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back to article BT scores £146 meellion more UK.gov cash to fibre up Balamory

BT is the only company still bidding for Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) government funds after Fujitsu officially walked away from the process last week: unsurprisingly the national telco has won another fibre contract. This time, it's bagged a £146m government deal to deploy broadband networks in Scotland's sprawling Highlands …

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Anonymous Coward

This don't come cheap

Additionally, engineers will lay around 400km of subsea cables over 19 crossings to remote islands, the national telco said

also there are a limited number of ships capable of laying this sort of cable in the shallow waters around places like Mull and Tiree let alone the problems with the outer isles (rip tides, waterspouts, whales(inc Killers) and the sometimes piss awful weather == Horizontal Rain for weeks at a time).

Whoever is the resulting last mile carrier this represents a significant upgrade to the infrastructure of a very lightly populated part of these islands.

Once this is done, I'll probably be able to work for 6 months a year at my croft on Skye (with views the Outer Islands from my office window). When it does clear up there is no better place on this planet apart from some of the Pacific Inlets in southern Chile.

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Re: This don't come cheap

Would satellite (Tooway?) be more economical...and could it be set up next month with this pot of cash?

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bed

Re: This don't come cheap - Satellites

No, generally satellite links have too much latency and cost too much for whatever bandwidth you require. Interestingly all communities (or at least the ones with schools) in the Highlands and Islands were linked up with 100mbs links as part of the GLOW project with infastructure installed and maintained by THUS (now cable and wirelss) with connections to the remoter places by microwave links and, where practical, fibre to the premises. My local library and primary school have fibre connections.

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Thumb Down

Re: This don't come cheap

You ever tried using satellite "broadband"?

Slow as a funeral. Rolling 30 day download caps. "Fair" usage policy.

No no no.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This don't come cheap

Not a hope. The terminal equipment is way too expensive and needs specialist installation. There's nowhere near enough bandwidth - nor could there be - to cover the number of properties required - you'd need to fund the launch of another four or five satellites, maybe more. And even if you did that - at a cost of billions - satellite broadband isn't very good - slow, affected by weather, the latency is high and you can't cache content at the edges of the network so it makes poor use of the bandwidth it does have.

As a niche product for specific uses in a small number of installations, fine, but for national or even regional broadband - never.

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Re: This don't come cheap

My father in law lives at the tip of Lewis and has satellite broadband. It's certainly faster for him than my cable broadband in Edinburgh.

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Unhappy

BT - Behind the Times. Broadband is not in good hands in the UK.

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Alternative?

Whilst it's easy to complain about the former incumbent (And I've dome my fair share of that over time), Who would provide a safer pair of hands? Virgin et al? They stopped short of even the relatively dense towns so they'll never get out over hills and dales and islands. Fujitsu have already walked away because it can't make it pay.

If you think you could do a better job for the money then get yourself onto Kickstarter, get some cash from all the disaffected broadband have nots and go for it.

Me? I'll just wait for the only company with the wherewithal to do the job to come and do it in my small town.

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well noone else bid for it so what do you expect?

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Not sure what the point of bidding is anyway. BT should stop pretending to be a private company and the Government should just pay for it.

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Trollface

BT?

Your avg worst fat pipes are better than our avg best.

Far better.

Just think of the starving kids here in America who would kill for just half the speed you blokes get! So quit your whining!

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Anonymous Coward

It's amazing how they still have a stranglehold on the UK telco industry and some people seem to think that is good?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alternative?

Just because Virgin suck doesn't make BT any better.

Have you thought for a moment that the strength of BT is actually why the competition sucks? after all, BT has cables to most homes, Virgin doesn't and rolling out fibre to every home would be prohibitively expensive.

I can only assume that the reason much of the cable was rolled out in the 90s and 00s was due to regulators restricting what BT could do and so making sure the cable companies had a chance of competing.

Did you notice that Microsoft and Windows were untouchable too for years? did the competition suck or was it just too hard to compete? BeOS was nice and OS/2 Warp seemed better too.

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Meh

@Christopher Rogers

So, loads of folk queuing up to do this then? No? Do you have a better model that justifies a business investing in infrastructure in a lightly populated, environmentally challenging region than this? Or just take the cheap shot at BT?

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Re: Alternative?

"Have you thought for a moment that the strength of BT is actually why the competition sucks? after all, BT has cables to most homes, Virgin doesn't and rolling out fibre to every home would be prohibitively expensive."

