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back to article Tories moot breaking up BT Openreach monopoly

A Conservative government would allow rivals to connect their own fibre to BT exchanges as part of a plan to spread the rollout of faster broadband to rural areas. The shadow chancellor George Osborne said the Tories would end BT Openreach's local loop monopoly in an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. It would mean …

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FAIL

Virgin Media

VM's 'final mile' may be capable of 50Mbit/s but the rest of their network certainly isn't!

I was paying for the 'up to' 20Mb package that would give me about17-18Mbit between 2am and 6am, during the day it struggled to hit 512kb. (This was before any throttling, damn thing wasn't fast enough to download enough data to kick in the caps!). VM's solution was to try a new modem and eventually tell me I needed a new line pulling. I disagreed, why would I be able to reach stated speeds if the modem or line was at fault.

Now with TalkTalk and have added the £5 'speed boost' and I receive a solid 14Mbit all day every day! (Supposedly a 40GB cap but I breach that almost every month and TalkTalk don't seem to have a problem, if they did it's possible to increase it to 80GB for another fiver).

VM will never get my business again until they can GUARANTEE at least 40Mb out of the 50Mb service. That's 80%, not too much to ask as unlike many of the ADSL providers, they do have complete control of the network, inluding the 'final mile'.

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Coat

Backhaul

5000+ homes connecting to an exchange at 100mbps - ur likely going to hit a wall upstream anyway even if you have a massive media proxy sitting in the exchange.

With fibre rollout to the the cabinet though I suppose we won't need exchanges to be so 'local' with the exchange of the future more of a colo centre.

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Silver badge
Boffin

Superfast

Commendable that he thinks that "Superfast" means 100Mb. The only definition of "fast" or "superfast" I can recall is Fast Ethernet, which was 100Mb full duplex. Therefore I expect Superfast to be greater than 100Mb full duplex. In fact isn't "super fast" just an absolute abomination on our fair language?

Besides, this sounds great on paper, but which company is going to look at an area that BT have deemed commercially not viable and think "yes please"?

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Thumb Down

Pointless

Allowing other companies to build their own local loop won't help. The problem is money. BT aren't refusing to upgrade the local loop in rural areas because 'they don't like them damn' country bumpkins'. They are not doing it because there aren't enough people in the catchment area to provide a decent RoI.

Don't forget - BT are the only telco in the country that has seen fit to install broadband equipment into every telephone exchange in the country. If BT can't make the figures stack up in not-spots or slow-spots then the LLUOs are not going to be able to either. Most of those other telcos can't even see any point in laying their own backhaul fibre and instead rent capacity of BT.

The not-spot and slow-spot problem (and incidently it isn't all rural areas. Trying zooming in on London: http://www.broadband-notspot.org.uk/coverage-map.html) is all about Return On Invesment. With Ofcom's current pricing structure the only place where you scrape any kind of return is large towns and cities.

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Anonymous Coward

Knowing BritGov

"It didn't define "superfast" however." They probably mean a tenfold increase to ~512kb/s.

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Go

break up bt openreach

awsome that means if im right opening bt up so any isp can install any equipment in any area that means sky could install fibre to the home i say lets all vote conservative please david cameron in charge get rid of labour and gordon brown im sick of him old fart lol

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Joke

Hmmmm....

Wider adoption of broadband will lead to an increased likelihood of having to see posts written as poorly as the one above.

On second thoughts, can we rip the fibre back up?

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Megaphone

But Openreach don't have a monopoly

Somebody please tell the Tories there's already nothing to stop any suitably motivated and suitably authorised communications provider from connecting customer premises to fibre today; it doesn't have to go via a BT exchange either.

Look for example at the miraculous Fibrecity in Bournemouth, featured on this very website in January 2008. What a success that's been. [1] (Hint: nobody connected yet. Anybody know why not?).

Look, what exactly is the point in having three or four sets of overlapping or competing last mile infrastructure for delivering bits to lucky people's premises (homes, businesses, etc). (The unlucky ones, which is half the country, don't have any choice/competition anyway).

For the last mile data you've got BT (Openreach) and Virgin and a handful of WISPs (plus the business connectivity folks).

For broadcast you've got Virgin cable, Sky satellite, and Arqiva (Freeview etc) via the aerial. And a handful of BT Vision folks (I assume Homechoice->TiscaliTV is dead?)

For the last mile for phones: BT, Virgin, Kcom. Get rid of the copper and there's no need for an army of techs doing band-aid jobs on a creaking decades-old copper (and aluminium) phone network, whilst wanting £150+ before they'll look at a DSL fault let alone fix it [2].

