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Only 40% of cabinets may get enabled in a BT fibre broadband area
Monday 21 February 2011 11:49:02 by John Hunt

BT's roll out of fibre broadband is well publicised with lists of exchanges to receive the new fibre technology often published on our news, much to the delight or dismay of our readers at news that their area is or isn't to be enabled. The information that is not published by BT, and is perhaps equally important, is the number of cabinets that will be enabled in a fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) area, and which ones they are.

It is expected that enabling an exchange for FTTC would involve enabling nearly all the lines connected to it via the various cabinets, but this is not the case. Just as many exchanges took a long time to be enabled for ADSL broadband in the early 2000's, as BT focused on the most profitable areas first, a similar thing is happening with cabinets within an exchange area such that as many as 60% of cabinets are being left out when an exchange is enabled.

"BT Openreach describes an exchange as in progress if there are ten cabinets live, but there could be 70 or 80 or more cabinets in that area – customers are seeing when their exchange is enabled but not when their cabinet is going to be, or even if it's going to be upgraded, because only about 40% or 50% of cabinets in a given area are scheduled or are likely to be upgraded.

BT needs to make it clearer what an enabled exchange means, make clear that a rollout can take place over three, four or five months and make clear that just because an exchange is enabled the actually coverage in that area could be 40% or 50%."

Stuart Watson, (Product Manager) Zen Internet

BT were notably defensive in their response and said that they aimed for around 85% coverage of an exchange area. Some areas would also be likely to be revisited after the initial roll-out has started but details of which cabinets will see service aren't public, and BT seem keen on keeping it this way. One ISP, Timico, did with BT's consent publish this data, but BT requested this be removed.

"We aim for as much coverage as possible within our technical and commercial parameters. On average the figure is around 85% of an exchange area - this may be higher or much lower depending on the infrastructure and the market.

A range of commercial and technical criteria is used to decide whether a specific cabinet is enabled. If a specific cabinet does not support enough premises it may not be enabled for fibre at this time."

BT Spokesperson

Whilst it is understandable that some exchanges may not get complete coverage, only enabling 40 or 50% of an exchange may be disheartening to users of an area that don't get included, leaving them with little hope of a next-generation broadband service.

Update 23/02/2010

We've received an updated statement from BT on the number of cabinets.

"There are only a handful of exchanges with between 40-50 per cent of cabinets enabled, and that in many of these cases this equates to actual coverage of up to 70 per cent of homes and businesses in an exchange area. In the roll-out overall, on average well over 70 per cent of cabinets are enabled within each exchange area, covering, around 85 % of homes and businesses."

BT Spokesperson


Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
Until we get exchange based VDSL as well there is also the problem of the "hole in the doughnut" where properties close to and fed direct from the exchange rather than via a cabinet will also be missed out.
Posted by rikwebb over 6 years ago
My exchange is enabled and shows as such on BT's map, the new cabinets are installed, fibre layed, but still no body in my area can get Infinty!! The date detailed in BT's list keeps moving 3 moths out each time we get within 2 weeks of the previous published date.
I would live to know when or if I will be able to get Infinty. I am now fed up with waiting as its been delayed 9 months now, and I am thinking of going to Virgin Media (not that I wanted to).
Posted by rikwebb over 6 years ago
note to self: spell check before posting :)
Posted by Rocklett over 6 years ago
Herdwick, why on earth would you want exchange based VDSL?
Posted by rikwebb over 6 years ago
Just checked... BT Infinty map currently unavailable, phone number check returns error, and BT Wholesale fails. Top Stuff BT - lol
Posted by mbailey over 6 years ago
A great article - finally someone has realised this.

I live in Basingstoke, one of the first areas to get the exchange upgraded to FTTC, but still a large part of the area connected to the exchange is not upgraded as BT have been very selective with the cabinets they have upgraded. I am in an area where there is no cable, so BT has no competition.

For the time being I am stuck with my 900kbit broadband and no information from BT when anything might change...
Posted by rikwebb over 6 years ago
I'm hoping, since all the checkers are down that they are ammending the database and we all may have some good news shortly. Either that or as the checker states -- I dont have a bt line anymore :)
Posted by fraggermcg over 6 years ago
Glad someone is reporting on this. I've ranted to BT several times now as my area was one of the first to be upgraded (Canonbury exchange, central london) but I can't get infinity. My neighbour literally 30 secs from me can as he's on the next cabinet along. BT can't give me any indication of when, if ever, my cabinet will be done.
Posted by nmg196 over 6 years ago
"Herdwick, why on earth would you want exchange based VDSL?" - to get the 40Mbps/10Mb max speeds that VDSL offers on lines which are within a few hundred meters of the exchange and therefore aren't having their cabinets upgraded. Otherwise if you're really close to the exchange, you'll be stuck on ADSL2+.
Posted by nmg196 over 6 years ago
...our office is 450 meters of the exchange but I we could REALLY use the higher upload speed that VSDL offers. It's unlikely our cabinet will ever be upgraded as we already get the max ASDL2+ speeds on this road.
Posted by gr0mit over 6 years ago
mbailey, There are a further 20 cabinets being upgraded in Basingstoke this summer. It will include the missing ones in Hatch Warren (except Beggarwood), and most of Chineham.....
Posted by Rocklett over 6 years ago
nmg196 BT has already stated exchange direct fed lines will be the lines that get FTTP NOT FTTC. Given the choice I would not want to go FTTC if full FTTP was on offer.
Posted by timmay over 6 years ago
Now if other companies can get access to the information about places that will be left out then there is a decent opportunity here. BT just don't help them selves!
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
why on earth would you want exchange based VDSL - for the faster speeds, obviously. Better than the vague promise of FTTP some day.

