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Countryside Alliance claims FTTC like dial-up at 600m
Friday 07 March 2014 09:53:01 by Andrew Ferguson

On one hand we have the Government telling us all is well and we are on track for 95% superfast broadband coverage by some point in 2017 but the balance is often very passionately stated, and in coverage of a NFU Mutual survey the head of policy has made an interesting statement about FTTC based services.

"Our own research suggests that rural households are less likely to use 3G and 4G but these networks are coming sooner than fixed line broadband and represent a good alternative.


If you live 600 metres or more away from the cabinet you might as well be on dial-up."

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance talking to the BBC

Saying FTTC runs out to dial-up speeds at 600m is only likely if the 600m of cable is aluminium with a great number of aging joints, or the 600m is a straight line distance and to reach the property the line meanders for around 3km of distance. Our own estimates of FTTC speeds over varying distances show at 600m speeds of 35 Mbps or more should be possible, at even allowing for a reasonably level or wiggly cable at 1km you are expecting speeds of 24 Mbps (an actual copper line at 1.1km with no special assistance has been tested in the real world at 21 Mbps). The speed table takes into account a fairly pessimistic level of cross-talk with the line data coming from old Ofcom information shared as part of the original approval process for VDSL2.

We are waiting on seeing more on the NFU Mutual survey results, as commenting based on the limited information available may result in a misinterpretation of the survey. The suggestion from the survey is that one in five rural families have poor broadband links and its interpretation depends on whether those who cannot get broadband at all are included, plus some families may NOT want broadband at all. As things stand 1 in 5 rural links being poor actually sounds a pretty good figure, unless you are one of those of course.

The Countryside Alliance is not the only people making claims about FTTC speeds this week, a blog entitled the 'The Occasional Berk' has claimed FTTC has a speed limit of 350m ("the real world of old cables of mixed types is just 350 metres").

What is clear is that the UK broadband battle to improve broadband speeds is not a technical issue, but rather a battle of wills and personal experience. Of course once you remove the passion of personal experience you get the sort of statements from the BDUK about coverage targets and progress, at least the BDUK so far appears to have been only counting those postcodes which are likely to get superfast broadband speeds in its occasional coverage figures. Of course the debate then moves onto the one where the UK has backed the wrong horse in the form of BT and we are perpetuating a decades old monopoly. In an ideal world even if two or three firms had won the various BDUK projects, each firm would have effectively been gifted a monopoly superfast franchise for the final third of each local authority area, the same thing that happened in the 1980's when cable TV started.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 3 years ago
Great article! what it boils down to is who you believe. A monopoly protecting its assets and telling everyone 'fibre broadband' comes down a phone line. Or countless people telling you stuff doesn't work in their houses. Or politicians denying the emperor has no clothes.
Toothless regulators who believe statistics which can be manipulated and massive advertising budgets fudge the issue.
The fact remains that our brilliant industrial revolution phone network can not be patched up much longer. It is not up to the demands of the digital revolution.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Depends whether you listen to lying campaigners with a history of mistruths and distortions or tangible factual evidence I guess.

Dialup at 600m is the sort of sound bite I would expect from the "satellite doesn't work here" stable.
Posted by ian72 over 3 years ago
My phone line is 600m long. I get just over 40Mb down and 15Mb up. This is not as simple as just line length which is why the estimators for speeds are only ever a best guess. Making statements that 600m will be dial up speeds does not help. Some parts of the network are far better than others.
Posted by Unknown101 over 3 years ago
My line is just under 700m (with just over a quarter of it ali) and it achieves a stable sync speed of 69/14 with speedtest speeds of between 66-70/14. They dont have a jar of glue about what they're talking about.
Posted by mpellatt over 3 years ago
Whilst our phone network was originally installed in the (late) industrial revolution, the external plant has been replaced since then throughout, just as has all the kit in the exchanges. One example - the pole - house used to be 2 wires separated by 6" or so, with ceramic insulators at each end. Now it's a (pair of) twisted pairs, which have somewhat different electrical characteristics :-)
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
'Posted by cyberdoyle about 3 hours ago
Great article! what it boils down to is who you believe'

My own eyes, showing my ~400m lines both at 70Mb+ with 191 pairs worth of crosstalk affecting each one. Mr Berk presented zero evidence beyond an incorrect Ofcom graph.

Posted by DashDave over 3 years ago
I'm only 200 mtrs from our exchange, but as we are an Exchange only line, BT will not give any date for fibre. A huge number of my neighbours and most of the businesses in Chatburn are EO lines, yet BT and Superfast Lancashire, who paid for the upgrade, claim it as a success.
Posted by jumpmum over 3 years ago
Well I am at around 600m from the cab and I 'only' get 56Mb / 16Mb so 1000x better than Dial-up. Sarah Lee obvoiusly has an axe to grind and facts irrelevant
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@dashdave Some counties are inserting cabinets for EO lines, so chase, it maybe done at a later date. Or since they are not aiming at 100% coverage there will be some left out.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
You don't need a cabinet inserted for EO lines in order to get a VDSL service! The exchange usually already has a fibre backbone, and there are various ways to deal with crosstalk noise.

