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UK urged to up its game in fibre rollout by FTTH Council
Wednesday 09 June 2010 12:40:59 by John Hunt

The UK is at risk of being left behind if we don't rapidly increase our fibre broadband rollout according the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. The UK has only 5,000 homes connected to directly with fibre connections to the home, rising to 2.5 million in Europe, whilst the Far East steams ahead with 38 million connections.

"The Digital Agenda for Europe document goes some way to addressing this by setting targets for the future, but there are still many issues that we feel are being glossed over that FTTH could solve.

Often upload speeds are not factored into targets. For home workers or businesses, the need to upload files is vital in order to offer services, while many firms promise 'up to' speeds that rarely reach anywhere near their upper limit.

We want to see clearer targets set out to ensure symmetrical speeds for upload and download, and to make sure that people are aware of the difference and the fact that most fibre networks run only to the cabinet."

Chris Holden, (President) FTTH Council Europe

Many people are frustrated by the way new next-generation products are marketed as 'fibre optic broadband' when homes are actually connected by copper cables. The ASA ruled back in 2008 that this was an acceptable use of the term as only a small portion of the connection was using copper cable. The non-use of fibre also brings about the 'up to' part of speed definitions, as speeds will vary depending on distance from the exchange or cabinet where your line connects. Even on a fibre only network we are likely to see similar terms used as broadband providers cannot guarantee (or afford) that you will get 100Mbps speeds continuously.

New applications are likely to be developed that will make greater use of the bandwidth available to fibre connections. Education and tele-medicine are often offered as such applications, but high-definition (HD) movie downloads and teleconferencing in HD could also become popular and stretch the limits of VDSL technology.

"The applications that people will want in the future, such as being able to download HD movies, will need faster speeds. An HD video of 20GB would take five hours to download on VDSL speeds of 10Mbit/s, but just 30 minutes on fibre of 100Mbit/s."

Hartwig Tauber, (Director general) FTTH Council Europe

Funding is hampering our ability to deploy fibre everywhere. BT are spending £2.5 billion on the roll out of fibre-to-the-cabinet, and to deploy fibre across the country has been estimated at around ten times this cost. Tauber, talking to IT Pro, says that government needs to play a key role in this.

"It just illustrates in the decision making process that [the Government] has not realised the potential of telecoms, both economically and for society.

If there is positive investment from the Government side, we see operators follow, but also if there is good competition in the last mile, this will drive it too."

Hartwig Tauber, (Director General) FTTH Council Europe

With our government not willing to help deploy this, we will be playing catch-up for some time before we can lead the way in high-speed broadband services.


Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
In before CD :p

Totally agree with this - where financially viable, either commercially or through local subsidy, this should be pushed forward.

No further copper or HFC construction should be done.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
hhaaha dixie, was dishing up the dinner... you beat me to it.
and this is a first, for a change I TOTALLY agree with you.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Its all about money, no-one wants to hold back progress. Neither BT nor Virgin can afford to stump up the cost of FTTH on their own. It needs money from the Government (us basically) and as we know, its not exactly the time to go cap in hand when we are already 770billion in the red :)
Posted by Bjoernemann over 7 years ago
'Funding is hampering our ability to deploy fibre everywhere.' That's pretty much always the problem ;) The same thing seems to be going on in Denmark according to this:
Posted by mishminx over 7 years ago
Well they could always scrap high speed rail and use the money for fibre. Then ruralites who can't afford to heat their homes can enjoy HD conferencing with someone connected to mains gas and share the virtual warmth. At least the kids will be warm as they suffer detention because mummy wouldn't turn the virtual fire off.

