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Investment by BT in fibre access essential
Wednesday 30 July 2008 12:24:31 by Andrew Ferguson

Point Topic is perhaps better known for its statistics on the worldwide roll-out of the various DSL technologies. They have issued a press release relating to the recent £1.5 billion fibre project BT has offered to roll-out for 2012.

"I believe investment in NGA is essential for BT, and it should generate a good return for decades to come. On the other hand, if BT doesn’t renew its local loop infrastructure its existing copper network will be worth only scrap value within 10 years,...

Fibre in the local loop combined with BT’s 21CN [twenty-first century network] project allows BT to provide a complete IP [internet protocol]-based telecoms environment to the end user. Customers should get more flexibility for less cost and dreams like seamless fixed-mobile convergence will become reality."

Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic

To suggest that the current local loop has just ten years of life left seems radical, but consider how much things have changed in the last 10 years and it looks like a very sane statement to make. If BT delays then we may see cities going their own way on fibre roll-outs, with firms like H2O providing much of the infrastructure.

The problem with most other roll-outs and the cable networks via Virgin Media are a prime example, is that they stick to purely commercial priorities. Love or hate BT, it has at least bid for and participated in a number of projects that addressed issues like the digital divide. We are starting to see a resurgence of community led broadband projects with talk of people rolling out their own fibre, and it could be said that wireless programmes back in 2002 to 2004 formed part of the pressure on BT to enlarge its original ADSL footprint.

One reason the £1.5 billion project that BT has dropped onto the table, is as cheap as £150 per home (Point Topic calculated the £150 figure, down from £800 of previous estimates), is that FTTH (Fibre to the Home) is envisaged for areas like Ebbsfleet, the Olympic Village and other new build sites. Existing premises would be served by running fibre to the nearest street cabinet which significantly reduces the amount of copper cable making speeds of 50Mbps or more easily possible. With some 85,000 street cabinets around the UK, the work to get fibre to these will be less than full fibre to the home. The danger of a cabinet based approach is that this may only have a limited life span of ten to fifteen years.

At the end of the day BT is stuck with largely having to satisfy investors that the return on any investment will be reasonable and not too long in happening. In the past countries have spent money on large public projects during times of recession with the longer term in view. Perhaps a UK fibre roll-out should be approached from the public benefit viewpoint rather than whether it will return investors a handsome dividend alone.


Posted by KarlAustin over 9 years ago
I see fibre to the cab as an enabler in the future for FTTH - once you've got fibre to the cab, you've got Gbits worth of bandwidth ready to be tapped. Stick your access concentrators/whatever in the cab (or a new one next to it, where space allows), then you just have to run fibre from the cab to the houses. Sure, it's not as grand as running FTTH for everyone from the off, but if it gives them 10 years to recover the host of fibre to the cab, then it's more likely to happen. With FTTH following, with a 10 year payback.
Posted by sunindra over 9 years ago
Some of us may be dead by then !!!!!!
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"I see fibre to the cab as an enabler in the future for FTTH"

no telco does, as one fibre is useless in their favoured xPON architecture. It will do 32 properties. Yippee !

If your hypothesis were sound the TPON victims would have been a mile ahead of the rest, instead of 5 miles behind.

No telco wants street mounted kit in this day and age. Try thinking of 30-50 mile range fibre and only 10% of current exchanges if you want a vision.
Posted by rian over 9 years ago
2012, too far for me anyway!
Posted by c_j_ over 9 years ago
"TPON victims would have been a mile ahead of the rest"

TPON comes from a different era, unrelated to today's fibre technology (and economics).

"BT ... has at least bid for and participated in a number of projects"

Indeed, they *bid*, and where they won, they *got paid* the market rate (arguably more, sometimes). They weren't doing these things out of the generosity of their management bonuses.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
cant believe people are moaning about FTTC, it will be a godsend to many of us. Let BT get on with FTTC now they have actually seen common sense and when thats done we can think about what comes after.
Posted by Dixinormous over 9 years ago
>>no telco does, as one fibre is useless in their favoured xPON architecture. It will do 32 properties. Yippee !<<

Herdwick, do you really for a second think they'll blow a single fibre to each cab? Honestly?

