Openreach is rightly proud of its achievement rolling out its fibre based services to cover an area comprising some ten million premises across the UK. This is some months ahead of the original deadline for this figure that was the end of 2012.
With the figures for fibre services sold by BT Retail, and TalkTalk adding a mere 5,000, Sky figures are probably in the 100's as they have just launched their service, we can estimate a total number of sales around the 570,000 mark, giving a take-up of 5.8%. There are around 60 providers selling the services, other names include AAISP, ADSL24, aquiss, claranet, Eclipse, fast.co.uk, IDNet, plusnet, Timico, Vispa, Vivaciti, Web Tapestry and Zen Internet.
Ten million premises means a coverage figure of 37%, the majority of this will be fibre to the cabinet, with the FTTP full fibre service available in just 6 to 10 areas at present. Northern Ireland is ahead of the curve in terms of coverage, as fibre services are available 89% of homes and businesses due to the partnership between BT and the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Investment.
The original 40 Mbps FTTC service, saw speed upgrades start in November 2011 to offer a maximum of 80 Mbps, as extra frequencies were allocated over the copper segment, then in April 2012 the speed cap was removed, and providers have been selling the new faster service. We should highlight the fact that for those whose VDSL2 modem connects at under 40 Mbps, regrading to an 80 Mbps service is unlikely to boost speeds, since the faster profile runs on all FTTC lines already. For those keen to get an idea of what their speed is, you can always play the guess my home to cabinet line length and drool over the potential speeds using the speed table in our Fibre Guide.
The rush to meet the targets may explain why so many people know of work to install a fibre cabinet in their area, but it is not yet live. The pressure is on teams to keep working at full tilt, rather than pause and wait for things like duct blockages to be cleared, or permission for ducting to be installed to get power to the cabinet. The end result is a growing number of partially installed fibre cabinets, and people seeing fibre tubing installed in FTTP areas, but no fibre going live.
The question many want to know now, is will their area be enabled by the time Openreach completes its two thirds roll-out, and as Openreach keep the roll-out information closely guarded it is any ones guess. The next phase after the commercial roll-out, will depend on what happens with the various BDUK projects, BT has Lancashire in the bag, in Rutland they are the preferred supplier and has bids under consideration in other parts of the UK. BT has undertook to invest more of its own money, something the LSE failed to take into account when scaring people with the £1.1bn shortfall announcement.
Update 1:30pm: We asked Openreach about the issue of Exchange Only lines back in April 2012, and received a response regarding those lines or groups of lines run directly from the exchange, which is usually those closest to the exchange or new estates located further from the exchange. Openreach has said that where technically and economically feasible they will provide either a FTTC (via new cabinet) or FTTP service, this is done on a case-by-case basis as the roll-outs progress. We believe pressure to hit the 66% figure as soon as possible, means these areas will mainly be waiting until 2014, or for the various BDUK projects to start producing results.