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Time to throw out 'up to' and say hello to FTTH
Wednesday 06 February 2013 17:57:05 by Andrew Ferguson

The UK has had a lot of campaigning calling for 'up to' to be removed from advertising and consumers to get better information on the speed of a product before signing up. Alas the technicalities of any DSL based broadband, be that ADSL, ADSL2+ or VDSL (FTTC) mean that up to will always remain in one form or another.

There is a solution that can give fixed connection speeds and has the capability to have users receiving guaranteed bandwidth onto their broadband providers network, and that is Fibre to the Home (FTTH). In theory cable DOCSIS networks offer fixed speed connections, but the limited bandwidth capacity on the metallic segment does result in problems.

The FTTH Council Europe of course thinks that full Fibre to the Home is the solution and with the 2013 FTTH Conference is looking to inform investors and help those from across Europe and the UK who want to start a FTTH network roll-out. Three arguments consistently appear with regard to why we should not invest in FTTH.

  • There is no market evidence that higher speeds are needed;
  • Financing networks is not possible;
  • Europe has more urgent problems than broadband

The FTTH Council EU has looked at the fibre projects that have been running for some years, and while it is true that you do not see massive take-up overnight, people do subscribe in sufficient numbers and once using the service are very loyal. In fact the old 'up to' problem is likely to be one reason people do not subscribe to the various FTTH products that offer 50, 100, 200 Mbps or faster speeds as after a decade of never seeing the advertised speeds they assume the new service is too good to be true.

Financing and the cost of a pure FTTH network are seen as the biggest hurdles, and the FTTH Council Europe is building a bottom up set of cost calculations, rather than the usual method which is to assume something as simple £1000 per premise and multiple this by the number of premises in a country. While these new calculations will not solve all the financing issues, hosting days like special 'Investors Day' in the February council should bring investors and the fibre evangelists closer.

In a global economy if we ignore broadband connectivity, or allow other parts of the world to become the place where broadband investment has created a vibrant digital economy then Europe, let alone the UK may cease to be the place to do business in many sectors. Many private investors in the 19th century saw the benefits rail networks would bring and while not every trainline flourished, looking back now it was these networks that laid the foundations for progress, the following quote sums the difference that trains and now fast reliable broadband will bring.

"In the mid-nineteenth century the French town of Alençon was an important crossroads between Paris and the West of France, similar in size to its regional rival, Le Mans. Then, the train arrived. Or rather, it didn’t for Alençon. The railroad between Paris and the West cut through Le Mans and Alençon was side-tracked; the latter town slid into a period of economic stagnation, while Le Mans boomed."

Nadia Babaali, Communications Director, FTTH Council Europe

The UK has opted for an incremental change to broadband connections utilising FTTC based on the return on investment it would offer, and with further spending likely post 2015 to improve things once again for the final 10% lets hope that sense prevails and the constant cycle of small improvements can be laid to rest by roll-out of fibre to the home. We shall end with an example from Lower Austria.

"Next year, elections will be held in Lower Austria. The local government may hope to win votes from citizens that have even less than 8 Mbps ‘broadband’ today. But they may have underestimated end-users, who are already complaining that an ‘upgrade’ from the current ‘up to 6 Mbps DSL’ is insufficient and the 5 million euro public money could have been invested more effectively."

Karin Ahl, President of the Board, FTTH Council Europe


Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
You are paying for a contended service so it will always be "up to"
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
yep, VM always used "up to" and their link speeds are fixed not rate adaptive.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
Fail article from TB.
Posted by finaldest over 4 years ago
BT put profits before common sense as usual.

BT is all about ripping off its customers with outdated copper for as long as possible. BT invest in outdated FTTC and will soon charge £1500+ install fee for FTTH under their new fibre on demand scam.

Virgin Media are no better either.
Posted by Michael_Chare over 4 years ago
The 'reasons for not investing in FTTH' ignore the fact that FTTH is often an economic way to deliver speeds of 2mbps and much more to customers who are several kilometers from their telephone line cabinets. Where I live it appears that in a period of just two months, Gigaclear have been able to attract enough customers to make an installation financially viable.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
FTTH has ability to switch in more capacity easily enough that you can offer xx Mbps guaranteed. Of course this can only apply up to the edge of a providers network, but with CDN it gives the option to buy a service you know will run for example 3 x HD video streams with no problem.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
On now: LIVE WEBCAST: The IET Appleton Lecture 2013: Superfast broadband – what will it take to make it happen?
Posted by otester over 4 years ago

Common sense is providing the highest profit margin for your shareholders, why should they give you 'something for nothing'?

It's like when I asked H3G why they didn't do AYCE for tablets/dongles, they said it's because their current packages are competitive, which is true, they have no reason to go any further.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
"BT is all about ripping off its customers with outdated copper for as long as possible. BT invest in outdated FTTC and will soon charge £1500+ install fee for FTTH under their new fibre on demand scam."

You don't have to buy it? Why is the fibre install a scam, it surely costs something to install or do you expect FTTH for next to nothing?
Posted by finaldest over 4 years ago
Posted by GMAN99
"You don't have to buy it?"