Posted by Plankton1066 over 3 years ago
@andrew I'd love to see a poll on this. VDSL2 speed vs distance with a little statistical analysis. I've seen lots of tables (like the one that accompanies the excellent fibre guide on this site) but there seems to be very wide variation both in these kinds of table and in the reality of the speeds that people are getting both for the good and bad.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
A poll would be nice but difficult to do with our poll system, and suspect small sample size will mean both sides can claim they still win.

The data table I use is used a lot on our forums, and I do compare peoples posted speeds when happy or upset to ensure table is giving reasonable estimates.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@JNeuhoff Well had better explain that to the people installing the EO cabinet locally to me and others around the country.
Posted by dogbark over 3 years ago
JNeuhoff is talking in theory rather than in practice presumably to show how clever he is ;)
Posted by Unknown101 over 3 years ago
Theres a reason for it I just can't quite put my hand on it, I know it's something to do with OFCOM not allowing it because of the interference with equipment already in the exchange. I know openreach are planner to re-route as many EO cables through their nearest PCP, in most cases this will be pretty straight forward but some cases really close to the exchanges they would have to make new smaller cabinets sometimes called E1 etc then pop a small ECI dslam next to it.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
It has been deeply ingrained in the minds of many that VDSL broadband is only possible through a magical new street cabinet, which simply isn't the case. For copper VDSL EO lines I have seen many cases where BT simply placed the DSLAM equipment right in front of an exchange building, embedded in a cabinet, instead of inside the exchange building, merely to meet the Ofcom rules. Quite often the required network re-arrangement is minimal, because usually EO lines are short, and all go the the same point, namely to the exchange building.
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
@JNeuhoff - technically my car is capable of over 100mph, however the rules about how I can use the road limit me to 70 or below. In the same way the ANFP currently does not allow VDSL to co-exist with ADSL within and exchange. So VDSL broadband is currently only possible through a magical new street cabinet because of the rules for the whole UK telecoms industry
Posted by adslmax over 3 years ago
NFU Mutual is honest far ripped off in motor insurance. They quoted £678 for my car but my current insurer is quoted £298. Glad I am not with NFU Mutual
Posted by mdar5 over 3 years ago
Poster @Gadget is correct
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@JNeuhoff - urm that is exactly what I meant. For very long EO lines cabinet may be inserted deep into the network.

I'll get photos when I have a chance.

Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
NICC is in charge of the ANFP. It is this body, and that document, that limits the frequencies and power that are allowed to be transmitted from exchange and cabinet.

The current version of the ANFP allows VDSL2 to be transmitted from the cabinet, but not the exchange. It also specifies power reductions from the theoretical best that VDSL2 can be.

The last change in 2011, allowed use of 17MHz. Before then it was 7.05MHz.

This year, exchange-based VDSL2 is on their worklist.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
You said that it isn't the case that "VDSL broadband is only possible through a magical new street cabinet" and then attempt to prove it by showing "many cases" for EO lines where such a magical new case gets installed.

Weird. You can't even argue with yourself successfully!
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Do you mean that Openreach are planning to re-route long EO-lines through an already-existing PCP? If so, that's an option we've not heard about before.
Posted by Unknown101 over 3 years ago
WWWombat - indeed network rearrangement, it has happened for a few local streets before FTTC, just to make it easier for engineers who are not underground skilled to connect up customers, but they are now using it to provide customers with FTTC (obviously they'll only do it to the easy lines where maybe the EO cable passes right by or near a PCP
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Network rearrangement and EO lines getting their own cab are all options.

Obviously though no-one will benefit from any of the money spent, so we are wasting our time discussing it.
Posted by rayvon over 3 years ago
Its not a case of how near the cabinet is to your home(although the nearer the better).It depends of what route the cabling takes from the cabinet to your house.Mine for example...Its less than 200m to walk to the cabinet yet the underground copper cable is roughly 860m in distance.I am with Digital Region FTTC(although not for much longer).When it closes down I shall be pushed back onto sub 2mb ADSL.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 3 years ago
Lots of lines in rural areas are very old and in very poor condition and will have lots of joints and many of the lines take very indirect routes
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
"If you live 600 metres or more away from the cabinet you might as well be on dial-up."

Since it is demonstrably wrong to say 600m on VDSL equates to dial-up (28.8Kbps?), why give these clowns any more publicity? If broadband mattered that much, perhaps the members would not have taken more than two years to try to sort out a standard wayleave agreement.

