Broadband News

Openreach launches consultation to create road map for shift to full fibre

Openreach exists to serve multiple providers and with the Fibre First roll-out rapidly approaching a footprint of 1 million premises on its way to 3 million by the end of 2020 it is time for Openreach to consult on how providers would like to migrate customers onto the full fibre network and then eventually how the copper network should be retired.

To make the transition as fast and beneficial as possible, Openreach is seeking input from Communications Providers on three key areas:

  1. How it builds the new network, which is growing fast
  2. How the industry should migrate customers smoothly onto the Openreach network, once it’s built and
  3. How Openreach should eventually retire the existing copper network.

Within the consultation, Openreach has also outlined a number of guiding principles, which it says will be crucial to achieving a successful transition. These include:

  • Building contiguous footprints within its exchange areas to avoid creating new not-spots
  • Working closely with CPs to upgrade every customer in those areas quickly once the new network is built
  • Offering a compelling, simple portfolio of products that supports new retail voice and broadband services
  • Upgrading the large majority of people voluntarily, whilst developing an industry process for late adopters
  • Withdrawing copper-based services progressively
  • Developing a consumer charter with industry and Ofcom that encourages transparent communications to homes and businesses affected, and includes protections for vulnerable customers
Key points from Openreach FTTP migration consultation

Developing a bulk migration process achieves several things beyond improving take-up of the new network, by doing bulk upgrades it should be faster per property as a team can start at one end of an urban street and work their way along the street, retail provider support teams can dedicate a small team to handling any queries the public has before and afterwards, for the public it may be less disruptive and for those not able to be at home during the week for installing the physical fibre if the neighbour is being done the same day they may be more willing to lend the neighbour the key for a day.

For those reading this and worrying that this will mean paying more per month, it is possible that the cost may be low enough by doing bulk upgrades than any £50 or £99 upgrade fee is waived by the retailer, especially if they get people to agree to another 12 or 18 month contract. The Openreach FTTP services are available at the same speeds as the VDSL2 service, but you get the connection speed that it says on the tin with FTTP and don't have problems such as electrical interference causing a one minute long retain of the line at random times. There is one regulatory snag for same price upgrades from the 40/10 FTTC service to a 40/10 FTTP service, since in areas where the speeds are good on the FTTC service the FTTP service has a regulated higher wholesale price, but if the copper is removed or the VDSL2 service is retired this regulatory intervention becomes a non problem.

The Digital TV switch over was a much simpler process as the vast majority had little or nothing to do, only those who needed new aerials or amplifiers fitted may have needed someone to visit but for full fibre it does require the company to visit and change the physical wire coming into the property.

Of course all of us will have our opinions on the best way to achieve a smooth switch over and competitors to Openreach such as Vodafone Gigafast and TalkTalk Fibre Nation will also be exploring similar issues, the difference with Openreach is that need to be seen to be open in consulting the providers who sell their sell services.

Openreach has increased the stated pace of its roll-out and is now saying they are passing 14,000 homes per week and consultations like this are so that the provider can start to talk about an ever increasing number of premises actually connected to the network. The premises passed statistics are often attacked as being meaningless in comments and on social media but they are the pre-cursor to being able to talk about take-up in subsequent months and with ambitions of 50% premises passed with full fibre by 2025 there is a good reason for tracking passed. Investors will be very concerned and would most likely pull the plug on further investment if in 2022 we are at a situation where six million premises were passed by full fibre but only a small fraction of those were connected and thus helping to provide a return on the investment. The exact take-up rate that investors are looking for is likely to be different for each provider, but we would suggest a take-up rate of around 1 in 3 three years into a roll-out would be seen as good but if it is under 1 in 6 then there will be lots of questions.

With the Openreach FTTP roll-out often being in areas that have a Virgin Media presence it will be interesting to see if Virgin Media reacts with targeted marketing since once people have switched to full fibre getting people to switch to Virgin Media will probably be harder.

While we do expect objections from competitors to some extent one reality of a progressive copper switch off and if that also entails removal is that the ducts are suddenly a lot emptier and therefore more available for things like supporting extra fibre to various bits of street furniture to bring the reality of multi Gigabit 5G mobile broadband speeds into the cities.

Comments

"The premises passed statistics are often attacked as being meaningless in comments and on social media "

In light of recent comments in the comments that made me smile!