BT should have invested in FTTH from the outset rather than rolling out an outdated legacy network which is not fit for purpose.

Its better to invest up front and then charge a higher monthly premium for FTTH than the customer be expected to front the full cost for the last mile for FTTH because BT don't want to lay down the coin to invest in the network.

As a tradesman I don't hammer my customers with a huge upfront cost should I need a new vehicle or equipment for my business. I invest first and slowly recoup the cost over time.
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
"Its better to invest up front and then charge a higher monthly premium for FTTH" - not if people don't buy it, that leaves you with the interest bill and no income to pay it.
Posted by mdar5 over 4 years ago
GMANN99 I agree with you:

Sometimes when I read the rubbish that is written on here I really do wonder about people....

Given that the electric companies will charge you around £400 to move an electric meter a couple of yards, £1500 for a complete FTTH installation seems like a bargain.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
BT wanted to install FTTP but Mrs Thatcher said no to protect the American cable TV companies.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago

IIRC it was the government that prevented them from doing that in the first place.

And what Somerset said is probably right (haven't double checked myself).
Posted by John_Gray over 4 years ago
Why don't they change "up to" to "no more than"? Same numbers, but a more accurate emphasis.
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
the number would be bigger - no more than 24M is probably sold as up to 22 or up to 18 under the 10% rule.
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago

and the £15-20B to rollout nationwide FTTH would come from where?
Posted by dogbark over 4 years ago
I see Somerset has been trotting out this nonsense on many forums but it doesn't make it true. BT wanted to cable up the country (or at least some of it) and even offered free access to schools. But it wanted to broadcast over the cable, which was disallowed by its licence not by the Govt. Note this would not have been free as there would be no competition, it would have been a monopoly and therefore expensive.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
"BT should have invested in FTTH from the outset "

Outset of when? 20yrs ago, 30yrs ago. I'm not sure what you mean? Or are you saying instead of FTTC they should have rolled out FTTP?

Spend 20B of their own money and have to wholesale it out and get ROI in 50, 60, 70 - 100yrs, sounds like a good plan.

Did you buy your van with a view to it paying for itself in 50yrs?
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Not sure about that dogbark, I seem to remember they were prevented rolling out fibre to give Mercury and the rest of the small cable companies a foot hold in the market, no other reason than that
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
He's right BT wanted to rollout TV services too... but without TV services what would have been the point of fibre? The speeds data that can travel down fibre weren't even a twinkling in a torrentfreaks eye...
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
dial up was more that enough to fill a hard disk 5.25" at a whopping 5MB in the 80s, 14.4k would take an hour and 28.8k would be half an hour to fill that disk...
Posted by otester over 4 years ago

License mandated and distributed by whom?


Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
On the face of it it does appear BT always choose the cheapest option available to them. They needed to get speeds above a marketable 16mbit (after ASA slapped adsl2+), the absolute cheapest way is probably what they doing now FTTC without vectoring and without any D side reroutes to optimise FTTC performance. Although granted they have at least put in extra fibre to the aggregation point in preperation for FTTP. In the long term FTTP is the cheapest it removes all the incremental work and will nail faults dead. Problem is BT works for its shareholders and has to look at short term.
Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
I will say this again... BT needs to sort out how it deals with LLU on a fiber connection first, THEN force everyone off xDSL and onto fiber. This is the only way to do it. People are lazy and if they have something that works will stay with it till the end of time. It is a hassle to change anything... what if it does not work... what if I dont have a connection for a week... etc. I just ditched BT for a wireless connection, and it has been fantastic. 50meg down and 10 up, and I can not be happier... Solong BT. No more 14 odd quid line rental a month for nothing...
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago

I don't think FTTC is short term, there are plenty of tweaks/upgrades coming down the line just like ADSL had.

The way I see it is, BT is paying to bring fibre to you main road (aggregation node) to deliver much improved speeds. And if you want even more speed you pay to bring that fibre the rest of the way to your home, I don't see a problem with that?

Its a good long term approach, build 80/90% of the way out to the customer, the customer picks up the tab for the rest.
Posted by fastman over 4 years ago
victor so what happes when yoyur wireless provider decides its cant make any money and is going to habe to close or leave you with no upgrade path - whats your plan then --

Posted by New_Londoner over 4 years ago
Surely the answer is simple. If the so alled "FTTF Council of Europe" thinks this is viable then what is stopping it investing the £25bn or so to provide FTTP across the country?

No doubt the enthusiasts on here will be eager to help fund it, so let them do so and prove to everyone they are right.

Or is the "council" simply trying to sell lots of equipment to someone else?
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
The 'Council' is simply a suppliers organisation.
Posted by Frank22 over 4 years ago
Why do we keep mentioning BT? Other companies can exploit fibre too. Have friends in several other European countries and they ALL have FTTH, none supplied by what once was the national telecom company.
Friends had to cast a vote to get fibre in the area by a company specialising in this. The vote is linked to a legal obligation to keep the connection for a certain time, which is the financial foundation for the project.
Why can this not be done in the UK, supposed to be part of the EU too?
By the way, these friends have a fast connection ALL the time, also at peak times.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 4 years ago

How much did your friends pay for installation and how much do they pay per month for their FTTP connection?