If there was one reliable affordable 100Mbit fttp infrastructure there'd be enough bandwidth for everybody's SoHo needs, the satellite dishes and TV aerials and copper phone wires and the cableTV infrastructure etc could all go the way of the abacus.

Still, so long as we're stuck in the dinosaur era of "the market knows best", we're never going to get cost-effective joined up thinking, let alone cost effective joined up networking.

[1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/24/h20_sewer_rollout/

[2] http://revk.www.me.uk/2010/01/sfi-meet-in-middle.html

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Silver badge
Go

underspend? UNDERSPEND?

How about underspend going towards getting rid of the fucking licence fee.

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Pint

Licence fee?

What licence fee? The BBC TV licence fee? Is the BBC doing broadband now? Count me in.

Beer, because... Just because.

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FAIL

Monopoly smonopoly

So are they going to break up the BT "Monopoly" in the same way as they broke up the utilities and train monopolies - only to have new monopolies take their place ???

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Unhappy

"Rural" spots are cash cows

I know. I live in "rural" Cambridgeshire, 2 miles from the M11, 600 metres from a Virgin Media cable that goes past my large commuter village without stopping, 4 miles from the centre of Cambridge and 3 miles from Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory and Microsoft Research UK, where they are working on advanced networks!

My local exchange is massively congested, can't even watch low quality iPlayer in the evenings. I have tried compaining many times but I get "not our problem guv" from the ISP, and it's impossible to contact BT Wholesale. BT don't care because on exchanges where they have no competition, they are allowed to charge much more per customer and they don't need to invest because we have no alternative. So it's easy money, and they are in no hurry to let anyone else in. D'oh.

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But...

If it was that much of a cash cow then Be would have LLU'd it by now and you'd be able to get good quality, uncongested 24Mbps.

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Megaphone

Porkies

"My local exchange is massively congested, can't even watch low quality iPlayer in the evenings. I have tried compaining many times but I get "not our problem guv" from the ISP"

They are telling you porkies. Assuming the length of your phone line or poor internal extension wiring isn't the problem then it will be that the cheapskate ISP hasn't bought sufficient capacity from BTw rather than some mythical exchange problem. Time without number people on "congested exchanges" find that the problem goes away when they swap to a halfway decent ISP - do some research.

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Stop

BT = Usual Target

Here we go again, another government, another pop at everyone's favourite Telco.

The posts above by AC and AndrueC are spot on! If there was a potential for a decent profit, you can be assured that BT Openreach would be the first to be digging up our roads and dropping fibre in the holes. The simple fact is, that with everyone having noted how VM's predecessors nearly bankrolled themselves out of existence doing that very thing (and in areas with high penetration rates), others are a touch weary about following suit, unless many £££'s can be made.

Don't be under any illusions about Sky, TalkTalk, Orange et al.. having any kind of public service ethos. It's all about bucks, and how to get them as quickly and cheaply as possible.

BT is and has been for a while now, a private company. Nearly all the equipment in its exchanges is the result of investment by a private company. A private company that has watched it's profits tumble as succesive governments hand it's business to the vultures circling above. It's competitors have had 20+ years to play catch-up while Oftel then Ofcom have held BT down.

If others want to compete with Openreach, that's fine by me, but they should be no more entitled to use BT's exchange equipment, than that of VM.

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Big Brother

Thatcher and Cable

Wasn't it Thatcher's government that provided some very healthy tax incentives and cheap loans to the nascent cable industry? Maybe it's time to start treating Virgin like BT and requiring wholesale bandwidth and LLU from them, while starting a new infrastructure industry?

Then we can all enjoy the next players digging the roads up again.

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FAIL

Again?

Well, it was back in the dim, distant days of Post Office Telephones that Maggie and Murdoch got real cosy and fucked over BSB and we got Sky and BT.

Then, as has already been mentioned, the Tories broke up BT even more allowing all the dozens of cowboy cable firms along to dig up the roads for ages which resulted in a few favoured companies owning the lot and then refusing to share thier cabling with BT - those other green boxes should have been included in LLU but somehow . . ..

They buggered it up before and I reckon that they haven't learnt a thing.

We would end up with a load of fly-by-night tossers (some of which are still around in name only) who grab the dosh and give no service to anyone - as long as they make a packet then fuck off quick.

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FAIL

AGAIN

So the Torries want to gut BT/Openreach AGAIN if they think that the supposed telcos that are going to install the fiber are going to be making money hand over fist why are they not investing in these company's themselves after all if it is that easy to do it why has it not been done before? Cable and Wireless (NTL) started to lay cable in the district of Huddersfield that I live in but only got as far as the trunking before they went bust and were rolled into Virgin then it was abandoned by them.What is to stop this happening again by these imaginary Fiber Telcos?

