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BT stands up and says FTTC a good medium and long term solution
Thursday 14 June 2012 17:51:49 by Andrew Ferguson

The UK political landscape is often accused of a lack of vision, and it seems the same is true of business, with BT firmly pegging its colours to a future that looks likely to revolve around sweating every ounce of capacity out of its copper local loop.

BT Group Strategy Director Sean Williams, while giving evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee has highlighted that partial fibre (FTTC) is five times cheaper to deploy than a full fibre (FTTP) solution. We would not dispute claims that FTTC is fine in the medium term (3 to 5 years), but longer term it will start to prove as limiting as a 2 Mbps service is today, with potential impact on how business is conducted, and the wider impact this will have.

The biggest concern we have with the FTTC roll-outs is the way it is often portrayed as an 80 Mbps service, whereas in reality, the speeds people will receive are dependent on the distance from the cabinet, which mean that around 75% of phone lines should manage 32 Mbps or more, with perhaps 10% connecting at the full 80 Mbps.

FTTC is at the beginning of its development path, with Vectoring technology offering the potential to reduce the impact of cross-talk and boost speeds, allowing the shortest lines to reach over 100 Mbps. Future xDSL variants may offer even more speed boosts.

The issue really is that current broadband policies, are encouraging old incumbents to not be radical enough in how they approach network improvements. While individual announcements such as the Openreach Fibre Only eXchange trial show glimmers of hope for the future, by and large it is the same slow progress from the usual suspects. Or is it really that other countries PR machines are much better at portraying a good broadband picture, and across the world things are not as good as imagine?

With new markets such as telemedicine offering the potential to be worth billions to the economy, the need for a decent broadband connection to every property in the UK is growing. It is these sorts of long term developments that should be at the core of ten to twenty year plans, rather than the constant re-announcement of a few million pounds here and there that seems to form current UK Government broadband policy.


Posted by Apilar over 5 years ago
Fingers crossed for fibre on demand, even if it costs a grand to install.
Posted by Borisvon over 5 years ago
i would be more than happy with a speed of 32 Mbps that would still be 32 times faster than what i have now!!
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Let's remember that the countries that supposedly have far superior broadband (S.Korea, Japan etc), mainly rely on fibre to the building, usually shared by large numbers of people.

According to Akamai, the average download speed over a 24 hour period in the "world's best city" in S.Korea was < 20Mbps, well within the capabilities of FTTC today.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
The other key issue is the cost of FTTP. I don't see a queue of people prepared to pay the £25bn or so needed to deliver it across the country. That being the case, its a pretty academic discussion.

Vectoring can help FTTC reach and speed, other options like Profile 30a could deliver up to 200Mbps. No doubt there are plenty of other developments in the pipeline, just as there were with ADSL.
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Let's not make "perfect" (in the eyes of some)but unaffordable the enemy of "good" (and funded, with a development path that will ensure its fit for purpose for some time to come).

Remembering FTTP on demand for those with the appetite and wallet for FTTP.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Depends whether we want to be the best, like we were once, or whether we want to make do and mend and lots just crawl in the slow lane. FTTC is a quick fix for many, but it will leave a lot of us on the wrong side of a growing divide. Despite lab tests, despite the hype, it isn't the future. Its a stop gap and will all be to do again in a few short years.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
No public money should be put into baling out the incumbent. It should go to other companies willing to provide some much needed competition and connect the hard to reach areas where the incumbent will never go. We can't save billions in healthcare and egov until all have a good connection that is fit for purpose.
Posted by Spectre_01 over 5 years ago
lol 'be the best'... because?

care to define how faster internet will make the UK economy suddenly jump into life? Will it make the goods you ordered online arrive faster?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
@cyberdoyle, investing in other companies may complicate things and increase costs.

Remember this was tried once with cable franchises, that has created a duo-opoly, that does not serve 52% of the UK.

Is the money there to run that experiment again?
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
cd - so connect the 'hard to reach areas' with wireless. We don't need 100% coverage to save billions in healthcare and egov (source for figures please).

