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back to article BT prepares for superfast broadband investment chinwag

BT has again hinted that it could be persuaded to upgrade the UK's aged copper and aluminium wires into homes and businesses to fibre-optic lines. BT Retail chief Ian Livingstone has given one of the strongest indications yet that the firm sees a need for faster infrastructure, saying "BT remains very interested in further …

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Anonymous Coward

DSLAMs all over again?

Is this likely to be a re-run of the DSLAM upgrade system they had in place for ADSL? New builds will get it and start off the whole economy of scale while "regional development agencies" will do about the only thing they are any good for other than sucking up cash and pay for the upgrades with their "budget" of free cash?

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Anonymous Coward

About Time....

I remember starting uni in 1997 and having a discussion with a lecturer about why BT were not putting fibre optics into all the new housing that was being planned and in conjunction with that rolling out an upgrade across the rest of the country. His reply was something along the line sof ADSL being more than capable to give us everything we would need! I guess its like 20GB iPods, who would of thought a 160GB machine would find a market or Bill Gates (?) saying 640K was more than enough memory. I guess enough is never enough

A little late but finally looks like it might happen and we can start using all those FTTH (Fibre to the home) abbreviations again

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Anonymous Coward

nice work - if you can get it ...

If they really decide to go this route, BT will be showing a sense of vision rare amongst European telcos. It would be kind of funny considering how long it has taken ADSL to arrive with UK consumers compared to their continental cousins.

I'll believe it when I see it though. A general policy of actually digging up roads and replacing the wires is a huge, really huge, undertaking, far in excess of what was needed to deploy DSL. Do they really have what it takes to bite the bullet? I have my doubts. And of course the manufactureres will be just as happy to develop and sell ever whackier ways to squeeze more bits out of that smelly old piece of twisted pair.

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Coming to a street near you...

... in 2067. Unless the government puts up some serious wonga to get this implemented, even fibre to the cabinet is going to be a long, long way off. ADSL is easier to deploy as you don't have to lay new cabling infrastrucutre, and if your old cable is duff, tough luck! FTTH or FTTC is fraught with difficulties, not least wayleave issues, collapsed ducts and duct capacity.

As previously mentioned, I'm sure that BT can be given the encouragment to deploy FTTC for new builds, and 'showcase' sites such as central london, but most existing residental areas stand little chance of receiving their fibre anytime in the short-medium term future.

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Backhaul?

FTTH is long overdue and much needed, but I suspect we'd need more infrastructure changes than just laying fibre cables. If most UK homes and businesses start seeing speeds of 50-100Mbit/s, which would be quite possible, then streaming video from the BBC will be a dream, but won't we have a bottleneck for traffic overseas? I'm not a networking expert, but I would expect we'd need a major investment in undersea cables, satellite links etc to service all the extra capacity. Are BT going to fund that as well?

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Why BT is dragging it's heels....

Look at the situation from BT's perspective; upgrading the network to a total fibre solution will cost them Millions, possibly in the order of hundreds rather than tens. Once they have upgraded all of the infrastructure to fibre they are under Oftel's rulings to make the upgraded network available to all other ISPs. These providers are then able to offer higher bandwidth solutions with absolutely none of the cost of setting up and maintaining the underlying network.

So BT are out of pocket a substantial sum of money and others reap the benefit of the crippling costs. Is it really any wonder BT have put off doing the upgrades this long.

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Call me a cynic ...

... but won't this mean that we'll just start seeing adverts for "Unlimited* up-to** 100Meg broadband" with the small print saying something like "* fair use policy applies but we won't tell you what it is ** actual speeds will vary but you'll never get 100M because we won't buy a backhaul that big". Actually, I guess the small print won't say that !

What's the point of 10M, 100M, a Gig to the home if the backhaul doesn't support more than 100k/subscriber and there's an undisclosed cap of 1GByte/mo ?

Far more useful would be to spend just a little of this projects cost on prosecuting all those ISPs that a) falsly claim "unlimited" when it's anything but, and b) cannot deliver anything even vaguely related to the advertised speed. When ISPs are made to publish monthly limits and CIRs (Committed (or guaranteed) Information Rates) then the whole business will start to clean up as people vote with their direct debits on what constitutes "broadband". Note, they need to publish upstream as well as downstream figures.

