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Provider claims low demand for fibre broadband
Thursday 24 July 2014 11:22:09 by Andrew Ferguson

One broadband provider is going against the grain and claims that for fibre broadband there is 'low demand seen throughout the industry' and has actually withdrawn its fibre based broadband products from sale for a few months.

This goes against the avalanche of news coverage that now has ITV journalists filming on beaches in the Isles of Scilly as fibre backhaul is brought ashore and almost daily appearances by one or other MP at a cabinet unveiling.

The provider in question is Primus Saver who claim they are removing the products for a period of three months and may reappear with revised pricing if and when new wholesale pricing appears.

Primus Saver operate at the low end of the market and the extra £8 to £10 per month that fibre services from Openreach command, plus wholesalers mark-up to account for the generally higher usage levels for fibre based services make bargain basement fibre services hard to market while still making a profit.

The UK has a real problem since if wholesale prices of fibre services are reduced it may drive demand, but if driven too low it will increase the ROI periods to the extent that Openreach may ask for more gap funding in rural areas to continue the roll-out, or introduce two-tier pricing. Also for alt-nets trying to compete where volume is difficult people may be reluctant to sign up to anything significantly more expensive than the TV advertised services that usually include unlimited usage too.


Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
How could there be any demand for fibre broadband at all? At the most, probably less than 1% can actually order fibre broadband in the UK.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 3 years ago
The problem is because of the marketing hype, as if you can get fibre through phone lines. Its all a superfarce.
Posted by timmay over 3 years ago
Primus probably just set their prices too low and are pulling the plug as they are not making any profit on it. Their marketing department are using the low demand as an excuse. Another reason that Primus don't see the take up is they aim at the wrong end of the market.
Posted by pmgreenwood over 3 years ago
Top end adsl in urban areas of 12 to 16 mbps copes with most household needs. The demand for fibre comes from those not close to exchange, e.g rural and exchange in next village. Many of those are awaiting either exchange or cabinet. My cabinet has been put back from March 14 to currently before Dec 14 ?
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
I think there's a lot to what pmgreenwood says. Most households even today can get by with a good (>15Mbs) ADSL2+ service.

@JNeuhoff - what do you base that figure on? Given that it's basically been population-led 1% seems a ludicrously low figure. Pretty much everyone living in a large town or bigger can get it if they want it now.

@cd - meh. Can't be bothered. You'll only start wittering about copper cabals.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
(cont'd) In fact JNEuhoff's statement /is/ silly. BT claimed 1.7m Infinity customers last October. That's over 2% last October. /And/ that's just BT Infinity. /And/ that's the number actually taking up the service.

So likely at least ten times as many (20% for those not good at maths) could get it if they wanted.
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago
It's possibly not surprising that an ISP aiming at the "value" end of the market is not seeing much demand for a premium product.

However, it points up an issue. Whatever people blather on about, demand by the few does not equal a viable, self-sustaining market. Low cost competition from exchange-based ADSL & Ofcom policies present a big problem to fibre roll-out.
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago
It's clear @JNEuohoff must be talking about pur fibre and not fibre/copper hybrids. Of course, he didn't make it clear but that's the only way the numbers work.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband watchers. This morning I have contacted Openreach over a customer with Plusnet and wishes to get Infinity and has problems for six months in the BT Commercial Section she gets the order and pays but then is told she cannot have it five days latter. This has happened six times. In Surrey the change over time is ten working days Enginners from London and other areas.
The customers who have cheap broadband are not interested in the FTTC because of the price they are quite happy with 3.5 meg on CN21.
Posted by jroadley over 3 years ago
Living in a town that has recently gone live - there is no advertising on the new cabinets. No e-mail to say Exchange enabled. No email from ISP to say it's available.

How can people order if they don't know!?
Posted by chris6273 over 3 years ago
Not surprised when providers such as these advertise it as Fibre Broadband when the technology behind it is no more fibre than ADSL products - The DSLAM is just closer to your house.

That being said the last thing I'd want as a customer is to have a company offering 'value' products when it comes to 'high-speed' products - You'll likely end up with less bandwidth than with other providers offering ADSL!

