Broadband News

Broadband to get better for Suffolk with another BT contract

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP who is the Minister of State for Digital and the MP for the West Suffolk Constituency has over the last few days been celebrating the hitting of the 90% superfast broadband milestone for Suffolk, plus the prospect of another 50,000 premises benefiting from a new contract signed with BT to extend coverage.

Details are sparse on what the new contract will deliver and its funding, and as is often the case the wording which may be precise in any contract signed gets muddier the further away from the actual signatures and sometimes fibre is talked about, other times high speed broadband and sometimes superfast broadband. As a reminder here is what those three phrases usually mean and thus why picking the right one is important.

  • Fibre broadband, generally means premises are passed by a technology such as VDSL2(FTTC) or Fibre to the Premises, but in the case of VDSL2 it will include those premises at very long distances from the actual cabinet e.g. 2.5km where VDSL2 is likely to perform worse than ADSL.
  • High speed broadband, no formal definition exists, but in terms of the BDUK projects most commonly used when talking about a speed threshold of 10 Mbps or 15 Mbps and faster. Thus premises at 2.5km from their cabinet are not counted, but those closer than around 1.5km are most likely included.
  • Superfast broadband, this means connection speed options of over 24 Mbps or if you prefer the EU definition 30 Mbps and faster.
thinkbroadband analysis of Superfast Broadband Coverage for Suffolk and its component councils as of 25th July 2017
Area% fibre based% superfast
Over 24 Mbps
% superfast
30 Mbps or faster
% Ultrafast% Openreach FTTP% Under 2 Mbps
USC
% Under 10 Mbps
USO
Suffolk 96.2% 89.6% 88.5% 23.4% 1.14% 1.5% 5.7%
334,415 Premises 321,707 299,635 295,957 78,254 3,812 5,016 19,061
Better Broadband for Suffolk Phase I 100% 84.6% 82.2% 2.5% N/A 3.6% 8.8%
100,876 Premises 100,876 85,341 82,920 2,521 N/A 3,631 8,877
Better Broadband for Suffolk Phase II 85.8% 70.6% 68.3% 12% N/A 3.8% 19.9%
22,804 Premises 19,565 16,100 15,575 2,736 N/A 867 4,538
Babergh District Council 96% 85.8% 83.7% 7.4% 2.85% 2.7% 8%
40,051 Premises 38,449 34,364 33,523 2,964 1,141 1,081 3,204
Forest Heath District Council 98.2% 93.9% 92.8% 27.7% 0.2% 0.5 2.6%
28,941 Premises 28,420 27,176 26,857 8,017 58 145 752
Ipswich Borough Council 99.3% 99.1% 99% 90% 0.74% 0% 0.3%

61,516 Premises

61,085 60,922 60,962 55,364 455 0 185
Mid Suffolk District Council 90.6% 75.2% 73.5% 1.4% 1.34% 4.2% 15.9%
43,466 Premises 39,380 32,686 31,947 609 582 1,825 6,911
St Edmundsbury Borough Council 97.5% 90.7% 89.3% 0.2% 0.22% 1.7% 5%
48,954 Premises 47,728 44,399 43,714 108 108 832 2,448
Suffolk Coastal District Council 94.6% 86.2% 84.9% 17.5% 0.95% 1.7% 6.9%
57,756 Premises 54,637 49,786 49,034 10,107 549 982 3,985
Waveney Council 96.8% 93.8% 93% 1.8% 1.7% 0.5% 3.2%
53,731 Premises 52,012 50,400 49,970 967 913 269 1,719

We will likely be updating this table in the next 48 hours, as we are in the midst of our weekly coverage update cycle, but we have any reason to suspect Suffolk has seen an explosive roll-out in the week since our last check, but it may make a small difference to figures.

The N/A figures for FTTP in the two BDUK phases is because we have not identified commercial versus gap funded Openreach FTTP in the county, so a large chunk of the FTTP in the county can be added if attempting to compare our premise figures with the projects own figures. The overlap with Virgin Media while small does impact on the premise counts, and where Virgin Media was already available gap funding will not have been paid for those premises, but with the new Project Lightning roll-outs from Virgin Media some premises are now getting cable broadband options that may have had BDUK funding, making splitting them out increasingly time consuming. The phase II project with a lower than 100% fibre coverage means that we have identified a number of cabinets expected to be benefit in that project phase but services are not available yet.

Suffolk overall is close enough to the 90% figure that with the variations caused by new build activity across a County and error margins we would not dispute the 90% figure, but even with rounding we would not ourselves call this as 90% reached.

