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The BT contract signing pen is busy again, this time in Durham
Friday 26 April 2013 11:14:21 by Andrew Ferguson

The BDUK process is continuing to move at a pace that pleases some and upsets others, and today we are able to announce that County Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland and Tees Valley has now signed a contract with BT worth a total of £24 million to deliver the 2 Mbps Universal Service Commitment and push faster broadband via FTTC and some FTTP with speeds of 24 Mbps and faster to 94% of premises in the area.

The impact of delays in the procurrement process are evidenced by the fact that the project completion date is apparently the end of 2016, three and a half years away. We are sure that the various projects could complete faster, but as with almost any infrastructure project the cost of construction is a trade off between cost and time taken.

The contribution from BT towards the contract is £5.9 million, £7.8 million from Durham County Council and Gateshead, £1.3 million contribution from public sector partners in Sunderland and Tees Valley and £9.1 million from the central BDUK fund.

As is normal at this time, no figures on the precise split of FTTC versus FTTP coverage is available, but we expect the normal mainly FTTC roll-out, and some native FTTP is expected (native FTTP being an area where FTTC is not available, but the FTTC speeds are available for the same price but over FTTP infrastructure). Fibre on Demand as usual features in the press release, but with its three year minimum term, high install costs and relatively high monthly costs lends itself to business use rather than the average home broadband user.

"Breaking down the broadband divide will give our residents, communities and businesses opportunities that they’ve only been able to imagine up till now. Fast and reliable internet is becoming more important to daily life and going online will soon be the only way to access some key public services. Fibre and improved broadband will help us to strengthen our economy, grow and develop our businesses while enhancing community activities. This is an important milestone for all who live and work in this area."

Don McLure, Durham County Council’s corporate director of resources

The director's comments on the digital divide actually hide one aspect that means those who are looking at where they live and county council plans and realising they may only see a 2 Mbps solution are getting ever more vocal and that is while the numbers affected by the digital divide may be decreasing, the gulf that the divider represents for those left on the wrong side is actually getting wider.


Posted by zhango over 4 years ago
Are those that will only get the min 2 Meg complaining because having a faster speed is a status symbol or affecting their house value? What do they want to do that actually requires high speed BB? I'm happy with my current 3 Meg and do online banking, income tax return, shopping, email etc that would be no better with a high speed connection.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@zhango so if council was to say you get 3Meg and are outside our super fast foot print, then you are not at all concerned that there are no announced plans to upgrade you to better speeds in the next 5 or 10 years?
Posted by zhango over 4 years ago
The council have said that! I know that I am outside the super fast footprint but I'm happy. I appreciate the benefits of high speed BB for people who move really large files so I think the fibre service is important and I'm pleased to see it go ahead.
All I'm asking is whether those complaining have a good reason to complain or is the speed they already have sufficient for their needs as 3Meg is for me.
If I could get BT Infinity for £23/month today then I would stay with what I have because I don't need any faster speed.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
What a shame, so much taxpayer's money given away to BT who will then control everything again, and this for yesterday's technology, with plenty of decaying copper to the premises left. Why isn't there something equivalent to Australia's NBN in the UK?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
NBN is FTTH to 93% in theory, but maybe FTTC after election down under.

It is burning money quickly though:
Posted by mabibby over 4 years ago

Because it's called preparing for the future. Over the next 10 years IPTV will become the choice for masses. DTT & Satellite will eventually die.

Any form of optical media (e.g. Blu-Ray) will become redundant as everyone watches films over the internet on demand in super HD.

Government/Banks are already building video conferencing services to service customers in their homes.

Yeah your 3mb serves you well now, but BT are building a solution to see you through to 2020 and beyond...
Posted by zhango over 4 years ago
@mabibby: Ok thanks - I had assumed that people were complaining just because others had faster BB, rather than they think they will need it in the future.

I'm not too big into TV, I've only just got a Freeview box after the analogue signal was switched off - and somebody gave me that.

I actually regard myself as lucky getting a reliable 3Meg where I live and BT cab is right outside my house.

Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
I've no problem with faster broadband at all; but I am amused how we have so many futurologists who always state what WILL happen in the future with such absolute certainty. Presumably they are preparing to enrol for the new politically correct police to whip the rest of us into their vision of the future, North Korea style, and make us pay (at the point of a gun, presumably) on the supporting technology - new HD gear, cameras in the home etc, and enforce all the Home Office's proposed surveillence. Go to North Korea now and you can get the sort of society you so desire, apparently.
Posted by zyborg47 over 4 years ago
JNeuhoff got the idea, more tax money going to a private company that is paying a high paid CEo and shareholders.

Bt shareholders must love this.

Posted by AndrueC over 4 years ago
2Mb/s is adequate for most things that a single person would want to do.