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Anonymous Coward

I know I'm demonstrating technical ignorance here but...

Why does 100MBaud, 50MBaud or 20MBaud as a broadband speed matter?

Anything over 4MBaud gets you most stuff on the internet. Everything else is badly prepd, wasteful eyecandy? Indeed 56kBaud is well good enough for most text based eMail?

Is this "need for speed" about freeing radio spectrum for other chargable things like road tolling and making sure that if you want to obtain "content" you must have a detectable device so you can be charged.

I just want to know the real reason not just "you'll like/use it when you've got it" and "you really do want it...." I just don't think I need it but please tell me I'm missing something and what it is because I know I'm going to pay for it, anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Good you're honest...

The whole point is that doing this will be future proof. Cloud computing/storage is becoming more common and so more companies will start developing new ideas to take advantage of this increased (cheap) computing power.

While you may be happy with your 4Mbit line, most people aren't. If you have one person playing an online game, another watching iPlayer and someone else downloading (legal) content then it becomes unusable.

For an example of why this upgrade needs to happen look at the companies starting to stream computer games. You pay for access then their powerful server runs the game and streams it to your PC allowing you to play games way above your current spec - playing GTA IV on your netbook.

Of course there are more reasons than just gaming but just because you use a text browser and think Compuserve is the best email solution yet doesn't mean that everyone else has no need for faster speeds.

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WTF?

Fibre to the exchange

Um... the article doesn't make it too clear, are they on about running fibre to the exchange from the providers networks (so for instance, Easynet running fibre from their POP to an exchange), or is it running fibre from an exchange to a customers premises?

If it's to a customers premises then um... it's not going to be cheap to dig the road up to lay fibre, maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they did it along the lines of what Virgin do and lay fibre to areas (then I guess stick a cabinet in and run fibre from there to the individual premises).

Actually I was thinking about this the other day, since Virgin already have ducting in to cabinets and then onto customers premises, wouldn't it be easy enough (or at least not too expensive) for Virgin to start replacing cable with fibre in the future?

Not so sure about BT, I guess they have a mixture of ducts and telegraph poles.

Rob

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Flame

cash cows....

BT only rolled out to every exchange when it became clear that wireless broadband companies were prepared to do it - and BT rolled out at rates low enough to shut down companies in Surrey who were sucessfully rolling out wireless.

You DO have alternatives, but no company will invest in infrastructure if there's no profit to be made. Perhaps a cooperative might work, but be prepared for BT et al to turn around and undercut it.

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Go

"Why does 100MBaud ... as a broadband speed matter?"

Actually that's a very fair question, and the answer is that for single-user households where the "broadband" connection is used by one person at once purely for what folk traditionally call "broadband", there's not much call for much over 10Mbit (or less), other than as a silly "mine's bigger than yours is" game.

However, if you do want to be smart and use one fibre to replace all the disparate existing data+broadcast delivery mechanisms, and you want to cater for more than single-user premises, then you do need a bit more headroom than current DSL (or even VDSL or super fast 50Mbit cable) services can deliver, and 100Mbit is a nice convenient number to play with, with room for a few HDTV streams, a few phone calls, a bit of "radio", some surfing, a bit of "telecommuting", etc.

There'll still be capacity constraints somewhere else in the network, but no copper-based infrastructure is ever going to cope with that level of bandwidth to the premises, and it's unlikely that any last-century-focused proposal that retains the ridiculous distinction between delivery of data for "broadband" and delivery of data for other services (primarily multi-channel TV?) is going to make economic sense.

Freeview HD doesn't make economic sense, give it up now. Same for DAB, Freesat (Sky or non-Sky)... Sky would still have all their content rights, they just wouldn't need to pay for the satellite capacity. Sky could still own the "Sky box" in the house, it would just be connected differently, via fibre and Ethernet and a smartcard rather than via satellite and coax and a smartcard. Same principle goes for the Virgin box and the Freeview box.

Too many vested interests for it to ever really happen, but why can't we get the left hand talking to the right hand, and put somebody competent (not BT Retail, not BT wholesale, definitively not Ofcon) in charge of delivering the bits over the last mile. WIth a real universal service obligation, not a token gesture. If Openreach want to be the delivery organisation (not the organisation in charge), and they're the best value bidder, fair enough (most of the potential opposition seem even worse, e.g. Virgin).

C'mon Mandy, you could get one up on Dave here...