FTTC is not a quick fix, it's a solution.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
I don't see any issue here? FTTC to the masses and FTTP on demand who outgrow their FTTC connection.

What am I missing?

@cd it isn't "to do again" for those who want it its "add another fibre connection to what is already there"
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Everyone is so hung up on fibre. Once it's mature I expect to be used which can go up to 1Gbps over copper, again its based on distance but if it can be brought to the masses again its a huge bonus and for those that want their fibre they can buy it with FTTP on demand. I don't see any problem with the prospects for broadband in this country apart from the lack of government investment.
Posted by MCM999 over 5 years ago
@gman Fibre on Demand will certainly help those who are already connected to a FTTC cabinet but it does not currently address those connected to a non-FTTC enabled cab or those with EO lines. Such users are just as likely to be in a city centre as in rural UK.
Posted by zyborg47 over 5 years ago
BT FTTC still uses BT ageing copper wires, some of these wires are so old that they only just abotu cope with ADSl, so how are they going to cope with the higher frequencies that is used with FTTC?
what we need is not just faster broadband, but reliable broadband and I don't think Bt can do that.
like everything else this country does technical wise, our fibre broadband is out of date before it started.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
zyborg47 do you know how many of these aging copper wires are out there that can't cope with FTTC? Remember we are talking short runs usually < 500m

@MCM999 indeed, but I believe BT are looking at options for EO lines.

As for non-FTTC enabled cabs, your right, but if a cab isn't financially viable for FTTC then its certainly not going to be viable for FTTP, for these areas... who knows what is going to happen.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
Anything can be done with a sound business case and funding.
Posted by Scotty141 over 5 years ago
FTTC is neither a medium or long term solution when your fibre connection is so slow that you are declined the offer of BT Infinity!
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
@Somerset are you joking? wireless is overpriced overated, IE too little to late. and weak as piss
latency and ping issues. and they will charge you more than adsl rates. not a an alternative i'm afaraid
Posted by Bob_s2 over 5 years ago
FTTH is really the only way foward. Vectoring does not helpmuch. With HS Broadband over copper you get cross talk & noise. Vectoring can help with this but it consumes some of the bandwidth in doing so.

The cost of rolling out FTTH will probably cost far less than £25B as costs will come down considerable as the technology improves and demand increases.

If you say compare the £25B quoted cost to the cost of a single HS rail line which benefits a very smll number of people rolling out FTTH seems to be a no brainer
Posted by New_Londoner over 5 years ago
Vectoring with Profile 17a gives 40Mb at 1000m, which would cover around 90% of the population. This seems like a pretty good start to me, a bit harsh to say it "doesn't help much" as this would put the UK well above the curret fastest country in terms of average broadband speeds.

As for the £25bn, fine if you can persuade someone to stump up the money, I'll not hold my breath though. At the moment its not on offer so the point is academic.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago

What technology improvements can make 3 users each 10 miles apart out in the sticks less costly?

As for the demand, once FTTC matures and reaches greater speeds as its already starting to do I'm not sure if this demand will exist, not for years anyway.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
I am sure if somebody said 12 years ago when I had my 1meg line for £50 a month that by 2012 I would have 80meg at half the cost I would have thought them crazy.

So who knows what will happen in the future.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
I'm not saying we won't need more speed in the future that is a given its how much and how soon, there are still no "killer apps" in the world (never mind the UK) requiring 100/200/300Mbps/1Gbps
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
I do not need fibre... What I need is an upload speed of >800kbps... My download is also ok... I get 6000kbps down, so not bad at all... if I could have a product that would give me an symmetric service at that speed, I would be as happy as a pig in .... BT however deemed my exchange not worthy of any more than what they have already spend on it. They would not even entertain my offer of me using PIA to get a fibre from me to their exchange door, but I was basically told that because there are no cabinets in the area, they would not entertain this at all.
Posted by professor973 over 5 years ago
Who actually needs all this speed that users are obsessed about. As far as I am concerned a 6Mb service should do what most home users want to do.
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
the concern raised in the article isnt helped really by the lax ASA ruling as isp's seem to be advertising at the full 80mbit.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
chrysalis , yeah I've always thought this was a bit of a weird one. I mean, you can only advertise a speed if 10% of your userbase get the speed you advertise at, but what happens when you are releasing a new product? You won't know the average up to speed until its out there for a decent period of time, until then at what speed do you advertise it at?
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Before the retail product is released the trial areas provide meaningful data. So i'm guessing that is the source.

