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Broadband World Forum underway at London Excel
Tuesday 18 October 2016 13:52:27 by Andrew Ferguson

The Broadband World Forum is an opportunity for many of those working in the UK broadband landscape to get together but also an opportunity to find out about what other countries are getting up to.

A major part UK wise is the 'Building Gigabit Britain' conference run by INCA at London Excel and the first day had a small teaser meeting exploring some of the issues around a more fibre rich UK environment and the noises emanating from Ofcom that may suggest a change in direction is underway.

Since the Ofcom market review started 18 months ago there has been a never ending stream of studies (usually sponsored by a body with a self-interest) putting forward differing views and in this situation Sharon White as the head of Ofcom has a difficult task ahead, get it wrong and the UK economy could be destroyed as other countries race ahead in the digital arms race.

On the one hand there is BT saying FTTP is hard to do, in the sense of the time and costs involved (the technology itself is simple and mature) and others saying that they want large amounts of FTTP coverage rolled out ASAP and at a wholesale cost not unlike or maybe even less than current VDSL2 pricing.

The balancing act is how can Ofcom get Openreach (either as a full legally separate company or a half-way house) to invest the sums of money to take the UK from its lowly 2% FTTP coverage to more respectable figures and maybe not be far behind Spain and Portugal that have aims of 95% FTTP coverage by 2020 apparently. While at the very same time encouraging others to invest in their own roll-outs to ensure that Ofcom ambitions of 40% of the UK having three or more infrastructure competitors and a large amount of the remainder with two or more options. This is why the duct and pole access debate features heavily as the competitors are going to need to make extensive use of pre-existing duct - apart from maybe in the suburban areas that match the York UFO/CityFibre trial (which oddly is probably 40% of UK premises).

The big unknown is how that final 5% of the UK will feature in this plan, and in the past the default answer has been get BT to deal with it, but maybe that is what needs to change, i.e. rather than BT by default the UK needs to do more to stop that being the norm. The problem there is that millions are used to dealing with household names like Sky and TalkTalk and will they will be willing to work with regional providers that may only address a market of 100,000 potential customers, or are they firmly pinning their hopes to the full legal separation and forcing the hand of Openreach to deploy FTTP where they would prefer it deployed - which is probably almost an exact mirror of where Virgin Media operate.

Rounding up a few snippets, Openreach talked quickly about a trial over a live fibre, where the existing GPON (2.4 Gbps shared between 32 users) was joined by a 10 Gbps XGS-PON and 40 Gbps NG-PON2 service, and unlike standard GPON the later two are designed to be symmetric.

Looking at the FTTH picture, one key differentiator in the UK is our love of the semi, which means just 12% of the UK lives in apartments (MDUs) whereas half of the people in Spain, Germany and Italy do.

The Brexit vote divided the UK and the results of the Ofcom digital market review may have a similar effect on the UK telco market which could result in years more talking, debating and uncertainty. What the UK digital economy needs is a clear decision, where those making the decision will work hard to ensure that no parties can derail the changes and that the extra investment needed to deliver what everyone dreams of will be available rather than vanish like many political promises have in the past.


Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
Time and resource, yes but the costs are better than portrayed.
The 5% will also fair better with some very remote locations getting FTTP. In clawback alone there is over a years worth of £1m a day of investment owed to LA's and HMG. Once the capital is assessed this is likely to stretch into two years of £1m a day investment. Interesting problem to resolve.
Posted by TheEulerID 6 months ago

Could you let this go? OR are not contracted for a given amount of capital expenditure, they are on individual call-off contracts for individual projects using a gap-funding model. Should take-up be higher than expected (and they pretty well all are) then savings are returned under gain share according to relative public & OR investment. There undoubtedly will be more claw-back money to come, and if this is reinvested, OR will contribute more capital, but that's it.
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
also clawback relates only to BDUK cabs an nothing else

you saying there is in excess of 365m in clawback 1!!!!

Barking !!!!
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Just listened to Matt Hancock at BBWF. What a p10*&%^

On one hand he says we need more competition as the primary driver, and that he's on the side of the challenger.

On the other hand, he says we need fibre for the future, and points at the success of Hull.

His best example is the one place in the country that is almost devoid of that competition; and the one place entirely at the bottom of the rollout stats.

Does he not realise the disconnect there?
Posted by md84419 6 months ago
Yea FTTP is so difficult to do that a bunch of farmers and residents in Lancashire (B4RN) have built their own network, connected over 1500 properties using point-to-point FTTP at 1000mbps and are currently connecting around 80 customers a month.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Fibre isn't hard. The technology isn't hard. The digging isn't hard.

It is the financing that is hard.

Hence the bunch of farmers in Lancashire couldn't have got started without people handing over something above £1,000 per property passed (or planned to be passed eventually) up front, using free labour, and using free wayleaves.

Commercial ventures need to pay attention to the investment and RoI, which can be horribly affected by competition and future regulation.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
For example, two of the better countries for fibre coverage in the EU are Spain and Portugal.

In both cases, the business case for deploying fibre was helped because there was no requirement to wholesale services over that fibre. That, in turn, helps to improve the RoI that can be achieved ... but is obviously at the cost of reduced retail competition.

