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The great broadband debate, emotion or data?
Monday 25 January 2016 14:33:03 by Andrew Ferguson

So the weekend has been an interesting one with regards broadband and what might happen in the future as 121 MP's have put their names behind a report that is hiding nothing when it says that it wants Openreach to be sold off and operated as a independent company with the belief that this will solve the problems people have with fault repair and also increase competition and availability of superfast or ultrafast services.

The report is available online and was led by the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP for those who want to read it and form their own conclusions.

The worry we have is that it is entirely possible that due to the use of old data held by the House of Commons Library that some MP's may have signed the paper without the full facts. The report is using coverage data generated by Ofcom from May 2015 and based on our tracking the UK has gone from 84.4% superfast broadband coverage at the start of May 2015 to 88.3% as of 22nd January 2016 (this is superfast coverage at 30 Mbps and faster, those too far from the cabinet for VDSL2 services do not feature in this figure).

Change in Availability of Superfast Broadband in Great Britain since May 2015
Variations in superfast coverage across Great Britain and change since last General Election

Apologies to Northern Ireland, we do not have a NI map that can be populated programmatically hence why we are showing just Great Britain. Northern Ireland analysis is available on our checker by browsing areas or by postcode search.

The original target was for 90% superfast coverage by May 2015 and while that has slipped, the trends are showing that if you accept 24 Mbps as a basic superfast speed this will be hit late February or early March, with the 30 Mbps figure later in March 2016. So while after 2015, it is not that far outside of 2015 that you could label the BDUK project a failure, particularly when you consider this is an infrastructure project spread right across the UK.

Of course 88.3% UK wide coverage is not uniform and we have never pretended otherwise, and to help illustrate the variations here are examples of three areas mapped at a resolution where each area is around 12 to 18 postcodes, so the large areas often with low coverage are also the most sparsely populated.

Availability of superfast broadband at speeds of 30 Mbps in West Lancashire District

Detailed Map West Lancashire Superfast Coverage

Availability of superfast broadband at speeds of 30 Mbps in South Bucks District

Detailed Map South Buckinghamshire Superfast Coverage

Availability of superfast broadband at speeds of 30 Mbps in Kirklees District

Detailed Map Kirklees Superfast Coverage

NOTE: Alternate operators qualifying as superfast are not yet rolled into these maps, once the nation hits the 90% figure we will add these. They are not currently included to ensure that the work of local groups and competing operators does not get confused with the progress of the phase 1 BDUK projects.

The other way of looking at the roll-out is to actually look at what people are actually buying and speed testing and therefore we thought we'd share the speed test profile for tests we have seen in GB Hamlets area sparse (this is an area that represents 200,000 premises or 0.7% of UK households) and while ADSL and ADSL2+ services are the most widely used, there is clear evidence of people using up to 76 Mbps and up to 38 Mbps services.

Profile of speed tests seen in Q4/2015 from GB hamlets that are in a sparsely populated area

NOTE: Speed test results will always lag behind availability as services need to first be made available and then people need to upgrade, so even once the UK hits 90% superfast availability it will be some years before we see close to 90% of tests over 24 Mbps or 30 Mbps depending on your preferred definition of superfast.

So while 1 in 10 are still not superfast and by our figures 1.2 million premises can only get a 10 Mbps or slower service from fixed line broadband (200,000 of these have the option of a fixed wireless or alt-net FTTH solution) the situation is not as dire as made out, and the number under 10 Mbps was around 2 to 2.5 million back in May 2015. So we sincerely hope that those in positions of power will use the latest available data and encourage speed to run speed tests so that if the roll-outs are not providing what our model suggests that it will become very obvious very quickly.


Posted by GMAN99 about 1 year ago
Andrew - "The report is using coverage data generated by Ofcom from May 2015 and based on our tracking the UK has gone from"

Do the numbers following that have a typo?
Posted by CarlThomas about 1 year ago
I sincerely hope this puts to bed those who, falsely, claim that this site relies on data from BT.

Obviously BT input but this site's data relies on millions of its own data points and telemetry. It's extremely churlish to, baselessly, claim otherwise.
Posted by CarlThomas about 1 year ago
I should clarify that the BT input won't be into the site's native data so much as in the form of data for news articles, and baselines from the availability checkers.

There is absolutely no point in BT lying on their availability checkers, it creates so much more grief and work for them than it's worth.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@GMAM99 yes I had a typo 88.4% should have been 84.8%
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
There is also BT's contractual position too. It if it was caught producing deliberately false statistics, then there would be hell to pay.