I think the argument you put forward misses a very important point and that is that Virgin do not help themselves or make the most of the opportunities there are.

I moved into a new build house (brownfield site) 10 years ago and Virgin had cable running less than 75 metres from the site. BT only offered dial-up (we were over 5km from the nearest exchange) and there were a few examples of shared phone lines (we subsequently found out that we were sharing a physical line with a neighbour). Virgin should have cabled the site when it was being put together and would have had at least 10 customers immediately (there are 26 houses on the estate).

I have a friend who moved into a new build a couple of years ago and while one side of the street has cable the other does not. Virgin, for some reason, missed the opportunity to put cable in when the site was being built and failed to capitalise on the extremely poor broadband provision (BT service regularly falls below half a meg). Virgin have since said they will put cable through to the other side of the street at a cost of £10k, to be paid for by the consumers.

Both of these sites are 3/4 bedroom houses so you would expect families with kids and a call for decent broadband. If Virgin had got their act together then they would have had a lot of captive customers.

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IT Angle

Re: @Christopher Rogers

Well considering the money the govt. has thrown at BT to improve the network, the model in place should have been sufficient, but obviously BT's commercial concerns (read bottom line) absorb the taxpayers money.

Hopefully Liberty Global can help the UK push on.

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Black Helicopters

BT always get the blame

It's all too easy to blame BT, but why isn't anyone else able to do this stuff? Is anyone else willing to do this? I wonder if all the problems we have now stem back from the days when the government wanted to open up competition for cable so allowed a bunch of US companies to come in, cream off the profits before screwing everything up and sodding off again, at the same time shackeling BT to make it favorable for said companies to come in and do that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BT always get the blame

There are three market problems which tend to favour BT.

Firstly - only one or two households out of every ten passed take 'superfast' broadband. That means that areas where you can pass lots of houses for the least amount of cable run get prioritised - by both BT and anyone else.

Secondly - broadband in the UK is really cheap. It means there's no money in it for most businesses and only companies that can afford to wait a decade or longer before making a return will be able to make a go of it. BT have said that even with the BDUK money they'll not make a return for years.

Thirdly - the regulatory environment in the UK encourages new entrants in the telco market to re-sell BT services (white labelling) rather than develop or build their own. That means there's not much infrastructure competition in the local loop apart from Virgin - who are only able to do that from having bought their last mile network dirt cheap from cable companies who'd gone bust. The wholesale market has more players and cities like London have more competition, but elsewhere it's kind of scarce. I think it's probably fair to say that most competition, up to maybe 8Mbps, comes from mobile operators.

None of these things are the 'fault' of BT - they're just facts. Telecoms isn't the place it once was for return on investment and that means lots of investors stick their money elsewhere. Plenty of people pointed out in the 90's that a regulatory regime that focused mainly on driving down incumbent pricing and making available wholesale components would, in the long term, tend to weaken competition. If you wanted to drive more competition on your local high street and see more independent shops open, you wouldn't put in place regulation that forced Tesco to cut it's prices at 5% or more, year on year.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BT always get the blame

And so they should. I am living in one of Scotland's cities (Dundee). Do we have cable here?: no. Are we likely to get it anytime soon? Are we fuck. A look at http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/where-and-when/ shows 3 "Accepting Orders", two "Future Exchanges" and the remaining 19 in the ten-mile square are "No Plans". Let me reiterate, this is a city, and the outskirts are all extremely prosperous, yet BT don't have any plans to put fibre-optic in. They don't deserve anything but blame.

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FAIL

Re: BT always get the blame

<quote>

Do we have cable here?: no. Are we likely to get it anytime soon? Are we fuck

<\quote

What has cable got to do with BT ?

<quote>

Let me reiterate, this is a city, and the outskirts are all extremely prosperous, yet BT don't have any plans to put fibre-optic in. They don't deserve anything but blame.

<\quote>

And yet you also say earlier that there are no plans for cable either, so I take it you are also posting on any Virgin Media stories that they don't deserve anything but blame either.

Oh you are not, didn't think so.

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FAIL

Anything to delay the last mile fibre..

Here we go again. Almost no one will benefit from this as the distance from the cab to the home so great.

BT has consistantly been obstructive when it comes to FTTH and the regulator / gov are a complete joke when it comes to a joined up strategy. So instead of this money being used to make an actual difference somewhere it's being wasted to patch up the infrastructure.