Posted by mishminx over 7 years ago
Meanwhile starved of human contact, Granny will be spending her E-benefits on a book called misery. No doubt it has given her funny ideas about what to do when the nice boy calls round to service that annoying little black box that keeps telling her she's healthy... The crafty old buzzard!
Posted by tommy45 over 7 years ago
Non iv'e heard it all BT ain't got enough dosh, really?, for the past 20+ years they have milked billions from their crumbling copper/aluminum telephone network, and they want taxpayers money? NO it's a private company now, since thatcher sold it off, if i was the government it would have to return as a public company back how it was before any tax payers money was put into it, they are only whining about it now,lol we are already left behind,we have been for many years thanks to BT
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
tommy45 - well thought out, or not. Care to explain in more detail?
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
Why not remove the fibre tax?

I wouldn't mind a long contract to cover installation either!
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
True story:'Misery' was the only book I could find when I was stuck in a B&B and came down with food poisoning.

Anyway back on topic:I don't know that BT has asked for taxpayer money per se. They've mentioned that if we want a true NGA network it's the only way it'll happen but they seem happy to just give us second best at their own pace.

Seems fine to me. They offer to let us have a Ford and when we demand a Ferrari they tell us to get government help.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
cont'd:You can argue that they ought to have offered the Ferrari in the first place but their response would probably be 'But that would require government funding and we didn't feel that was right'.

IOW:BT is doing the best it can but (as with any business) would happily accept government money if it was offered it.
Posted by tommy45 over 7 years ago
In my view BT wanted the monopoly they have it, so if now they are saying they want to keep up with the competition (VM)They should re design the way they now work, release this monopolizing,and work with other companies,I'm sure they like any other company have lots of dead wood to sell off, they should not get a penny from the tax payer,Unless they want to be owned by the public again, they can't have both, over the years they have done nothing apart from those at the top getting very rich, I have no sympathy for BT , they are a ridiculous company to deal with
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
By trying to understand your posts you can't be easy to deal with.

'BT wanted the monopoly' - please explain.

Does BT not work with other companies?

'done nothing'? All digital exchanges, international network, UK ethernet network, ADSL everywhere, etc...
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
Since Qaungos cost us £100bn a year and the EU costs us £65bn a year. If we get rid of all the quangos and the leave the EU, we would instantly save £165bn a year and the extra £9bn can go towards FTTH rollout. Anyone agree?
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 7 years ago
llu, sub llu, vllu, £2.5bn for fttc/fttp for next 5 yrs to cover 65% of uk
Posted by Capn over 7 years ago

As much as I'd love a 100mbps connection, I neither really need it or can afford it. I'd much rather see every penny potentially saved go to fixing the economy.

Yes, network investment will help but i'm sure there are much better investments to sort out before.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
tommy, BT have never said they want to keep up with the competition or need money to do so. People and the Gov are bleating constantly about NGA and BT are already rolling this out, if people want the rollout to go faster extra funding will help this.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
well really all this should have been done during the last boom when money was a plenty, instead BT chose to borrow to pay dividends and the government spent on other stuff.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
to capn this would benefit the economy in the long term, all types of investment do. I think what really needs to be looked at is existing fibre that is in place but under utilised and use it to increase rollout of FTTC. For a country that claims its ahead of the game on the service ecomony it is poor showing the broadband infrastructure isnt up to scratch.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
What fibre where? Each cabinet needs a dedicated piece of fibre back to the exchange. Plus, possibly, a connection from that exchange to the main one in the area.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@Lego:There are more important things to spend money on than broadband even if we had some to spare (which we don't).

Leaving the EU at this stage would cause more harm than good (isolation often does - you do know that the British Empire is long gone, don't you?). Ironically it's the EU that is making the most noise and trying to push through a more advanced network.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
(contd) following on from withdrawal perhaps we should just withdraw from the internet completely? Pull the blanket over our head and hope the world leaves us alone? At last that way we wouldn't need faster broadband.
Posted by ElBobbo over 7 years ago
The ASA were - and are - utter idiots. Saying that a connection can be called 'fibre optic' when it has a copper last mile is like thinking that a three lane motorway that narrows to one lane is as fast as any other.
Also, you lot that think the money would be better spent elsewhere seem to think that fixing the economy is some magical process. You have to invest in infrastructure to reap its rewards.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@Elbobbo:Re. investment. Yes. OTOH we are so far in debt that investment has to be very carefully controlled. If Labour had got back in we'd probably end up so far in debt that investment would simply be impossible.

