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Is PIA the product people asked for, but no one really wanted?
Monday 27 February 2012 10:40:08 by Andrew Ferguson

Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) has had a lengthy and troubled birthing process, but an IT Pro article highlights the fact that other than a few trials nothing has really happened with it yet.

PIA has gone through a number of price iterations, and in October 2011 lower pricing was announced, though potential users were still complaining of the price, in particular the various ancillary services such as clearing a duct blockage.

There is still some hope for PIA, if Fujitsu is awarded a local authority/BDUK contract, but there are many who believe that the BT Group is going to hoover up all the contracts.

It is difficult to see how PIA will work in practice, as with providers being charged per metre for various elemtns, there will probably be a two people, one from Openreach and one from the provider going around and measuring ducting to ensure the right charges are raised, even before any service is provided, it may also mean differential pricing for two properties, or the harder to reach properties missing out yet again.

A simpler approach would have made the process more straightforward, perhaps setting a price per property connected in a particular exchange area, which would make it easier for BDUK product bidders to work out the cost of providing a solution.

As to why we see investment in alternate local loops in other countries, when one looks at where the investment is in these countries, it is the same sorts of areas as where Virgin Media is present in the UK, and without a doubt if Virgin Media was entering the UK market now it would be rolling out full fibre, rather than the coax/fibre hybrid that its network is currently.

Comments

Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
A FTTH builder said they had no interest in where the BT local loop went as it would be like building a railway based on where the canals and locks were.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
As commented on ISP Review, PIA has rather "shot the fox" of those spouting nonsense about the large number of operators poised to roll out FTTP etc if only they could use the ducts/poles to do so. The harsh reality is that it is harder than some people think and certainly requires a fair amount of capital investment.

IMO its good that PIA is available as an option but am waiting with baited breath for the deluge of companies with the money and expertise to take advantage.
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
@herdwick: Sounds amazingly like what Guy from NextGenUs says.

Anyway, I never did see PIA working. I used Openreach pricing to calculate what it would cost to do a village in Cumbria based on what infrastructure was present. Even with 30% take up and the BDUK subsidy average per property, the sums just didn't add up....
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
Some though the access was going to be at virtually no charge and with no restrictions like training, H&S, insurance etc.
Posted by nickkcin over 5 years ago
Actually, the costs just need to be 'reasonable', not free. Unfortunately BT, as the dominant monopoly, doesn't need to do 'reasonable' it needs to do 'what ever I can get away with with Ofcom until everyone complains and then I do a bit of a change 12 months later, bamboozle Ofcom some more, have everyone complain again and then produce something close to reasonable after another 12 months'
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
The BDUK money was never indended to provide a FTTH roll-out, unless somehow the costs of each property were slashed drastically.

BDUK provides the next step up, and full fibre to a fibre to a few more.

Openreach would be doing its shareholders a disservice if they did not try to get the best price possible, and that is the rub, trying to regulate a shareholder owned company.
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
@andrew: But obviously the purpose of PIA is FTTH. Can't really be used for FTTC deployments.
Posted by nickkcin over 5 years ago
As craigbrass says, PIA can't easily be used for FTTC (due to the restrictions on it's use - BT don't want any competition to Infinity). But Andrew is also correct that the BDUK money has been structured in such a way for it only to be used for FTTC.

And people still wonder why you can't make a business case.

BT is a poorly regulated monopoly which was gifted national infrastructure. Spend a fraction of HS2, do an NBN Co in Australia, merge Openreach into it and then have a national grid of telecoms.
Posted by nickkcin over 5 years ago
I don't see National Grid the owner of our National Electricity Infrastructure, or Transco the owner of our National Gas Infrastructure, also competing on the supply side as BT does.

Breaking up BT is the only long term solution.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
@Nick
Stating the obvious perhaps but there is no requirement to use PIA to deliver FTTC or anything else for that matter that a company opts to include as part of a BDUK bid.

IIRC FTTC is not specificied for BDUK, which instead looks at the speed requirements, leaving it to the bidder to determine the most appropriate technology.
Posted by nickkcin over 5 years ago
Unfortunately it isn't as 'obvious' as you think, as things are manipulated in such a way as to only make certain outcomes possible. Freedom in theory, but not in practice.

As a good analogy try thinking about how you would build a business case to deliver alternative electricity supply where your main competitor also is the monopoly owner of the only existing delivery infrastructure.

Unfortunately the BDUK requirements have been watered down from 100M down to 24M to make the FTTC case for BT.

