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Suffolk broadband project breaks 50,000 premises passed mark

Wednesday 17 September 2014 17:51:53 by Andrew Ferguson

The Better Broadband for Suffolk is one of the projects that is delivering improvements on a large scale, and since the 44,000 figure declared in August the project has now broken the 50,000 premises helped out by the project. The County Council has celebrated with a press release and the snippet that this means the project is half way towards it original target.

"The Better Broadband for Suffolk programme is making strong progress, bringing high-speed fibre broadband to some of the most challenging areas in the county.

The programme shows the power of the public and private sectors working together.

BT has brought technical expertise to the table as well as millions of pounds of investment.

This exciting technology is providing a major boost for local households and businesses in Suffolk, whether they are using it to work more efficiently and find new customers or for online learning and leisure.

Dave Hughes, BT’s regional director for the East of England

Of course it is easy for a large project to pick numbers from thin air and campaigners often say they do not believe the figures published, which means we spend some time checking the various claims and the figures for Suffolk suggest that since the project started, an extra 50,000 premises do have access to a FTTC or FTTP based service.

Of course it is no good if most of those people are not going to see an improvement, and of the 75% of premises in Suffolk able to order a fibre based service we estimate that 91% of those premises can get a superfast (30 Mbps or faster) service, if we exclude cable broadband the figure drops to 89%. The targets are not all about who can get superfast, there is the 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment to consider and it looks like while the fibre roll-outs have not totally cured this yet, they have improved things, since with just ADSL2+ based services around 13% got under 2 Mbps, and this has now improved to around 3% with the fibre based services available.

Naked fibre to the cabinet may be on the way from Openreach

Wednesday 17 September 2014 11:25:34 by Andrew Ferguson

The reaction to the annual or six monthly voice line rental price rises suggests that many will be pleased when they can finally ditch voice line rental and just pay a broadband subscription. It is possible that some form of 'naked DSL' is on the way from Openreach for its FTTC products.

"Openreach is consulting industry on a proposed new product currently known as “Single Order GEA”. It will give communications providers (CPs) purchasing its Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) product the option of placing a single, convenient order to provide customers with a fibre broadband service.

By building the underlying copper line into the product, CPs benefit from reduced complexity when ordering fibre broadband which is not coupled with a traditional voice service. CPs will have the option of introducing innovative IP based voice services for their customers.

The copper circuit from the exchange to the FTTC cabinet will be primarily used for line testing.

The new product will complement Openreach’s existing product portfolio, rather than replacing any of the current products.

Openreach statement on Single Order GEA-FTTC

The single order FTTC product is just a proposal and whether it appears will depend now on what the big providers such as Sky, TalkTalk and BT Wholesale have to say. So until the proposals are firmed up there is likely to be no indication of pricing, while we expect something more expensive than standard GEA-FTTC pricing the addition should be less than the wholesale cost of voice line rental.

While the FTTC services are not symmetric the much improved upload speeds compared to ADSL2+ mean that even lines where speeds are not superfast should be perfectly capable of supporting several VoIP lines and with iOS 8 looking to support Voice over Wi-Fi and the attractiveness of call packages on services like Skype it is not just going to be early adopters shifting their call traffic to IP based systems.

Looking at the long term, we can envisage a time when many local telephone exchanges have been bypassed and may not exist at all, or just turn into a single small room for fibre interconnects back to a regional node.

Mini trenching part of Virgin Media dig to a gig in Pepworth Everard

Wednesday 17 September 2014 11:09:32 by Andrew Ferguson

Only a couple of weeks ago there was the excitement of some further expansion of the Virgin Media cable network with various rumours and gossip about it being a FTTH deployment. Virgin Media has now confirmed the roll-out of fibre direct into peoples homes and the potential for Papworth Everard to enjoy Gigabit broadband speeds.

"Virgin Media continues to push the boundaries of broadband, launching the UK’s first superfast service in 2008 and boosting Virgin Media homes yet again with 152Mb broadband launched this year. We know our network is unbeatable and we are excited to bring 1Gb to the people of Papworth as they help us explore a new way of rolling out our network faster and more cost-effectively."

Paul Buttery, Virgin Media’s Chief Customer, Networks and Technology Officer

The trial of FTTH in Papworth to 100 households will use RFOG which is radio frequency over glass, essentially combining the advantages of fibre optics with the ability to use existing DOCSIS hardware in the home and at the network end where the TV and broadband is fed into the fibre. Additionally Virgin Media is to experiment with using narrow-trenching, which is simply a 10cm wide trench rather than the traditional 40cm trenches used, which in theory should speed up the amount of road/pavement covered in a day to around 100m a day. This is not to be confused with micro-trenching which uses an even narrower trench, which is really more of a one inch wide slot that a fibre tube is squeezed into.

