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New National Plan to bring ultra-fast broadband to almost all homes
Wednesday 18 March 2015 13:29:06 by Andrew Ferguson

At 1:20pm the Chancellor announced a new National Plan to bring ultra-fast broadband to almost all UK homes. The Chancellor has confirmed that ultra-fast means 100 Mbps connection speeds, but no information on what 'almost all' means or how this will be financed.

We should point out that previous investment announcements by Virgin Media will bring ultra-fast to two thirds of UK households, and even if Openreach was to just deploy to G.fast to cabinets around 45 to 50% of households would also see G.fast as an ultrafast option.

Update 1:40pmThe full text of the speech is available and the most relevant parts are reproduced below.

Supporting long-term investment in the UK’s digital communications infrastructure, including by setting out a new ambition that ultrafast broadband of at least 100 Megabits per second should be available to nearly all UK premises

The government will also take further action to support the delivery of broadband in rural areas, including looking to raise the Universal Service Obligation – the legal entitlement to a basic service – from dial-up speeds to 5 Mbps broadband, and subsidising the costs of installing superfast capable satellite services.

The broadband connection voucher scheme, extended at Autumn Statement 2014 to March 2016, will be available in a total of 50 cities by 1 April 2015.

Broadband parts of 2015 Budget Speech

The change of the Universal Service Obligation from a mere 28 Kbps to 5 Mbps is a major change, but the excitement is tempered by the news that this may involve satellite broadband. The key to how excited is how much actual coverage will be aimed for via the new ultra-fast plan, and if its a minimum speed of 100 Mbps then it will be a large step change for many, but with no timescale or rough idea of what public money will be available we cannot make too many educated guesses at what may be delivered, beyond suggesting it may be a repeat of the superfast broadband project but with a higher speed goal.

Comments

Posted by PhilCoates about 1 year ago
'beyond suggesting it may be a repeat of the superfast broadband project but with a higher speed goal' - and hopefully starting at the slowest and working backwards to the fastest - but I doubt it.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
" So we will look to raise the Universal Service Obligation (USO) – the legal entitlement to a basic service – from dial up speeds to 5Mbps broadband. "

I suggest that means they will look at it, BT will say its not practical and it will never be implemented,
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Nothing to say it will be imposed solely on BT, the mention of vouchers for satellite suggests it may be a bit like the Welsh not-spot vouchers of the last couple of years
Posted by Spud2003 about 1 year ago
I'm not sure what "ambition" will manifest itself as but now ultrafast broadband will be on the agenda of national political parties, which is a good thing.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
The USO is on the monopoly telecoms providers. How can you have an obligation when the providers can say we can't do it you to find somebody else and just play pass the parcel. Who would decide who the USO fall on?
Posted by stevee about 1 year ago
There's a bit more information here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-digital-communications-infrastructure-strategy/the-digital-communications-infrastructure-strategy

Still pretty light on detail.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
The USO should be mandated to be provided by BT over existing phone lines, I know this comment will upset a few people. Yes Satellite has its place, but it is a last resort for getting SFBB.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The part about ultrafast - the 100Mbps part - only has an action for the government of "setting an ambition".

To me, that doesn't suggest that it is close to a government intervention, or spending any public money. It sounds like the government asking for private companies to get on and do it.

It makes sense that way. The government can't fund "market failure" where there isn't currently a market.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The part about the USO is welcome - especially to see it couched in terms of an obligation, and to see it raised from 2Mbps, but not quite to Ofcom's aim of 10Mbps.

I agree with @andrew - the USO is unlikely to ever be imposed on just BT, at BT's sole cost. BT would argue that they don't have enough of a monopoly to justify that.

But @gerarda is right - the devil here will be the detail of who decides which technology is right (and affordable) for each property. Who would the buck stop with?
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@godsell
The USO isn't about SFBB. It is "only" 5Mbps. And satellite is probably still a last resort for that ... but having a non-BT last resort means the USO shouldn't be on BT. The great question is who.

As for that 5Mbps USO ...

In the 2014 infrastructure report, Ofcom reckoned that 97% of the country could get 2Mbps, 85% could get 10Mbps, and 75% could get SFBB. They just started reporting on this 10Mbps number.

In December, BT reckoned it would get 2Mbps to 98.5% as a consequence of the SFBB work within phase 1 of BDUK.

Now we need to start tracking the 5Mbps threshold.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
@WWWombat I disagree. In Market 1 locations though, BT must meet this USO, there is no alternative.
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
The USO is an EU competency so we can't just make it up.