There are more important things in this country than the Internet. Especially when the current network is basically working for most people.

One area that investment is needed is power generating capacity. There's not much point in FTTH if no-one has any electricity. The state of our roads is also pretty dire.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
(cont'd). I am still of the opinion that the RoI for FTTx is weak to none existent. It's something we do need to do but at the moment I still view it as a long term requirement.

There are simply far too many other things of greater urgency and far, far too little money available. If you haven't already you should look into the economic legacy Labour left us. It's truly scary - especially if you have children.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
I'm sure there are returns but they will be low and over a long long period. People won't want to pay much more for faster broadband than they pay now as they are used to this price. So the costs to implement FTTC/FTTH are huge but the end users aren't likely to want to pay for it.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
AndrueC, there would be less power needed and less traffic on the roads and in the air if we could use telepresence more. Fewer meetings etc. I think the ROI (gov alone could save billions they say) would more than pay for investment in fibre to the premises. New businesses would start up and there would be less of a digitalbraindrain to countries with better access than us. Nobody will come here for content if we can't deliver it at high speed.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - what do you mean by telepresence? if you mean video conferencing then it's been around for years and does not need high speed. Works fine over 128k ISDN.

1000s of companies use conference calls to avoid travelling. Minimal cost and does not need hign speed broadband.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Cisco Telepresence gobbles it up, a HD meeting uses up 15Mbps, I don't think faster BB will have that much of a hit on power reduction, power needs as a whole are growing as tech increases.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@CD:Very true but we used video conferencing on Friday to participate in a global conference discussing the sale of our company ( We had no problems doing that over two shaky, bonded, 2Mb lines from a converted barn in the country. Most of us were also browsing during the conference.
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
why does nobody publish the killer business plan that supports the case for FTTH ? Does it not exist ?

Real businesses get real connectivity so there's no risk to the economy in reality. Wannabe businesses using residential broadband (probably contrary to the terms & conditions) aren't likely to have a visible impact either way.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
small businesses are the lifeblood of this country, and they need connectivity. They can't afford leased lines when they are starting up. I know big business can afford to get their own fibre in, but many can't. There isn't a killer app for ftth, I think next gen access with all the wonderful stuff that will be invented is the killer app in itself. I worry that if we don't do next gen and all the other countries do then we will be left in the digital slow lane...
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
So like other countries we need the government to fund it?
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Why do small businesses need fibre? Surely they just need a connection? And most can get one already. If your running a business off of a res connection you've no room for complaints in my eyes.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 7 years ago
homeworkers using resi broadband that then start moaning they are loosing business if they have problems with the connection, love it.

dont be so cheap and pay for a business product with a gaurenteed response time!!!!!!!!!
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
Four software developers and a hardware engineer manage perfectly well working with their US-based colleagues over two flaky, bonded 2Mb/s lines. We work on client-server stuff including SharePoint, exchange and e-discovery.

We have no problems managing and accessing each other's servers. We even manage to video conference on occasion.

Fibre would be nice but tbh mainly because it wouldn't drop four or five times a week. Most of the time 4Mb down, 2Mb up is perfectly adequate.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
GMan99, small businesses more than a few km from an exchange cannot get a connection. AndrueC sounds like 5 tech engineers have managed to cobble together a solution, but what chance has a farmer, a rural joiner or plumber business? Agric. supply and other home based businesses don't have your knowledge. They apply to get a connection. They have engineer visits. They run out of time and patience and give up. Even calling it a business connection doesn't make much difference. ISPs can't work miracles. And leased lines too expensive.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
aye Somerset, I think we do need government to do something. Removing the voa tax and compulsory purchase of infrastructure that openretch isn't proposing to use for NGA should stimulate investment by others. In some areas funding may be needed, or low interest loans. I don't think that openretch should get public money to do it. If there isn't enough money in less populated areas for their shareholders they should butt out and let someone else have a go.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Openreach should get public funding if they have the best solution.