Funny that the first person to agree with the also claimed FTTP doesn't suffer from contention. Perhaps they have the same tech advisers. :)
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
Oh good god!

You mean where they said that a certain network has 1Gbps for everyone despite only having a 20 Gbps backbone?
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Something like that has to be an idea. Perhaps resulting in a scatter graph like Ofcom uses for ADSL and ADSL2+ distances.

It can only be more up-to-date and more relevant than the graph on Occasional Berk's site.
Posted by GMAN99 over 3 years ago
I'd say this berk is more of an occasional berk than he makes out, the consistantberk seems more apt looking through that blog.
Posted by fastman over 3 years ago
i awill ask some othe communities i am working with at 700 - 800 metres for the cab what it like to be around 25/30 meg (i dont remember dial up being that good)
Posted by OccasionalBerk over 3 years ago
It's me the Occasional Berk.

Before any of you rip into me because of my Blog, (and it seems that some stuff I said was contentious with you chaps) just remember this:

You have a connection. We don’t.

All we’re trying to do - is get this community connected with anything.

If you want to decry that, and support the digital divide and BT’s monopoly then snipe away.
Posted by OccasionalBerk over 3 years ago
I'm posting a response to you all on the blog - unfortunately I don't have the time or the connection reliability to sit here and participate as I'd like.
Oh, and it's lambing time.. :-)
Posted by fastman over 3 years ago
occasional have you actually had a discussion with openreach about what might be possible - there are a number of communities now in a better position that before hand as they opened a dialogue and wahted to to work with openreach to find an answer
Posted by flipdee over 3 years ago
I agree that sometimes sensational headlines are required to get attention for something that never makes the news.
If a more realistic headline was used, fttc lines at <2km operate like dial up then would it make the "news" - no.
I think what should be highlighted is the people left out of the rollout haven't gone away, they aren't just a "number" and I personally believe they are in larger number than anyone has estimated so far.
Posted by flipdee over 3 years ago
Should have been >2km - whoops
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
The simple number is that 10% of UK households is around 2.64 million
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
I see what you mean by frustration. I have had many dealings with 'BT Bill'.

Looks quite ridiculous you on the one hand complaining about a total lack of broadband service for a couple of paragraphs then spending several reprimanding BT for not delivering symmetrical gigabit and using PON.

Singapore, South Korea and Japan are held up as panaceas of broadband. Guess what most of their FTTP is.

Having campaigned for NGA myself I wish you luck despite the auspicious start.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
At least Sarah Lee's statement is only an exaggeration and a counter to Ofcoms assertion that FTTC speed does not diminish with distance.
Posted by Teasy1000 over 3 years ago
Exaggeration is an understatement, the minimum speed anyone is likely to get from that length of line is hundreds of times faster than dial-up. If she expects to be taken seriously she'd be well advised to stop this kind of sensationalist nonsense.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
It may be an understatement but exaggeration is better than basing public policy on deliberate or naive factual errors as Ofcom do.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Quote "a counter to Ofcoms assertion that FTTC speed does not diminish with distance"

Please provide evidence that this is true - I don't recall ever seeing anything that could even be misinterpreted as meaning this from Ofcom.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
"All we’re trying to do - is get this community connected with anything."

Very laudible, if that were what came over from your blog.

Unfortunately, what comes over is a badly mis-informed rant against FTTC for anyone in the country at all. You just appear anti-FTTC, rather than pro-rural-community.

Nowhere do you recognise that FTTC *might* have a place. That it *does* work in towns and cities. That it does have a place even in rural communities.

You're right that it isn't a solution for everyone. But don't campaign as though it is a solution for no-one.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
"You have a connection. We don’t."

In which case it is very rich of you to tell *us* that 80Mbps is not enough, and that we should throw it away in favour of gigabit fibre. How do you know what is considered sufficient by most people, if you don't have the same to make daily use of?

Take a look at Lightstream from KC in Hull. Predominantly full FTTP fibre... but do the subscribers go for ultra-fast packages?

No. The majority take the basic package, at 50/5. Cost wins out.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
And if your argument won, and the nation rolled out FTTP instead, do you realise the consequence?

On top of costing 5x the cost of FTTC, it would take 5x as long. And the rural ones would find themselves as the least-cost-effective again, and at the back of the queue again.

Fancy getting that upgrade in 2038?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@new londoner- see their annual infrastructure report and points 3.19-3.21 of their wholesale broadband access consultation. Andrew commented on that on the site
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Must be an old version of the wholesale broadband access consultation, not in the 2013 doc or 2014 supplement.
Posted by mikejp over 3 years ago
Be that as it may, N_L, but if gerarda is correct and it was an Ofcom 'output', it gives a clue to the foundations on which the whole BDUK scheme would have been based since 'conception' occurred before 2013.

