Broadband News

Two consultations to try and help enable access to Gigabit broadband

Two new consultations have arrived from DCMS looking at 'Ensuring tenants’ access to gigabit-capable connections' and 'New Build Developments: Delivering gigabit-capable connections'. DCMS is looking for responses so for those in the broadband industry or are actually affected by problems of poor broadband when a landlord has refused a wayleave or a builder has not engaged with any full fibre operator we recommend responding.

The issue for tenants is not just a MDU (flat/apartment) problem since (SDU - single dwelling units) can also suffer from a landlord refusing permission and is a surpringly common issue in Virgin Media cable network areas. The problem is also showing up in some of the alternate FTTP operators footprints where addresses that look like flats are more commonly skipped. The consultation is looking at the situation where landlords ignore wayleave requests and for those that do engage the timescale for resolving wayleave permission along with the pricing.

The situation in new build developments is something we have been published data on since the start of 2018, with three main sets of data March 2018 publication covering just Jan 2018 and older, August 2018 publication including Jan 2018 to April 2018 and older and the latest full publication was in October 2018 covering Jan 2018 to July 2018 and older.

In 2018 that single months analysis at the start of the year showed that full fibre connectivity was visible to 35.5% of premises, then the second set showed this improving to 47.2% and the latest set showing a figure of 54.8%. So the trend seems clear i.e. that all the talk of full fibre is starting to be backed up with multiple providers delivering more of it and developers also doing better at picking this technology solution. Alas the gap between something that will deliver superfast speeds versus old fashioned ADSL/ADSL2+ remains and that is where the consultation seems to be aiming.

Our March 2018 data is referred to in the consultation itself but there is scope for people being mislead over how the data has been presented, we have reproduced the data table from the consultation and at the bottom of the table have added what the columns are actually showing.

Table B: Thinkbroadband estimates of new build (all units) download speeds
YearLess than 10 Mbps10 to 30 Mbps30 - 100 MbpsMore than 100 Mbps
 ≅ ADSL≅ ADSL≅ FTTC≅ FTTP / Virgin
2016 10% 10% 50% 30%
2017 12% 12% 43% 33%
2018 (partial) 14% 16% 33% 37%
Partial refers to fact that old data has been used so only Jan 2018 features Our coverage analysis for sub 10 Mbps also includes long line FTTC services and in the published reports the sub 10 USO figure is actually sub 10 down and sub 1 up i.e. includes any ADSL speed. As the note from the previous column indicates this does not include any ADSL/ADSL2+ at all. So column should be labelled FTTC 10 to 30 Mbps. Important to highlight that not all FTTC can achieve 30 Mbps Services such as G.fast are also included i.e. not just FTTP and Virgin Media

The confusion seems to have arisen from an attempt to align our published data with the Ofcom data sets, but we are pretty sure that the Ofcom analysis is not taking into account the distance realities of FTTC/VDSL2 i.e. the situation of poor broadband in new builds is higher than the 7% the consultation talks about. With a bit of time travelling to add an extra month to the year we could probably work through the Ofcom data and ours to confirm this, but given the pace of change in the broadband world we need that time machine or a small team of trusted people to sift the data.

If you have digested the notes we added to the table, the 16% 10 to 30 Mbps section for 2018 is actually FTTC based service speeds and when you add 16% to the 33% you actually hit 49% which given that DCMS and Ofcom like to only present whole round integers pretty much nails the 48% of the Ofcom data.

To futher confuse things the new build situation even since our publication of October 12th has not remained static, the proportion of full fibre in 2018 has increased to 55% (54.98%) as of 25th October. The percentage with access to a superfast service (30 Mbps and faster irrespective of technology used) has increased from 84.6% to 85.7% so things are improving in terms of access to superfast but new builds are still lagging behind. Since new builds are something of an every changing situation extrapolating from the change in the last two weeks would be dangerous, our next scheduled publication for the new build analysis is late November 2018 i.e. just ahead of the next batch of postcode data from ONS.

We have mentioned this before, but if the target is Gigabit capable broadband then Virgin Media once it roll-outs DOCSIS 3.1 will provide a massive boost to any coverage figures, since DOCSIS 3.1 brings the real possibility of retail 500 Mbps and Gigabit services over the existing metallic infrastructure.

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