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iPlayer, Sky Go and NOW TV broken on iOS

Thursday 17 April 2014 15:37:46 by Andrew Ferguson

The nature of the fault is open to speculation, but for iPhone and iPad users they are currently unable to stream content from BBC iPlayer, Sky Go or the NOW TV platform.

Users it appears are able to browse and the fault only becomes apparent when they try to view content. The problem only affects iOS based devices, for example there are no problems streaming Sky content via the dedicated NOW TV hardware.

The suggestion to roll back the date by a day or two may allow people to stream content but can cause other apps to have problems. The current suggestion that this is linked to an expired certificate is plausible, particularly with the HeartBleed issue lots of certificates have been revoked and re-issued and thus apps may be in need of an update, or a newly issued certificate used to control DRM may not be correctly setup.

While a lot of the content affected is catch-up, there are people who use NOW TV subscriptions for their only access to Sky channels and if the outage goes on for a few days questions of compensation are likely to be raised for those unable to access subscription content.

Update 5:15pm The BBC appears to have fixed the iPlayer, tweet saying iPlayer. NOW TV on iPhone still returns an error when trying to start a stream.

Latest Berkshire broadband progress update reveals survey locations

Wednesday 16 April 2014 17:10:02 by Andrew Ferguson

Berkshire and its broadband project is continuing to publish information on the roll-out and the latest update reveals 39 locations that will be surveyed between April and July 2014.

Crowthorne cabinet P29,
Bourne End cabinet P33,
Wraysbury cabinets P1, P2, P3,
Colnbrook cabinets P40, P46,
Reading South cabinets P63, P65, P67, P70,
Burghfield Common cabinets P1, P8,
Arborfield Cross cabinets P1, P4, P7,
Eversley cabinet P13,
Twyford cabinet P12,
Woodley cabinet P17,

Exchange Only areas within the following exchanges:

Ascot, Littlewick Green, Windsor, Reading Central, Langley, Slough, Burghfield Common, Chaddleworth, Chieveley, Great Shefford, Hermitage, Kintbury, Lambourn, Mortimer, Pangbourne, Theale, Woolhampton, Spencers Wood, Wargrave, Wokingham

Superfast Berkshire Cabinets for survey between April and July 2014

An area appearing on the survey list does not guarantee that superfast broadband will be available in the next few months to the area, the surveys are carried out to check what is viable and which cabinets represent the best in terms of value for money for a project.

The usual solution for clusters of exchange only lines is to install a new telephone cabinet and add a fibre twin to then provide a fibre based broadband service. For those who do not know if they have an exchange only (EO) line check using the BT Wholesale, any result that does not mention a cabinet number next to the phone number or address is an exchange only line. For those in an EO area beyond physically spotting the work, you might suddenly find the checker reports a cabinet number where it previously did not. Occasionally an EO area may be cheaper to upgrade using FTTP (full fibre to the home) but this situation is relatively rare, but we do know of some areas where it is happening.

People often wonder why the VDSL2 (FTTC) cannot just be run directly from the exchange and the reason is that to avoid undue crosstalk and interference to existing ADSL and ADSL2+ services the rules require cabinets to be located outside the exchange. There are also additional rules on the power levels used at cabinets to stop VDSL2 slowing down existing ADSL2+ services in an area.

Sky rewards mean £100 cashback on TV bundles

Wednesday 16 April 2014 11:30:10 by Andrew Ferguson

After a quick flash sale a week ago where Sky offered a £100 reward for people signing up to a TV bundle, the online only deal has returned. Anyone signing up to a new Sky satellite TV package from the Original, Family, Movies, Sports or Complete range (£21.50 to £67.25 price range) has a decision to make as to how to receive their £100 reward, either as a £100 prepaid MasterCard, Tesco Gift Card or a M&S voucher.

The only broadband offer that stacks with the TV offer is the six months of up to 38 Mbps fibre based service for £7.50 per month (standard price is £20). The minimum term has increased from 12 months to 18 months (does not affect existing customers). The delivery charge for the Sky Hub which applies to both ADSL2+ and fibre orders has increased to £6.95 this week too. The Sky fibre service is self-install usually, i.e. no need for an engineer to visit your home. If you order the fibre based service without a TV package a smaller £25 M&S voucher is available.

