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BT Fibre products - too slow, too late?
Friday 13 June 2008 14:07:32 by Andrew Ferguson

Fibre to the Premises at an affordable price for consumers has been the subject of widespread debate since Rory Cellan-Jones waved some fibre around on national TV a week ago. We recently provided some indicative pricing for the Ebbsfleet Valley project; if looking at the product range in the cold light of day some people will be wondering what the fuss is when some 50% of the country could phone Virgin Media and have a 20Mbps service in a few days.

In the UK to date for consumer products, we have become used to the maximum speed being the one that is advertised, however the fibre products are being described differently. In theory the premium product should maintain downloads of 10Mbps, and burst to 100Mbps. The big concern some people will have is how often will it burst to the higher speeds. BT is saying that people will get speeds of 50Mbps when needed, but its not clear what defines this need. An unnamed BT spokesman has been quoted with the following on BBC News.

"But a BT spokesman said that the speeds would be 'very decent'.
'Higher in fact that anyone currently needs,' he added."

Extract from BBC News item

The spokesman has perhaps missed the point, but then similar comments have been made about the original ADSL roll-out at 2Mbps and the rate adaptive up to 8Meg services. For many people it is not about their current needs, but looking to the future. As the Internet develops, the need to receive downloads and send material faster will become more important. If embarking on a project that may not complete till 2020 then surely one builds in excess to cope with unforeseen developments.

The BT Wholesale part of the trial is based around the 21CN Wholesale Broadband Connect product, which will make it easier for broadband providers to take on customers from Ebbsfleet Valley without putting in new hardware to offer its services in the area. The downside to this will be that Ebbsfleet Valley customers look set to be sharing capacity with ADSL2+ deployed around the country. The experience of shared capacity varies greatly between broadband providers even now.

Some ten years ago our dial-up connections were the massive bottleneck, then ADSL arrived that gave us a fatter pipe onto the Internet, but as we ran ADSL faster, people started to see the effects of sharing the connectivity that is available. Virgin Media cable customers in some areas where there are lots of subscribers can also testify to the fact that as speeds increase, the effects of congestion/sharing seem to be more visible. Now with the deployment of fibre, the bottleneck that is the last mile may finally go but it will instead show up new bottlenecks.

Mark Jackson over at ISPReview has pointed out that in other countries we look at jealously because of their 100Mbps fibre connections, people do see speeds as low as 2Mbps at times.

We hope that Openreach and BT Wholesale review the upstream speeds to be used at Ebbsfleet Valley. Being a new development close to London and with excellent connections to Europe, the development is likely to attract a good number of home workers who would benefit from high upstream speeds. A 2Mbps upstream is what ADSL2+ can already provide via its Annex M variation.

As for what we all need speeds of 100Mbps for, the reasons vary. For some people it means working from home is as easy as being in the office and saves a fortune on time and money by not commuting or having to use childcare. For others it means they can access the PVR in their home to view content stored on it when away from home, or be playing an online game that uses VoIP, while someone else is downloading a film, and another member of the household is doing the shopping.


Posted by Somerset over 9 years ago
VoIp needs about 30k? There are thousands of homeworkers working with 'up to 8M'.
Posted by rowanmoor over 9 years ago
Yes, there are thousands of homeworkers on 8Meg at the moment. But as an occasional homeworker recently upgraded from 8Meg to ADSL2+ I can tell you that the difference is wonderful.

I can remember when my dad used to be a homeworker on a 300 baud modem. Nobody would say that is realistic these days. Similarly many more people can be far more productive homeworking with connections faster than 8Meg.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
VoIP may only require 30Kbps upstream, the game traffic maybe 64Kbps, but someone in the home uploads some content e.g. digital photo and you get a latency spike.

Faster uploads lessen the impact, i.e. allow more to be done at once.

Home working makes use of upstream by making things like remote desktop much smoother.

Video has been streamed for almost 10 years now, but the quality is only just getting to a massed viewing quality e.g. 1Mbps on Sky Player
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
You don't need the upload speeds for that, though. You need constistant, low ping connections. Speed is a pink elephant.

There's a reason that ISDN is often used by organisations for phone lines to this day!
Posted by Charlock over 9 years ago
I was intrigued by the comment “some people will be wondering what the fuss is when some 50% of the country could phone Virgin Media and have a 20Mbps service in a few days.” I signed up to the Virgin 2Mbps service on the understanding that cable broadband didn’t suffer the same bandwidth problem of BT copper wire. Most morning at around 09.00 hrs I am seeing speeds of 1.8 -1.9 Mbps but by 16.00 hrs that has dropped away to less than 0.1 Mbps. So do not be conned by the ‘fibre is better’ argument. If the rest of the infrastructure is not up to scratch then the same problems will still exist.
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
Home working needs FTTx? Piffle! I work on a development team that is split between the US and UK. We manage to share documents, source code and webex quite happily. We are based in a converted barn in a village outside Bicester. Two load balanced 2.4Mb load balanced lines.