However it won't allow them to watch an HD stream over the internet (they need 3.5Mb/s min for that) and it's going to struggle to meet the needs of a typical family.

For a family the government's plan is inadequate and will cause hardship - or at least not allow them to be and do all they could. By 2015 we should be looking 20Mb/s minimum.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
zyborg you do realise this isn't a freebie? BT have to stump up their own money, £5.9 million in this case
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
zyborg - the NBN isn't a panacea in that regard either. NBN Co. is a company being subsidised by the Oz government, and will be sold off in the future along with ownership of the access network.

Rather like BT in the 80's, before the cable companies were given their monopoly to install cable and provide TV services as competitors to BT.

In 20 years, it will be a private company with high paid CEO and shareholders, with a true monopoly on their access network.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 4 years ago
What a shame the altnets aren't getting the funding to provide proper networks and provide competition. Has anyone ever wondered why BT are hellbent on stopping anyone else entering the market? The tenders are fixed so that in reality only BT can win them. Therefore they can keep patching up their copper and widen the digital divide... then they can ask for more funding to do the job right once everyone realises they have been sold a donkey thinking they were getting a jet.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
'do the job right'. Please explain what a proper network is. Do you know?
Posted by dragon1945 over 4 years ago
People like me will only ever get 2 MB spasmodically. 1.7MB is the usual. No BBC i-player, and a lot of the newer You-Tube entries can't be viewed. On-line games are severely limited. Newspaper videos freeze and are unwatchable.I am so sick of seeing that buffering thing circling in the middle of the screen. Give us out-of-towners a minimum 3 MB before pandering to the superfast brigade. I pay the same as someone who can get up to 8 MB without much hope of getting 2 MB on a regular basis. Why isn't my bill lowered accordingly?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@drag1945 I have been online gaming since the days of 0.5 Mbps ADSL, and the requirements are no worse no for FPS type stuff.

Which games are giving you problems.

As for the bill being less, 2 Mbps costs the same to deliver as 8 Mbps at wholesale levels.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@Somerset: I have a different opinion to CD about what a proper network is.

My definition has more to do with scale, reliability, robustness, availability and flexibility than just speed, or the label "fibre".

I appreciate the scale involved in getting a network to the entire country, but few do. I appreciate the difficulty of getting to the second half or final third - a problem that even Virgin isn't willing to do (and wasn't willing when it was regional mini-companies, the equivalent of altnets in their day).
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
I'm convinced that, while altnets appear the way to get decent fibre speeds for broadband right now, they aren't the way to install a coherent national infrastructure, that will continue to be reliable, robust, available and flexible in 10, 30 and 50 years time, having been upgraded a number of times inbetween.

History tells us that even having 2 competitors hasn't been enough to get that competition to everyone, so why is more better?
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
If we add lots of altnets to the pot, aren't we just going to create a lot of separate systems that never quite manage to be as reliable, robust, available or flexible? That we add companies that never quite make it as profitable either, so continue, forever, being unable to upgrade their equipment.

I know why some have problems with BT being given a monopoly, but the sad fact is that *someone* has to be given it - but that the majority of the public don't understand the reasons why.

That BT have chosen to go for it is admirable, when no-one else chose to.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@CD: "Therefore they can keep patching up their copper and widen the digital divide... then they can ask for more funding to do the job right once everyone realises they have been sold a donkey thinking they were getting a jet."

BT will have only been given £1 billion to adapt the donkey, but nowhere near the £20-£30 billion needed for the jet.

If more public funding is needed in future, it is because we chose deliberately to not spend so much today.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@zyborg: The NBN, though currently being subsidized bu the Australian Goverment, is nevertheless a longterm infrastructure project which will eventually pay itself off because it will generate income once customers are transferred over to this new network. And eventually, Government shares will be reduced, selling off a finished NBN to private investors.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
So in the long term, the taxpayers has not been burdened by this. This is quite different with BT, where taxpayers money is directly given to BT, without any shares in the network to be owned by the local councils or government. And this for a mediocre FTTC solution to a few selected premises in a postcode lottery style assignments. Really the worst possible approach to building a sub-standard network!
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
'few selected premises'. Please say how many.
Posted by BTfanboy over 4 years ago
The monopoly is working well for them, and as predicted gmann99 BT apologist/mouthpiece/propaganda spokesman is ignoring the obvious,
sticking his tongue right in there, ignore this blind fan boy and his stupid comments.
Posted by BTfanboy over 4 years ago
Posted by GMAN99 about 21 hours ago
zyborg you do realise this isn't a freebie? BT have to stump up their own money, £5.9 million in this case
I'ts a freebie for BT.
Posted by ValueforMoney over 4 years ago
Intervention area is 133k premises. BT up to investment of £44 per premise past + £136 per prem past public subsidy.

Exactly half the cost of Surrey per premise past -at 100% coverage, but still double the public subsidy of Northern Ireland.