The basic ADSL2+ services are still available at half price for the 12 month minimum term contract, i.e. £3.75/month if you have an existing Sky TV service, or £5/month if you do not subscribe to a TV service. The very observant may spot the up to speed has increased from 16 Mbps to 17 Mbps, this is not down to any technical changes, but simply reflects the fact that Sky can now show 10% of customers on ADSL2+ get 17 Mbps or faster.

Ofcom calculates UK average speed as 17.8 Mbps

Tuesday 15 April 2014 11:53:56 by Andrew Ferguson

The speed landscape of the UK is a complicated one with many parties doing their best to ensure their vision is the promoted one, and it this reason why Ofcom spends so much time analysing broadband speeds and has for some years produced a set of statistics to try and inform policy makers as to how the UK is doing. The latest round of testing by Ofcom using a panel of 985 hardware testers gives a UK average speed of 17.8 Mbps, a rise of 3.1 Mbps compared to May 2013.

The growth in the average speed is not because ADSL2+ has become faster, but that more people are buying fibre based connections via the wholesale Openreach service or Virgin Media. Our own estimate for the calculated UK average broadband speed is 23.7 Mbps and this is based on the financial figures to the end of 31st December 2013 and this takes into account the distance limitations of xDSL technologies, and is very close to a similar calculation by Ofcom which uses different statistical analysis to their main average to suggest a UK speed of 25.3 Mbps.

Ofcom comparing rural and urban broadband speeds. Caution urged on size of rural sample
Click image for larger version

We know the urban/rural digital divide will be upmost in many peoples thinking and Ofcom seems to confirm the existence of the divide with the headline that urban FTTx (Openreach and Virgin Media) has an average speed of 46.3 Mbps and rural 29 Mbps. Alas we must urge caution as only 17 rural fibre based connections were used to draw this conclusion which is not enough location samples to get a full picture of how VDSL2 and Virgin Media perform in rural locations.

While software based speed testing is not used by Ofcom, our own tester at thinkbroadband has the advantage of having a lot more geographic data points and our last set of data in January 2014 shows the postcode lottery that takes place. Places like Crawley, Luton, Nottingham and Stevenage all show more than 40% of tests on our broadband speed checker are at superfast (30 Mbps or more) speeds, while at the other end of the scale Conwy, Purbeck, Derbyshire and Forest of Dean all have less than 1 in 40 tests at superfast speeds. As with all our speed test analysis we average out individual results to avoid one person skewing an area with thousands of tests.

If you want to play with various scenarios for where the UK may be in the future, this calculator will let you play with take-up and coverage figures.

Sky and TalkTalk to offer Fibre to the Home in York

Tuesday 15 April 2014 09:34:05 by Andrew Ferguson

CityFibre has been promising a lot in terms of fibre to the premises and a new partnership between Sky, TalkTalk and CityFibre may actually be about to deliver on the potential with a Gigabit to the home network in the City of York.

"TalkTalk has a long history and proven track record of disrupting new markets, and this is the next step in that journey. We are excited to be working in partnership with Sky and CityFibre to build this new network that will offer significantly higher speeds at much better value than is currently available. This marks TalkTalk taking its first steps into investing in building infrastructure as part of our mission to make British homes and businesses better off."

Dido Harding, Chief Executive of TalkTalk Group

The announcement today describes the roll-out as city-wide, which potentially means it will be available to some 85,000 households and leverages on the core network that CityFibre connected its first business customer to back in 2013. There is little information on the price, which while lots of people want faster speeds they are still traditionally very price sensitive, the press release makes the suggestion that the service will be faster and cheaper than current high speed products. This we believe means faster than 152 Mbps and cheaper than £37.50 per month, given the existing price points for Gigabit services in the UK we might see a £60 price point. The first customers are expected in 2015 so it is likely no pricing will be announced until then.

