Feeds

back to article UK.gov's £530m bumpkin broadband rollout: 'Train crash waiting to happen'

The UK government's ploughing of taxpayers' cash into deploying countryside broadband networks has been branded a "train crash waiting to happen". That's the view of a well-placed Whitehall insider who revealed that Blighty's public spending watchdog will next month publish a scathing report into the crashingly expensive …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Silver badge

2 Megabits per second?

Maybe that was passable ten years ago, but I would say a minimum of 10Mbit everywhere should be our goal.

Especially since that 2Mbit soon turns to crap once you've been throttled back, are in a busy time, or maybe the line is waving in the wind.

9
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

I can't begin to imagine just how much more expensive it would be to provide 10Mbps 'everywhere' in the UK. Can you?

2
3
Silver badge

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

Well, I get upto 8Mbits/s (and get a decent percentage of that most of the time) and I live in a fairly middle of no-where village, and that just over copper. So that should be feasible for a lot of people.

But yes, they should be aiming higher. But that may only come with acceptably priced 4G.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

Starting from nothing? Not that much more. Have you not seen a lot of the longer-reach broadband technology available now?

If you're going to do something, make sure you don't need to do it again in 10 year's time. 2Mbit is unacceptable to the majority of the country now. People have had 8Mbit as a minimum for quite a while now. And now you have usages that extend past just downloading a picture faster.

When I was living at home, we went from 56K modems direct to 8Mbit. It was literally like that with early broadband. Nowadays, ADSL2+ is pretty minimal and basic and those who want more are going fibre or combining lines. Joe Bloggs can now get 100Mbit if he wants it without even getting close to a 10Mbit leased line (and therein lies the real cost - the back-end bandwidth for all the users back to a central point).

The problem is that if you spend billions, you want your investment to pay off. Nobody is going to buy a 2Mbit line in the areas currently deprived of broadband. And in five year's time? Hell, five years ago my connection was less than a third of what it is now and I paid no extra (the ISP just knocked me up onto their next offering as a straggler), so they'd STILL be behind the times.

Of course rural broadband will never be on the cutting edge. But it's pointless to deploy anything that will be obsolete the second it's in the ground. Better to save your money, wait another year, and deploy something better (i.e. the longer-reach DSL alternatives that still work perfectly fine over copper but aren't "industry-standard" offerings).

But the real reason for the holdback is that the back-ends need upgrading, which is expensive. One backend in London might do a street, one backend in Scotland might do a vast swathe of countryside incorporating just as many houses. But if you don't upgrade them to the same level on a regular basis, the Highland backend is "connected" but worthless.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

"When I was living at home, we went from 56K modems direct to 8Mbit."

You must've been late to the BB party then. Most peoples first BB experience at home "10 years ago" was 512kb/s or even 256kb/s. Even on cable. Waiting for the promised upgrade to 1Mb/s, then later 2Mb/s was excruciating as it was rolled out area by area. The 10, 20, 50, 100 and now 120mb/s are available off the shelf from VM in pretty much all of their areas but it's taken time.

As for your 8mb/s 10 years ago, NTL were banned from advertising their 128kb/s offering as "broadband" back in 2003/4ish as not being fast enough. Most people, if lucky, had 512kb/s. It was 2005 when NTL:Telewest standardised on a top speed of 4Mb/s and 2006 before BT were offering up to 8mb/s (NTL:Telewet had 10Mb/s top speeds by then)

3
0
Silver badge
Stop

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

The wireless provider in cumbria and lancashire do it just fine. Their infrastructure is substantially cheaper than BT too.

Pork barrel spending obviously.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

Rural Monmouthshire would kill for 2Mb/s.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Holdups

I think the biggest problem - the elephant in the room - the thing that's delaying this all, is that people don't much seem to want to buy it. Priced at a level that means it'll take a decade before a customer has repaid the costs of providing the service, only 15% of households actually buy it.

I don't know what Virgin and BT can do about it. Price it lower and new entrants don't have a hope of competing - and competition lawyers start to imagine expensive holidays and new cars - price it higher to make a return quicker and even fewer people will buy it.

I struggle with the argument that this is essential and needs subsidy - if it was essential, more people would be buying in the places where it is available. Most people consider mains gas and sewers essential but we've not managed to roll those out universally in over a century of availability.

I don't see a bogeyman or incompetence or evil or any other 'thing' delaying it - just businesses struggling to justify investing money in something that costs more to do than people are willing to pay for it.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

In Harlow this would be a dream speed. Currently at 1.7mbs on a good day with frequent outages. No improvement over the past 5 years. Described as "up to 8mbs"!

0
0
Bronze badge
Megaphone

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

@dogged

You pays yer money you takes yer choices - ok I'm on ADSL2 with a smug 16Mb/s - but on the other hand I live in an area which I'm forever being told has got a crap quality of life when compared to Newcastle or somewhere.

House prices are also eye-watering - (an Austrian friend visiting thought the decimal point was in the wrong place)

If you want to take advantage the views, the fresh air and the wide open spaces then it seems to me you get the infrastructure commensurate with that.

On top of everything else we're currently being told it's for the good of the nation if Heathrow has another 23 runways and 24 hour opening hours.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: 10Mbit everywhere

Something for the new 4G networks to manage?

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

"I can't begin to imagine just how much more expensive it would be to provide 10Mbps 'everywhere' in the UK."

I suggest going back to the work done prior to the start up of the BDUK project as it is all there in black and white.

A major discussion point was around setting the expectations around what could be achieved within a political timescale (ie. by 2015) without the government effectively funding the update of BT's network to (glass) fibre, to the detriment of all other players and potential players...