At c £35k est. per cabinet it is £65k less that Openreach said it was in December on BBC R4..
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuHoff -
NBN might prove to return the Oz gov's subsidy in 10-20 years. But how do they manage that?

Simple - charge twice as much as we pay, for what we already have access to. There'd be no need for subsidies here then either.

Here: £35 buys Plusnet 80/20 speed, 250GB allowance (would be unlimited if I renewed), plus phone line, plus anytime calls.

There: £70 buys NBN fibre 50/20, 300GB allowance (no unlimited there), plus phone line (no call allowance).

Save £35pm for 5 years and you could fund your own FTTPoD line.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@VFM: Good that you're tracking these, but important to know where each county fits on the "hockey-stick" of costs per property passed. Comparing rural county against Surrey isn't the most objective of comparisons. Neither is NI, which has a very different flavour of intervention.

I've seen the hockey-stick graph for fibre in Oz

Is there something similar for UK - particularly for FTTC - as a whole, or broken down into counties?
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@WWWombat: You said: 'Save £35pm for 5 years and you could fund your own FTTPoD line', which shows you just don't get it. FTTPoD will never be available in our town of 10 000 residents, so for many user it is more realistic to compare it against the cost of an Ethernet or Leased line, or you have to add to the difference the moving costs, because quite a few offices in UK have to relocate if they want a proper fibre service.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
See also,how-much-does-it-cost-to-use-the-nbn-14-providers-compared-including-iinet-telstra-internode.aspx for 100mbps price plans. Hardly anywere available in the UK!
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff 1: I do get it, you know.
Nationwide stats:
1) After BDUK, 90% of country will get at least FTTC coverage.
2) Average D-side is 500 metres. Cost to install FTTPoD that distance is £1500

So, on average, 90% of the country could install FoD for £1500 ... under 4 years at £35pm.

4 years after BDUK = 2020, before NBN is complete. For 90% our route is a better one.

You're right for the "many" represented by the other 10% though. It isn't good for them.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff 2:
I can't say anything specific about your town's possibilities, but 10k residents suggests around 4k premises and probably 4k lines.

BDUK plans for North Yorkshire are sending FTTC and FTTP to exchanges well below 1k lines.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff 3:
Thanks for the link to NBN price comparison. Had to compare manually before.

Of course, 100/40 isn't available to much of Oz either yet - or fibre at all. The rollout has another 9-10 years to go yet. And they'll still only reach 93%. It is going to end up *very* comparable, but at very different costs.

I picked prices to compare for the 50/20 packages because I didn't want to overstate prices (that 40 upstream is worth a lot).
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff 4:
60% of the UK are within 600 metres of the cabinet, currently between 35 and 65Mbps. With vectoring, it'll more readily be 80Mbps.

90% of the UK are within 1km of the cabinet, so their speeds will be 25-35 now, with 40Mbps after vectoring.

So 55% get the mediocre rate of 25-80Mbps now and for the next 2-3 years. 90% get the mediocre rate of 40-80 for the 3-4 years after that, and can still save enough money over that time to buy FTTPoD. Once installed, they'll probably still spend around £70pm getting 330Mbps.

Mediocre? Only for the 10%.
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff - where is this town with no cabinets?
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@Somerset: Our local council couldn't be bothered to apply for any public funding at all!

@WWWombat: There is no way that 90% of premises are being served ever by FTTC in the UK. Not all exchanges and/or cabinets are FTTC-enabled, and there way too many exchange-only lines.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago


Correct about EO lines - about 10% apparently. If they are left out entirely, then you may have to take my 90% figures down towards 81%. But BT have solutions, and *are* doing something. We just don't know the full extent yet - they are tending to be the last things done.

But there has to be *some* sort of plan for EO, otherwise BT will have to get FTTC SFBB to every single remote farmhouse to otherwise reach the government's 90%... and a lot of counties are aiming higher than 90%
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Right that not all exchanges/cabinets are done yet - but we've largely only seen the commercial plans so far. Still 3.5 years to go.

Fill-in cabinets are to be expected as part of BDUK, along with many new exchanges.

BDUK had a big effect on N.Yorks - taking it from 18 commercial, adding 119. It left 8 untouched (with a total of 2k lines). Not all cabinets will be done in those 119, of course.

So, BDUK is bringing SFBB to 90%+, no question. That means FTTC, FTTP or Virgin. Almost all with decent prospects.

The only part that is worth considering truly mediocre is the 10%.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Cornwall is delivering new cabinets in some EO areas, and even adding cabinets to areas that have viable clusters of long distance lines.

Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
The addition of cabinets to EO lines has been reported reasonably, but only really when placed outside the exchange, for the local EO lines.

Adding cabinets "to areas that have viable clusters of long distance lines" is an obvious step for BT, but it has been little reported so far.