"This announcement makes York the digital infrastructure capital of the UK. Gaining ultra-fast broadband across the city is a huge boost for our economy; providing significant new opportunities for businesses based here and better quality and value to our residents.

I’m delighted that York has been chosen as the first city, building on work over the last two years to improve the city’s digital infrastructure, and that we’ll see this in place as soon as 2015."

Cllr James Alexander, Leader of City of York council

York is not the first place where CityFibre has a residential Gigabit network, there is Bournemouth where the service is available to 20,000 homes, but due to complications during the roll-out and a lack of marketing at last count there was just 250 customers.

The challenge for this three way split where CityFibre, Sky and TalkTalk all own one third of the equity in the company deploying the network from the core to the homes will be stiff competition from Virgin Media and BT. The marketing departments of Sky and TalkTalk are sure to be able to capitalise on tempting existing customers over to the new network.

CityFibre is suggesting that two more cities will be announced in due course, so it will be with great interest to see how the project progresses.

If only partnerships like this could have been formed four years ago, we might have had 15 to 20 Gigabit cities and there would have been no need for the superconnected voucher scheme, allowing a larger pot of funding to be used for the rural areas. Additionally if local authorities across the UK had been able to see a vibrant and growing Fibre to the Home (FTTH alternatively called FTTP) footprint there might have been more competition in the BDUK process.

Update 12:30pm The competition has started and BT has issued the following response:

"I welcome the competition. The UK is already ahead of France, Germany, Spain and Italy when it comes to fibre and demand is growing rapidly. In fact, today's report from Ofcom shows that speeds have increased 48 per cent in the past year alone.

Openreach's fibre network covers more than 18 million premises and is open to all companies on equal and competitive terms. Customers and business are already benefitting from our high internet speeds and low prices.

Openreach already offers Fibre To The Premises in parts of York. This means that customers and businesses in the City will have even more choice which can only be a good thing. We will continue to respond to our customers evolving needs.

Joe Garner, CEO of Openreach

Looking at the checkers, all six exchanges inside the York ring road offer FTTC and Fibre on Demand, and four actually offer or have plans to offer native FTTP (i.e. full fibre to the premises with the same install costs as the FTTC services). The Haxby exchange has some actual live FTTP available that we could find and seems to be around The Garden Village, Earswick (YO32 9TP), there also appears to be some FTTP in the BDUK plans for various York exchanges mainly to service Exchange only lines (e.g Rawcliffe and Woodthorpe) as part of the NYNet plans. Fingers crossed the CityFibre/Sky/TalkTalk roll-out will not overbuild the BDUK areas and thus waste taxpayer money and create the scenario where people go from basic broadband to a choice to two full FTTP options.

Areas announced that will benefit from extra broadband funding in Berkshire

Monday 14 April 2014 19:38:21 by Andrew Ferguson

While the Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) was not a perfect process and the arguments over mapping could continue for a century, the important news is that some more homes and businesses are set to benefit from extra money in Berkshire.

Berkshire secured funding of £550,000 from the RCBF in its final funding round the Superfast Berkshire website is giving some more detail on the areas to benefit. We have supplemented the list of areas with the information we have also been able to garner. Once all the money has been spent the result should be that an extra 3,330 properties have access to much better broadband with the vast majority enjoying superfast speeds.

  • Aldermaston Cabinets 1 from Silchester, cab 3 from Woolhampton exchange and cabinets 16 and 17 from the Tadley exchange serving Calleva Industrial Estate.
  • Brimpton Cabinet 2 from Woolhampton exchange
  • East Ilsey Believed to be Cabinet 2 which is on the High Street and serves East Isley. Cabinet 1 is in West Ilsey and is possibly going to be part of the main project roll-out. Postcodes RG20 8SR, RG20 8SS, RG20, 8SP and RG20 8SW at around 2.6 miles from the cabinet would not benefit from a FTTC solution. Exact technologies will be part of what the BT survey will figure out.
  • Beenham Cabinet 4 from Woolhampton exchange
  • Compton Cabs 2 and 4 on School Road and the High Street in Compton.
  • Hampstead NorreysCabinets 3 (RG18 9SA) and 5 (RG18 0TE) on the Hermitage exchange
  • Brightwalton Cabinet 1 on the Chaddleworth exchange
  • East Garson Cabinet 1 and the oddly numbered 601 on the Great Shefford exchange
  • Inkpen Cabinet 1

NOTE All of the above is of course subject to survey and discovery of issues that may make a cabinet too expensive to deploy, or if FTTP was chosen for an area (no indications if this is the case for any areas yet) whether collapsed ducting pushes the price up.