The MP's report is full of errors. Not least is the that BT has already receive £1.7bn when the accounts show £700m to date. Also, the government's initial BDUK dates were set by them ahead of the tendering exercises, not missed dates by OR.
Posted by KarlAustin about 1 year ago
I think we can summarise this as "Grant Shapps is a bit of a wally", unfortunately other MPs will listen to him. He thinks 2.5m is 20% of UK homes - he's the former housing minister! Tells you all you need to know.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop about 1 year ago
Very worrying that those elected to govern our country are willing to sign their name to a paper like this suggesting massive changes be made to such an important industry when they seem to be mis imformed and possibly don't fully understand much about the subject.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop about 1 year ago
The report basically says split up openreach and everything will be fixed. No real mention of how this will help at all. It says full fibre should be deployed across the country but no mention of how this will be funded
According to the report openreach run with about £5bn turnover and about £1.5bn profit. if the old claims of around £30bn for full FTTP are accurate it doesn't lool affordable
Posted by Llety about 1 year ago
While one might agree with Karl's summary of Grant Shapps, the bigger summary is that there are quite a lot of totally unreasonable people(not all rural) complaining to their MP (AM in Wales, ... in Scotland) about being excluded from the 21st century. As Openreach holds the only real key to their inclusion, then they OR get the attention. The overhead of providing to rural areas is just a tax for having a monopoly. If there was a reasonable service or an alternative, we would shut up.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop about 1 year ago
That's not to say things can't be improved, but I don't think full separation is the way to go, unless it was renationalised, and that's not realistically going to happen. May have been better value for taxpayers than the bank bailouts though
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
One of the main topics that MP's have to deal with their constituents is broadband. They have to show that they are doing something to solve their constituents problems - what do they do?
They slag of BT or even better, for them, they pronounce a drastic change - split it up!
....or am I being cynical?
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@Llety I agree. The whole BDUK/BT exercise has been based on misleading statistics (eg universal ADSL coverage) dodgy dossiers (eg the one DCMS used to model "affordable" coverage) and propaganda (eg use of fibre coverage as a substitute for superfast)

That the same tactics are being used against them causes me a certain amount of schadenfreude
Posted by Murgatroyd about 1 year ago
I think that many MPs have insufficient knowledge of physics to understand why getting fast broadband to people living far from an exchange is difficult. How many people are connected to an enabled cabinet but are too far away to get a good speed.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@Murgatroyd - How are MPs supposed to know that when Ofcom was producing stats based on the assumption that distance did not matter?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@gerarda If you look at our data, you can see the difference that distance makes to the stats, and DCMS appear to include distance when declaring their targets too, as do many of the projects, this is because BT only gets to invoice for premises where superfast is delivered, those on cab but with sub superfast or no improvement don't generate any money for BT.
Posted by AndrueC about 1 year ago
@CaptainHulaHoop: Nationalisation would not improve anything. Far from it. The government used to run the telephone network under the guise of the GPO and that's all most of us old enough to remember need to know.

Never again.

And on a general note - what is it about recent governments that encourages you to have such faith in them?
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
Just look at Surrey Results on 500k lines 95.9% at 24Meg and rising daily on TBB results also look on Surrey CC Webpage as they are recycling the under 10 meg widow by using Openreach Addressees system thus keeping customers in the loop. I have a feeling that FTTP will start kicking in the next month but covertley so watch TBB results as money from the OMR starts to be planned and spent across Surrey. My view that TBB results are showing low.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@Andrew - I never said your data did not take distance into account I said Ofcom's did not.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
A picture is worth a thousand words - and those first GB maps prove that Wally Shapps has indeed chosen emotion over facts.

Your choice of Kirklees also helps show what happens without BDUK, perhaps inadvertently. Remember that Kirklees chose not to take part in SFWY phase 1.

Any chance of doing one of those pseudo-maps of GB where each constituency is equal area?
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
BTW the Kirklees map is mistitled as West Lancs.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop about 1 year ago
Sorry, low character count so didn't quite say what i meant. I don't think separation is the way to go, but if it were to happen it should be to renationalise with full funding provided full FTTH.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop about 1 year ago
Anything less than that then nothing will change in my opinion and possibly stagnate too. However i don't think renationalised would work either as everyone government seems incompetent so as you said, service levels could return to GPO levels
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The penalty overhead for rural coverage is indeed a tax on a monopoly. Use excess profit from the cheap urban areas, right?