Can we get some report out, with info from BT on prospects, about how this is going? I think the interest is out there...
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@andrew: About the exchange-only lines: There is no technical reason why you couldn't run FTTP directly from the exchange to the end user's premise. I have seen it in many other countries.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Agreed - no technical problem at all. Either as overlay or as replacement.

So the only issues that need solving are logistical (doing all the digging) and financial (paying for it).
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@WWWombat: The only issue is BT. FTTPoD roughly shows the costs for this, costs should be similar for exchange-only lines of similar length.
Posted by callmeleroy over 4 years ago
It's about time some proper answers were given. At the moment we don't even know if its more cost effective to bring fibre to a new town with cabinets or install new cabinets for EO lines in places near existing fibre infrastructure. There's millions of £ of bduk money out there now and no info on whether EO lines will be the last thing to be dealt with.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@callmeleroy: For a given similar line length from an exchange to the premise, or from a cabinet to a premise, the costs of replacing it with fibre are the same. Same digging, ducts, installation at the premise. There is no technical reason why FTTPoD can't be offered for exchange-only lines. The only obstacle here is BT's narrow mindset!
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
Local exchanges may not have fibre in them for FTTC/FoD as the connection is back to a head end exchange.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
FTTPoD set the costs for installing fibre along the existing topology (ie using ducts going in the right direction, already used for the right purpose. Averaged over the whole nation.

To do sensible FTTPoD for EO, to an agg node nearer than the exchange boundary, requires topology change in many places. It needs new digging, new ducts, and before anything else, it needs a new strategy rather than just ad-hoc digging. That takes time - and may be based on an FTTC strategy for EO lines that also takes time.

You want it NOW. BT want it to last 100 years. You're just too impatient.
Posted by callmeleroy over 4 years ago
Now there is the BDUK funding is it really that much more expensive to install a new cabinet for EO lines when fibre network is nearby than rollout to brand new towns? Why is EO waiting till last?
Posted by Teasy1000 over 4 years ago
My exchange (Ebchester in Durham) apparently didn't meet the commercial criteria for Fibre according to Openreach a couple of months ago. So hopefully this funding will change that.
Posted by Teasy1000 over 4 years ago
Sorry I mean my cabinet (on the Ebchester exchange) didn't meet the commercial criteria. The exchange itself has already been scheduled for fibre sometime in 2014.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
EO last? Because it is quite a significant, costly, process to re-arrange the (equivalent of) the E-side cabling for EO lines, so it is still borderline viable even with BDUK funding.

AS BT trial their techniques for EO lines more, they work out more cost-effective plans and methods.

Councils want the best return for their money (ie more coverage), so if they spend less on EO, more people get SFBB.

In the big picture, it is better to allow BT to gain EO experience than to rush headlong.
Posted by callmeleroy over 4 years ago
So bringing a new cabinet(s) to a town already with fibre to serve the EO lines is more expensive/complicated than enabling FTTC in towns that currently have no FTTC?
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Not more expensive, but bringing fibre to a new exchange is a known price now, with known complexity now, and adding FTTC to their cabinets is known just as much. EO lines have different complexity - every one is different, and costs are less stable.

BT have to do both, and have a deadline for both. They choose to do the known, least complex, first while continuing to trial EO methods.

It isn't about expense NOW - it is about total expense in 1, 2 or 3 years time.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
Also remember that, in BDUK terms, it is probably beneficial to the council for it to get fibre to as many exchanges areas as possible - even if it routes back to a different exchange for the head-end - because that is an enabler for the future.

At the highest end of the "cost per home" scale, the council probably has to juggle between "an extra FTTC cabinet on exchange A" vs "any fibre at all to exchange B".

I think I'd generally aim at the second of those options. If councils think the same way, then BT have to go to pretty much every exchange anyway.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 4 years ago
@ WWombat: You sound like a spokesman for BT :)

Exchange only lines lines use similar ducts and copper wires than lines coming from cabinets. Hence, as long as the local exchange has a fibre backbone (as it the case with most 21CN exchanges), the costs of replacing similarly long lines are pretty much the same. The only real obstacle here is BT's narrow mindset, preventing them from doing things which is common in many other countries!
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
@JNeuhoff - or is it your lack of detailed network knowledge? Maybe EO lines are planned for later.
Posted by callmeleroy over 4 years ago
Perhaps it's time for thinkbroadband to ask for an EO solution plans update from Openreach
Posted by Somerset over 4 years ago
Devon & Somerset are doing EO lines as a network rearrangement after FTTC.
Posted by callmeleroy over 4 years ago
It'd be nice to see a bit more detail on those kind of plans including the adsl checker too actually being updated to show plans for lines based on funding. No towns in Suffolk show any details other than those covered in the commercial rollout.
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