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Fiber Dream...still slow

Great...BT finally get arond to giving us Fiber but does it matter when ur given like a 100Mb connection at an extortionateprice and to top it off the FUP will make the actual connection point less...they are probably gonna give u a 100Mb and give u limit of a gig...lol...that is so funny.

I have been to South Korea and Japan and lived there for several months (in each country). 1st @ Osaka, the connection speed was less of an issue for people here or the FUP (company limits were so loose...so much competition there its not even funny) as they were more interested in content available or what they could do with it. Alot of companies offer there closed forum service, which is very big with people here. Sitting infront of a 100/1Gb was common for techies.

2nd @ Soul...for net access these people just plain rule. While talking to SBS (Korean TV broadcasters) techie he mentioned that getting a decent connection here was expected. For example, a techie will expect to see a minimum 100Mb connection and really do not care how it is presented into his house (usually RJ45 though) and 1Gb was true techie connection...later on sitting in his house I confirmed that he did indeed have a 10Gb net connection (did not believe him at first). Also, while most people dl using torrents, in Korea they use ClubBox which is insanely fast for Koreans but very slow for people outside the country. He mentioned that while the EU is busy with standard def tv on the move, tv streaming, etc...over here its all about watching HD content everywhere @ 1080p30fps and more and more being shown at 60fps.

It is strange though as they have all there major channels in HD and u really notice the non-HD channels as they are very few of them!

I personally think that while its great BT will be looking to upgrade...one glance at Sweden puts all the UK ISPs to shame...so while the EU gets Fiber...oriental Asia will continue to put everyone in the shade (FRIDs is the big craze there at the moment) and wait until it gets to WiMax...its gonna be insane for probably everyone bar the EU.

Note...I was talking about residential connections and not business!

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Lack of vision

What really holds this country back when it comes to faster BB is a lack of vision. BT could put themselves at the front of the pack with FTTH. They could offer high speed internet, infinite TV channels, HDTV, VOD, movie rentals, downloadable DVDs, phone/VOIP, infinite radio stations and a lot more. What's more they could do it for the long term, because the internet isn't going anywhere. In the next 10-20 years eveything will become IP based, and fibre should easily be good for at least 50 years, probably a lot longer.

Instead they worry about their shareholders report for this year. Last thing they need is a big black hole long term investment.

Considering the costs involved, the government could roll out fibre to every home. They could then sell access on like BT does with ADSL. If you want to drag the UK kicking and screaming into the 21st century, that's the way to do it.

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Anonymous Coward

Tee Hee

He put and I quote "line sof"

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fibre

in the words of booger "about fuckin time!"

when you mix fibre to the home with multiband fibre (using more than one colour for your data across the same cable), you could have an internal network that would seriously go at blazing speeds.. roll out multiband to the current undersea cables and you'd solve the problem of bandwidth to other countries too!

problem in the uk tho, is that IPStream is still making BT loads of money (and is prolly the single largest reason for all of these caps from your isp) and ofcom are still trying to flog the dead hoss of LLU, which fibre to the home would destroy.

I get too annoyed when I think more about it :(

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RE: Lack of vision

Paul, from memory, back in the 90's BT actually wanted to do all the things you state, put fibre in to the house, do Video on demand etc... but the Conservative government at the time lead by M Thatcher decided that this would put BT into a rediculous and completely anti-competetive position owning the entire PSTN consumer base and stifling competition. Instead the Consevatives let in 2 rival (huh!) cable companies, where each had its own local monopoly. How this got through still surprises me!

I'm not a BT fan boy by any stretch, but the real problem with the UK infrastructure is all down to those decisions, and the strange ideas of what constitutes monopoly and competition. We have since strangled BT into submission, it was a world leader at the time, at the cost of competition, where the only company that is not allowed to compete is BT!

The costs of putting fire into (almost) every home can no longer be met by any one single company. I agree with you, the government should pay to put the fibre into *every* home, then lease the capacity back to the providers such as BT, Virgin, TalkTalk, ME! The revenues earned from the leasing of the capacity can be used to pay back the original costs and help to maintain the network... I take some heart from the statement from Mr Timms "...with industry and regulators will examine the case for public sector investment." Lets hope...