There is some bad news though, Aldworth, Ashampstead and Winterbourne which were part of the original 12 areas in the plan were found to be too costly to provision as part of this funding round. It is possible that the Superfast Extension Plan (SEP in civil service speak) that is providing funding for work in the 2015 to 2017 with the aim of national coverage at superfast speeds of 95% may help these and other parts of Berkshire that are not part of the main broadband project for the county.

Rest of Scotland project starts to deliver live cabinets

Monday 14 April 2014 14:36:14 by Andrew Ferguson

Congratulations to those residents in Kirkton of Skene in Aberdeenshire, you have the claim to fame of hosting the first fibre cabinet to go live as part of the 'Rest of Scotland' project under the Digital Scotland umbrella. The project (in conjunction with the Highlands and Islands project) has a lesser target than the rest of the UK, aiming to just get 85% of premises across Scotland with access to a fibre based service. This lower target probably being a reflection of expected difficulties in reaching the remoter villages of Scotland.

The cabinet that has gone live is cabinet 10, which is on the edge of the car park by the Red Star Inn in Kirkton of Skene so should provide good speeds to many people. Looking across the whole exchange area (cabinet is part of the Aberdeen Kingswells exchange) this is the first cabinet to go live on the exchange and we estimate that once all the likely cabinets are live superfast coverage will be in the 55% to 70% range. This is low because of the amount of TPON and Exchange Only (EO) connections (~15% of lines on the exchange) and while we believe some EO is to be dealt with under the project, we have heard nothing about the old TPON area of the exchange. It may be that these areas need to wait for Scotland to plan and start implementing the next part of the project, i.e. 95% fibre based coverage for some point in 2017/2018.

While there seems to be a negative feel about this announcement, a good few thousand are going to see superfast speeds via the work by the project in the area and there are signs of some FTTP possibly to the industrial estate around the AB32 6JQ postcode area.

At least by getting cabinet 10 up and running first one of the existing slow areas (we see speeds of 1 to 2.5 Mbps) has been addressed. A common complaint is that the broadband projects are not addressing the slow areas first so cabinet 10 ticks that box.

First cabinet live in West Yorkshire broadband project

Monday 14 April 2014 12:23:57 by Andrew Ferguson

Residents of the housing estate built on the Old Fountain Brewery site in Calderdale may have had a busy weekend ordering their FTTC based services, as the cabinet 106 which serves the estate went live on Friday 11th April. This is the first cabinet to be delivered by the Superfast West Yorkshire project which is part of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) projects across the UK.

As part of our broadband speed checks we can see that the speeds on the estate are going to be very good, so postcodes such as HX2 0SR, HX2 0SP, HX2 OSL and more will get superfast speeds from the cabinet. The exchange this cabinet is connected to is the Halifax exchange, which is definitely not rural, but this estate looked to have been suffering slow old ADSL speeds. Halifax exchange has over two thirds of the lines served by cabinets already able to order a FTTC service, and if all the cabinets were enabled we estimate the level of superfast coverage would be 93% or higher (Virgin Media foot print not taken into account and our estimates are often at the low end of the Openreach estimates for speed).

High speed broadband for all in Chapelford - maybe!

Friday 11 April 2014 13:40:06 by Andrew Ferguson

Chapelford is termed an urban village and is actually part of Warrington, and is largely connected to the Penketh exchange and it looks like a local councillor has taken onboard complaints about broadband roll-out to put pressure on BT and the council to get the last two remaining cabinets enabled.