Some village exchanges don't have cabinets and the whole place could go VDSL from the exchange when it isn't in all likelihood going FTTP at all.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

Bonded LLU?
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
It might be a problem with your neighbours / council if you're in a conservation area? Its worth checking on the council website whether an application for a cabinet was rejected.
Posted by doowles over 6 years ago
FINALLY someone noticed this. There is no way its anywhere near 85% in my area which is enabled.
Posted by Rocklett over 6 years ago
herdwick vague promises for FTTP? BT have been very clear from the beginning on their idea of a mixed economy for future broadband where direct fed lines will get FTTP, FTTC will be rolled out where it is viable to do so and the rest will continue to be served by ADSL2+. FTTP is currently available through the BT FTTP trial in very few locations and will become available in more places before official launch later this year.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
yes, vague promises. We might do this sometime in the future somewhere.

What about all the Mkt 1 exchanges staying on ADSL1
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago
If BT was sensible once FTTC had died down a bit they could spare some engineers to shift the ADSL2 kit that they'll have lying around for the mkt1 exchanges... but roll-outwise they haven't been...
Posted by alewis over 6 years ago
BT aim for areas which already have a high likelyhood of ADSL2. We live in a close, off a street. Street is 200m long, with an FTTC cabinet at each end. In the middle is our cab, no FTTC, even though the fibre runs past it. We live 1.9km from each exchange, but instead have a 6m dogleg to the HAS exchange. And yes, our RFS date gets put back everytime we reach it.
Posted by seekdestroy2 over 6 years ago
The government should really stop relying on BT to improve the broadband infastructure of this company. If we can going to catch up, let alone keep up with other countries, we need to force them to 100% enable exchanges or get someone else, like Virgin to do it for them!
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
Force? How?

Virgin are free to cover all the country but for some reason have chosen not to.
Posted by seekdestroy2 over 6 years ago
ok, entice them to, tax relief. give them some more funding if they aim for 99/100% coverage.
Posted by Craig4646 over 6 years ago
At the end of the day BT is a business out to make profit. We dont all complain to Virgin Media not providing 100% cable coverage.
I'm connect to a category 1 exchange with just ADSL 8Meg - it is annoying as the next street to me is connected exchange Category 4 with ADSL2 & FTTC being rolled out. I'm not going to see ADSL2 anytime soon let alone FTTC or FTTP.

I do hope BT will eventually bring out a trigger system and turn on areas as becomes commercially viable. I know the BT Infinity competition was a bit like this (albeit wrapped up in a promotional campaign).
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
@seekdestroy2:Let me guess - you're not a tax payer? The government is perfectly able to find bottomless pits to throw our money into without you encouraging them.

If BB is as important as you say then why is almost everyone so determined to spend as little as possible on it. It can hardly be an essential service if 99% of people choose a provider based on lowest price.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
By forcing BT to subsidize competition you have neutered it.

Then you have all the debt BT/VM have...
Posted by Rocklett over 6 years ago
herdwick BT have clearly stated they will upgrade all current ADSL exchanges to 21CN (and therefore ADSL2+ as a minimum) and I believe the current aim is to have completed greater than 90% of the UK by the end of next year. The roll out of FTTC & FTTP will follow the 21CN (ADSL2+) deployment with a target of 66% property coverage by end 2015. What is vague about that?

Incidentally they have clear drivers for full 21CN deployment as they want to close the old ATM networks and can't until 21CN is complete.
Posted by fraggermcg over 6 years ago
Thanks for the suggestion. You're right that's exactly what it was, application for the cabinet rejected by Islington council a year ago on the grounds that it was too obtrusive (despite being on a main road littered with bus stops, parking signs, etc). Does that mean I'm stuffed?
Posted by Rocklett over 6 years ago
fraggermcg Opposition to the situating of the new large street cabinet has caused BT a lot of issues during the roll out of FTTC, at the very least you are looking at delays for that cabinet, worst case deployment becomes impossible.
Posted by Andyb01 over 6 years ago
This may sound like daft but my exchange was enabled for FTTC as of March 1st but according to the "check availability" on BT's website with reference to BT infinity it says there are no plans to roll it out in my area, does this mean My local cabinet has not been upgraded or am I being premature with the enquiry ? I suspect I am one of the unlucky ones to not have my cabinet upgraded so I'll be stuck with a 1mb connection, it just seems like BT have only done half a job.
Posted by _Mike_B_ over 6 years ago
Andyb01, it is easy to see if your cabinet has been 'upgraded'

The cabinet itself may not be upgraded, if it has enough space in it already. They link it using copper to a fibre cab. Just have a look at your cabinet, see if there is a new fibre cab very close to it(they are taller and thinner). Depending on the type of pavement, you may be able to see the duct linking the two cabinets.

If you can't see the fibre cab next (or very near to) yours, then no yours isn't being upgraded.
Posted by _Mike_B_ over 6 years ago
Just to clarify, when I said the cabinet itself may not be upgraded. I mean the existing cabinet, if it is one of the large, newer design ones it won't need changing. It'll need a fibre cab next to it regardless though.
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