For residents and business users in the Mid Suffolk council area it is very likely that many will feel the project has passed them by, as it seems for many the speed drop of VDSL2 over distance means a big gap between those counting as 'fibre' passed and actually able to order a superfast service. As with other counties we are seeing a infill cabinets or native GEA-FTTP deployed as infill, and for those on exchange only lines as with the rest of the country some are getting VDSL2 made available but still a way to go to say everyone has ben helped.

For those who are yet to benefit from any of the superfast roll-outs, be that commercial or gap funded the ever increasing coverage figures will always look ridiculous and that is why we including premise counts now, so that people can get a feel for what the 90% actually means, and the variation across council areas also helps to highlight that this is not a consistent coverage but there can be patches with whole villages missing out, or just a couple of streets in a town.

One of the changes we made when we launched the new look thinkbroadband website was to integrate our knowledge of product availability into our package search, so that those in full fibre (FTTH/FTTP) areas will only see packages available to them with similar happening for FTTC and a number of other providers.

Some may have noticed that our number of premises with access to superfast broadband is only 40,000 below the number of premises in the county of Suffolk, and a similar disparity for this new extension exists in the council release, where they say adding fibre access to another 50,000 premises will take the county to 98%. If the 315,000 with access to fibre based services is 90%, this means the county council believes the premise count is 350,000 which still does not line up with a 98% target needing another 50,000 premises. The confusion over fibre and superfast terminology is not helping, one variable that may account for this difference is the council may be aware of planning applications for the extra premises, but only after they are built will we be able to include them in our data.

Update Tuesday 25th July We have now updated the tables after a sweep of the county and found some new infill cabinets, adding 0.8% to the superfast totals for Mid Suffolk, plus a little more GEA-FTTP. This raised the county total by 0.1% to 89.6%. Additionally we also found an extra 300 premises, we should add that these were not new postcodes but rather ones where we changed the total number of premises. For the very observant you may have noticed the number of premises in Phase I has descreased slightly, this is because the infill is being delivered in Phase II and this means premises with speeds of generally 17 Mbps or lower from VDSL2 have now seen an infill cabinet as part of Phase II. This is not double spending, since projects are only invoiced for premises that meet the contractual superfast speeds.

While the overall result of the change was just 0.1% it does show the danger of relying on data that is even a couple of months old and how the picture is very dynamic not just in Suffolk but many other parts of the UK and why reports that extrapolate conclusions from data that is 12 months old are going to be challenged and thus any message they want to get across will be missed.

Comments

Isn't it time some tries another Freedom of Information request to get some actual details? Either way it is clear that VDSL simply is the wrong technology for rural areas. Suffolk has many long country lanes where VDSL doesn't make sense. It either has to be FTTP, or long-distance wireless services. Compared to many other counties, Suffolk is doing poorly!

  • JNeuhoff
  • about 1 year ago

I think it's obvious that when Suffolk BDUK talk of 9 in 10 premises having access to "fibre" broadband, they are talking about "superfast" capable, and not all those with access to "fibre-based" broadband. It simply doesn't make any sense to claim 90% superfast coverage and then use the same proportion to premises with access to "fibre-based" broadband.

I would think on that basis the 98% target is a superfast-capable one.

That said, I can't make the 50,000 extra premises work either way if it's 8% of the total in the county; it should be around half that. In short, it's muddled.

  • TheEulerID
  • about 1 year ago

The 90% superfast figure seems reasonable, and have found some more which may creep it another 0.1% closer, but the muddle is a concern since once this trickles down to the public the distinction is even more confused due to Chinese whispers and people don't realise the difference that distance will make.

As for VDSL2 being the wrong tech, on a pure tech point of view that's very valid, but once the pressures of value for money and timescales are added you can see why ratio is skewed to the VDSL2 side. As phases progress more FTTP does feature usually.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

A lot of very muddy waters in terms of the figures. The original Suffolk plan quoted 325,041 residential and 14,952 business premises a total of 339,993 in 2009, so its probably nearer 350,000 now- and well above the 334,114 quoted by think broadband which may be just residential. But even with these higher figures the 50,000 quoted must include those being done in phase 2, not just extra ones.

Of course that a fairly minor muddying compared to Matt Hancock's description of 127,000 as " hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses "

  • gerarda
  • about 1 year ago

Our figure is not just residential and if it was we would say homes.

Different counties sometimes count different things, e.g. some include street furniture and things like monuments that may have an 'address' and others do not. So some variation is to be expected, then add the changing picture of new build or re-purposing of existing builds some variation in the total is to be expected.

