JT (Jersey Telecom) has completed 72% of its full fibre to the home roll-out across the island of Jersey. This means 710,738km of fibre has been deployed out of a planned install of 989,400km, expressing coverage in terms of the amount of fibre installed is a different measure to the usual homes passed, but does satisfy critics who complain that homes passed is an irrelevant statistic. The project is on course to complete the roll-out to 42,000 premises sometime in 2016.
The important figure is how many people have signed up to the service, back at the start of the year there was 1,737 homes with subscriptions, this has now risen to just over 4,200 subscriptions.
The Gigabit Jersey website lists three retailers for the service, JT themselves, Sure and Newtel. Sure appear to only offer an up to 20 Mbps service (736 Kbps upload) for £36 to £43 a month, Newtel has similar pricing and speeds i.e. 20 Mbps for £48.99 a month though both are unlimited usage. JT themselves has a 50 Mbps (1 Mbps upload) with 80 GB usage allowance for £29.99 and Gigabit (0.1Gbps upload) has a 100GB allowance for £59.99 - though with JT usage overnight is unmetered. The older ADSL packages are available for the same speed, allowance and price on the fibre network, which should encourage higher take-up, removing the price premium that FTTC/FTTP services in the rest of the British Isles command.
As we understand the situation is such on the island that copper recovery is not underway, which explains why take-up is not higher, suggesting that many people do not understand the benefits of upgrading or have concerns over final install process and reliability of their telephone service.
We would love to see many more full fat Gigabit capable FTTH/FTTP networks, but the performance in terms of take-up for the JT fibre network does raise questions over whether those who advocate the build it and they will come can be sure this will happen in a reasonably short timeframe. The JT network build is small, as the island itself is just 119.5km2 in size, the UK is much larger at 130,395km2. Estimates for the cost of deploying FTTH in the UK vary, but one report for the Broadband Stakeholder Group (using Verizon as cost model) estimates between £10.1 billion (20% connected) and £16.1 billion (80% connected) when homes passed is 80%. Recovery of copper could help cover the costs, but based on £8,335 per tonne in April 2008 for copper this was £0.7 billion for the 80% homes passed.
FTTH/FTTP/FTTB is not dead in the UK, there is a vibrant amount of work going on in the area, but given the size of the UK it is still around the 1% coverage mark. Take-up on networks that engage with communities or have deployed where larger operators fear to tread is giving good take-up figures, the catch-22 is keeping these high levels of take-up as projects grow in size.