They'll blow as many as would be required for PON as the cost of that is negligable next to a single fibre, so that when the fibre is eventually extended to home it's just the last few hundred feet.
Posted by jumpmum over 9 years ago
If you think about it BT (Openreach) must already have fibre to or past around 10000 cabinets to reach all the businesses they serve by fibre. BTWholesale and other providers have just not had an economic driver for FTTC due to cabinet size only around 400 homes.
Posted by jumpmum over 9 years ago
The street DSLAM cost has to reduce below the cost of an Exchange DSLAM, or (horror) the cost of the service increase to justify the DSLAM alongside each cabinet. Also need very high penetration (Local monopoly arrgg) to get return on the smaller customer numbers
Posted by jumpmum over 9 years ago
In rural areas there are no Cabinets!, cables run from the exchange so they will be left behind again, (Herdwick) little benefit to be had from closing rural buildings compared to the savings from releasing property in cities.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Street DSLAMs are significantly smaller and cheaper than the exchange based ones, i.e. less port capacity so less electronics and lower power consumption.

10 port boxes the size of a lunch box are available and have been for some years.
Posted by Somerset over 9 years ago
andrew - I'd hope if they had fewer ports they would be cheaper but what's the cost per port? Surely economies of scale come in and only one/two power supply per rack for exchange kit.

Interesting about rural areas with no cabinets...
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
well I guess in rural areas it will be more a 'drain cover' at the side of the road... y'know, the sort that takes telephone, electric, port boxes, etc - just big enough for an engineer to sit in, covered by a 'tent' ...
Posted by danman7_200 over 9 years ago
This is good news and a step in the right direction.

The fibre to the curb network AT&T rolling out in the states, the cabinets are fugly and big compared to our street cabinets. I wouldn't want one of those in front of my lawn!
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
hey I'm only guessing, don't rely on it!!!

I would bet it is a 'cheapest/ most convienient' solution... If there is a wall to mount a cabinet, that is what will happen - no massive outlay for digging a big hole, that would involve many different groups - checking for services below the pavement, checking for existing laws etc for that position, digging the hole, building the wall, covering it, finishing to ensure pedestrian safety... yes, these are all different companies!!!
Posted by jumpmum over 9 years ago
Andrew, yes there are smaller boxes but a significant cost is the provision of power to the cabinet. Fixed cost to provide + cost per feed size by the energy companies I believe, regardless of power usage (unmetered like streetlamps), more boxes more cost.
Posted by jumpmum over 9 years ago
Comnut, You are obviously a town person, rural usally means strings of poles, not much underground unless just buried in the verge! no duct no manholes.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
... and where did I talk about 'cables from the exchange' ?????
'getting BB' is not as simple as just climbing the pole, and connecting your phone to it!!!
- There needs to be a box to hold the street DSLAM...
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
- unless you have found your own ATM-converter somewhere????
Posted by ruskin0 over 9 years ago
Still say we will have are wooden coats on before BT will put their money where their gobs are on this one. BT's only priority at present is to Shaft the custmer and keep the shareholders happy ( bubbly at the shareholders ball syndrome).
Posted by KarlAustin over 9 years ago
Every listed company has to keep their shareholders happy - that's the way of the world, you don't keep them happy, you go out of business. Unfortunately the shareholders best interests very rarely align with what is best for their customers.
Posted by dragon1945 over 9 years ago
There is no way BT will roll out fibre to remote rural areas. They say my telephone line is rated at only 512 kbps, yet from the same exchange I was able to get 1.3 MB from Pipex Homecall until Tiscali took over and it diminished to 0.87 MB. I now get 1.6 MB since Talktalk put their equipment in the Exchange. If BT wouldn't do anything to boost my BB to the average 1.5 MB the line can apparently sustain, what chance have I got of getting miles of fibre run out to my home? All of our telephone cables run underground. No telegraph poles and overhead wires here.
Posted by comnut over 9 years ago
as much as I thought - the bigger and older a company is, the less 'able & adventurous' it gets... it is tied down by layers of management, who have to be paid to worry about the shareholders being happy, and forget that the customers got them where they are, which is the real reason why the share is dropping!! Only the size keeps it alive I guess...

Pipex was most likely using a much better DSLAM! :) Tiscali used to be good, until they changed thiers.. and TalkTalk obviously made a good investment to make sure they had less fails...
Posted by Somerset over 9 years ago
dragon1945 - this is exactly what rolling out fibre will sort out.
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