Usually the larger the provider the larger the bandwidth pool - Theoretically the higher the chance of getting a good throughput.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers,
If you are in the BT commercial section the BT customers are told if they have registered for InFinity by E/mail they BT don't advertise by post code or Area.
If the other ISP,s want customers they should check if the Cab FTTC is open and has Availibity it is a leval playing field when a FTTC is open.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
Several here have it spot on and it's what I've said several times.
They are spending millions activating cabs where fibre is not needed or wanted.
Down here, Ashburton a good case in point. Just activated, (2 or 3 cabs). I have several customers there and most don't need fttc. They can now get 40-80 meg but most are happy with 8-12 that they are currently getting. I desperately need it for my business to remain competitive and can't have it! It's absolutely stupid. The final 10% - 20% should have been prioritised first. Dumb asses!! Sorry, but it makes me mad.

Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
Did they go into a meeting and say, “Right, we have 80% - 90% of the country with reasonable broadband who are pretty happy with it and we have 10% - 20% who are really struggling to do anything useful…. Which shall we sort out first??”
“I know” said some Muppet who has probably been to school for far too long.. ” let’s start with the ones who don’t really need it or at least can get along for now and make theirs really really fast. Then we can do the others in the next 5 years or so…. Ahhh, who needs farmers and rural businesses anyway!”
I’m sorry but the wrong people are in charge…. Again!!!
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
It is obvious from the comments here that there is a lot of confusion here. Probably no more than 0.08% can actually order a fibre broadband (e.g. BT Infinity Option 3 or 4) in the UK, mostly in Cornwall, then there some isolated pockets served by Gigaclear, B4RN and Hyperoptic, but that's pretty much all there is as regards fibre broadband.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
I suggest you write to Richard Branson, since Virgin Media started the fibre broadband ball rolling and got approval from the ASA too.

Does 100m of Ethernet in a building mean FTTB is not fibre broadband? If so why different to 100m of CW1308 in a street?

If people want to be precise these things need defining.
Posted by chris6273 over 3 years ago
I was referring to FTTC - I thought that's what the article is referring to.

If the fibre reaches the building in FTTB then personally I'd call it fibre broadband. The difference between CW1308 and 'Ethernet' (I'm guessing you mean CAT 5.etc) is the fact you have more pairs (4 vs 2) in a CAT5/higher rated cable vs a CW1308 cable.

Fibre Broadband should be Fibre to the Home or Fibre to the point where the customer plugs in their own equipment otherwise FTTC (Advertised as 'Fibre Broadband') is no different than ADSL if you move closer to the exchange.

You're right, it does need defining.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
Perhaps this news story should have made it clearer, it talked about fibre broadband and fibre services, not VDSL.

In the UK, any xDSL is fibre-based, because the DSLAM is usually connected to a fibre backbone.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Kinda interesting to see the one story where I do not use the acronym FTTC gets so much angst going.

Anyone who knows who Primus Saver are would know that it was FTTC, since they are a budget provider who sell services from Opal/TalkTalk.

Note to self add 600 word explanation next time.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Ashburton. Sorry to see that you are not on FTTC on an exchange with 1200
Customers have you checked which Cab you are on as you stated that some are enabled.
It is easy to do just go to ISP AA and type in your number this will give you your profile Cab number and distance from exchange.
Then keep adding one to your number this way you build up the Exchange Cabs which are working. Hope this helps you.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
The problem, Ashburton, is that the areas most in need of FTTC are that way because they are difficult to supply. The actual question asked in the boardroom was:

"We have £xxx billion to spend. Where should we spend it in order to get best return?"

And despite apparently low take-up (running at 14% I believe) it's better to get 14% of a housing estate in a large town than 100% of a small town.

Then there's the cost of installation. Likely to be higher in a small town like Ashburton.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
Too many people desperate for FTTC fall into the trap of thinking they don't have it yet because BT hates them. That's silly. BT are rolling their product out to the areas where they are likely to get the best rate of return.

You're a business owner. I assume you follow the same principals as/when they apply. You don't expand as much time and resources on a group of half a dozen customers as you would on a group of several hundred.