The regulator is hopeless when it comes to a plan for FTTH, there is not even a joint partnership framework with other utility companies to lay fibre. London and the South East for example are having the water supplies to all houses replaced, all the way to the front door, they have just finished my road.

So we are already in the process of visting the home, digging and replacing infrastructure, but one bit at a time. Gas was the previous year, and BT is still running fresh copper to both new builds and existing. Even if you can't dig fibre over the poles has been used in other countries for years, which is BT has also constantly opposed as a method for FTTH.

BT instead spent the money on 21CN, to migrate voice....which did not happen, and cost around 15 billion, not far from the cost of FTTH by BT's own inflated estimates.

But...... it's not about the consumer, it's about protecting the unionised jobs at BT and all the little kingdoms the sad middle management types have created.

Mr Regulator - wake the fuck up and learn something about NG Broadband and stop relying on misinformation from the incumbent.

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Re: Anything to delay the last mile fibre..

As an Ex-BT BB helldesk person I can see so many errors in your bit.

You seem to blame BT for not bunging in fibre when other services have the road up, is there anyone, anywhere that has a job to co-ordinate the work -- like a borough planner?

For years there were almost empty Cable TV cabinets - still are in places - but BT isn't allowed to have reciprocal LLU.

I've got no problems with my FTTC line - and that's down to the Cable TV cab being on my side of the road and BT not allowed to use it.The runs from there go past my door

As for protecting the unionised jobs -- you're so far off the mark, it's amazing.

The middle management fiefdoms are common just about everywhere, not the sole property of BT.

21CN -- how much was spent on major network upgrades?

How much of a hassle was caused by opening up exchanges to competitors who didn't know one end of a Krone tool to the other?

It's a far wider subject than just doing the 'It's all BT's fault' knee-jerk

.

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Re: Anything to delay the last mile fibre..

I certainly would not make the assumption that everyone here is an outsider making wild opinion, and don't know exactly what they are talking about when it comes to BT, it's internal workings, politics and architecture....

However my point was clearly aimed at the regulator /gov and it's total lack of teeth and clue when it comes to providing the country with a FTTH.

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At least...

...the Highlanders might appreciate what's being done by BT, and not piss and moan like the London folk who didn't appreciate the aesthetics of the job at hand.

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If they bother at all

In East London, Openreach and their contractors haven't even managed to install all of the DSLAM fibre cabinets they were supposed to. My local cabinet site received planning permission in July 2010 from the relevant borough - yet Carillion's paperwork apparently showed that permission had been refused, so no cabinet was installed. No ETA to fix. We're now at the stage where Openreach will be letting the PP lapse. Best of luck Highlanders and Islanders.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If they bother at all

I'm pretty certain BT's street furniture doesn't need planning permission unless it's a conservation area.

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Anonymous Coward

Glasgow central?

My exchange is Glasgow central...

Wonder when I will get FTTC

http://www.samknows.com/broadband/exchange/WSCEN

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Glasgow central?

You could always move to somewhere a bit more residential...

There's plenty of room up here in the Islands.

The BT Green Cabinet is at the top of my drive (smug git feeling, I made sure that it wasn't too far away when I bought the croft) and a few pints/sea trout/Lobster sent in the direction of the local BT workforce will make sure that I get my connection sooner rather than later.

If there are any BT managers watching this thread, that is how business is done in these parts. Mutual self help.

One BT Engineer lives over the hill. When he needs some help with his sheep in the summer (yeah, I know, the one that never comes) then I'll only be too happy to help him out.

The quality of life up here is far better than in places like Glasgow. My other half is from Old Reekie and she wouldn't go back for all the tea in China.

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Re: Glasgow central?

If there are any BT managers watching this thread, that is how business is done in these parts. Mutual self help.

Translation for managerial types: bribery. :-p

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BT will do what they always do - the absolute bare minimum to provide service at the absolute bare minimum speed that will qualify under that nice vague "super fast" banner. Then, when we've all swamped that service, they can go back to daddy government and ask for more money for their private infrastructure.

Can't help but win when you're BT. And to anyone asking why Virgin couldn't have done it - Virgin didn't bother bidding in a process they knew was a formality. Neither did anyone else. The money always goes to BT.

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Memory

I distibctly remember the gubblement explaining that BT had to be privatised because only the private sector could fund all the future investment. the gupplemunt did not have that sort of cash, they said.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Memory

And the investment did happen - the entire national infrastructure was replaced in 15 years. Thousands of analogue telephone exchanges, hundreds of thousands of miles of analogue transmission systems - all replaced with digital technology. I was there at the time - the investment and technological change was relentless. I remember reading that a single trunk route fibre in 2010 carried more traffic than the entire UK phone network did in 1985.