However, no one has a monopoly in those cheap, urban, competitive areas. The fight for custom, especially against VM, means there are no excess profits.

Nowadays, the monopoly only exists in financially-questionable areas that complain about their own coverage, never mind subsidising those worse off.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
I think that you are right, though - the answer lies with Openreach involvement.

But I don't think the answer lies in considering BT to be a monopoly. I'm not sure that competition is going to help either - there's just not enough business to justify multiple infrastructures.

Posted by JNeuhoff about 1 year ago
According to the website at the government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to help bring superfast broadband to over 95% of the UK by 2017.

If only £700 million has been spent so far, what are going to do with the remaining £1 billion?
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@JN - the rest will presumably appear in this years and next years accounts.

Where is Mr bitcommons / VFM in these discussions?
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

A good question, but bear in mind all the individual BDUK projects will have admin budgets for auditing, consultants and so on. Also BT are paid in arrears on results so some payments will be in the pipeline.
But much of the money is probably rolled into the follow-on contracts, and those will be disproportionately expensive.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
@WWW has the key. There are no excess profits from urban areas (due to competition) to cross-subsidise rural areas. It could even be argued that it's under threat for the fixed line.

The two "sensible" options would either be to divide into two markets (which would increase rural prices) or an explicit levy on "cheap" areas (which VM are vehemently opposed to).
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
I feel the members should have looked up TBB results and asked Mr Saffron before going to the meeting and compared results then asked question over the findings I am grad there were no members from Super Surrey. The speed results all seem to be old results still with the dust on. It seems to me they are not getting results from their letter complaints either that they do not understand the infrastructure and are lost.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi TheEulerid
Just open up the market no restrictions on all exchanges and let the market determine the consequences as the coverage is 90% there will be many losers but most customers will gain in the rurial areas this is compertion.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
The market is open, i.e. LLU allowed at any exchange with the regulated rental/space/power costs to be paid, or should Openreach be made to provide space for LLU kit and power for free.

Though exchange kit does nothing for the 10km long line people in rural areas does it.
Posted by Somerset about 1 year ago
@BM - please explain what you mean by open up the market with no restrictions. Are there any now?
Posted by mklinger about 1 year ago
I would be interested to know how many exchange only lines have still not been upgraded ? BT has made little effort to fix this problem. I suspect a lot of the blackspots are in more rural areas which need broadband most due to the lack f services.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@MKLinger Don't have the figure to hand and it is changing every week.

Certainly in Scotland the change is very dramatic, and with ADSL2+ arriving in some places for the first time too, even those on EO still are benefiting.

The problem is that no-one has committed to 100%
Posted by JNeuhoff about 1 year ago
@TheEulerId (SteveJones): "admin budgets for auditing, consultants and so on"

I must be in the wrong job then :)
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff.
Please can you advise me, if a customer on a LUU exchange is Jumpered from ADSl to a FTTC connection are they in the same market A or B. EG port location adsl is in Exchange and port location on FTTC is roadside. In my thinking both fibres are terminated at differant locations so one should be A and other B.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Ofcom market definitions are just exchange based, nothing to do with where the actual line terminates at the customer end.

Or put another way, there is no separate list of market definitions for the 74,000 VDSL2 cabinets in the UK.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
Should also add Openreach charge the same wholesale prices for 40/2, 40/10, 80/20 products no matter whether its Kingston Upon Thames or the Isle of Islay.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrew Staff.
If that is the case when a FTTC BD/UK is provided public money is being used for extending the back haul which I think is not allowed so Openreach is taking over the Cab on opening and inserting it in their commercial section.
Working from that BT would use the A range and B for other ISP,s on the checker.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@blackmamba Don't understand your post at all. Not sure you actually understand the market definitions, as they are there to control ADSL2+ exchange based pricing to encourage LLU as they can undercut BT Wholesale.
Posted by csimon about 1 year ago
@AndrueC: My phone/ADSL are dead for 1-2 mths a year and takes up to 5 wks to fix. Been waiting 6mths for fibre BB. Never had these problems decades go under the GPO at Mum & Dad's. Privatisation? Never again.