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Thumb Up

I'd like to (Open)reach for their throats

I'm in favour of anything that gives anyone a shot at giving me a decent broadband connection. I have at least 2 FTTC's within 1/4 mile of my house but BT/Openreach refuse to connect me because I am "the wrong side of the road". Asked when I am likely to get a faster/better service I was told "maybe in 3-4 years, if you are lucky"! I am destined to stay on my crummy connection that has deterioration from 1.5MBs down to the current 0.8MBs over the last two years. It has just started dropping out at 0.8Mbs with monotonous regularity so I guess I will have to ask my ISP to throttle my connection at an even lower speed.

BT/Openreach - a complete bunch of bankers! Ahh, I feel better now.

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Missing the point

But your example is kind of the point. I presume BT won't connect you because the cost of installation won't be recouped by renting the connection to your ISP. Other providers could, today, choose to run new cabling to your house - there's nothing stopping them - but they won't because... yes, you guessed it, there's no money in it.

So how would breaking up Openreach or BT or whoever help? The maths is the maths - doesn't matter much whose name is stuck on the side of the van.

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Go

Please... do it..

... and then sort out the cable monopoly too.

Why are Virgin Media still able to monopolise that infrastructure?

Instead, I want to get a respectable trustworthy ISP over cable.

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Gold badge
Go

How do the French do it.

It seems to have something to do with a broadband line *not* getting an analogue phone bill attached to it.

Basically *every* BT Openreach installed or maintained line has a BT Retail link directly into it, *even* if it's not used.

Is Openreach an infrastructure company or a service provider?

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Flame

Carphone, who want's you?

I cannot see how anyone who had the experience would want to get within a 1000 miles of Carphone Warehouse, their service is total crap. All they are interested in is money. Your money. They think that all of it should be theirs. At least BT are honest. Slow yes, but definitely preferable to the other lot.

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Jobs Halo

It is time to unshackle BT

The reason BT cannot provide the service speed we all seem to want (never mind we do not actually need it) is they have been restricted by Ofcom. It is time to unleash the beast. Why bother with competition and dropping prices as it will all sort itself out in the end.

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Bronze badge

upspeed still too slow

Don't really see much point of increasing the downspeed to over 10mbit/s if the upspeed is going to stay at 128Kbit/s taking forever to upload a couple of dozen Mbytes to the website I have to host remotely just so my family can all see my photos without waiting all day. And no, I don't like my family photos being used to sell someone else's advertising to nearest and dearest - that's why I host these myself. OK I admit, I have a large family.

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Pint

@How do the French do it.

"Basically *every* BT Openreach installed or maintained line has a BT Retail link directly into it, *even* if it's not used."

That's no longer the case, though not many people realise it.

Some of the broadband providers who have their own broadband kit in the exchanges (ie the LLU ones) also have their own voice kit in the exchanges, the prime example being TalkTalk/CPW. So it is entirely possible for there to be no BT Retail in that picture. (Have a read about MPF and SMPF, or not, 'cos it's boring). Whether any sensible person should want the likes of CPW to be responsible for both their voice and their broadband is a different discussion, even when the obvious alternative is BT.

It is also possible for BT to provide the voice line on a "wholesale" basis, such that BT own and operate it, but the end customer has no BT Retail contract for voice.

"Is Openreach an infrastructure company or a service provider?"

That is the heart of the question, and it seems there won't be a proper answer while they're still part of BT.

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong tree

Private companies only invest if they make a return. And in telecom, the more there are overlapping wires, the smaller the return is per wire provider. .:. Fast broadband outside city centres is a natural monopoly.

So, it is either public subsidies or nationalisation of Openreach. Don't count on Murdoch, Dunstone or US hedge funds paying yours from their pockets. And hence breaking up BT just goes to the wrong direction.

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Go

@Wrong tree

"it is either public subsidies or nationalisation of Openreach."

Agreed.

"breaking up BT just goes to the wrong direction"

How so? Split off Openreach, and nationalise it, with a proper regulator. Allow Openreach to offer their services for phone, data, "broadcast", anyone who wants "last mile" delivery of reasonable quantities of data at reasonable speed.

By providing everyone with a connection and free net access of some sort, you could do away with phone books. A bit like Minitel, in fact.

Heck if you got Royal Mail and their junk-mail-delivery competitors to buy in to the concept, in principle they could buy everyone a printer/scanner, and hence avoid wasting energy and people and money delivering today's hardcopy junkmail over long distances and deliver the junkmail over t'Internerd to the printer instead. (Only half joking)

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Anonymous Coward

@Anonymous coward

U R Right. Meant to say, breaking up the monopoly...

The only 'little' issue in Openreach separation from the rest of BT is dealing with the £40bn or so of pension liabilities someone would need to take on as a result of a breakup. Taxpayer??

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