Posted by nickkcin over 5 years ago
A bit ironic that this http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Telstra-NBN-Rudd-Gillard-ACCC-structural-separatio-pd20120224-RS24F?opendocument&src=rss article was posted on Friday, as this shows the more sensible long term answer is possible (don't get hung on the figure of $11Bn - which is £7Bn as this is an NPV figure over a long period)
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
nickkcin

Not that old chesnet, break up BT. I assume you mean split off Openreach.

Who buys it, the government, with what and do you think the government (any government) would invest and do a better job?

Can you force a private company to give up their assets even if the price was right?
Posted by Tacitus over 5 years ago
The Government could take a 49% stake in a split off OpenReach financed in whole or part by a bond issue. The deal would be FTTP/FTTH or, in very rural areas, broadband supply via 4G/Wimax.

Government gets dividends from wholesale supply, other stakeholders get interest on the bonds. Country as a whole gets a technological advance on which other players can provide services.

40/50 years down the line the government sells off their stake and moves on to the next big thing. Worked for BP and C&W back in the day.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
@nickcin:Oh give it a rest about BT being gifted national infrastructure. That was nigh-on 30 damn' years ago and it was a baff, creaking mess at that. Since then BT has invested vast sums in replacing mechanical switches with digital ones and laying thousands of kilometres of fibre. It installed ADSL and is now rolling out FTTC and even FTTP. Not to mention all the new housing that's been built since the 1980s.

The network BT now runs is barely comparable to what it inherited. It's high time people stopped bleating about what happened 30 years ago.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
@Tacitus again where is the money coming from in this stake?
Posted by craigbrass over 5 years ago
@GMAN99: If the Gov committed themselves to fibre everywhere, they could rip out all copper and knock a large chunk off the bill for a start off. Rest would be paid back over time from wholesale costs. It is all about who they put in charge really.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
Large chunk, how much?
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
oh don't worry gman99 your god BT will not be forced to do anything, as it has offcom and the whole telecoms industry in its back pocket, frighten off small telcos who can put fibre in, then scoop up BDUK cash and do half a job, and leave half of the uk in the digital slow lane.
divide here we come.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
BT won't be forced to do anything by OFCOM because that would be an admission of screwing up the market and competition as the broadband market evolved faster than their minds were capable of comprehending. Almost a decade after the rest of europe's incumbent operators were allowed to build fibre networks OFCOM decides it's in the UK's interests to allow BT to build domestic fibre connections. In the intervening period BT has been returning profits to shareholders like any responsible company with excess cash!
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
I have a feeling that the better approach would be to first ask BT to build a FTTH/FTTP network which reaches everyone. They will say that they cannot do it without recourse to public funds. Then ask the rest of the operators the same. When they all say that they can not do that, block them all from building any more FTTH/FTTP connections, and have the government build a new FTTH / FTTP network that reaches EVERYONE. Start with the rural connections that have only got access to the up to 8meg services.
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
I know this will not happen, since the UK government does not have the funds, however this is the only way that we will all get a FTTH / FTTP connection.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 5 years ago
How can you garentee it would mean FTTP to all? The national gas grid that an earlier post compared to does not cover every property in the country, electricity supply out in the sticks can still even in this day and age be a bit dodgy, not every house is connected to the sewerage network!!! Unfortunatly some parts of the country are just not economical to serve with some services
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
That is my point... If you use a government org to do it, you will be able to reach a lot more places or 99%. Funny you should mention the powerlines. One option would be to use the current powerline network in rural settings to wrap the fibre around the power cable and get it to the distribution point that way. In rural settings, the powerlines come within 200m from the property. I am not sure why BT have not looked at this as an option... I would agree with you on a lot of your points though. I am connected to power and BT, but not water and sewage.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
I think people will need to consider the equivalents like fuel oil or sewerage removal... and the equivalent IS satellite BB. It's not pretty or cheap, much like a sewerage lorry or a fuel oil, but it works!
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 5 years ago
wasn't it goverment owned water companies that didn't provide a service to you?
and wrapping fibre around power lines, why bother? Openreach most likely already have poles and overhead cables going to all properties because of the USO they are under. Also, Working on power cables is in no way an easy option. And i'm pretty sure wrapping a fibre around power will cause all kinds of proplems
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
A lot of power line is buried cable. Also when power cables are replaced due to failure, Nat grid isn't going to waste it's time being careful about fibre... They'll have more important considerations like bringing power back online for 10,000 homes.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 5 years ago
it'll probably induce some kind of "noise" as well
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
@CaptainHulaHoop

Magnetic noise on light?
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
today a report said 1 in 3 UK properties are in fuel poverty.