I dare say /some/ workers might need FTTx but most can get away with ADSL even when they are a mile or so from the exchange.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"BT is saying that people will get speeds of 50Mbps when needed, but its not clear what defines this need."

OMG sounds like they have wrote another of their so called "FAIR" use conditions before they even have the product sorted LOL...... The new catch phrase words are going to be Super Fast broadband "WHEN NEEDED"... I spose its one way around their "UNLIMITED" spiel which isnt unlimited at all once you read the terms.
Posted by bezuk over 9 years ago
I accept that for most people a 2 megabit upload is enough, but why not offer more for those of us who do want it, for a higher monthly fee? Lack of "need" is a poor way to justify faster speeds not being available; while I don't "need" faster upstream it would make a major difference to what I do almost every day - is that not enough?

Additionally I feel Virgin Media should not be exempt from criticism regarding poor upload speed; their 50 Mb product seems likely to go live with an even poorer upload than this FTTH trial, and I'm not sure the technical reason which once existed still does.
Posted by Foggy_UK over 9 years ago
If you are going to build a all fiber network, why build it so highly contended from day one you are going to have to start again in five years? Big new developments like Ebbsfleet have big houses with big families all consuming content. More and more things are being connected to our always on broadband lines, it's no longer just one PC per house.
Posted by Foggy_UK over 9 years ago
This seams more to do with not competing with exsisting high speed private cct's, how many sub 2Mbps lease lines got pulled once people could get broadband in their business?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Yea, but replaced with business SDSL with SLA's and low contention ratios, not ADSL Foggy
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"Big new developments like Ebbsfleet have big houses" really ? I'm expecting high density rabbit hutches with nowhere to park, along the design guides of the Prescopolis.

The 10M/2M rates are actually assured rates on the Openreach bit of the system. What contention ISPs put on top of that remains to be seen. The bust speed options are 30 and 100M for a premium price.

GPON can deliver over 60M to each of 32 houses per fibre downstream, and half that upstream.
Posted by Foggy_UK over 9 years ago
Oh come on Dawn_Falcon, hardly any one can get SDSL. I've lost count of the number of change over from 64K to 256K lease lines direct to ISP's I pulled out and replaced with ADSL over the last 7 years. SDSL why didn't BT go national with that ? Exsisitng revenue streams that's the real reason and fiber will be the same all over again.
Posted by Foggy_UK over 9 years ago
herdwick you missed my point! high density housing is however true and was what I was really getting at... BT shouldn't be messing around with anything less than a 100Mbps Sync speed connection to the home, now weather there is enougth bandwidth at the exchange to max out 20,000 x 100Mbps connections is another issue all together.
Posted by Foggy_UK over 9 years ago
If I want a 10, 100 or 1000Mbps connection... I want to be able to purchase this product from my ISP, not an "upto" product where if I live a long way from the exchange I don't get what I bought. This is nothing to do with conntention or bursting, those are options should be able to buy into.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
AndrueC can they get away with it if they 3 miles from the exchange?
Posted by AndrueC over 9 years ago
@Chrysalis:Unlikely. Unfortunately those are the people that are least likely to get upgraded to fibre anyway. This is why I keep arguing for a hold on faster urban speeds and money being spent in the country.

Let's hold off on 100Mb until we've got everyone up to a 2Mb minimum.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
there is people in urban area with lines over 3 miles long.
Posted by Dixinormous over 9 years ago

While we're at it let's stop DLR and Crossrail and build some metro/underground for villages, after all it's not fair that cities have better transit.

The obsession with getting everyone to a minimum level of service is one of the reasons why there's a reluctance to invest. Very few other places in the world have the ADSL deployment the UK does, if any, and apparently that's still not good enough and rural exchanges with a few hundreds lines should get remote DSLAMs as well hmm?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Andrue - The issue is that the last 5% of the wiring can cost as much as the other 95%. Instead of doing that, something like WiMAX should be on the market.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
LOL didnt take long for the i live in the middle of nowhere its not fair harp to play its tune again LOL.
Even if BT did bother with those up a mountain or in their log hut in a forest, on this occasion they are welcome to the service, before its brought to the likes of myself... Assured 10Mb LMAO, I wouldnt be shocked if that makes it the slowest fibre to home service on the planet.... Ill stick with my LLU STILL and almost double that speed 24/7.... Nice one again BT LOL
Posted by PeteK over 9 years ago
@ Foggy_UK
If I want a 10, 100 or 1000Mbps connection...
You can have this, it is a leased line. I don't understand why BT are not offering a pricing tier all the way to leased line, but lets be fair, a 10Mb/s leased line is 1k per month upwards... are any households going to pay this?
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