Premise count is going to rise a little once current update has finished, but not by a big margin unless there is a big estate we've missed for years.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

@jneeuhoff

Of course VDSL isn't appropriate for true rural (although it works well enough within boundaries of a village). The problem always was that rural pockets are disproportionately expensive. That is and was always was the problem. Essentially who is going to pay for it? Given nobody seems to be interested in producing a cost model whereby the beneficiaries will pay the extra cost (perhaps by spreading that over a decade or two), and the demand is that it's subsidised (either publicly or privately), it's hardly surprising there's not exactly a lot of volunteers to cough up the cash.

  • TheEulerID
  • about 1 year ago

Simple economics at the core of this. Purely hypothetical figures - 100K premises. Technology A costs £200 per property for the first 50K and £2000 per property for the rest. Technology B costs £500 per property for all 100K but £1000 per property for the final 50K. The current incremental approach chooses Technology A for the next tranche of 50K and (perhaps) Technology B for the final 50K. However, Technology B is the cheaper overall solution, but it won't be chosen under the contracting arrangements adopted. Who pays is secondary until we know the shape of the cost curve.

  • gah789
  • about 1 year ago

@gah789

I think you are playing with numbers to fit your theory. The costs for the last 50K using fibre are going to be almost the same whether the first 50k are done with FTTC or FTTP. Both require fibre backhaul to distribution points, and those put in for FTTC will be shared. FTTP requires fibre to go a lot deeper, and if the first 50K was FTTP would take it a little deeper. However, most of it will be within areas of more concentrated building (like villages) and won't take it very far to outlying hamlets, farms, isolated houses and so on.

  • TheEulerID
  • about 1 year ago

@SteveJones: The fact is Suffolk is doing poorly, mainly because they chose the wrong provider. BT's approach one size fits all, and its lack of flexibility to work with local communities, has contributed to the rural Suffolk farce. Looking at these many long rural lanes you'll notice that the telecom wires run mainly from telegraph poles, not underground ducts. For many of these areas it would be fairly easy to run fibre along the same poles. It's all down to the county council to come up with better schemes and not just rely on BT who isn't up for the task.

  • JNeuhoff
  • about 1 year ago

Hi Andrews Staff.
You may find that there is a new interim FTTC situated in Belstead village Exchange area Copdock I was their on Sunday the post codes (10) show service is available. The customer were on Cab 1 which is very close to the Exchange the overhead fibre run is approx 1 Mile to the new Cab. There is also a fibre run to a small business park which is also overhead (5 spans )from the new Cab.

  • Blackmamba
  • about 1 year ago

That would be cabinet 7 which has only just gone live and was added to dataset on Monday and part of the 0.1% overall increase between 22nd and 25th

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

FTTP became available in some very strange places in the early part of the Suffolk BDUK rollout, but why these places, eg Cockfield were chosen and who paid for it is not clear.

  • gerarda
  • about 1 year ago

VDSL2 is a bad choice for rural areas only when it is the only technology.

We know it doesn't help everyone - and that some on long D-side lines still aren't helped. But it still helps some ... and is still worthwhile from that perspective.

But it does need a full-fibre follow-up to reach completeness. And by reducing the number that depend on full-fibre, it reduces total cost. A complete no-brainer.

If you want to see the cost curves, look at the 2008 report from BSG by Analysys Mason on the costs of deploying fibre-based next-generation broadband infrastructure.
...

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

In that report, the worst case FTTH figure comes out nearer £10,000 per property, for their geotype "<1k lines (b)".

I agree with Steve that the cost of FTTH to remote homes isn't going to be appreciably different whether village homes are covered by FTTC or FTTP themselves.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

@JNeuhoff
When you order counties by their population density, you don't get many surprises - it is the biggest counties with lowest populations that have reached the lowest proportion of their residents.

In amongst these counties, Shropshire, Devon and Herefordshire are the ones that are furthest behind - 79-83% superfast coverage.

Most of the rest of these counties are between 88 and 90%, including North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire & Cumbria. When compared to its peer counties, Suffolk is doing relatively well.

  • WWWombat
  • about 1 year ago

Hi Broadband Watchers.
I have been informed that there are two fibre feeds to Belstead village so I feel it is possible for all the Post Codes can be covered with the EU 30 meg target in this small enclave on the outskirts of Ipswich see TBB maps.

  • Blackmamba
  • about 1 year ago

A fibre feed is useless unless it has FTTP or a VDSL2 cabinet on the end of it. So speculation on fibre feeds is misleading unless someone has announced clear plans to get it from that feed to peoples homes and businesses

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • about 1 year ago

Hi Broadband Watchers.
I can confirm that a customer has ordered on the Belstead bespoke interim Cab and the ordering was ok and the provision date will be four weeks 23 of August. The customer did not have any information that the Cab was open from her ISP. , if this is happening across the U.K, This could be the reason why the take up is low on FTTC thus this effect the average speed plus the product range.

  • Blackmamba
  • about 1 year ago

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