what is the point in going though all the hassle to get FTTP installed? May as well stay as I am.

    8. MrTruth says:

      @Adrian, so what are you going on about then?

  14. james smith says:

    if Open reach/ out of reach charge joke prices, investigate 4G/ 5G. Even a 4G antenna is cheap to install

    1. MrTruth says:

      So how is 4G/5G any better than FTTP?

  15. Ad47uk says:

    @MrTruth, the problem is if I wanted to chang to change to FTTP, I would have to pay zzoomm prices and that is it, so that is why price would put me off and also the hassle of having it installed.

    If OR had a FTTP network here, then I could choose a provider and with plusnet now offering FTTP, if they offered it at the right price I may have decided to go with them.

    1. MrTruth says:

      @Adrian – Considering how you have gone on about not needing any extra speed Im not sure you would move to FTTP even if it was available to you.

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