The Penketh exchange had all but two of its cabinets enabled via the commercial roll-out by BT, with cab 19 serving what looks likely to be around 80 homes and cab 20 that serves fewer premises on a business park being left out of the roll-out. The business park will be no surprise to some, but looking at the size of the cabinet in terms of postcodes it looks too small for the commercial roll-out.

Amazingly just a few hundred metres to the north you cross into the Westwood exchange area which was bypassed by the commercial roll-out, though via the Cheshire BDUK roll-out we can already see that at least cabinets 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 10 are taking orders already and more will be on the way. There is some overlap with Virgin Media in the Westwood area, but lots of holes in the cable providers coverage.

In terms of the high speed broadband for all claim, on the Penketh exchange superfast (faster than 24 Mbps) is estimated to be 90%, with maybe 2% getting speeds between 2 Mbps and 24 Mbps, the remainder is made of Exchange Only lines and 100 or so on the two non-enabled cabinets. Westwood appears to be slightly different with an estimate of 73%, and 10% in the range 10 to 24 Mbps, again several hundred eo lines. It is likely that the actual figures will be higher, because we have not factored in the Virgin Media coverage, and our speed estimates are to the low end of what BT would normally estimate in their checker.

Progress report on Openreach roll-out in Cornwall

Friday 11 April 2014 11:12:56 by Andrew Ferguson

Cornwall was the first area of the UK to embrace the Openreach roll-out and its £132m roll-out programme is a combination of the commercial roll-out and gap funding from the Cornish Council and the EU. Cornwall is also perhaps one of the big reason why other counties went with BT when signing their BDUK contracts, because you can see and touch an existing roll-out in both urban and rural areas.

Back in June 2013 the project reached the 75% properties passed milestone, and now it has hit the 90% mark. This is not the end of the project and coverage of either FTTC or FTTP is likely to reach 95% by the end of the year.

"Superfast Cornwall is proving an outstanding success. It has set the standard for rural areas not only in the UK, but also across the continent. Local authorities and organisations from Europe and even further afield have studied the achievements of the Superfast Cornwall partnership with a view to running their own programmes.

Across the UK, we are now seeing successful broadband partnerships forging ahead with their own plans, but we should not forget the vision and pioneering role played by Cornwall with this exciting project. As well as building excellent fibre broadband coverage for a rural area, the partnership is achieving very strong take-up of the technology by local households and businesses. More than 50 broadband service providers are providing services over the Superfast Cornwall network, thereby ensuring that Cornish customers benefit from highly competitive products and pricing.

It is heartening to hear from Cornish firms how superfast broadband is transforming their businesses, helping to make them more efficient, improve their services to customers and creating high value jobs.

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson while on a visit to Cornwall

Take-up is important and with 50,000 actually connected or their order is being processed and 2,000 per month being connected the take-up is running at around 25% (199,000 premises in Cornwall). This is a big jump since last summer when there was 26,000 using the faster services and suggests that public demand is growing for better broadband even if there is a small price premium. We have in the past always asked for details on the FTTP coverage and take-up levels but BT has never volunteered the information, so little point in asking today. We do know that the proportion of FTTP is a lot higher than the rest of the UK and is being rolled out to business park areas.

The claims of 90% coverage seem justified and the presence of FTTP actually makes it harder to determine the level of superfast coverage since it often shares postcodes with FTTC based services. The median download speed for Cornwall at 9 Mbps is just above the lower third of UK counties, and 20% of the speedtest results we see from the County classify as superfast (30 Mbps or better), which with a 25% take-up rate for the FTTC/P services suggests that many who can get the service do get decent speeds.

For those who don't believe FTTP is available in Cornwall, there are numerous postcodes on the St Ives, Penryn and Falmouth exchanges with FTTP available, a small sample being TR26 2LS, TR4 9LD, TR26 1SJ and also some exchange only lines are being given new PSTN cabinets with a fibre twin or in some cases full Fibre to the Premises.

The question now is how much closer to 100% can Cornwall get particularly as the County was allocated some £2.96 million in the funding allocations for 2015 to 2017 by the central Government.

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