Broadband News

Digital Minister states the obvious on what full fibre actually means

The debate over what is and is not fibre would be a lot simpler it is was being held in 2008, before millions of people got used to calling VDSL2 (Fibre to the Cabinet) by the shorthand of fibre.

The Digital Minister Margot James in a debate on community broadband schemes talked about the issue around what is and is not fibre in the House of Commons on the 15th November and the transcript is worth a read for those wondering what the various pots of money for Gigabit and full fibre broadband are meant to do.

We published the future telecoms infrastructure review in July 2018, setting out a national long-term strategy for digital connectivity to meet the Government’s full-fibre target. I agree with my hon. Friend on the definition of what we mean by a full-fibre connection. We do not mean a hybrid version; we mean fibre to the premises. I sympathise with what he said about what I agree is misleading advertising.

Digital Minister Margot James

What the Minister has said is interesting as there is no debate really that full fibre has to mean fibre to the premises. There is a debate though on whether Fibre to the Building e.g. a rack with fibre in the basement of a building and CAT5e or CAT6 to individual flats counts as FTTP, the French decision was that even this did not count as FTTP.In an ideal world there would have been an expansion on what was said to totally confirm that the Minister does or does not believe that partial fibre services such as DOCSIS 3.0 and VDSL2 should not count as fibre services in marketing.

What we do not like is the label that is emerging of hybrid fibre, the reason being that a hybrid petrol vehicle is generally seen as better than a full petrol vehicle in terms of its exhaust emissions in urban situations and there is a risk the public may already see hybrid as a good quality. If the UK is to carry on calling FTTP full-fibre in marketing then a better term that is also very descriptive is partial fibre for the services where part of the copper local loop but not all has been replaced with fibre.

On the full fibre presence in the Great Britain it is the rural 20% of the UK that is still beating the urban 80% with 7.15% of rural premises with a FTTP option versus 4.51%. In the most deep rural 10% of Great Britain it increases to 9.22% of premises. So the urban areas are playing catch-up but since most people do not care what the medium is so long as the Mega bits flow at a decent speed the reality that ultrafast services (100 Mbps and faster) are available to 67.14% of urban premises versus 14.51% of rural premises explains why rural campaigners are much more common than urban ones (figures are based on analysis by thinkbroadband on 25th October 2018). On the superfast (over 24 Mbps) measure the urban areas of Great Britain was running at 98.3% versus 87% of the rural areas and in the deepest rural areas it gets worse dropping to 78.8%.

Ultimately if marketing did not dumb down things we would see services advertised with VDSL2, ADSL2+, G.fast, DOCSIS 3.0, GPON and other product descriptions included in the marketing, instead the public get bombarded with superlative laden material and carefully chosen speed points and tricks like only marketing your fastest average speed service. Alas adding all the technical details and speed expectations to material that has a UK wide audience would probably make it seem boring and techie.

Update 4:45pm We've ran the GB rural urban script to update our figures and can share the latest figures as the coverage we knew of on 17th November.

  • FTTP coverage in urban parts of Great Britain 4.61%
  • FTTP in rural areas of Great Britain 7.23%
  • FTTP coverage in the most rural parts of Great Britain, i.e. 10% of premises is 9.31%
  • Urban Ultrafast coverage 67.39%
  • Rural Ultrafast coverage 14.62%
  • Deep Rural Ultrafast coverage 11.87%
  • Urban Superfast coverage (over 24 Mbps) 98.2%
  • Rural Superfast coverage (over 24 Mbps) 87.2%
  • Deep Rural Superfast coverage (over 24 Mbps) 78.9%

The Deep Rural area comprises the most rural premises and is around half the premises footprint of the rural category. The urban premises category comprises of 78.6% of GB premises, the other 21.4% are rural premises.

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