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@ alphaxion

I undersand that multi band needs some recent repeater, with no optical/electrical conversion to be interesting. Else the mux/demux process is wy too costy.

I guess most of the intercontinental lines do not use yet this technology even I would not bet on it. I would guess they are very long range monomode fibers, to reduce the amount of repeating machinery. I might very well be wrong though, feel free to correct me.

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Title

"A general policy of actually digging up roads and replacing the wires is a huge, really huge, undertaking, far in excess of what was needed to deploy DSL."

BT Openreach big cheese Steve Robertson has stated that logistically, "putting fibre into the ground is just as easy as putting copper into the ground.”

BT have also made noises to the effect that they want financial help from other players in the ISP market as well as some Government funding. I wouldn't really mind a chunk of my taxes going towards this if it meant I could get 100+Mbps speeds in five years time.

I agree with George on Thatch - look at how cack the trains are now.

"problem in the uk tho, is that IPStream is still making BT loads of money (and is prolly the single largest reason for all of these caps from your isp) and ofcom are still trying to flog the dead hoss of LLU, which fibre to the home would destroy."

In that case, it's doubful that any real progress on the FttH front will be made until the teats of the LLU/Openreach cash cow are milked until they are bluer than the right bollock of the (thankfully now retired) BT Trumpet man.

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Split BT

BT should have been split into wholesale and retail divisions 10 years ago, if it was split you'd soon find the wholesale end investing in FTTH, it's only because the government / Ofcom are so in bed with BT that this hasnt happened, for example when I was on the orginal BT ADSL trial I paid £30/mo for unlimited 2mbps, Oftel now Ofcom told us how they'd make sure the prices came down, today I pay £35/mo for the same service, 8 years later, the only way to change the situation is complete regime change at gov.uk / Ofcom.

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Swedish first

There was a guy in Sweden (IIRC) in the late 90's who got fed up with waiting for any kind of data connection to reach his village so he and his Dad fibre-wired the entire village, after getting everyone onboard. Anyone got a link, and an update on this ?!

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Anonymous Coward

You all seem to be missing something

Cost. It will cost billions to roll-out FTTH across the country. Billions. It would only be economical to implement such a plan in major city centre locations. Besides which, who is going to fund it?

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try the community broadband site

cbncan dot co dot uk - info on the swedish project on there

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Mine the copper

Years ago, Peter Cochrane suggested that installing fibre could pay for itself through "mining" the copper and selling it on the commodity market. Since then, the price of copper has gone through the roof! BT could transform itself into a mining organisation! Certainly far cheaper than the costs of getting copper from the ore.

http://www.cochrane.org.uk/opinion/archive/articles/5-11-2001.php

Peter Cochrane also pulled his own fibre to connect up his house....

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry but..

"BT Openreach big cheese Steve Robertson has stated that logistically, "putting fibre into the ground is just as easy as putting copper into the ground.”"

Yeah you dig a trench and pop the ducting in then run the fibre through.Discard the the fact that fibre is more difficult to 'joint' (given enough money/desire that would be sorted) the thing to look at is that , yes its as easy to lay fibre but the copper is already there ! It would take a massive investment to fibre up the UK and why would BT risk it when it would have to allow its competitors free access ? Look at how financially healthy the cable companies (company ?) are in this country, the cost of fibre has crippled them.

To back up a couple of previous points, whats the point of a 100mb fibre connection when the capacity beyond is slower than a 56k modem ? Rather like all the Bentley Coupe's etc. you see, yes they can do 150+ speeds but if the speed limit is 70mph ...

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A few thoughts...

1. I don't think BT's baulking at the cost - look at the billions going into 21CN.

2. I'm actually happy to see them get 21CN out of the way first, because it will give the country a far better backbone off which some of this natty new stuff can hang. Moving the core of the network to IP will make it easier, cheaper & quicker to provision new services of all kinds in the future - though of course this does nothing to address the copper/aluminium/soggy string presently linking most of our homes to the world. I don't believe any other major global telco has yet done what BT is currently doing to the core of its network (though I stand to be corrected if I'm wrong), so shall we stop all the pointless hand-wringing & trying to convince ourselves that we are world+dog's poor relation when it comes to telecomms?

