Broadband News

The scale of the problem of Openreach cabinets at capacity

We looked the problems around VDSL2 cabinets being full or waiting on some other upgrade so that more orders can be taken back in April 2018 but what we did not share back then was that we had been tracking since January 2018 the number of cabinets at the capacity limit and we can now share that there are some 51 cabinets that were seen as being full in January 2018 which 11 months later are still showing as being at capacity.

The list was 68 cabinets long when we contacted Openreach for some more detail on why these cabinets were waiting but in the week or so since then the number has dropped to the 51 shown below. It should be noted that it is possible due to the way the waiting list and some interim capacity upgrades work that some people on the cabinets listed may have been able to place a migration or provider order since January 2018.

List of 51 cabinets on waiting list since January 2018
Exchange CodeExchange NameCabinet NumberNotes
SWQJA BARGOED 6  
ESBLR BLAIRGOWRIE 6  
EMBOSTO BOSTON (RIDGE) 16  
SMBY BRACKLEY 8  
SMBU BUCKINGHAM 16  
EABNH BURNHAM 2  
WWBURR BURROWBRIDGE 1  
MRBUX BUXTON 21  
SSDEV DEVIZES 25  
NIDM DONAGHMORE 8  
WSDMS DUMFRIES 116 FTTrN with 16 port capacity and work in progress to return some faulty ports to service
SLEF ECCLESFIELD 18  
EAFEL FELIXSTOWE 52  
STFOVNT FOVANT 2  
SWGLN GLANTAWE 9  
SLGTP GOLDTHORPE 13  
SLGTP GOLDTHORPE 19  
EAHAS HADLEIGH 19 FTTrN with 16 port capacity, issue with system/records was blocking 5 ports and still showing as waiting list. Cabinet appears to cover an area of 12 premises.
EAHAS HADLEIGH 20 FTTrN where all 16 ports are now in use. Cabinet  covers an area of 25 premises.
STHMPTN HAMPTON 1  
SDHSSCK HASSOCKS 3  
MYHNS HORNSEA 4  
SDHV HOVE 37  
LVHOY HOYLAKE 2  
MRHYD HYDE 39  
LWISL ISLEWORTH 9  
SSKWD KINGSWOOD 12  
NELEB LEYBURN 10 FTTrN with just 16 port capacity. On 30th November there was one port apparently spare, but showing as waiting list again
WNLR LLANBERIS 5  
SLMIM METHERINGHAM 14  
ESMOR MORNINGSIDE 21  
LCORR ORRELL 9  
LNPGN PALMERS GREEN 13  
ESPER PERTH 41  
LNPOP POPLAR 27  
EMRMSEY RAMSEY 2  
WNRUA RUABON 12  
NERE RYHOPE 1  
SMSWD SHIPTON U WYCHWOOD 2 Needs the copper cabinet to be expanded, with work due to be completed February 2019
LVSIM SIMONSWOOD 76 Work to extend the copper capability was due to complete on 28th November, but cabinet is still showing as on the waiting list.
LCSOU SOUTHPORT 15  
LCSOU SOUTHPORT 43  
EMSPDNG SPALDING 2  
THSPD SPENCERS WOOD 5  
NESTN STANLEY 26  
ESSTI STIRLING 12  
SLST STOCKSBRIDGE 5  
SLSWY SWINDERBY 6  
MRURM URMSTON 9  
STVERWD VERWOOD 3  
LVWAR WARRINGTON 29  

Those cabinets with notes are from 6 examples we gave Openreach to seek further information on back in November. The surprise was that four of six long term waiters we asked about  were FTTrN based, i.e. small 16 port DSLAM bricks.

There are of course many more cabinets that have hit a capacity issue during the year and the current list is running at some 3,120 cabinets out of the 81,409 VDSL2 cabinets we have in our database.