This is a different issue. There are lots of places where selling broadband at current market rates would lose money. The options are 1) don't sell broadband there 2) price it to make a return and no-one can afford it or 3) get someone else to subsidise it.

Having money to invest and selling services at a loss aren't the same issue. The other thing that happens when you privatise an industry is that the resulting businesses have to make a profit.

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Anonymous Coward

Is there any need for the UK to have superfast broadband?

Once all the torrent websites are blocked and pornography becomes illegal, what'll be the point?

Do you people really need to read e-mail at 100 Mbps?

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Once all the torrent websites are blocked and pornography becomes illegal, what'll be the point?

Remote support? VPN? Netflix? Gaming?

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Anonymous Coward

I'm sure they'll find some way to ban those also.

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Far too important…

Always makes me laugh when someone phones up:

"Would you like to save money on your broadband?"

"Don't be silly, it's far too important to piss about with cut price services. Last thing I want is a cheap service. What I want is a decent service. I'll stick with what I have"

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Anonymous Coward

Balamory Eh?

And what about all the other wombles?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Balamory Eh?

Think you got a crossed line there.

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FAIL

And the 10%-16% who won't get FTTC "up to" speeds?

... why won't BT tell us where they are, and let energetic, motivated communities like B4RN fix it themselves?

If Openreach hadn't made PIA so expensive, others could have competed on a fairer playing field. No surprise that Fujitsu pulled out and that BT is winning all these contracts - there isn't any competition for reasons that the EU understood very well and wanted performance and monitoring conditions on the State Aid approval.

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Coat

FTTB

Fibre to the bothy should surely be the ultimate goal of this project?

Coat cause it's got my guide book to Inverie in the inside pocket

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ql
Bronze badge
Meh

Sounds good

Speaking as one who may be on the receiving end of this, it does sound good. There are problems with fibre-to-the-home in our areas, such as "villages" not really being the centralised development one may expect, but are typically a strung out series of houses, mostly for historical reasons associated with landlordism. In our case, we're about half a mile from the road rather than just a few hundred meters from a nice central cabinet as one may expect in a town. In our parish, fewer than 1000 people are spread around 250 square kilometres, and the main village has fewer than a third of that total. Our "township" of about 50 residents (and three times that number of holiday houses) is strung out over a couple of miles.

But Internet connections has enabled my wife to set up a yarn business, with her online shop being a significant route to market. It's also allowed me to go back to Uni, attending lectures of the Uni. of the Highlands and Islands via VC connections over the internet. I've actually physically been to my college, Orkney College (UHI is collegiate) only twice in 3.5 years. These are significant enablers to us in these areas. That wonderful piece of magic, "the market" is unlikely to allow areas like ours to partake of modern digital life without central funding.

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ql
Bronze badge
Meh

Re: Why not use radio link?

I've been looking at this to connect village halls in our area, but the hills and mountains make it really difficult. I think it's possible, but the "£4k" you mention,. or even the cheaper mesh options, or using RaspPis as repeaters are really only a tiny part of a deployment story.* And as always, the issue is with the backhaul which outside of ADSL costs remains stupidly expensive when you are far from POPs.

S

* - on the face of it, you put some kit at the peaks, but apart from the aesthestics, you have to get power there, and with 120+mph winds at times at the tops, locally generated power like wind or even solar panels need to be heavily overbuilt to survive. Then you have to maintain the alignment in those conditions... etc etc. Doable, but not the easy option it seems.

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Anonymous Coward

Laughing all the way to the bank

Given that we're only having to have a govt sponsored initiative due to the fact that once BT was privatised, as the dominant (and practically sole) player in the UK telecoms market it repeatedly stalled the roll out of fibre (and had the regulator so in it's back pocket it even managed to get the regulator to agree that LLU was "unfeasible" in the UK so it could stave off competition and pump bigger profits back to shareholders and directors until they were forced to do it by a European directive - http://zip2.co/s/l), they should be the ones either excluded from bidding or forced to pay the majority of it. All they've essentially done is hold up progress for 20 years until the system has become so far behind everyone else we've been essentially held to ransom by them and forced to offer to pay for it ourselves as a nation to make them get off their arse and do what they should have been doing for the last 20 years by reinvesting their profits not partying with them.

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