"The scope of the Universal Service Obligations (USO) is defined by the EC Universal Services Directive (“USD”). The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry specifies the services which must be provided throughout the UK in the Universal Service Order (the Order). "
Posted by herdwick about 1 year ago
@godsell4 "Market 1" is a fixed line broadband concept, wireless / satellite / altnet fibre may also provide in a Mkt 1 area.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
@godsell4

It's far from the case only market 1 locations suffer from poor broadband speed. In any case, if the logic is that market 1 is a monopoly area then the cross-subsidy would have to be justified on market 1 exchanges only, which would mean a huge increase in wholesale line rental in those areas.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Didn't the USO used to be seen as an agreement for having a monopoly? That the nice profit made at one side of the monopoly allowed the organisation to cross-subsidise the other side of the monopoly - the places where a monopoly would leave out economically?

The problem here is that BT only has a monopoly left in the uneconomic parts. It doesn't have a monopoly in the profitable areas to fund that cross-subsidy.

Question 1: Where do the funds for meeting the USO come from?
Question 2: Who gets to spend those funds to supply the service?
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
And the USO applies to fixed line broadband right? I believe this must be true.
Posted by chefbyte about 1 year ago
it will be 95% and I will still be sat in my little 5% BB Oasis in the middle of my town, while all around me are on Superfast BB within 100 Mtrs of my house.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
I hope to see from Andrews Staff at the end off the month the % off customers that are unable to get 5 Meg on a Post Code. BT is after the clawback money and future contract money the Goverment has panicked. I still think there will be more FTTC/P open for service in Q1,Q2 and the 60% Exchanges on where and when will jump.
Posted by themanstan about 1 year ago
The nearest existing active infrastructure holder would be the sensible option.
So a poorly provisioned village next to a Gigaclear area would find themselves served by them. A village with an accessable VM fibre node close by would be served and so on.
USO takes away choice, so people should be prepared for such an outcome.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
@themanstan

The "nearest infrastructure holder" is going to be difficult to define, and a nightmare to administer. I also can't see how a USC can be applied to an operator that doesn't have a significant area of monopoly to exploit. As VM overlap with BT and Gigaclear do not even approach a monopoly in any significant area, I can't see how that would work.
Posted by sheppy about 1 year ago
USO has to be with the incumbent telco company, which would be BT.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Big companies have never been very good at sorting out small problems.
It would be a big advantage if the government allowed small companies a piece of the action in BDUK phase 3.
Small tech companies or simply a man with a few aerials or a trenching machine - job done!
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
All this debate is academic. The USO is never going to be increased. it is just a pre-election gimmick
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Geranda.
The USO (5 meg) has all ready kicked in. If you try and get on a FTTC and are over a set distance your avabitity may be barred this has been going on since last September.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
blackmamba That is the opposite of a USO
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
One issue with a USO is that almost all of them are qualified according to a "reasonable cost" criterion. This is not precisely quantified, but has traditionally been treated as about the cost of 10 days' labour. So if it cost more than about £2k to upgrade a premises, then it might not apply anyway.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
I've just checked, and according to Ofcom, the "reasonable price" threshold for a telephone line is set by BT at £3,400 (which is quite high given that's about 35 years wholesale rental income).

However, the principle remains, that a USO would have some sort of cost threshold.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/uso/main/
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda.
In 1980 many DP,s were upgraded by contracting staff to have spare pair distributed where possible the reason for this was homes would require two or more lines but this did not come about due to the uptake of mobiles.
BT was restricted to where they could run fibre due to compertion rules.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@chilting's right here - things will look very different if small companies get into the act for phase 3. Esp if wireless gets included as SFBB.

These small co's would become the natural home for properties seeking a connection under USO terms.

Perhaps a practical way would be for the large telcos to provide cash into a "USO" pot. If they refused service to a property (funded internally), service could be offered over to a local "phase 3 smallco" with funding out of the pot.

Have the pot run by the BDUK team in the LAs; they'd be responsible for their local "phase 3 smallco"s anyway.
Posted by fenlandbroadband about 1 year ago
Couldn't this be delivered as 4G (or 5G) mobile broadband?

Last March (2014) David Cameron announced the plans for 5G adoption in the UK, and there were lots of mentions of Ultrafast Broadband with that - surely this is just an extension (or maybe not even an extension and just a re-announcement) of that, rather than yet more cabinets and cables/fibre rollout to individual properties?
Posted by brusuth about 1 year ago
I wonder how this will affect the Digital Scotland project. Seeing it is separate and i think totally funded directly from the SGovt?