In this country when you have Sky etc charging less than a tenner per month for ADSL2+ services with unlimited use a lot of people just see FTTC/P as uneeded when they can get cheap as chips broadband which is good enough for them.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
@Frank, because no-one else has the appetite to rollout fibre in the UK. You are right, there are many telco's/ISP's that could do this, yet none of them want to
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
If I recall correctly, there are none of the impediments for those telcos that occur here.
i.e. they are willing to cooperate and build networks together, in France they are actually using France Telecoms ducts (prices are similar to BTs), it's simply willingness to invest capital and take on debt...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
To the no-one is doing it brigade, how come the UK has 100,000 homes with FTTH/B not through BT?
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
:) Yeah but 100,000 homes is a drop in the ocean to be honest, what are there.. about 20 million homes in the UK?
Posted by mdar5 over 4 years ago
it's closer to 25 million homes in the UK.
I think there is a total of 33 million fixed landline telephone lines
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
Woah!"No-one needs that speed & take-up is low,blah blah blah".Possibly,but once again it ignores the areas that are always ignored.Poor take-up of fibre services in areas already served by good broadband? What a surprise! Perhaps there is really only a demand for around 8M but I can only get 0.7,not even enough for measly Youtube.As Michael_Chare says in post 5 fibre is actually a good way of reaching poor areas.We are in an all-or-nothing situation-it's either 0.7M or 100M. ADSL & copper cannot deliver anything inbetween.Put fibre in the areas where it's needed.
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
Uptake isn't that brilliant in BT rollout areas that have been served and where speeds were pants. The average is 4-5% and where low speeds are seen 10%, TBB did piece on this a while back.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago

And take up was 8.5% overall, but for BT solution 7.4%.
Posted by RuralDavid over 4 years ago
@csimon Spot on! Have to say it is rather irritating being lectured on fibre economics by people who doubtless have comfortably fast connections. Here, where it frequently takes 25 minutes to download a 15 minute audio podcast, things look rather different. ADSL2+ would be sufficient for me if I lived anywhere near an exchange. FTTC is doubtless more than enough for most people that live near an activated cabinet. The rest of us will need FTTP to get a usable speed. For me, 2.5km from the cabinet I guess that will be costly option, but given the chance I'd reluctantly pay up.
Posted by csimon over 4 years ago
@themanstan Average take-up 5%, in areas of low speeds it's 10%, so we can assume in areas with good speeds take-up is well below 5%. Take-up in areas with low speeds is double the average? Seems a no-brainer to me! It's new technology and still relatively expensive so 10% seems a pretty good rate to me all things considered. Sky would be happy to get 10% conversions from Freesat in such a short space of time if they were only just coming into the market! Of course the fly in the ointment is absolute numbers. 1% of take-up in good areas is probably more people than 10% in poor areas.
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
Double of not a lot is still not a lot.

So the nobrainer component is moot as ROI is not a lot.
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
As for FreeSAT... um... where is the infrastructure cost component for rural?
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
All DSL services have been sold on the basis of what speed is said to be possible. But that is misleading in my experience. We were told we could have no better than 1.8 Mbps. But a fault developed and repaired. Then I asked if the noise margin at 17 dB was excessive, the DSLAM was adjusted and we get 3.7 Mbps. So all the tests and statements that 1.8 was our max were wrong. How many others have been told wrongly? Equipment settings should not be restricting speeds as they were for us.
Posted by vicdupreez over 4 years ago
@fastman... The copper is still there, I have not ripped it out, so getting it turned on again is easy... The issue is that this is the best available at the minute. The BT Chief dude of Northern Ireland have told me directly in an email, that there will me nothing more than ADSL Max done to my exchange. No ADSL 2+, no fiber to the curb (since there is no cabinets at all here) and certainly no FTTP... This is my ONLY option if I want faster than 0.8Mbps upload.

Posted by Frank22 over 4 years ago
2 people i know in holland use a company called XMS (XMSnet dot nl). THey pay 55Euro for 100/100Mbps (Symmetrical! And true unlimited), monthly telephone subscription and a TV cable connection.
As i explained, a neighbour votes for fibre. Just like elections, there are evenings organised where people get explained what fibre is and they can ask questions.
Posted by Frank22 over 4 years ago
Oops, i meant neighbourhood not neighboor.
Posted by wellhiddenmark over 4 years ago
Well we could all have FTTH, or we could have a rubbish train that won't be built for decades. Politician want train. Politician now like train.
Posted by brass4thing over 4 years ago
Switching from FTTC to FTTH will make very little difference to most users if present levels of contention persist, which means if the rest of the infrastructure, which is patently inadequate for the amount of traffic, remains as it is
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago

This happens in the UK
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