The Gigabit trial by Virgin Media allows the company to look at whether money it has set aside for network expansion could go further and connect even more homes, and raises difficult questions over the current spending of public money to fund superfast network expansion, i.e. was there ever really true market failure for those in the final third of the UK, or was it just a pause while the big operators weathered the recession.

Want fibre to the home, do not forget about voice line rental

Tuesday 16 September 2014 00:25:42 by Andrew Ferguson

It seems almost too good to be true, 25 Mbps downloads and 5 Mbps uploads over a FTTH connection for £4.95 per month, but yes it is real and it is Direct Save Telecom who are retailing an IFNL FTTH service at August Park in Andover. Now the slight downside, the price list details in the small print that line rental is £14.45 per month.

Even with the cost of voice line rental, £19.40 a month for a 25 Mbps connection where the only slow down should be contention is a pretty good price point, a 100 Mbps download service works out at £39.45 per month (£25 + £14.45) or if you want the top speed a 300 Mbps download (30 Mbps upload) is available for £48.50 plus the £14.45 line rental.

With FTTH at new builds generally working out cheaper than brownfield areas one can understand what appear to be very low prices to the consumer. This in part may be because in a new build property it is easy for a switched on developer to load some of the network build cost into the price of the property. It seems fair to say that in the UK we have got used to our broadband being cheaper than a trip to a coffee shop each week, which will make the dreams of many campaigners to see millions with access to FTTH in the UK a very difficult task.

Gigaclear set to float on London Stock Market

Monday 15 September 2014 11:59:41 by Andrew Ferguson

Gigaclear who target rural communities with their FTTH/P network is apparently set to float on the stock market according to the Financial Times.

Gigaclear has nine communities where its service is live and another five in the build phase. Crucially for future growth the operator believes there is a market of some 1.5 million homes that could benefit, hence the desire to raise more funding via the stock market, initially £20 million.

If Gigaclear can successfully go public and raise the funding we can expect to see a rapid expansion and it may also boost the ability of other firms to expand as confidence in the return on investment from full fibre networks increases.

Free fibre based broadband for the first six months with Sky

Friday 12 September 2014 10:02:05 by Andrew Ferguson

The latest offer from Sky may be the first of the offers that will start to erode the dominance of BT Consumer in terms of the number of FTTC customers. This week has Sky offering six months free fibre based broadband, in addition to its other free broadband offers on the slower ADSL2+ services.

As with most other retailers, voice line rental is a requirement, Sky charge £15.40 per month, which includes landline calls at the weekends.

  • Fibre Unlimited, free for six months, then the standard price of £20 per month on an 18 month contract. £30 fibre activation fee applies and if a new telephone line is needed a further set-up fee of £20 may apply. Offer only available to new customers taking Sky Fibre and the telephone service. Service is an up to 38 Mbps download and up to 9.5 Mbps upload.
  • Unlimited ADSL2+ broadband, free for the first year (minimum term is 1 year) for Sky TV customers, new Sky TV customers or those ordering just the broadband and phone service. A £100 M&S voucher is extra incentive for those just ordering broadband, existing Sky TV customers get a smaller £25 voucher.

The saving of £120 compared to the standard price is slightly tempered by the introduction of a £30 fibre activation fee, though the price is still below the wholesale cost. Most Sky fibre installations are self-install with the Sky Hub and filters being posted to you.

7,500 premises over thirteen exchanges set for fibre in Shropshire

Wednesday 10 September 2014 12:25:02 by Andrew Ferguson

The Connecting Shropshire project has launched a new and improved map to provide people with information about the roll-out in their part of Shropshire and has also announced thirteen more exchanges that will benefit from a fibre based broadband service.

Bishops Castle, Bromfield, Calverhall, Cressage, Ditton Priors, Dudleston Heath, Ellesmere, Hodnet, Knockin, Munslow, Norton, Seifton and Worfield

13 exchanges covering roughly 7,500 homes and businesses

While many of the BDUK areas have been semi-urban, the thirteen exchanges announced today are distinctly rural and comprise of around 25 cabinets in total. Exactly how many cabinets will be fibre enabled is unknown at this time, but as a couple of the exchanges feature high proportions of Exchange Only (EO) lines it looks like Shropshire will be addressing the EO issue in at least some cases.