  • Croft12
  • 4 months ago

I hope the consultation has the side-effect of kicking additional CPs into offering their services over Openreach FTTP. I'm a fan of Zen and Andrews&Arnold, but until the high volume providers come onboard there is insufficient competition at the low-end of the FTTP market.

  • DougM
  • 4 months ago

Sky did have an agreement to do fttp last year but nothing has happened yet

  • Croft12
  • 4 months ago

Sky is interesting, since we do see the odd one, often in new build areas where its fibre only

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 4 months ago

Andrew iirc Sky signed a resale deal for OR fttp in Sept last year. I assumed they would have a major push on it but nothing much happened - perhaps the takeover derailed/delayed things. Can't see that in the long term its not the way they will go. Obviously skytv over fttp would be a lot better than sat.

  • Croft12
  • 4 months ago

Well aware of the Sky deal.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 4 months ago

Perhaps you've heard more but there was some industry talk/rumour that something was coming down the line later this year. Who knows. Skys present strategy seems odd if I'm honest unless they are looking for the fttp to scale further first.

  • Croft12
  • 4 months ago

perhaps to push the full fat fibre services ISPs should HAVE to offer both ways of getting a service, then customers can migrate without the hassle of changing provider

  • threelegs
  • 4 months ago

LLU makes the issue a bit tricky comparing all the flavours.

  • Croft12
  • 4 months ago

This can't happen fast enough and should've happened ca 2004.

I do wish that BT wouldn't match the FTTP products to FTTC exactly though. 80/20 is the limit of the VDSL for most properties. For FTTP upload is half the download, so if you want an 80meg product, make it 80/40 please.

  • zzing123
  • 4 months ago

"The premises passed statistics are often attacked as being meaningless in comments and on social media "

Premises passed are not premises connected though. It's not that big a job to bring fibre to a few DPs on a street of 50 houses and then add 50 to the properties passed total to keep investors and politicians happy. Imagine if all those 50 properties rushed out and ordered FTTP the same day, how many days, weeks, months would it take for them all to be connected up? There's a big gap to bridge between passed and connected. A reality filter is needed some times with these big numbers.

  • philipd
  • 4 months ago

"The premises passed statistics are often attacked as being meaningless in comments and on social media "

Its a completely pointless metric. My flat is "passed" and has been for 20 years. No progress on getting any kind of line into my building or the other 200 flats there.

  • doowles
  • 4 months ago

@Doowles
“Its a completely pointless metric. My flat is "passed" and has been for 20 years”.

Your flat hasn’t been “passed” for 20 years as fibre broadband hasn’t been available that long! Nor is it “passed” now if the service isn’t available to order at your address. What makes you think that it is?

  • New_Londoner
  • 4 months ago

@PhilipD
Why do you believe that the number is meaningless if it represents the total number of premises where FTTP can be ordered? Surely this is an important metric alongside the number where service is live?

  • New_Londoner
  • 4 months ago

If we are flagging a postcode as FTTP available and its 200 premises then I want to know about it, so I can correct it.

Based on previous 'corrections' and 'additions' a good probability that presence of FTTP on Demand is confusing people.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 4 months ago

Surely the problem in the short term for OR is that there still isn't the killer ap. requiring FTTP speeds.
OK, if you have a house full of teens all wanting to d/l HQ media or game all day and night but a pensioner couple who only need to stream the odd video?
We manage perfectly well with an "old" ADSL2 connection running at a measured 16Mb -fine for catch up TV, Sky box sets etc.
There must be a very large portion of "houses passed" in the second group.
I certainly won't be suscribing unless they virtually give it away!!

  • BREWERDAVE
  • 4 months ago

The killer app is the worry that other countries with much larger premises passed with FTTP will be more attractive places for business i.e. being left behind when the revolution happens

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 4 months ago

I think the biggest problem is still what its always been, customers not understanding what they have NOW.

I have no doubt there is a large percentage of people on the "up to 80Mbit" package getting far below that, who see FTTP 80Mbit as being "the same as what we already have".

People need education on just how much better FTTP is, beyond the misleading advertising that already tries to imply FTTC is Fibre.

Its not helped when Three are advertising up to 150Mbit 4G when my own experience is anything from 2-50Mbit max on my local tower. Some people will take it at face value.

  • alexatkinuk
  • 4 months ago

@alexatkinuk
The issue here is not whether someone is already getting 80Mbps but whether the speed that they are getting does what they require. And whether they took any notice when they ordered their service and a speed estimate was provided.

  • New_Londoner
  • 4 months ago

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