Across the United Kingdom the situation is that almost 1 in 20 premises trying to migrate or order a VDSL2 will see their order fail and providers are often very poor at communicating why the order the failed. The dangerous result of this is that some people shop around until a provider takes the order but this is a provider who 'temporarily' connects someone on ADSL or ADSL2+ until a VDSL2 port is available and there has been over the years the odd person who has had this happen when they intended to migrate between VDSL2 services.

Coverage of Superfast Broadband and the impact of cabinets which are at a capacity limit as of 2nd December 2018
 Standard Coverage FiguresChange Due to Capacity Issues
Region% superfast
30 Mbps and faster
(All tech)
% Openreach
Any speed
% Openreach Superfast
30 Mbps and faster

30 Mbps and faster (All tech)

Openreach Any SpeedOpenreach
30 Mbps and faster
United Kingdom 95.4 93.2 90.2 -2.5 -4.6 -4.5
East of England 94.8 94.5 91.1 -3.1 -5.8 -5.6
East Midlands 97 95.5 93.2 -2.0 -5.0 -4.8
London 97.0 91.7 90.6 -1.5 -4.1 -4
North East 97.3 87.9 86.6 -1.9 -3.1 -3.0
Northern Ireland 87.3 97.2 85.2 -2.8 -3.5 -3.3
North West 96.4 95.6 93 -2.7 -5.2 -5.1
Scotland 93.4 92.4 88.4 -3.1 -4.4 -4.3
South East 96.9 95.3 92.8 -2.7 -5.0 -4.9
South West 93.8 92.3 87.6 -2.9 -5.1 -4.9
Wales 94.5 96.3 93.0 -3.1 -3.9 -3.7
West Midlands 96.7 91.9 89.8 -1.3 -3.4 -3.3
Yorkshire and Humber 95.2 90.6 88.2 -2.8 -5.1 -5.0

Percentages reflect the number of premises that are present in the various regions, thus a cabinet serving 450 premises being at capacity will have a greater impact overall than one serving just 180 premises. Coverage figures are taken from our analysis of coverage on 4th December 2018 and data on the cabinets with at capacity messaging from the 2nd of December 2018. The number of active VDSL2 lines on each cabinet is not accounted for, so the numbers will be lower in reality, but those people will also encounter issues in migrating so we have not attempted to compensate.

Openreach does offer a waiting list system so that providers can place orders on a full cabinet into a first come first served queue, but us of this is generally poor with many orders simply being rejected. In an online world that is always endeavouring to avoid any work for a human it is how broadband providers handle these edge cases that define good customer service.

In terms of the cabinet capacity slowing down take-up, while it is incredibly frustrating for those affected so long as the majority of cabinets do get capacity expansions to add more VDSL2 ports etc then seeing cabinets hitting capacity is actually a good indicator that people are buying the service in those areas. What the future holds for those areas where Fibre to the Remote Node (FTTrN) is deployed and the 16 lines are all used up is something that only time will reveal.

Demand for partial fibre (FTTC) has been climbing and looking back at our speed test data in Q3 2012 just 10.7% of tests were on a VDSL2/FTTC connection, jump forward to Q3 2016 and this had risen to 33.8% and in Q3 2018 it had climbed further to 47.3%.

Of course we gave Openreach an opportunity to add some comments alongside our various queries on the capacity issues and this is reproduced in full below:

Resolving issues that can cause delay in adding extra customer capacity in our network is a top priority for us and we have made significant progress over the year in reducing average waiting times. We have introduced a number of innovations such as fibre connectivity that uses power from one existing fibre cabinet to power a second cabinet - which has helped reduce the build time taken to commission and build new fibre cabinets by up to 12 weeks.

We’ve also introduced a raft of new measures to help speed up the building of extra capacity into our copper cabinets, such as cabinet top boxes which extend the size of our cabinets creating space for the extra connections required to provide additional fibre capacity.

