Broadband News

Welsh Assembly has broadband Q&A session

We have just spent some time reading the draft transcript of a Plenary session of the National Assembly of Wales on the afternoon of 28th February and feel that before the wrong conclusions are drawn from the data shared by Julie James AM we should highlight our thoughts.

Julie James AM 135. And that's dependent on the package that the customer buys as well, but it's not dependent on distance and FTTP is not subject to contention. So, we have the biggest fibre penetration in the UK at the moment, across parts of Wales, because people on a full fibre connection clearly don't have that problem. There is definitely an upload speed problem on copper networks and especially as you go into the phase-out area, and one of the things that's really interesting in Swansea is the BT test for a new way of sending a signal down copper wires in Swansea, called the 'G.fast test'. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the outcome of that will be shortly, to see whether it has an effect that we can roll out elsewhere in Wales.

Dai Lloyd AM 138. Leader of the House, you say that the take-up rate for superfast broadband has remained much lower than the actual availability of superfast broadband, so could I ask what you, as a Government are doing to ensure that people are aware of the availability of superfast broadband in their area?

Julie James AM 139. Yes, we've just increased the amount of money that we currently spend on advertising the availability of broadband. We've just procured an advertising agency to go out on a two-county basis at a time—a rolling programme of advertising availability of superfast in order to increase take-up.

Nick Ramsay AM 5. Will the Leader of the House provide an update on the availability of superfast broadband in Monmouth?

Julie James 148. Certainly. Under the Superfast Cymru project, we have provided access to fast-fibre broadband to 17,767 premises across all parts of Monmouthshire, equating to just over 76.2 per cent completion, and they have an average download speed of 83.84 Mbps

Extracts from draft transcript of Plenary session

An immediate correction needs to be made and this is that consumer FTTP is subject to contention, there is a continued myth that FTTP (GPON or Point to Point) is not subject to contention and we need politicians to stop propagating that myth.

On parts of Wales having biggest fibre penetration, given the context we believe the Leader of the House is referring to full fibre (FTTP) and while some local authority areas like Anglesey and Powys are running at 17% FTTP coverage on our stats which is high, there are authorities like Kingston Upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, City of London, Cornwall, Tower Hamlets, Spelthorne, York, Cotswold District, West Berkshire, Waltham Forest and Bournemouth all ahead of the first Welsh council which is Anglesey.

G.fast is NOT a solution to superfast availability and in its current form is only giving higher upload and download speeds to those who can already enjoy upload speeds above 10 Mbps. So the outcome is only of interest for dense urban areas, which is exactly the parts of Wales with access to ultrafast broadband from Virgin Media already.

The figures for Monmouthshire bear no relation to any we have, and importantly we believe that Monmouthshire comprises a total of 41,932 business and residential premises. From other coverage figures given we believe Julie James AM may be referring to those premises delivered via the Superfast Cymru project and it may be that the figures once you exclude commercial cabinets line up - we have not tracked the Superfast Cymru project down to the local authority level but with a mornings work we could extract those figures.

We do have a rural versus urban split available (journalists or politicians are free to ask about other parts of the UK) with the urban part of Monmouthshire enjoying 99.1% superfast (30 Mbps and faster coverage) versus just 82.3% in rural areas. For full fibre it is urban 2.7% versus rural 8.1% and in terms of premises 44.9% of premises in Monmouthshire are considered urban based on the ONS definitions.

For those in Wales who are having problems finding providers who actually sell the FTTP service we have a dedicated filter available to show Openreach FTTP packages only.

The average download speed of 83.84 Mbps looks very suspect when you consider that we are seeing an average speed of 31.9 Mbps for VDSL2 users in Monmouthshire and 49.2 Mbps for those identified as on an Openreach connection. It is possible that the average speed is a theoretical figure, but even then our tracking shows that across the whole of Monmouthshire the average if everyone bought the fastest service would be 55.4 Mbps versus a reality of 19.6 Mbps. If the average is just for VDSL2 and FTTP delivered using funding then you can remove the pull down from ADSL/ADSL2+ but we still cannot see how a figure of 83.84 Mbps is arrived at. It may sound like we are nagging, but getting these figures right is important if politicians want people to believe any future promises on delivery.

The years of nagging over how you describe broadband continue, as the phrase fast fibre was used a couple of times in response to questions on coverage and in many peoples minds as the project is called Superfast Cymru that fast fibre equals superfast broadband when it does not.

There was after the hard stop at the end of 2017 promise of some further coverage and we have spotted VDSL2 cabinets going live such as cab 24 on Aberkenfig exchange, cab 2 Llyswen, cab 3 Maentwrong to name just three we have seen in February, plus some FTTP. The volumes delivered are massively smaller than we saw in December 2017 but are in line with the few thousand premises that were set to benefit.

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