Companies have shareholders - what a surprise.

Purchase of what infrastructure?
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - you really do need a better understanding of the UK telcomms network before you post on forums.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
"small businesses more than a few km from an exchange cannot get a connection" possibly in your specific area, that does not represent the majority though.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Openretch have a solution. fttc or BET. we have had this discussion many times.
Those solutions are for the company and shareholders. They are not the answer to Next Generation Digitalbritain. If you don't understand what is going on in the world of ICT then maybe both of us had better stop posting on this forum,- but Isn't that what a forum is for, or is it just to protect an obsolete business model which has already said there is no way it can provide NGA to the final third.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
GMan its not my stats saying it, it is actually BT spokesman at the last newcastle digital event. He said a third of the country is underserved with ADSL due to distance from exchange, and the same will apply to the same third with NGA rollout.
And my specific area is within a 10km radius of a city. It is hardly a remote northern island or owt.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Oh, how we laugh at you at your spelling of Openreach. Just shows a lack of professionalism.

So how do we get bandwidth to the final third scattered around the edge of exchange areas?
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@cd:The main point I was making was that you don't need much of a connection to work from home. FTTx would be overkill in most cases.

As for our setup it wasn't the slightest bit difficult. Obviously we wanted a business connection and several ISPs suggested a bonded line solution. We went with Timico and it was a complete package. We own the router but they installed and administer it. We barely now how to do more than get stats for it.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
1/3 of the country can't get ADSL? I've not heard that before
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Gman, I said underserved, as in they can only get a limited connection. Many are on less than half a meg. (even with iplates and line tests etc etc) and BT admit it, that is why they call them the 'final third'. A third of the country with less than the 2 meg USC. And they aren't all rural. A lot are urban on long line lengths or aluminium cable.
I was talking to some councillors last week, all are urban and none get even a meg.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
AndrueC, it depends what you want to do, survive or innovate. You can get to market with a horse and cart. You can fetch water from a well. Most small businesses will make do, you had to have a connection and timico is a good isp who has sorted it for you. You are prepared to pay a lot more than other businesses because you need it. Interestingly Openreach are hoping for public funding to do bonding. They call it BET. I read somewhere last week the kit for BET costs over a grand.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Somerset we have four choices for the final third.
1.Ignore them, they chose to live where they do, sod em.
2.Bond 2 copper pairs, charge em for two lines, get £1k sub of public money off gullible govt.
3. let them eat cake. they can afford satellite.
4. Using legislation and loans/public money get fibre out to the remoter areas, delivering minimum 2meg via futureproof fibre. This will stimulate investment, generate work, and be scaleable as needs grow. Rather than lay new copper out (will be needed due to DACS) Lay Fibre.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Option 4 already costs a lot in urban areas, to roll it out to the final third the costs will rocket so I see FTTH in these areas as a total none starter. For these areas there is a fifth choice, wireless broadband. So fibre to well placed masts and LOS wireless to the homes, ireland does it, no reason why we can't here.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
yes we could do wireless here. But it isn't futureproof and will soon be to do again. Masts cost a fortune too. And the masts will need fibre feeds to cope with future traffic. There should be ubiquitous wifi anyway. Wireless is fine for iphones and keeping in touch on the move. We could all have mobile wifi access provided by fibre to the home. We can but dream, but that is the future if we want to stay in the game and not become a third world country. Digital is our future, we have already lost our industries.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
I'm sure they do cost a fortune but in terms of the amount of households one mast can serve it must be infinitely cheaper than running fibre to each of those homes.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@GMAN99:Maybe but don't overlook that all forms of wireless data transfer are contended. Typically every one within 20 kilometres of a mast is sharing the available bandwidth.

Even if you can connect the mast to the network using fibre you can't change the laws of physics. Radio waves of a given frequency range can only carry so much information.

