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.
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