How big a pain is not being able to migrate when broadband cabinets are at capacity
We last looked at the impact of Openreach cabinets reaching their capacity limits back in 2017 and thus a re-visit is overdue with this latest analysis revealing that currently around 4.1% of UK premises are impacted by a capacity limit on the VDSL2 cabinets.
Capacity limits on the Openreach VDSL2 cabinets are down to the operator installing capacity for a limited level of take-up initially and this is important in the gap funded areas since if capacity was installed from day 1 for 100% of lines then the bill to the local authority would be much higher but with roll-out as it stands once the initial cabinet hits a limit any expansion is solely down to Openreach paying.
Hitting the capacity limit is one of the reasons people doubt the broadband coverage statistics since some providers checkers do not make it clear that the reason an order cannot be placed is due to a capacity limit, they simply say you cannot order service xyz with the same messaging that you'd get if the cabinet did not exist. The wholesale systems use better wording to convey that you may need to wait, alas the communication of how long the wait will be is where things fall apart currently, for some upgrades adding an extra line card it may be a couple of weeks but if a whole new cabinet is needed it may be months or if wayleaves or power delay things it could be a year (or more in very rare cases).
The figures for the impact for cabinets at capacity is a dynamic affair and varies as the upgrades happen but other areas hit a limit, but the latest figures represent the impact of the over 2,200 cabinets we saw in the waiting stage at the end of March 2018. In really popular areas e.g. no cable coverage or cable broadband is congested badly some upgrades last only for a week or two before more work is needed.
|Coverage of Superfast Broadband and the impact of cabinets which are at a capacity limit|
|Standard Coverage Figures||Change Due to Capacity Limits|
30 Mbps and faster
|% Openreach Superfast|
30 Mbps and faster
30 Mbps and faster (All tech)
|Openreach Any Speed||Openreach|
30 Mbps and faster
|East of England||93.9||93.1||89.7||-2.6||-4.2||-4.1|
|Yorkshire and Humber||94||89.2||86.9||-3||-4.4||-4.4|
It is only a couple of days since our monthly round up, but the Scotland and Northern Ireland superfast coverage figures have risen by 0.1%, so that difference to the monthly round-up is not a typo. This summary also adds the levels of Openreach VDSL2/FTTP coverage which is not normally included in our news article tables to avoid too many columns but is a bit of detail on the full broadband statistics site, the gap between the Openreach any speed and Openreach superfast figures highlights that the model we have constructed does take into account line length and the performance drop off of VDSL2.
One of the most annoying elements with the capacity issue is that it also blocks migrations for those who are already connected to a VDSL2 line card port, and the second most annoying is people moving house where the existing residents had VDSL2 running but the port is placed back into the pool when move out and invariably snapped up by someone closely watching for the cabinet to show capacity and thus when people actually have moved in they can only order ADSL2+. A new quirk since 2017 is that it is possible for a VDSL2 cabinet to be at its capacity but a live G.fast pod to actually have spare ports, but given the faster G.fast services are more expensive we suspect most people will opt to wait.
Some campaigners have long called for Openreach to install 100% capacity when rolling out VDSL2 (FTTC) but with a few million FTTP lines expected from Vodafone and TalkTalk in the next year or two there is actually the prospect that the number of VDSL2 ports in use will decrease rapidly maybe making some extra capacity cabinets redundant. The demand for Vodafone and TalkTalk full fibre services is in the first few years likely to be driven by price, e.g. TalkTalk UFO with 940 Mbps maximum speeds is selling at just £21.70 per month and similar agressive pricing is expected from Vodafone.
Update 6:30pm A statement from Openreach arrived around 3pm, and this has been added. Our figures if you work to the basic number of cabinets works out at 3.03%, which lines up with the 97% of the Openreach statement.
Around 97% of our cabinets are currently open to new orders and we have a dedicated team proactively monitoring take-up across all of our fibre cabinets.
On a small number of occasions, cabinets reach capacity before we can upgrade them. Solutions can range from the installation of a line card through to the build of a brand new cabinet.
We’re obviously keen to avoid any frustration for people trying to upgrade their broadband and working hard to forecast capacity demand and resolve any issues as quickly as possible.Statement by Openreach spokesperson