It doesn't make any sense to roll out FTTP to the whole of the UK when 9 million household can't heat their houses.

The problem is that people think that what the UK needs is in fact what THEY want, the vast majority of people want a product as cheap as it can be sold for.

The public doesn't give a hoot about FTTP to all, they have got bigger concerns.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Totally agree
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
But when the country gets this FTTP what are they going to do with the bandwidth that FTTC can't deliver?
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
My main concern is rural properties which will not get the upgrades to FTTC everyone else is getting. If I were to get FTTC I would shut my mouth and say thank you very much :). Maybe the new initiative by BT to install fibre for those who want it will address this. I will certainly try... Problem is that there is no cabinets in my area. I am connected directly to the exchange some 3.2km away.

I understand that there are lots and lots of people that will not want fibre unless it is forced upon them. For a lot of people 2meg is plenty.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Then it would be sensible to apply USO like other utilities to fibre provision.
Where the customer foots the bill for cost above £3.5k.
However it seems when you mention this aspect of USO, they say it's unfair...
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
PIA is to expensive and to restrictive.

It would be possible for VM to extend its coverage by infilling existing areas by using the BT local loop ducting and connecting it up to the nearest VM cabinet. Low cost and simple but it is not permited
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
BT have a pretty accurate estimate of the length of each line what is wrong with using that or even simple split the lines into 3 groups Short Lines. Average Lines & Long Lines so you just have 3 prices for access
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
@Bob
You say PIA is too expensive and too restrictive, what are you comparing it with in order to make this statement?

I doubt VM would use it to infill as it needs to supply coax segments in a daisy chain to several hundred properties at a time, not a star configuration like the Openreach network.

Why have three prices for access? You're not buying access, you're leasing space on poles and in ducts.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
VM have pretty much said they're not interested in expanding their network. They are looking to another operator and wholesale off that, i.e. Fujistu... simple reason being SMP. If their network increases by any significant margin they'll be forced to wholesale by OFCOM.

PIA isn't supposed to be cheap, it's supposed to allow rapid network expansion and a reduction in capital expenditure through access charges that spread the cost. It will always be more cost effective to build your own network as you recoup all your costs.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
"It would be possible for VM to extend its coverage by infilling existing areas by using the BT local loop ducting and connecting it up to the nearest VM cabinet. Low cost and simple but it is not permited "

Its obvious why it isn't permitted, would VM give the same deal in reverse?
Posted by RandomJointer over 5 years ago
Altco networks such as FibreCity and Digital Region have been a disaster. Digital Region particularly so as hard earned tax dollars have been sunk in.PIA has had a lot of work put in but there are no takers. Altcos seem to want the world on a stick. Talk is cheap, building networks is not. Meanwhile the Openreach juggernaut is passing thousands of homes per week with a proven network and proven retailers that customers want to buy from. The faster they go, the more experience, the cheaper the rollout. BDUK will obviously choose Openreach for the vast majority of the cash.
Posted by RandomJointer over 5 years ago
@GMAN

As things stand, it is permitted. Virgin can use PIA to extend their network using Openreach plant and link to their cabinets.

However, Openreach are not permitted to use Virgin ductwork to provide services to BT, Sky, TalkTalk etc as Virgin have no PIA requirement.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Really? AFAIK PIA is from the house to the exchange only
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Break outs and links to provider cabinets are allowed, i.e. it may be the final 300m of ducting to a property they want access to. e.g. a high bandwith microwave link that is then run over a firms own fibre to properties.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
If that is right then VM should be all over this like a rash, the fact that they are not says to me they've no interest in expansion at all and don't want to upset the non-SMP status
Posted by michaels_perry over 5 years ago
This is yet another reason why decent broadband is slow reaching rural areas which inevitably have longer distances. Pricing by distance makes it prohibitively costly. Pricing by premises connected would make more sense and be fairer.
Posted by domhnall20 over 5 years ago
"Posted by andrew ( staff member)
Break outs and links to provider cabinets are allowed, i.e. it may be the final 300m of ducting to a property they want access to. e.g. a high bandwith microwave link that is then run over a firms own fibre to properties."

sorry but that scenario would be prohibited. Any form of wireless service used in conjunction with PIA is forbidden under the contract. Just one of the restrictions which providers have complained about.
Posted by bigluap over 5 years ago
RE:- GMAN99
VirginMedia's upgrade to their system is including extensions to their current cable network to new housing estates. I say this because a friend who previously did not has access has been canvassed for interest if it was to be made available in his area.
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