"This is an exciting time for Shropshire. The Connecting Shropshire partnership is spreading its wings and our teams are working hard to bring high-speed fibre broadband to as many communities as possible, as quickly as possible, including some of the most remote areas of the county.

Fast and reliable internet is becoming crucial to daily life for residents in Shropshire. Fibre broadband will provide an equal opportunity to access essential online activities, such as council services, healthcare and other public services, as well as offering new leisure and educational opportunities.

Steve Henderson, BT’s regional director for broadband partnerships

So the game now is for residents and businesses to keep an eye on what is happening in their area and hopefully there will be enough activity in the local press to let people know when cabinets go live. If we learn more information about which exact cabinets and the Exchange Only areas are going to be enabled we will of course update you.

30 cabinets serving over 5,000 live in Rugeley

Wednesday 10 September 2014 09:31:16 by Andrew Ferguson

Rugeley in Staffordshire and the village of Colton (cabinet 18 on the Rugeley exchange) now have almost blanket coverage with a FTTC service after some 23 km of fibre optic cable was installed and 30 fibre cabinets stood.

The Rugeley exchange does have two more cabinets not offering FTTC presently (and a small proportion of Exchange Only lines), cabinet 13 is believed to be part of the Superfast Staffordshire project along with many of the other cabinets so should appear in time. The area has long standing widespread coverage from Virgin Media cable broadband which is reflected by the presence of speed test results on, so one presumes while the town had widespread coverage there was various streets which Virgin Media did not serve.

Looking at the median speed test results for the area, in the last 3 months we see an average of 49.3 Mbps download and 5.7 Mbps upload, if we take a longer term view over a nine month period the result was 28.5 Mbps and 2.6 Mbps upload. The boost in speeds being a mixture of cable upgrades and the fact that since June 2014 when cabinets started going live people are upgrading to the FTTC services available.

Colton is an area where the improvement is most marked, jumping from around 3 Mbps to results of 72 Mbps now and for the 250 homes and businesses in the village this is the result of 13 km of fibre to the fibre cabinet that now serves the village.

£100 vouchers return to TalkTalk along with better TV deals

Wednesday 10 September 2014 08:55:24 by Andrew Ferguson

TalkTalk is back with its Love2Shop vouchers, once again they are worth £100 and are only available to new customers who do not need a new telephone or new telephone number.

As has been the case with TalkTalk for some years, voice line rental via TalkTalk is a requirement, priced at £15.95 per month (reduces to the equivalent of £14.35/month if you pay this annually).

  • Simply Broadband £1.75 per month for 12 months on a 12 month contract. No inclusive calls. If you remain after 12 months monthly broadband price is £3.50 per month.
  • Superpowered Fibre £6.75 per month for six months, then £13.50 per month on an 18 month contract. Fibre service is FTTC based and is an up 38 Mbps download and 1.9 Mbps upload service.
  • Plus TV £9.25 per month for six months then £18.50 per month. Unlimited ADSL2+ broadband, with anytime calls and a full YouView box. Includes seven Sky TV channels (e.g. Sky 1).

Voucher offer runs until 18th September 2014.

Slow broadband island in middle of Basingstoke

Tuesday 09 September 2014 14:40:15 by Andrew Ferguson

The problem of who and who does not get superfast broadband is a hot topic and showing it is not just rural areas where availability is an issue is the plight of the flats that make up Everest Park in Basingstoke and centered around John Hunt Drive and connected to cabinet 102 on the Basingstoke exchange. looked at the lack of superfast services at this development and we have done some digging around and also chased Openreach for information.

Openreach has confirmed that the cabinet was evaluated under the commercial roll-out some years ago, but since the total number of homes passed at the time was too low to make the commercial criteria the area was skipped. Interestingly the developer sunk any prospect of Virgin Media cable access since ducting was offered by the cable provider but rejected by the builder.

It looks like due to the timing of the BDUK roll-outs and their various Open Market Reviews the cabinet has slipped through the current Hampshire project but there is no reason that the cabinet cannot be added to the next wave of work to take superfast coverage to 95% of premises.

If there is a lesson to be learnt it is this, if broadband speed is important DO NOT buy or rent a property unless the speeds are proven to be what you can live with. Only if people stop buying will developers really take notice and maybe pay for the enabling of a cabinet, particularly if it is close to a block of flats or to approach Gigabit operators like Hyperoptic to give their flats the fastest residential speed available.

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