From memory the reason for choosing 2mbps was that this could be achieved over ~98% of existing last mile telephone circuits - the replacement of which is the most costly and time consuming and hence added several billion on to the costs. It also permitted BT to continue with it's self-funded FTTC deployment plans.

Obviously, we hope that by 2015 we will have FTTC across most of the country, which should permit a secondary update of the last mile...

0
0
Boffin

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

You might be thinking of ISDN. I was on the original 1000-person ADSL trial in North London which ran at about 2Mb uncontested originally, then they tested NAT and it all went pear-shaped, then they rolled it out. This was in 1998/1999. Before that nobody had "broadband", at least not the ADSL kind.

0
0
Coat

Re: 2 Megabits per second?

Oh hang on - 10 years ago was 2003 wasn't it? I think I skipped a decade somewhere there. Hm. Wouldn't be the first time :)

1
0

No fibre in town here either

Our street has exchange-only lines, and unsurprisingly you can't have FTTC if there's no C. BDUK are also supposed to be funding some of that work, which again is apparently uneconomical for BT Openreach to do themselves. However it's clear as mud what they're actually going to aim for, never mind achieve.

0
0
Silver badge
WTF?

Yeah, that's right. Blame the EU. It's not like they've helped pretty much complete a fibre roll-out anywhere else in the UK is it? It seems to me that it isn't the EU that's the problem here. Nor BT. Those two seem to get along just fine.

The problems seem to start when the UK government gets involved.

Ask the Cornish. Shouldn't take long as most of them now have access to high speed fibre thanks to BT and the EU ;)

3
0
Meh

Cornish aren't quite so lucky...

There's been a lot in the papers about Cornwall and broadband over the years - in actual fact there are "Pockets" of high-speed areas here as elsewhere in the UK. SURE we get the "Trials" but often in very tiny remote villages and once the tests are announced as having been a great success - nobody else in the county sees the benefit.

Me? Struggling to get higher than 2Mb consistently - frequently less. Had almost 8mb for 6 months prior to the start of the year then inexplicably - GONE! Had Openreach engineers to my house ON 4 CONSECUTIVE WEEKS and they just can't figure why I aren't getting (variously) 6 / 8 / 12 or 18Mb depending on their experience of the area... they've given up, and I'm just waiting for fibre to ACTUALLY arrive. (There's no fibre available near me despite the cabinets announcing that there is with bright posters... ). I tend to think of the "Fibre now available" posters as being BT's equivalent to the "Waiting lists are down" announcements from the NHS...

- Doombar.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Cornish aren't quite so lucky...

Penrith + villages have good coverage. Most of the west coast do too. Hillier places around carlisle have wireless broadband on offer too.

0
0
Silver badge
Go

Re: Cornish aren't quite so lucky...

There's been a lot in the papers about Cornwall and broadband over the years - in actual fact there are "Pockets" of high-speed areas here as elsewhere in the UK

What BT claim.

BT are claiming just under 80% of Cornwall has it. Considering how it was before they started it seems to me they've ramped up to 80% pretty damn fast. BDUK should be ashamed by comparison.

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Seems an awful lot of money

to enable access to government websites that only work in IE6

8
0
Anonymous Coward

Rather than focus solely on broadband, if they actually invested in lots of money outside of the south east to encourage a wider distribution of businesses the local investment would mean infrastructure improvements across the land. Thus making broadband cheaper and better quality across the UK.

As it stands the current proposals seem to be more about appealing to wealthy people who choose to have a big home away from the great unwashed.

2
2
Silver badge

Not really. There are vastly more poor/middle income people in the Countryside than there are rich imports. But if one big import forces BB to be upgrade for a whole village, perhaps there is an upside.

But I agree that the rest of the Country need better investment full stop, rather than just the SE.

And don't get me started on Silicon Fucking Roundabout.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

"don't get me started on Silicon Fucking Roundabout."

OK, for now, but please do share next time the opportunity arises.

Btw, thank you (and your colleagues). Rather more than is typically expressed round here.

And get well soon to Liz

" the rest of the Country need better investment full stop, rather than just the SE."

Ain't that the truth.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

In northern Scotland

it seems the idea is to put a fibre ring around the north and west coasts, but actual access to the fibre seems to have been left out of the plans....

0
0
Mushroom

Really??!

"We are contractually committed to ensuring the costs we incur in broadband partnerships are consistent with our own commercial costs, and we are also reinvesting savings to go further when we can."

What they are really saying:

"We may actually get something installed, but give us the money as our costs have increased!"

0
0
Bronze badge
Pint

Want to know why it is where it is now?

Look at the comments that Geo, Vtesse and the other smaller providers made when they pulled out of the process. Oh, and the constraints of EU competition law.

Everything else is FUD.

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: Want to know why it is where it is now? @IHateWearingATie

A big disincentive to small operators is the differing taxation schemes that are applied to smaller operators but not to larger operators such as BT and Virgin Media and naturally favour the larger operators.

Another is that BDUK (and OFCOM) places no requirement on BT et al to use the services of the local broadband provider, which has a negative impact on the long-term viability of any local service provider.

0
0
Gold badge

More wireless technologies?

I would think they should make more use of wireless technologies, VZW is using microwave backhaul agressively to upgrade backhaul to their cell sites. I could see running microwave to a cabinet that would serve data to those people in the local area who can't get anything via phone line (i.e. fixed wireless broadband.) Since the home wireless receivers have a larger antenna than a cell phone would, there's somewhat less problem with coverage.

0
0
Bronze badge
FAIL

Train Crash?

Should go well with that other government project doomed to FAIL - HS2.

0
0
FAIL

india is rolling out fibre to every village

and BT roll out crap to the countryside

just as well the UK is a world leader in technology and innovation

yet another side effect of Maggie flogging off the family silver...

1
0
This topic is closed for new posts.