BT are a business. A PLC in fact. They have a legal obligation - a duty of care to their shareholders - to spend money wisely.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
Their current roll-out looks like it would provide a service to 75% maybe 80% of the population (I'm excluding BDUK). Done your way it might only reach 20%. That's not good business sense and I'm pretty sure you'd be hard pressed to explain to the other 80% why you should get the best service on offer when they get nothing at all.
Posted by chrysalis over 3 years ago
obviously penny pinchers will have low demand as its a higher price.
Posted by chrysalis over 3 years ago
sorry both pmgreenwood and andruec I disagree, for a start how can most households get by no 15mbit+ when the avg sync speed is 7mbit/sec across uk (for adsl2+)? Also people still keep spreading the myth that urban lines are short and rural are long, nonsense, they both mixed. My parents in cromer have 6db attenuation, I had 51db attenuation in a major city 0.8km from city centre..
Posted by Ultraman1966 over 3 years ago
Some good comments made so far. The fact is, there's a lot of overlap with VM fibre and/or areas with decent ADSL2 speed which means many families aren't considering the added cost of FTTC yet. I know for a fact that most villages and small towns would have a very high uptake for FTTC as 1-2Mbs or less is just not very useful these days, especially when there's more than two users. But sure, on paper it looks like the best idea to upgrade large towns and cities first but if they already have good speed and/or have VM fibre then it's obvious that they won't pay extra as they don't need it.
Posted by otester over 3 years ago
Surprised this article even exists, after looking at the reviews, other than the very low priced package (beggars can't be choosers), they are rubbish.
Posted by Bob_s2 over 3 years ago
We should be looking to roll out FTTdp. This should be rolled out first to those cabinets that have lots of long lines as this will get the best take up
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
If the ISP does not offer a service on FTTC and starts to lose customers it will no longer Servive like Cable and Wireless.
Posted by mervl over 3 years ago
When I was growing up, over 50 years ago, the most noticeable thing about the British was that they were incorrigible snobs. Nothing has changed. The problem with broadband it that it defies our immutable rule: that those with the money or the loudest mouths can always get what they want. Without paying for it. And show off how superior they are to everyone else. Reality is always painful.
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
The usual nonsense from the usual people, sic B4RN £1K cost per connected household, so for 2000 households = £20M and that is for a not for profit company. FTTP for all then equates to £15-20B.

The simple answer is no-one has the funds apart from UKgov to pay for this. NEED is irrelevant if there is not more than 100% ROI is acheived within the technology lifespan of the hardware, because there is no BUSINESS case.
Posted by mbuckingham over 3 years ago
I suggest you write to Richard Branson, since Virgin Media started the fibre broadband ball.

For thousands of year everyone said the world was flat; it wasn't true. Just because 99% say it's fibre doesn't mean it's true either.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
"Just because 99% say it's fibre doesn't mean it's true either."

Agreed. The confusion could have been avoided by simply using the terms 'VDSL' or 'FTTC' instead of 'fibre services' or 'fibre broadband', the latter refers to fibre, not to twisted-pair copper lines like VDSL or ADSL2+.

Some websites, such as Essex County are highly misleading in this regard.
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago

"For thousands of year everyone said the world was flat"

Well, actually they didn't. Or at least it was never the consensus view over those that considered the problem. Eratosthenes made the first (surprisingly accurate) estimate of the circumference of the world almost 2,300 years ago.

Anyway, JNeuhoff was just making a rhetorical point by deliberately misunderstanding the headline. Tiresome. Make your point, not play silly games.
Posted by GMAN99 over 3 years ago
No confusion here, fibre broadband is a marketing term, I knew what it was

JNeuhoff is just trolling as usual, he says the same thing in almost all articles, the very definition of trolling
Posted by chrysalis over 3 years ago
mervl it does seem to tbe the case as rurual areas are more affluent and they have all the sympathy from the press plus ironically rural areas are getting more FTTP, no other country in the world follows that pattern.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago

"not use the acronym FTTC gets so much angst going."