The only solution there is to build more masts but that raises all sorts of issues.
Posted by Compbck over 7 years ago
The biggest mistake this country ever made was to privatise all of our domestic utilities. Now all of them are pleading poverty, whilst still making billions of pound worth of profit. allegely being ploughed back into improving services etc. I have been a BT customer for 7 dediciated years paying £26.99 per month for no more than 2mbps speeds, but when I asked for one fixed IP address I was told sorry you will have to sign up to the more expensive commercial version. It appears customer loyalty in the UK no longer applies, I just wonder how many other customers there are in a similar position.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Compbck - so you want a free fixed IP address because you have been a customer for 7 years?

What should Sainsburys give me after 20 years?
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
I'm all for nationalising Openreach and running it like the Network Rail model (except that it won't make any profit, rather, a huge loss initially): how about a compromise and we take the same approach as with the banks: instead of just giving them money, we take a share in Openreach. (OK, I know QE was basically giving near free money to banks, I mean the nationalisations). This would no doubt need to be a forced part-purchase since BT would not be interested in that - why should they, when the option of retaining the monopoly on the lines remains open.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
You want to trust the government with the future of our broadband? Especially the current one?

They'll probably sell the copper for scrap and tell us to use our mobiles! If the government still owned the telephone network we'd no doubt be dreaming of next generation 2800 baud connections to replace our current 14400 ones
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
the government doesn't know much about broadband. It doesn't know the difference between 1st and next gen accesss. What it has grasped is that it can save a fortune if everyone is online (hence MLF) and so it knows something has to be done, because the market has failed. This is because the telcos are milking the obsolete copper to pay the pension deficit of £9billion instead of investing in NGA. hence we get fttc for urbans (apart from the olympic city LOL) and BET for the rurals.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
I don't support the view that the state is automatically and by definition useless at everything and that private is always best. IMO we have an outstanding army and police force, for example. What I do see is, as cyberdoyle says, the market has failed (and IMO will continue to fail) because of the very obvious conflict of interest in having one of the calls and broadband suppliers having the monopoly on the delivery mechanism for all their competitors.
Posted by rob808 over 7 years ago
The problem is BT the only company spending 2.5 billion you dont see any of the other teleco's spending big money on improving broadband but there happy enough to use BT new vdsl broadband since there not paying for it.If they all came together to biuld a NGN and goverment help everbody wins.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
rob808, 'they' do pay for it, and through the nose too, that is why the ISPs have to throttle and cap to make a semblance of profit.
Just talk to any ISP and ask what they pay for the connections and data transfer and you will see that openreach are making a tidy profit out of their legacy network. They have made a fortune over the years and will continue with the copper as long as they possibly can. Until everyone is on fibre to the home there will always be problems.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Businesses are in business to make a tidy profit otherwise they cease to exist. And what are these problems that FTTH will solve, ISP's will still be greedy and want to squeeze as many customers in as they can and traffic management them. Traffic Management is nothing to do with copper.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - how will fibre to the home change the cost of data transfer?

You go on about BT maintaining the copper network, so why are they rolling out FTTP and FTTC everywhere?

Please try and understand how networks work before posting.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Peter do try to get some facts, they aren't rolling out FTTP and FTTC everywhere, they are just rolling it out in areas where they can make a very fast return. They have said they have no intention of doing it in the final third. Yet they stop others trying to do it... We should have compulsory purchase of any assets they have in those areas and let someone else do it if they won't. They have just stopped another company doing it in Cornwall and have got public funding to take fibre in. Yet fibre is already you say.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
And FTTC protects the copper network for another few decades.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
They aren't stopping anyone else doing it, if another company wants to lay fibre to a premise they can. There is no framework for anyone else to use BT ducts etc as yet, that is what is being looked at now.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - do you go round telling people this mis-information? BT have not stopped another company, they won a competitive tender.

What fibre is 'already there'?

FTTC works and replaces a significant part of the copper network for broadband. The copper parts works and means a cheaper installation cost.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - by everywhere I meant lots of different places, not 100%.
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