Mid Devon officer claims heavily loaded cabinets only deliver a few megabits
This item was updated on afternoon of Thursday 19th October, where changes have been made to previous text it is in bold.
Cutting through the rhetoric and PR is never easy but sometimes statements are made where you feel you need to stand up and say it does not make sense and one comment from the Economic Development Officer in Mid Devon District Council about the performance of VDSL2 is one of those.
You tend to find you get the M5 corridor or major population hubs such as Crediton which are reasonably well serviced. That’s not to say they’re able to achieve high speeds as a result of that; it just means there’s fibre to the cabinets within those areas. But many of those are heavily loaded with customers so whereas you could be getting several hundred megabits because there are so many people trying to use a single cabinet, they’re each achieving a couple of megabits per second for example, so you don’t get the wider benefit of that.
The service would be provided by linking the villages between the Link Road and the A377 as well as the Link Road between Crediton and Tiverton along the A3072m creating a ring to enable wider coverage.Economic Development Officer at Mid Devon District Council, Chris Shears who has not spoken to Devon Live but we believe their item is based on the audio file/transcripts.
A full audio recording of the council meeting of 7th September is available on SoundCloud with the broadband session starting at 48:21 and carrying on until ~1:21:00.
The statement is confusing because FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet - VDSL2) has a maximum retail speed of 76 Mbps with the physics of attenuation in copper being the largest factor in the speed people get, at a guess the 'several hundred megabits' part is referring to the Gigabit fibre backhaul from the cabinet but the 'couple of a megabits per second' is not something that we recognise as being normal for FTTC, assuming the comment is about congestion slowing down users at peak time. This is not to say that there might not be one cabinet somewhere in the UK where people are seeing a lot more than the usual 5 to 10% drop in peak time speeds but we do not know of a cabinet where speeds have dropped from maximum speeds to just a couple of meg and this applies to both commercial and BDUK cabinets anywhere in the United Kingdom. The reality of contention is that it is much more common in the backhaul arrangements from the handover exchanges that individual operators have control over and this is actually an all fibre part of the network and nothing to do with VDSL2.
The areas between Tiverton, Crediton and Chumleigh are largely a part of Mid Devon where the phase one BT contract has not delivered masses of new connectivity, but to start a Mid Devon funded Local Full Fibre Network Programme appears to be saying that they are not expecting to see Gigaclear or gain share from the original BT contract coming to the area. Then again knowing the way councillors across the UK have referred to broadband technology in the past our money is on this 'ring' actually referring to a rural based metro fibre network, rather than a systematic roll-out of Fibre to the Premises.
A number of villages are named, and its worth saying a few words on each:
- Withleigh, Templeton, Cruwys Morchard, Puddington, Blackdog are all small villages and generally if broadband is available it is sub 2 Mbps
- Pennymoor actually has native Openreach GEA-FTTP live in the village with up to 38 Mbps through to 330 Mbps options, and Gigabit once retailers start selling it. There are some outlying premises that don't have access.
- Morchard Bishop has VDSL2 in the centre but as one expects once you get 2 to 3 km away (e.g. EX17 4QE) it is of no benefit
- Lapford is the largest area and 3 out of the four cabinets offer VDSL2 and cabinet 1 is apparently in the plans for enabling in the next 12 months. As with other cabinets the bulk of premises are within range for superfast or something better than ADSL, but cabinet 1 does have premises some 5 or 6 km away (e.g. EX17 4TH)
This picture of the larger population areas being served and the dispersed rural areas missing out was a common feature for the phase one projects, and was driven by several factors, contract deadlines to cover x,000 by a certain date, cost overruns to be bourn by the commercial partner, value for money tests. The later phase two projects have generally reached deeper into the rural areas and in Devon a feature of 2017 has been Openreach delivering FTTP in the closing phases of the phase one project. In four years Mid Devon has gone from 12% of premises with access to superfast broadband to 74.9% and there are an additional 14.3% with VDSL2 delivering 23.9 Mbps down to no benefit.
Individual councils of course need to fight the corner for their residents and businesses, but the unfortunate reality is that until 100% coverage at speeds that make people happy is reached we will have on-going issues and those missing out are becoming increasingly vocal. How local and national government manage this is probably the most important part of the next few years with regards to broadband as no-one will want to be in the final 2% that are abandoned to the Universal Service Obligation provisions.
The following paragraphs and maps were added on 19th October. Listening to the full audio the scope of the project is clearer, but the news a district council has expressed an interest in the Governments full fibre fund would not be enough to warrant a news item given how busy things are behind the scenes currently, the aspect that we wanted to talk about was the 100's of megabits and speeds on cabinets dropping massively and while the wording was slightly different in the actual audio compared to the Devon Live transcript the meaning is no different. If a district council gets a full fibre project approved then that is newsworthy.
The full audio makes it clearer that the full fibre roll-out does appear to be about creating a ring in the area mentioned with diverse routing and a major focus is on the path it takes following the various geographic peaks so that transmission towers can be deployed to deliver service and that the area involved is not part of the phase II CDS project. It was not said in these exact words but in normal broadband parlance this appears to be a project to provide fixed wireless access with masts fed by fibre optic network. It is not clear from the audio whether the full fibre aspect will include a roll-out of FTTP to premises in villages the fibre passes through and we would hazard a guess that this is what the Governments full fibre fund is actually meant to deliver i.e. not just building fibre rings but extending those rings that final 100m to 200m into each property they pass.
Things are in the very early stages, so at this time it looks likely that the idea if the fibre ring would be council owned and commercial partners may or may not be sought to deliver the fixed wireless the fibre ring will support.
Mr Chris Shears expressed frustration at difficulties getting a map of where Openreach infrastructure is and thus we need to highlight our mapping (the link has VDSL2 and FTTP layers turned on and is centred in the area of discussion), the VDSL2/FTTP layer does not cover all postcodes to get an idea of the ones that are totally missed out form the phase I roll-out you should look at the ADSL speed layer.
The scale of the problems in Mid Devon District Council area are such that if you accept a minimum of 10 Mbps download speed and upload speeds over 1 Mbps as being at least a decent safety net then some 17.9% of premises do not meet that target currently representing some 6,500 premises.