Broadband News

Ofcom talks about broadband USO funding regulations

The Broadband USO is being run by Ofcom with KCOM and BT the two broadband retailers given the task of implementing it following the rules set by Ofcom.

Today sees Ofcom publish some more detail on the funding regulations (pdf file) for how KCOM and BT can receive compensation for delivering service under the USO. In short the costs of building more FTTP or adding more 4G masts can potentially be claimed back by the Operators.

The compensation is set to come from an industry wide fund and if we are reading the Ofcom announcement correct the rules are not yet set in stone or if they are there is no obvious summary, but there will be further work and legislaton required to get everything up and running.

The broadband USO is meant to be a safety net and for those who cannot get a download speed of 10 Mbps and upload speed of 1 Mbps. The way the system has been implemented this the 1 Mbps upload is considered met if you have ADSL2+ and the download sync speed is over 10000 Kilo bits per second.

In practice as KCOM has almost complete coverage with its FTTP product the BT USO site is the one people are worrying about. The process runs something like this:

  • Visit https://www.bt.com/USO and check your address
  • An initial check is done only against the Openreach network, Virgin Media and other networks are not considered
  • If a 4G service over the EE network is likely to be available a 4G router is offered.
  • If the 4G router does not meet the speeds once delivered then an external antenna fit may be arranged
  • For those where a EE 4G service is not available then you should get directed to call the BT USO team
  • BT USO team will do further checks that should look at alternate networks based on data from Ofcom, if an alternate is available they should highlight it at this stage.
  • If no alternate is available then what seems to happen is that a FTTP on Demand order is raised by BT with Openreach
  • Openreach respond to BT with the desktop based quote
  • BT then makes the go/no go decision based on the costs to go ahead. If the quote is below £3,400 then it should be a simple go for the order and FTTP will be delivered in around a year.
  • If the quote is above £3,400 BT should come back to you with the option for you to contribute your own funding so that FTTP can be installed.

Some would say this is a reasonable request as a way to get FTTP installed but given the state of the initial checks they way it has been designed and implemented by the mixture of BT and Ofcom means that lots of people who are not aware of what networks are available in their area will see BT Group as the only solution.

The Ofcom paperwork has BT estimating it will deliver 11,000 to 16,000 connections using FTTP that are under the £3,400 threshold, which sounds good but when Ofcom estimates there are 610,000 premises with access to a USO level service using fixed line services the numbers look very small. Things look better once you take into account fixed wireless access and 4G options as the number drops to 189,000.

We recommend if you are considering the broadband USO as way of getting decent broadband (decent broadband is defined by Ofcom as over 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up) that you do an initial check with our full postcode checker that will highlight the majority of the different infrastructures that are available. Of course a postcode check will not be 100% correct, but even address level checking while better is not a 100% solution given the pace of change and the scope for errors going unnoticed when dealing with over 30 million addresses. 

We suspect that the problems of being forced to be at home for weeks and the difficulties of managing a family trying to use sub 10 Mbps connectiivty where mobile signals are non existent too is going to move slow broadband quickly up the political agenda. We believe BT is meant to be pro-actively contacting those who are eligible for the USO and we would encourage BT to identify those that will be able to get FTTP via the USO so that work can be started as soon as possible. The numbers may be small but change for those who say they would like it will be immense even if they only sign up for the entry level 40 Mbps FTTP service.

Comments

So generally either people get EE 4G or most will have to stump up what could be a lot of money for FTTPoD (although with BT paying for the first part of it). From the desktop quotes we have seen on the forums for FTTPoD the costs could definitely be pretty high for a lot of people.

  • ian72
  • 5 months ago

Looks to be the short version, longer one is should all be fixed by end of 2025 once Gigabit for all is done

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 5 months ago

I have never managed to get better than 9Mbps download ever since I managed to get FTTC back in 2015. I did get an explanation from a BT engineer who told me that because part of my line to the cabinet was aluminium, I would never be able to get better.

Why is then that BT's USO site tell me that because I get over 10Mbps that I do not qualify for the USO?

I am anyway managing a local project to get DCMS funding for B4RN to provide true Gigabit FTTP to our locality. We just need another 125 residents to apply for their vouchers and we can start building.

  • mollcons
  • 5 months ago

The link to Visit "https://www.bt.com/USO and check your address" is incorrect and will need editing. It 404 errors to "https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/https;/www.bt.com/uso"

  • DanielCoffey
  • 5 months ago

Probably because the low to high range is such that the high range figure is above 10 Mbps

Or your 9 Mbps is a speed test result when the USO is in theory based on the sync speed.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 5 months ago

I don’t understand why someone who has to go down the 4G route has to pay £100 for an external antenna if the signal indoors isn’t strong enough - or am I misreading the information?

  • mrsrmb
  • 5 months ago

errant ; fixed in URL

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 5 months ago

On the £100 for antenna its not clear to me, prior to March assumption was that cost would be covered by USO if outdoor antenna needed.

Be interested to hear from someone who actually gets that far with the USO and what Ofcom make of it in relation to the £3,400 threshold.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 5 months ago

It's quite expensive, capped 4g broadband as well. If they are getting a subsidy in too bt are doing pretty well out of it.

  • mnbvcxz
  • 5 months ago

There should no compensation to BT for the 4G services as sold with the 4G home route beyond what people pay per month for the 100 or 200 GB data allowance.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • 5 months ago

Under the standard FTTPoD process - which is available only to people within an FTTC area - the costs almost never come in under £3,400. As reported by Thinkbroadband forum users: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1QFkK1sLBFQjlGgTwHKUI3aJSdNH-lgFsQ71SMxarWBA/edit

However, I believe that "assumed demand aggregation" comes into play. e.g. if the FTTP DP would serve 10 properties, it's assumed that 7 will take up service, and therefore 7 x £3,400 is available in the USO pot.

  • candlerb
  • 5 months ago

I looked at USO a month or two ago just after it came out, I'd qualify for a 4G router ( avg dl 3 meg ) However once I had some phone conversations it became apparent that getting the router was contingent on moving to BT for supply of broadband (and from memory a fair hike in my monthly bill)
Having finally ditched BT for my business landline last year (well overdue) I'm sure as heck not going to be forced to go back to them just for a bit faster BB.

Looks like only real option is using USO to try and leverage FTTP at some point in the (likely)far future.

  • Stewart_P
  • 5 months ago

Again - another request which resulted in the offer of a 4G router - despite years of promises from Hyperoptic, BT and Virgin for the Rotherhithe community. Now looking at building my own using an ASUS 4G-AC68U AC1900 and a SIM from a supplier not associated with the above three to provide my own little bit of consumer feedback to the market.

  • Eden_NZ
  • 5 months ago

Just adding frustrations here. I have fibre-enabled properties within 300m either side of my house / our local businesses (farm units mainly). I do a lot of teaching online and this week have had several zoom sessions fall over. My daughter was going an online session to meet / evaluate her Cambridge admission, and that fell over halfway through. I lost a zoom session halfway through just now. We get just over 10mbps up and just under 1 up (though the router says 1.14/ So just within being "OK". But I'm at my wits' end. I could go down 4g rough but it's so expensive.

  • marktheharp
  • 5 months ago

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