What should I be asking my local Scottish Minister about this? Would the 100Mbps aim only cover Market 1?
Posted by MCM999 about 1 year ago
@WWombat "Perhaps a practical way would be for the large telcos to provide cash into a "USO" pot." This money has to come from somewhere which can only mean the telco's customers. Why should this be? Especially so if BT is the only contributor and VM escapes responsibility once again. If the Govt mandates a USO then the Govt should provide the funds.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
@MCM999

It needn't just be BT. There could simply be a levy on all fixed broadband connections. £1 per month would raise about £250m per year, which would justify perhaps £3bn of capital investment.
Posted by AndyCZ about 1 year ago
Interesting bit in the DCMS Consultation from BT..."Indeed, continuous ongoing investment will be made in “NGA 2.0”, to meet growing commercial demand from consumers and business, to drive fibre deployment deeper into the network to support faster services and greater capabilities driven by commercial need. This investment will support the continued development and investment in new technologies such as vectoring, G. Fast, fixed-mobile and increasing volumes of FTTP."
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
Many comments miss the distinction between a USO and a USC. A USO is an obligation to provide a universal service, usually within financial constraints, imposed on a network supplier/operator, usually in return for monopoly privileges. A USC is a commitment made by an outside party, the UK government, to guarantee a certain level of service at a "fair" price which may be provided by several operators and via different routes.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
Extending the telephony USO to cover broadband transmission would be a huge step. I doubt very much that it will happen but it is technically feasible. The obligation would fall on Openreach specifically as it is the monopoly operator of the copper network. Almost certainly it would require that Openreach be spun out of BT completely. It could be funded either through the access charges for the copper loop or via a tax on all broadband providers - both variants are used in other countries.
Posted by gah789 about 1 year ago
The reason that it isn't likely to happen is that it would require a huge investment in upgrading the copper network. Every length of aluminium cable that degrades ADSL transmission would have to be replaced as well as the old, noisy, copper wires. It is not about laying fibre to cabinets but about replacing tens or hundreds of thousands of kilometers of wires in a system that was never designed for this purpose. Given the decline in fixed line telephony around the world the cost won't sense by comparison with other ways of meeting a USC.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@gah789
That brings us back to Fixed Wireless for rural broadband. All those miles of noisy copper wires could just be left to rot in the ground.
Fixed Wireless is ideal for small companies just serving local rural communities. It is easy to set up and it could be subsidized and controlled by County Councils.
Posted by 69bertie about 1 year ago
Given the slow pace of the BDUK in rural spots (like mine) I won't be holding my breath. I suspect I shall be long gone before it arrives here (rural Lincolnshire)
Posted by MCM999 about 1 year ago
@gah789 As has been said elsewhere in this thread BT is far from being the monopoly operator other than in low profitability areas. Elsewhere they face significant opposition especially from VM who are at long last starting to expand their network which is also delivered over copper. Again I ask why should BT's customers be required to cover the cost of a USO and not VM and other smaller players such as KC and the fibre boys.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@MCM
Agree the money has to come from somewhere ... and ultimately it is either the taxpayer, or the existing customers of *all* telcos that need to fund it. I agree that BT has insufficient monopoly to be considered the only source of funding.

As for deploying a USO product; I'm not sure that Openreach has a full set of products that would allow it to be done *affordably*.

I think we need a degree of flexibility on both legs of putting a USO in place.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@gah
The way BT are going, they are aiming at what you suggest. Not the upgrade of copper, but the bypass of it.

Of course it is about FTTC (or FTTRN, or FTTdp) - because all that extra fibre represents bypassed copper/aluminium. No need to upgrade it when it has been bypassed.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@gah
By the way, almost none of the responders on here is mixing up a USC from a USO. We know the difference.