This country has chosen to maximise competition and minimise prices - an approach clearly championed by Matt Hancock. It just doesn't seem to result in investment in infrastructure in the ground.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
The new reality is that its not broadband if its not FTTH - keep up at the back.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Lol. Ironic that the optical signal isn't, after all, broadband...
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
I've just been listening to more from the BBWF, which had an interesting chat on things driving the upgrade of different networks.

Sweden is a great example where competition works, and has created competition at the infrastructure level. Telia (the incumbent) is being forced to deploy FTTH, and say they'd be laughed out of the market if they chosen G.Fast.


Because there are 200 cities deploying fibre themselves.

Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Because the customers will pay handsomely for the service.

By "handsomely" I mean they will pay of the order of 2,000-2,500 euros.

I'm not sure that Telia need to provide wholesale access either.

If Brits would pay money like that for FTTH, we'd never have this kind of discussion.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
(That "2,000 - 2,500 euros" is the one-off connection fee)
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
Posted by md84419 about 8 hours ago
Yea FTTP is so difficult to do that a bunch of farmers and residents in Lancashire (B4RN) have built their own network, connected over 1500 properties using point-to-point FTTP at 1000mbps and are currently connecting around 80 customers a month.

though it was designed and managed by a retired network consultant which serious background in Wide area Networking !!!!
don't think the people you mentioned designed or managed they may had done the leg work -- that's not the same
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
Fastman - it is £270m clawbcak as of q1 2016, the £358m BT capital contribution is on top.
Posted by RuralWire 6 months ago
"Areas where commercial or subsidised broadband exists but has yet to be taken up by consumers should not be subject to USO provision."

"The USO scheme should wait for the current BDUK programme and any subsequent local projects to be completed."

Building Gigabit Britain report - INCA

Looks to me that the USO is under attack from a somewhat unexpected source. Shameful.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago

A shame, of course, that your concept for what "BT capital contribution" means is so out of whack with everyone else's.
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
WWWW apparently this one was called out by the minister yesterday -- While at the very same time encouraging others to invest in their own roll-outs !!!!!! time to see who really wants to invest !!!!
Posted by fastman 6 months ago
the old adage careful what you wish for because you might get it -- (and that's not an outcome you'e anticipated - as o meant you have to do something !!!!
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
WWWombat - who is everyone else? NAO 2013 make it clear. Check Matt Hanncock's WPQ from Oct 12th? Seriously who is everyone else and where are the public references?
Posted by Gadget 6 months ago
@VFM as far as I can see from the Isle of Wight published contract details of Capital contributions are both a key deliverable and auditable. No reason to believe any other contract would not contain the clauses so AFAIK since there have been no reports of these requirement not being met in any of the BDUK contracts to date I'd definitely suggest that whilst you may want to see the details you could sleep easier knowing that professional auditors have and not found anything untoward.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Perhaps a requirement of receiving public money should be publication of every invoice, and not just in the broadband sphere.

Its almost comical with the angst over the BDUK spending, when other gov IT projects have gone way over budget and then shelved with outcome at all.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@gadget do you have a public reference?
Posted by Gadget 6 months ago
Posted by Somerset 6 months ago
@VFM - the word 'payment' occurs 153 times.
Posted by Somerset 6 months ago
@VFM - is your Cotwalton quote ready?
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Somerset should be for Wednesday to provide a per km aggregate of tree trimming, pole replacement, cable attachment and splicing.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Gadget Have that,thanks, no suggestion of current status of what BT capital contribution to allowable costs has been received. According to Hancock WPQ response to Timms they hold have no record to date but £358m is contractual.
Posted by Gadget 6 months ago
@VFM as I am reading it Section 4.1.2 requires the amounts to be made available to the contracting authorities, and substantiated. Section 4.2 requires it to be validated by the Local Authority. Section 4.3 allows the Authority to review at least annually. Section 5.4 reinforces the need for the supplier to keep auditable records of QCE. So a comprehensive set of clauses that ensure QCE is documented and auditable. This is the contractual framework supported by professional accountants and auditors which is where facts can be found over opinions and aspirations.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
Gagdet - On the costs this is being enforced and this is visible. On the capital due it is not yet visible. Hopefully it will change as the true ups occur, but no announcements have been forthcoming. If we see it on clawback, then why not the capital. I assume it must appear soon.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Surely the key words are 'not yet visible' which seems to be a change from your previous position that you have suggested in the past, i.e. that BT is not making any capital contribution to any of the BDUK projects.

Surely if visibility of this was important those working in BDUK when the contract templates were created would have ensured the public visibility of this, or in a confidential version.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
"not yet visible": is this a recent cop-out?

So far, you have resolutely expected that BT's "capital contribution" is money that should change hands (from BT to LA). You expect the money to be paid back to the LA's.

That ain't how it works. The money goes to the contractors. Their own staff. To Huawei and ECI.

All that needs to happen, contract-wise, is that BT shows the LAs the invoices to prove that expenditure actually happened.

Have you now accepted this? And are only calling for visibility? That's quite a climbdown.
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