3. Maybe we look a bit late coming into this ultra-high-speed access game, and we could argue about chickens & eggs ad-infinitum, but the apps for that kind of bandwidth to the home are really only just getting started.

4. Show me the evidence that not having multi-gigabit broadband to the home is damaging the economy /now/, or in the next 5 years and I'll worry. Until then, I'll assume that neither BT nor the government is stupid, and that in time (if only just in time!), these technologies will come.

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actually they are a bit stupid...

Most of the people in govt are stupid. Most of the people in BT just do their job and don't think, and pay fat cat wages and dividends to shareholders. That is their job...

Fibre to the home would cost an extra fiver on current ISP charges if it was rolled out to EVERYONE ie not just the 30p to the home townies.

The apps are out there, they just won't work here, so we stick with apps that do.

Since we lost our industries, (coal, clothing, steel, cars, farming etc etc) we have become a service country. To do this job we will need telecom infrastructure. The incumbent is not providing it. It says it is (21cn haha) and the government believe that what they are providing is broadband. It isn't.

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Anonymous Coward

100Mbps BROADBAND with 10GB usage allowance, will it happen?

With 100Mbps, 10GB will be running out withing 14 mins. Will our ISP limit the use of Internet again at that time? No P2P, no BBC iPLAYER, etc. lol

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Anonymous Coward

British Tele con

BT have had opportunities for years to invest in FTTH, Video on Demand etc.

lets look at Video, in the late 90's Homechoice were in a strong position to rollout True VOD across the UK but BT strangled them with extortionate Videostream pricing whilst they drastically reduced the wholesale cost of IP stream. They invested in Videonetworks the company behind it but failed miserably to bring it to market, now Tiscalli have it today and are looking at doing what millions of pounds investment couldnt do previously and that's take it outside London.

Until BT Group sort out their in house squabbling and inefficiencies, regulatory control is relaxed and the market much more competitive for 3rd party investment, or massive government/private investment is put into the archaic telecoms infratsructure in this country beyond 21CN (It's all good and well deliviering 21CN but if the last mile into your house is copper it's nigh on useless) then this latest nonsenese is going to keep us ahead of who exactly?

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Silver badge

A few more thoughts... in fact

Richard Hesketh,

InvestNorthernIreland have a Real, QuITe SurReal Virtualised Governance Proposal Pending Funding Streaming.

Ireland Flexing its Brains and IT Muscle.?! AIBT C42 Networks?

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Anonymous Coward

@various

@Fiber Dream...still slow - 10Gbit/s, I doubt that somehow, considering how expensive 10GE interfaces are.

@Ben DAMET - Yes, undersea cables use multiple wavelengths, it'd be very daft not to, distance between landing stations is an issue, which is why there are more wavelengths per fibre on the Atlantic than there are on Pacific cables.

@Lack of vision - BT won't be allowed to do all that, without providing equal access.

Can't say I blame BT, I wouldn't do it till I got some clarification on equal access, I'd not invest many £billions if I was going to have to give away access for pennies to other companies - take all the risk, gain only a percentage of the reward, wheras other companies take zero risk, but get the reward.

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Anonymous Coward

two into one may be the answer

Maybe it is time that BT and Virgin Media came together instead of competing. Form a new company that owns and maintains the infrastructure of both companies with BT and VM being the main shareholders. This company could then concentrate on improving that infrastructure to provide FTTC and then FTTH to all of us.

If the two companies wouldn't agree to this then the government should step and force the issue providing extra finance to accelerate improvements to the infrastructure.

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IS IT POSSIBLE

look i ant been funny but its fair enough to put fibre optic to new homes new buildings but what about exsisting people who are on crappy copper wires i am in a bt area with copper wires i know because my speed sucks at certain times of day also i did a speed test on my line and im only getten 6 and a half mb when i am paying for 8mb bt you seriously need to upgrade exsisting lines in copper areas this is just not good enough if somone at bt is reading this message then please do something about this issue if bt wants to keep its consumers happy and stand any chance of compeating < think its spelt correctly with likes of virgin or any foran companys who are already on 100mb or higher then they really are gonna have to seriously start upgrading lines all across the uk. this country is lacking behind the rest

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