Infrastructure & utilties should be run by govnmt and paid for by taxes, that ensures priority is given to the services rather than profit and the people can hold govnmt accountable & vote them out if they don't perform.
Posted by csimon about 1 year ago
The problem is government don't want the responsibility, don't want to raise taxes, and want their rich friends to profit. But currently there's no accountability to the public and areas and people get left out of infrastructure and services. These should not be optional nor dependent on where you live. Your pay TV is something that's optional and can be left to the market to compete. Infrastructure and services should be guaranteed to everyone. Stop living in the past - the GPO was eons ago.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
Would you consider Network Rail to be a shinning example of this type of public ownership?
The last thing we need is public officials in charge of national networks who don't care if they get results.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff
So you are saying the price on an exchange LLU port is the same as a port on FTTC in the same exchange area.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
An LLU port implies ADSL2+, FTTC implies VDSL2.

So still not sure what you are saying. The cost of a LLU ADSL2+ port is at the total whim of the LLU operators anyway. Only BT Wholesale has a regulated price applied.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
In simple terms:

If Sky buy a FTTC service the cost is the same no matter where is the UK, and the same with its service for the voice side. Even if they used WLR for the voice side rather than their own hardware it is the same price across all the UK.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
@csimon wrote :
"But currently there's no accountability to the public and areas and people get left out of infrastructure and services."

And that is why those who believe they are in the final 5% or 1% should be actively getting their neighbours to lobby their local MP to make them aware that this is a an issue which they need to be aware of and take more care on what happens than the appalling BIG Broadbad document is proposing.
Posted by chilting about 1 year ago
We can go even further than that.
Look out for Fixed Wireless suppliers in the locality, get them to extend their networks and above all use them!
These commercial superfast suppliers are the best answer to give us choice in the market place and over time they will grow to give us local hybrid fibre and wireless services.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
One item that seems to have confused you...

The Ofcom market A/B definitions have got nothing whatsoever to do with the range A/B values seen in the DSL checker. Nothing.
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
@chitling I would agree with that too, making local MP's aware of the issue might lead to a changes in legislation that might make the BDUK funds available for FWA too based on what local people want not just what the local council find 'simplest to administer'. I speculate that many in the final 5% are small groups of 4 to 8 properties, this suits a Wireless To The Remote Node (WTTRN) solution.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
ONS has a definition of a built-up areas which, at the smallest, are essentially small urbanish clusters of properties.

The very smallest places to meet this definition have 100 people, and around 50 properties, in areas of 400x500m.

It is perhaps a coincidence that 95.2% of the population lives in these built-up areas.

That likely means that the final 5% starts out at 50 properties, and gets smaller.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
But you should be considering the final 3%.

BTs clawback looks like it will extend to 96%, and BDUK tells us 1% of the remaining 4% is urban and ineligible.

That leaves 3% underserved in rural areas.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi WWWombat.
Thanks for directing me to the latest A and B markets it has answered many questions in the BD/UK contract in Surrey. I will reply later to you when a certain line is fitted ( a pole required ) which is involved over the 15 meg target. This will prove if I am correct from day one at a meeting in Dorking with Openreach and SCC representatives.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
I think I understand your conundrum. A market A exchange means no LLU, but an FTTC cabinet connected to a head-end on a market B exchange will allow more choice of fibre-broadband than is normally available.

However, right now, the subscriber still can't take an LLU voice service - so the LLU broadband provider would have to accept a WLR3 voice circuit.

It is a grey area. Worthe getting Ofcom to rule
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
But remember to that market definitions don't change automatically as soon as an LLU provider goes live. Ofcom must state the new definition of the exchange explicitly, and it normally takes a couple of years to do that.

Also remember that FTTC isn't regulated yet, so Ofcom might not want to redefine it because of that.

Also rmbr that one reason for the process is to encourage LLU providers to spread coverage. Changing definition for just broadband service but not voice might not meet this aim

With SOGEA and an ip-based voice service, all this could change.
Posted by DaveCheltenham about 1 year ago
How interesting this all is and a tribute to the power of lobbying by BT rivals such as Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk and others. As far as I am aware, BT has still not been renationalised and that public money has not been given without a tender process; BT's only other approved rival, Fujitsu, dropped out of bidding after failing to win a single project. To declare an interest, I have BT FTTC broadband and my 2 failures have been on the copper connection from the cabinet to my house.

Also interesting is, how splitting off Openreach from BT going to make things better?
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
This document, kindly dug up for me by WWWombat, shows how successful BTs lobbying was to ensure that they would be the only winners in the subsequent tender process
Posted by Ben66 about 1 year ago
Anything associated with Grant Shapps deserves very close scrutiny. While Openreach need to do better how this committee thinks that another organisation will suddenly work a miracle and provide SFB to all corners of the UK at very little cost needs a heavy dose of realism. Our MPs certainly need to do better.
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