As for long term suitability of FTTC, that would only be the case where there is adequate "real" information that vectoring and other emerging technologies can follow bandwidth demand.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
'Posted by cyberdoyle 1 day ago
Depends whether we want to be the best, like we were once'

We have never been the best in this field. We were late to the broadband game and when we joined it we have never been that good.

In actual fact the UK is about as high up the list as it's ever been right now on most metrics, fibre to the home being a notable exception.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
It should, of course, be noted that England is the most densely populated major country in the world, by that I mean not a small city-state or island, and only Bangladesh and South Korea are more densely populated. In that context we should probably be doing better.
Posted by RobFlet over 5 years ago
Too much obession on speed. What we want is good stable and reliable speeds. Did a live, realtime studio quality surround sound recording at 24bits/96Khz with a talkback channel between York and Edinburgh. Used built in streaming in the REAPER DAW to do it, but with the app using UDP could not afford tolose a single packet (so a type of killer app!). And yes, it worked just fine on a 1 gbps fibre, but with local and regional transports as well.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Dixi, sure but a densely populated area is just one part of a big equation. Top of the equation is of course, money.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
GPO had the some of the best laboratories for developing telephone related technologies... however much like all British excellence, translating that into a marketable products has been lamentable.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
Densely populated areas give more return on investment as the initial deployments are cheaper per home passed, less of the big cost - civils.

Telecomms are infrastructure expense heavy, always have been, always will be.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
That side of its not an issue is it though? Ducts and poles are present in most areas. Its only the rural areas where more civil works are needed and those are the (in the majority) sparsely populated areas.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
I always liek the comments about how early/late the country takes up technology.

Scenario A we adaopt a technology early - we get comments like "you fools you know that early adoption is set for disaster. We should wait and see if somethng better replaces it"

Scenario B we adopt a technology late - we get comments like "oh no we are out of date and behind the rest of the world, it's a disaster"

No matter what you can't win.
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
You may want to tell BT and everyone else that civils aren't the major issue with FTTP. Every fibre rollout plan seems under the misapprehension that civils, inside and outside the home, are the biggest cost by a mile.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
The article is about Fttc ? That is what I am referring to, of course there are more civil works for Fttp
Posted by Dixinormous over 5 years ago
My comments were referring to a previous comment about how we should be doing better, hence why I quoted the part of said comment I was responding to.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Ok got you, so.... to do better we just need more money don't we?
Posted by LeJimster over 5 years ago
I'm not a big fan of BT, but FTTC is fine for more than 3 to 5 years. I would say easily the next 10 years if rolled out properly with the correct technology deployed. Also VDSL2+ vectoring offers much more than just full "100Mb" speeds on short lines. The white papers for it show lines upto 2km should be able to run @ 80Mb down, 40Mb up. That accounts for a good chunk of lines. And on the shortest lines 200Mb symmetrical is possible, although not very likely. 100Mb symmetrical is very likely under 1km.
Posted by LeJimster over 5 years ago
Sorry, i misread/remembered the numbers it was in kfeet. Which is much a little less than half what I just stated. 100Mb upto about 2,500 foot line (.76km) >40Mb @ 5,000 feet (1.52km). Still very good.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
I think the UK did very well in one respect - coverage. We might never have been at the top of the speed chart but we've had some form of broadband available on >90% of lines for at least a decade. Not many countries can claim that.
Posted by rjohnloader over 5 years ago
But there are millions of us miles from the cabinet so we'll have FTTC like a 10 lane highway emptying into a mule trak ofrotten D side wet string.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
If "five times cheaper" actually means a fifth of the cost, then FTTC costs two years interest on FTTH. So if you defer FTTH five years or more by doing FTTC you're well in pocket as a result. (Openreach cost of capital ~10% p.a.)
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