So much so that some posters resort to name calling, when it was a genuine mis-understanding of your news story, I didn't look up Primus Saver.
Posted by GMAN99 over 3 years ago
And you are genuinely lying unless you just regularly keep misunderstanding over and over again
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers. ( FTTC)
If you are taking your information from Thinkbroadband maps they are so far out with their traffic lights and the visual speeds they could be giving an incorrect overall interpretation of FTTC.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Please explain what you mean by visual speeds and the rest of that post.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Andrews Staff
When I check your Map system the Red, orange ,Green are tied to the post code see GU 102 Ny and NZ and the speed at that location is aprox 12 Meg see result.
Further down the road the area is covered by Cab 6 Headley Down open for service traffic lights are incorrect.
The above post codes are in the Hindhead Area on Cab 12. NY,NZ (SCC) .
The visual speed I class as the one in the box.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
I understand all the money and shareholder stuff so I can sort of see why they are doing it this way. However at 14% take up, is it really paying?
If they started with FTTdp and mini cabs to the 10-20% who have awful broadband, then take up would be near 100%
My Village is luckily getting a cab (I’m on a different cab) soon and most are currently unable to watch YouTube videos without buffering. When it's installed a BT engineer is going to have to camp out in the playing field because he's going to be using up the 288 ports within a month and they'll need to put another cab in. : )
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
I’m already on an active cab (commercial rollout) but 5.3Km away so can’t get fibre. I really need it. My Sister-in-law is about 400 metres from the same cab but is staying on ADSL because 6 meg is more than she needs. Most other people on that cab will be the same.
I’m at the end of the line with 5 other dwellings. There are another 15 dwellings 700 metres closer to the cab. An ECI 64v stuck up the pole would give these users 80 meg and I would get 20-25. Take up would be everyone I would imagine. My point is that yes, it would cost more but nearly everyone would switch.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers
Please remember the 14% is cumulative over the Cabs and they keep adding Cabs daily so this keeps the % low.
If you think your Cab is going over soon keep checking your number on ISP AA daily for availability when it is open contact your ISP and tell your friends in the village. We in Surrey are running at 10 working days.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Red orange of green from which actual data layer?

On the speed test results they are what people have tested and since people are not forced to upgrade to fibre you will still see slower results obviously
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Andrews staff.
If you log on to Churt area Cab 6. Headley Down Exchange Area you will see all the post codes are red but there is a reading of 19.90 meg.
The Cab 6 is by the x road Pub.
This proves the data is incorrect.
We are only interested on the Max download speed on the post code so to get over the 15 meg target SCC on the other Cab 12.
I was Ex BT for this area.
Posted by cick4internet over 3 years ago
I agree with that statement. The whole fibre thing apart from being an advertising scam by selling copper dsl is definitely mostly hype. The takeup is very low with fttc because most people don't know or care why they need faster speed as long as their internet works OK for what they want.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
Exactly. Which is why this whole "we must have so many people passed with 25 or 30Mbps by a certain time" was completely the wrong way to go.
We now have that final 10-20% screaming blue murder because something they NEED is being provided to those that don't need it.
I bet if they had done it the other way around most of the 80-90% with reasonable broadband wouldn't have minded waiting.
You would then have had a situation where EVERYONE had at least a useful speed probably by next year.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
Also the fibre provided would have had an extremely high take up.
Posted by otester over 3 years ago
FTTP can be delivered cheaply, just requires less government control (taxes/regulation/land control) and the community getting together.

Community agrees on a standard, get a cable from each property to the road, wire it up, get it to a point where a provider will connect into it.
Posted by hoopla over 3 years ago
Well, I'm a Primus customer with no interest in their Fibre product.

That's because a good service matters to me more than a cheap one, so I have the "phone"* line from Primus and the FTTC broadband from Zen.

*There has never been a phone attached: the line is just there to carry the broadband.

Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Well done hoopla for going to ZEN a very good service on their system CN20.
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
Which regs you thinking of otester?
Land control is tricky, once that is deregulated for FTTP why not anything else?
Posted by zyborg47 over 3 years ago
i know a fair few people who are still on ADSL and can get FTTC, but have no interest as it will cost more and they get a pretty decent speed as it is. I expect if the price came down to ADSL cost some may change their mind.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi zyborge. I think you will find the price of adsl will incress as they decommission the exchanges also on a new provide plus selling the home you will find the churn rate will kick in.
Posted by otester over 3 years ago

I think this is something that local communities could decide for themselves through a local democratic process.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Does this deregulation mean private land owners have to give free wayleaves?
Posted by zyborg47 over 3 years ago
@Blackmamba, you could be right about ADSL prices increasing, but I do not think it will be for a while, still a few places in our City that can't get FTTC. i don't know what selling of a home got to do with it, i can't see that coming in peoples minds as it is easy enough to get FTTC if it is available. I am not on ADSL or FTTC, so it botheres me not at the moment
Posted by Somerset over 3 years ago
@otester - 'Community agrees on a standard, get a cable from each property to the road, wire it up, get it to a point where a provider will connect into it.'

