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What would happen if BT enabled every street cabinet for VDSL2?
Friday 05 February 2016 11:05:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The usual model we run for broadband coverage is based on actual services that are available to order, but we have done something a bit different and made the assumption that every green street cabinet was to be given a VDSL2 twin and what effect this would have on the superfast coverage levels in UK.

Given where we are with the 90% superfast target for the UK looming and like to be hit in the next couple of months this exercise should give some insight into how easy or not the next target of 95% superfast coverage by the end of 2017 will be.

What the UK would look like with all cabinets offering FTTC
Figures are a projection, not live figures
Projection of UK superfast coverage with all cabinets enabled for up to 38 Mbps and up to 76 Mbps services

The UK picture seems to say that the 95% target is impossible for Openreach, but there are tricks up their sleeve such as adding cabinets for the Exchange Only lines which cover around 2.3% of premises and with some more native FTTP added to the mix and deployment of FTTrN or Onesie cabinets to more remote clusters hitting 95% looks possible, just not as straight forward as the original 90% targets.

What Northern Ireland would look like with all cabinets offering FTTC
Figures are a projection, not live figures
While Northern Ireland has ticked the 95% NGA box for sometime, once you add a speed qualifier the dispersed nature of premises outside of Belfast and Londonderry is very obvious. Northern Ireland coverage is still improving, but at a fairly slow rate and this is being achieved mainly by extra cabinets to serve clusters too far from existing cabinets and while some native FTTP is available at 0.07% it is still very small. Of all the parts of the UK, Northern Ireland is the one that is hardest to get right i.e. spotting new cabinet infill work and whether it is actually live.
Scotland interestingly even with every cabinet enabled will not hit 90% superfast coverage, this is because of the large number of exchanges where every line is an exchange only line. The EO situation in Scotland is improving and with 6.2% left to look at and so if that work was to continue then 95% becomes viable especially if the areas we believe are due native FTTP are delivered.
What Scotland would look like with all cabinets offering FTTC
Figures are a projection, not live figures
What Cymru would look like with all cabinets offering FTTC
Figures are a projection, not live figures
The SuperfastCymru is one of the most widely misquoted projects, with a figure of 96% superfast coverage as the target often mentioned, but the reality of the 2016 target the project there has is a 96% fibre based target, with 90% superfast as the resulting goal. Our projection of every cabinet live for VDSL2 actually shows the project barely making the 90% superfast goal, hence why the fibre figure was always so high for the project. Again exchange only line upgrades will help as coverage pushes on for 95% superfast, but deployment of FTTP (or even other technologies) will be needed. Wales currently has 0.33% availability of native FTTP, but we know of more areas in actual build and they have suggested FTTP coverage might reach 3 to 4%.

England with a result of 93.8% superfast (24 Mbps definition) is the closest to the 95% goal and each week we see more exchange only conversions, so the 2% of EO premises is shrinking and add to this the FTTP that keeps appearing things then 95% looks in the bag. Remember England includes KC, so the FTTP coverage if the roll-out there continues will keep rising even.

The story is far from uniform across England, as different counties have very different population dispersion patterns, and thus we have Lancashire hitting 95.2%, but for counties like Cumbria, Devon, Somerset, Northumberland even if every EO line was converted they will not make the target by a decent margin. This pretty much means for areas like Devon they are going to need to keep rolling out FTTP, already the county has 1.39% coverage from Openreach and this needs to keep rising quickly if the 90% superfast target is to be hit, let alone reaching for 95%.

Devon and Somerset sit in an odd position as they are the only counties to have not signed the main phase II contract yet, and this exercise shows the scale of the problem and maybe why plans from BT in its phase II bid did not match the ambitions of CDS, i.e. to push forward to 95% superfast coverage using the existing Openreach product portfolio would mean lots more FTTP and the cost per premise starts to escalate and may actually reach the point where for the budget available 95% is not possible with fibre based services. If Devon was as flat as Lincolnshire then a fixed wireless solution would be simple, but the varied landscape of the county makes even fixed wireless more of a challenge.

What England would look like with all cabinets offering FTTC
Figures are a projection, not live figures

So enough future gazing and showing what VDSL2 might achieve, back to seeing what the various projects have delivered to people and then as people take-up services and do speed tests the actual impact on average speeds in the various areas of the UK.


Posted by mklinger 9 months ago
What has happened to FTTrN ? it could be a solution for a lot of exchange lines. Our village has 22 houses all on the same exchange line and within 400m of cabinet and exchange. Come on BT pull your finger out !
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 9 months ago
FTTrN or Onesies are out there just not in the same volume as the existing street cabinets, or traditional EO upgrades of new green phone cab + VDSL2 cabinet, or as some areas are seeing native FTTP.

The problem is who do you do first when areas have lots of options of where to go.
Posted by Kebabselector 9 months ago
I'm happy to volunteer my cabinet to be part of this!
Posted by mklinger 9 months ago
fTTrN must be cheaper than a cabinet art the exchange for sm,aller numbers. It's about time ofcom reduced the line rental on those that can't get superfast, they pay more for broadband and get a poorer product. If ofcom reduced line renbtal year on year , watch BT pull its finger out.
Posted by fastman 9 months ago
Mklinger -- is your exchange in a BDUK area - suggest you find out if they have made any plans for you
Posted by fastman 9 months ago
mklinger that depends where the exchange and how remote your exchange is from the Broadband fibre network and how hard it is to get the exchange (ieis the copper cable in duct/ overhead / Direct in Ground)
Posted by fastman 9 months ago
for example is it an area where cost many thousands of pounds to get there which is primary question
Posted by chrisdev 9 months ago
For Scotland "especially if the areas we believe are due native FTTP are delivered."

Which areas would they be then? Please don't keep us in dark :-)
Posted by TheEulerID 9 months ago
There is always the option of adding new cabinets. We know it's expensive, but will often be cheaper than FTTP. That's without going into FTTrN.

The issues of widening the availability of broadband are not primarily technological, but logistical and commercial.

nb. enabling some existing cabinets will not be as cost effective in some cases as building new ones to better serve concentrations of housing. It's certainly true on a lot of new estates which are slaved off existing PCPs.
Posted by WWWombat 9 months ago
Your curiosity got the better of you, eh?

Very interesting work - and it'll be interesting to compare the outcome in a couple of years, when things are approaching the 95%.
Posted by WWWombat 9 months ago
An FTTRN cabinet, and internal parts, will be cheaper than an FTTC cabinet.

However, the cost of getting fibre to it will be the same (per metre) as FTTC, and the cost of a power connection will be the same. Power companies charge over £1,000 per connection ... and much more if there is a distance to go, or some supply-side upgrades are needed, such as a more powerful transformer.

When those extra costs are only shared over 16 lines instead of 288, budgets get shot to pieces.

End result: FTTRN is far more expensive, per line, than FTTC.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 9 months ago
@chrisdev The issue in Scotland is that not seen any of the FTTP go live, some has gone live with cabinets instead, so very wary of saying anything even when hints about an area have been given.

Far too often a hint is interpreted as a 'promise' after a few months.
Posted by JNeuhoff 9 months ago
@TheEulerID (Steve Jones): "The issues of widening the availability of broadband are not primarily technological, but logistical and commercial."

You keep seeing problems, and why things can't be done. For a change, why not tell us what could be done?
Posted by flippery 9 months ago
Strange that whilst fibre has been partly enabled in this part of worcestershire. The ADSL2 speeds to many here have dropped by 20% since commentcement 2 years ago. Throughput sometimes non existant
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