The importance of today's DSIC report is that it has suggested a change from the old policy (2Mbps USC) into a new policy (5Mbps USO); it even mentions the scope of the old USO (dial-up) to show that it wasn't a confusion.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers
After the announcement off the (5Mbps USO) in Surrey it has put pressure on the (clawback pot plus the money not been spent) as a few more customers drop in this band under the 15 meg target. This will force Openreach to spend the money bypassing the FTTC and use fibre in cost effective areas.
Posted by ian72 about 1 year ago
@chilting "fixed wireless subsidized by local councils" - that is going to have problems in itself. Local councils are seeing funds reduced. If it becomes a choice between broadband and either raising council tax or cutting essential services then I can't see broadband winning. And how long should it be subsidized for? What if it is never profitable?
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@ian72
Presumably it is a profitable business as their are many small fixed wireless operators around the country.
I was thinking of a initial subsidy and maybe more importantly local council help in establishing schemes.
The long term profitability of these companies would be secure, especially if their only competition for high speed broadband came from satellite.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
@BM
As a USO hasn't actually been announced - just the prospect of one - I doubt if it affects any of the BDUK projects, especially the Surrey one.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi WWWombat.
In Surrey the figures are being check today as Phase 7 should be completed by the end of the month we have a few post codes under the 5 meg in Katie's BD UK section showing on Thinkbroadband map.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@blackmamba I really do hope that the Surrey project is not solely relying on our map to PROVE delivery.

Speed tests give a very good idea but I would not use them for anything legal or contract based without encouraging a lot more tests, I would want something much more rigorous in terms of analysis.
Posted by ian72 about 1 year ago
@chilting - wireless is good where there is and never will be an alternative but the problem is they tend to be a single, small supplier and often the costs to the end user are much higher than can be provided via other technologies. Where costs are lower they tend to have tight download limits that wouldn't last long with SFBB. Current wireless is a stop gap and I wouldn't move to a house that only had this as an option.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew Staff.
The results on Thinkbroadband maps are not being used in Surey,s project by Katie. I am not involved in Surreys contract.
I am only using them as a guide and have found them not very accurate on many lines tie to a post code GU xxxNZ I did contact John over it but the problem has not been solved.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
@ian72
Looking at my own village, West Chiltington in West Sussex we were upgraded to FTTC last summer but those of us on long lines have not befitted. We are not sure when and if we are going to get any more upgrades in BDUK 2. With two wireless providers already waiting on the sidelines it would be a big advantage if BDUK/WSCC funded fixed wireless schemes filled
the gap. It doesn't have to be perfect just better than what we have now.
Posted by ian72 about 1 year ago
@chilting to fund those schemes they would have to first follow EU procurement rules and secondly EU state aid rules. Both of which are costly and probably scupper any attempt to do so. There is a reason local authorities generally use the BDUK procurement route.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@blackmamba I think you need to add 'I am not linked to the Surrey project' to all your comments, because a random visitor could believe you are making official comments.

On the map site, no problem have explained what you are seeing previously.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers and Andrews Staff.
Just one day after the Budget Openreach Where and When has increased the Exchanges from 66 pages to over 100. I am only working for all customers in Surrey.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Are you suggesting that overnight Openreach has enabled an extra 30% of exchanges for fibre based services?
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew Staff
No I am not saying that but there are Exchanges on there where FTTC/P has been added eg Haslemere,Rudgewick and many others.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Well if Haslemere has just appeared that is a previous error that has been corrected as has had cabinets live since 2011.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew Staff.
I agree with you that FTTC was working in Haslemere 01428 2011 but not FTTC/P I think you make be miss upstanding the infrastructure for that area and the services provided by Openreach. As the Surrey BD/UK contract has been completed the only Cab,s remaining in that area are the Comercial ones not open.
I am not linked to the Surrey project and never have been.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
So which postcodes on the Haslemere exchange can get FTTP now?
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff
As I am unable to give you a post code as the Cab 12 in Haslemere is not open for service yet this Cab has been standing for two years may be longer. From my route observation on the post code map.
I think there will be fibre overhead also a few poles have been change out this is a good indication. Time will tell if I am correct
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
FTTP does not need a cabinet
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew Staff.
What it requires is a pair of wires from the old Cab to the DP which is in the Post Code area as you know the fibre will be distributed from the ( fibre node ) it may be located close to the FTTC. On the latest Cabs I have found it cabled close to to the FTTC.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Why does GEA-FTTP require a pair of copper wires to the DP then?

Plenty of GEA-FTTP areas in Cornwall without a cabinet and the GEA-FTTP hardware in pavement chambers or attached to a pole.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew Staff
I was under the inpression that each customer was required to have a metallic path to the home.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
That is true a metallic path does not need a cabinet hence existence of EO lines
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews staff.
Many thanks for your time it does conferm my thinking that FTTC works the same way as WB 900 two customers on one pair EG one metallic the other wireless date 1985. This kicked in from dial up and the transfer to ADL ETC.
Posted by jimsym about 1 year ago
Your headline is misleading. The announcement says "premises" not "homes". Does this mean the until-now ignored small trading estates will finally get something better than in many cases what is dismally slow ADSL?
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