In addition, we are working closely with our vendors Huawei and Nokia to develop quicker alternatives to building new fibre cabinets – which can traditionally take up to nine months to complete. We are about to launch technical trials for a fibre cabinet side-pod and new fibre cabinet equipment capable of supporting double the current capacity. Following successful trials we are aiming to start deploying this kit in the next financial year.

We continue to invest heavily in our fibre broadband network and have already upgraded and increased capacity on more than 25 per cent of our entire estate – over 22,700 fibre cabinets . We plan to have upgraded more than 40,000 fibre cabinets by the end of this financial year.

Openreach spokesperson on VDSL2 cabinet capacity issues

We are not going to stop tracking the capacity problems now but will perhaps every six months or so return to do a summary of what is happening, unless of course we see a large spike in the number of cabinets on the waiting list.

Comments

Is there anywhere Jo Public can access the list of all those at capacity?

  • mikejp
  • 8 days ago

Of the 3,120 full cabinets do you know the ECI/Huawei split?

  • jelv
  • 8 days ago

On the list, I could publish, but given its fluid nature concern is that people would not notice that it was a one time shot. For example the list was going to 68 for long term, dropped to 49 but another check before publication added two back to the list.

On ECI/Huawei split if I have the right figures its Huawei 1533 versus 1587 ECI, but as a percentage of the cabinet population Huawei 2.4% versus ECI 6.3%.

ECI tends to be more common in the dense early roll-out urban areas, with ECI being used less in BDUK deployments.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 8 days ago

So basically what this tells us is that BT/Openreach are utterly hopeless at forecasting broadband take up then.

  • jabuzzard
  • 8 days ago

I read somewhere on BT's website that they're upgrading their ADSL customers on to fibre at no extra charge to ADSL

  • nervous
  • 8 days ago

Here’s all you need to know

Why am I eligible for a free update?

You can have a free update to fibre broadband because you’re currently using copper. Copper is a less efficient network than fibre, and the government have an initiative to move everyone on to fibre broadband so you can have a reliable, faster connection.

Do I have to do anything?

All you have to do is let us know you want it by clicking the button above. We’ll then send you a BT Smart Hub for your new fibre broadband, and do everything for you.

Will I have to pay anything?

There will be no additional monthly cost.

  • nervous
  • 8 days ago

jabuzzard , nope it doesnt but what it could tell you that more houses have been built in a res that than there were postcodes at the time of the Network Build (that quite common in some BDUK areas)

if relation to the other point a service provider can market fibre in any choose in therms of upgrade if can charge for that upgrade or it can offer for 0 cost

  • fastman
  • 8 days ago

Is there any more info on how the waiting list works?

I’ve not seen any provider actually use it. You check a providers website and it’ll simply offer ADSL if there’s no fibre ports available.

I used a screen scraping service to poll the Openreach checker so I could order a new line. I got a port when someone else disconnected.

  • Kr1s69
  • 8 days ago

@jabuzzard @fastman

Given that their BDUK funding forecast was 20% and the reality was quickly twice that, yes it is pretty obvious BT are bad at forecasting take up.

  • gerarda
  • 8 days ago

Out of interest, why doesn't Winterslow cabinet 5 feature on this list? I believe its been on waitlist since late 2017.
Roadworks.org has just revealed the expansion of the physical cabinet as now finally happening December 17-19 (with preparation work bringing more fibre to Firsdown village having occurred over the last few months) but it has been a _long_ time coming.

  • sjhambly
  • 8 days ago

Looks like it has flipped in out of the list, rejoined on 16th November.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 8 days ago

Gerada I think from memory your background is finance, wonder how you as a finance controller would had acted assuming a X take up day 1 on an investment case over many years XXX (without any hard facts or information. , -- considering you did not know where the removed cabinet was in Suffolk , , , you seem to have never any positive to say about BDUk or openreach , and I understand ou have beneifteed from the programme you are so scathing about

  • fastman
  • 4 days ago

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