Simple? After the council has sorted out emptying the bins.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago

"price of adsl will incress as they decommission the exchanges"

That would only work if BT, or another company, would actually replace ALL lines with a newer technology, rather than setting up multiple parallel infrastructures. Fibre would be the obvious choice of a new network, but you'd need 100% usage figures for this, something which will never be the case with parallel existing old copper networks being kept in the ground.

Now over to Freddy to call me a troll and lier again :)
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago

It's not within BT's power to remove copper networks, even if they had the money to do so. BT are required by Ofcom to provide a metallic path facility, and it would require a regulatory change. Not only that, but there would be LLU operators screaming blue murder unless they were compensated for their investments.

Trials have been approved for testing full-fibre replacement, but only at a non-LLU exchange.

The reality is that copper and fibre will co-exist for a long time, even if investment was available for swap-out.
Posted by otester over 3 years ago

Well this does require people to vote properly at local elections.
Posted by farnz over 3 years ago

I'm not aware of any broadband signals being delivered to the home over fibre anywhere in the UK.

There are some very fast fibre baseband signals in use (B4RN, for example), but no broadband if you're *really* nitpicking.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
Don't confuse 'need' with 'want'. A lot of people in large urban areas might not have needed higher speeds but a lot of them wanted them.

It would be interesting to know how much research BT (and other CPs) did. Personally I don't think they are idiots. I reckon they ran they asked around, ran the sums and the current roll-out strategy was the result.

It's all very well saying you think it'd have been better to concentrate on areas with most need first but I think you have to provide firm evidence of that.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
(cont'd) of course I can't provide evidence of why the current roll-out gives the best return and/or the most happy people. However I can point out that two CPs (BT and VM) have both followed this strategy and so have CPs in other countries.

Is there /any/ country that upgraded the less well provided for first, leap frogging them over those who already had an adequate service?
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
Come to that is there any service where a provider has chosen to roll a major upgrade out in such a fashion? I'm pretty sure upgrades always start where the most people can be covered for lowest cost. B4RN probably do the same thing although with community support it might not be as clear cut. They are certainly concerned about take-up in the initial phases in order to cover later costs and that implies as much.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago

We'll leave the name calling and nitpicking to GMAN99 (Freddy), he's nothing better to do.

For anyone else interested in the usage/definition of broadband, I think is a good starting point.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
The main problem in Surrey has been getting the information to the customers when a Cab opens that is in the (BT Commercial section) no advertising by post code even the Councilers are not even allowed to get involved.
As for the SCC section this has been advertised via their Web/page but a large delay on the open date as All ISP (450+) have to be advised before orders are taken. The two contracts are running side by side and no preference is given to requests from end users on both contracts.
Posted by binary over 3 years ago
Re the comments about supposed lack of demand/need for FTTC because of good urban ADSL connections - not all townies get good ADSL. I live in London, and not on the outskirts either - our ADSL was 2Mbps at best, ditto for the neighbours, so FTTC has been great for us.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Providers have a billing relationship and can automate the process of emailing existing customers with upgrade offers of course.

Have even seen Sky/TalkTalk billboards on Superfast now in this area.

Local press usually covers a good few cabs too.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
Just by chance my old neighbour who has moved was with BT new neighbour moved in gone with TAlktalk line only on an area that has FTTC in the last six months
Posted by zyborg47 over 3 years ago
@binary, I live in a small city and ADSL where I am is not that great, but I am still not sure if I would go for FTTC If I was not with the wireless broadband provider. a mate of mine who lives around the corner, gets around 4Mb/s ADSL, but don't seem interested in moving to FTTC.
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