If it is true, have Ofcom corrected it?
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Well the 2010 Ofcom doc does not suggest this for FTTC either, although it does for coax cable ignoring the impact of congestion. Need more clarity on exactly which doc to verify the claim,but wasn't the case in 2010, isn't the case now.
Posted by chilting over 3 years ago
Vectoring would greatly enhance FTTC in rural areas, potentially leading to impressive increases in speed. It will be interesting to see if BT adopt this technology and how it copes with an "antique" final mile.
Posted by godsell4 over 3 years ago
My line according to BT is approximately 6km long, it has many joints in it due to be repeatedly dug up then repaired. I typically connect at above the sync speed required for 2Mb. Which is I can tell you much better than dial-up and 128kb ISDN.
Posted by michaels_perry over 3 years ago
Amusing story and comments. Our rural village exchange does not have a fibre backbone and no date for it. BT say the fastest possible is around 4 Mbps! We have no idea when we might get a better service as the BDUK project has barely started in the more highly populated parts of the county.
'Cable' TV did not start in the 1980s, but well before then with the Rediffusion service in many towns and that was running in the 1960s! It was the forerunner of the Virgin and TeleWest type services carried initially on twisted pairs and then on coaxial cable.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@new londoner
I think everyone assumed they were talking about FTTP but as Andrew points out they were not - if you read the entire section from 3.13 on it obviously referring to FTTC
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
But doesn't 3.20 point out the data source as not being reliable?
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago

The Ofcom document does, indeed, include FTTC.

However, interpreting 3.19 (conversion rates to fibre are expected to be higher due to copper distance from exchange) as meaning Ofcom assume copper distance from the cabinet doesn't affect speeds is an unwarranted assumption. It still shortens the copper loop, and the great majority will still therefore want to convert.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@theeulerid I was giving proof that Ofcom misunderstand the technology - not whether or not that affected a specific assumption.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@themanstan that is the conversion sample - not Ofcom's underlying assumption in which they seem to have unquestioning faith even when it produces nonsense outcomes like the 2nd sentence in 3.21
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago

But you've given absolutely no evidence, let alone the proof you claim that Ofcom do misunderstand FTTC distance losses. All they are saying is they expect conversion rates to be higher on market A as the distance from exchanges is higher.

It is simply not credible that Ofcom would somehow think VDSL is not affected by distance when they acknowledge ADSL is. It's also something the FTTH/P lobby are always emphasising to them.
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
I think ofcom are simply not credible. For years they assumed everyone on an enabled exchange can get ADSl - they simply moved their ignorance/spin to the next stage
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
You can also look at the postcode data attached to their annual infrastructure which also equates connected to the cabinet as able to get SFBB
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago

I've no doubt Ofcom, like all organisations, presents itself in the best possible light. They've got to justify what are apparently the highest salaries

At the bottom of all this is there is insufficient capital available for fttp rollout. If you believe the B4RN business plan, than £1.2bn would be sufficient for about 1m homes, but only if you can rely on volunteer labour, free wayleaves and, crucially, can manage 1,000s of small projects.
Posted by DrewR over 3 years ago
As others have said, line length is not the whole story. We are 2300m from the cabinet and about 10000m from the exchange. We used to have 800 (stable) kbps but now we have 400 (wobbly) kbps, sometimes less but only a serious line fault occasions dialup speeds.
Posted by DrewR over 3 years ago
Why our address has such a depleted service now remains an open discussion. I can see however why people feel the need to say things like “…might as well be on dial-up…” to try to convey the contrast between the speeds available and the the significance in terms of how little one can do on-line when speeds are poor; the usefulness of broadband declines exponentially when near the bottom of the scale.
Posted by DrewR over 3 years ago
This is something which people above the USC threshold might not entirely appreciate. Becoming inured to this level of frustration, disappointment and, indeed, disenfranchisement might be related to the projected likely uptake in the more rural areas.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Section 3.13 of the 2013 infrastructure report:

"We recognise that the distance from the fibre cabinet to some homes is too long to support superfast speeds (see below), but for the large majority of customers a service provided from an NGA network will be significantly better than that delivered by first generation broadband technology."

Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
... and section 3.20
"In particular, the speed achieved on a given line using FTTC/VDSL technology will depend on the length of the copper connection to the consumer’s premises. Our analysis indicates that over 86% of current FTTC/VDSL connections have modem sync speeds of 30Mbit/s or more and
over 90% are more than 24Mbit/s."
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
It seems that Ofcom are perfectly aware that speed of "fibre" (in the context of your link, they really meant the FTTC rollout) diminishes with distance.

Section 3.19 of the WBA review is probably best described as a clumsy way of saying that FTTC doesn't diminish with distance from the exchange, only the distance from the cabinet. Certainly the last part of 3.19 uses the meaning of "distance" in that context.
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