back to article Copper-obsessed BT means UK misses out on ultrafast fibre gold

BT has once again been blamed for Britain's failure to penetrate the Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) market, leaving the country lagging behind its European neighbours. New research shows that, as of June 2012, only 0.05 per cent of households in the UK were connected to the superior technology. But the figure is hardly surprising …


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  1. Tom 15


    How are ~60Mbps and sub-10ms pings not real broadband?

    1. FartingHippo

      Re: Errm...

      10 years ago you'd have said "how is 2Mbs not real broadband". Infrastructure investment should be for the long term.

      Do it once and do it right.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Errm...

        "Do it once and do it right."

        R I I I I G H T! Lived in th UK long?

        1. dotslash
          Thumb Up

          Re: Errm...

          >> "Do it once and do it right."

          >>> R I I I I G H T! Lived in th UK long?

          lol, have one internet sir!

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Errm...

        Sometimes reality intrudes. When I bought my first house it was a mid-terraced two bedroom property. Probably like most people. I now live in a detached, three bed property with garage. There are times when you have to be sensible and prudent and go for what you can afford rather than the best available.

        This is one of those times.

        I think it's rather sad that after five years of the worst recession the country has ever known (within living memory certainly) people are still advocating spending money they don't have to achieve something with intangible benefits over a cheaper and perfectly capable solution.

        BT have already said that very soon now anyone on an FTTC enabled exchange can order fibre if they want it. Based on current take-up for NGA broadband I doubt many people will bother because, frankly, most people can barely see the need for FTTC speeds let alone fibre speeds.

        1. mjwalshe

          Re: Errm...

          You mean advocating spending someone elses money so that little Jack or Lucinda can torrent more stuff.

        2. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Errm...

          Actually fast broadband really helps web startups. You can park a server on your desk and run your business off it without paying silly money for colocation or other hosting costs.

          A few thousand of those around the country might not turn around the economy, but it would be good for a fair few jobs.

          In other news, the BoE's quantiative easing program has cost £375bn.

          So don't give me any nonsense about the UK not being able to afford stuff.

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Errm...

            But 70mb spread over 3 devices simultaneously is still quite a fair bit. I doubt the majority of normal folks streaming their ultraviolet and iplayer and 4od simultaneously will max that connection out. Throw into that the wireless connection and the bottleneck will be your hardware not the broadband (again, normal folk not techies with hand picked components and multiple SSID ubiquiti wireless in their house).

            FTTC can also be upgraded to FTTH over time too. The expense will be almost the same. The majority of ducts will have been cleared in the path to FTTC and give BT a good idea of problem areas. Cant really see the problem with mass rollout of FTTC.

          2. Terry Barnes


            But high speed connections to the Internet - including fibre based ones - are available widely, from many suppliers.

            I think what you're talking about is using a consumer broadband product to run a business from.

            Consumer broadband is very cheap because it's, in pure technical terms, not very good. Business grade high speed Internet access is expensive, because it's much better technically - zero contention, guaranteed uptime, all that. If you gave consumer broadband all the features of business Internet access no consumer would be able to afford it and what would be the point of that?

          3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Errm...

            So having fibre to the cabinet and then copper into your house limits you to what Gig-E?

            I can see why Silicon roundabout has failed if I can't have 100Tb/s to my netbook

            If only BT had delivered ATM to the house in the 90s Facebook would have been British.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TheOtherHobbes

            But I thought the cloud made everything cheaper? /sarcasm

        3. Brian Morrison
          Thumb Down

          Re: Errm...

          "...anyone on an FTTC enabled exchange..."

          And that is still quite a restricted percentage in comparison with what would be equitable...

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Do it once and do it right.

        My reading of the article (and knowledge of the history) is that BT have not done anything to the (majority of) lines between cabinets and homes, even once. As and when they do, they will "do it right" with a fibre. The issue is not "upgrading to last century's technology". It is "not upgrading everything everywhere all at once".

        Unless you know of some magic pixie dust that makes financial realities goes away, rolling out FTTC across the country before rolling out FTTH seems perfectly defensible to all except the "You've got birds in your garden so you deserve shit broadband." wing of the Me Me Me party.

        1. b166er

          Re: Do it once and do it right.

          Apart from the fact they shelved our 24Mb upgrade so they could run off willy-waving at Virgin Media.

          Email sent to OpenReach:

          "As advised by BT Wholesale Customer Services, I'm now writing to you to ask the same question. Please find that original question below: I wonder if you could answer why I can't find our exchange Dunoon (WSDUN) in any of the literature (eg WBC_SFBB_Dataset_060312.xls) or on the Openreach website (coming_soon.xls and future_exchanges.xls)? Other similar exchanges are listed even if it's only a tentative date so it's as if we've been forgotten! Thanks,"

          (an updated version of that document is available from here, for those that are interested.

          And the reply:

          "If an area is not included in the above schedule, as is the case here, then there is no timescale for that location. The Government through their BDUK agency has made funds available to improve fibre coverage and is inviting applications from area Councils for funding. Local Councils are submitting requests to their area Councils for them to include nominated locations in their funding applications and would suggest speaking with your Council on this."

          I just checked the current availability document and WSDUN is at least listed now, although only to pencil in an earliest possible enablement date of 2013 for FTTC.

          So we've gone from having an RFS date of 31/03/2011 for ADSL2+, to waiting at least, realistically, 2 years, though probably much longer for FTTC.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "given that national telco BT is committed, for PROFIT reasons, to rolling out most of its fibre cabling to its existing infrastructure"

    There, fixed it for you.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Correction

      A company daring to make a profit? Shock, horror. Whatever next. I guess you're too young to remember telephony before BT was created. PO control was not pleasant. We all know the problems with the Post Office at the moment - it was much the same kind of lackadaisical over priced naff service running on old technology when they ran the phone system. But you'll be pleased to know they didn't make a profit.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correction

        "A company daring to make a profit? Shock, horror. Whatever next. I guess you're too young "

        Evidently you've not read many of my other comments, but do feel free to jump to unsupported conclusions. I believe it essential that businesses should aim to make a profit, and I'm certainly old enough to remember the sh1te service that the GPO provided. And I'm certain that state ownership is destined to destroy any credible industry.

        The issue here is that Openreach look to me to be obfuscating their accounts to hide the generous margins that they make, rather than allowing the regulator to see and set a credible reward on what is largely a monopoly infrastructure, and should, on the basis of lower risk, earn fairly low profits. I very much doubt that Openreach could commit to universal FTTH, but there's a fairly strong smell of doing the absolute minimum that they want to do in both LLU and fibre connections. And speaking to a friend who works there, that's his view.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Correction

          If that were true, the market would fix it. If Openreach prices are too high, someone else could install a rival network, undercut them and take the business. No-one has succeeded to date - the cablecos and then NTL/Virgin have been trying for years and have still to make sustainable profits.

          We regularly read on here of companies installing fibre networks in a city using the sewers or whatever, and it never works commercially. If your argument then is that BT is using predatory pricing to drive them out of business, they can't be simultaneously charging too much - so which is it?

          There are lots of successful companies selling their fibre to businesses - Colt, for example. What no-one can make work is the economics of FTTH - the price households are willing to pay for broadband is not enough to justify the cost of installing it. Until that can be sorted, it just won't happen. It doesn't matter which company has the purse strings and makes the investment decisions, if there's no way to make a return a private business won't invest, nor will anyone lend them the money.

          1. Brian Morrison

            Re: Correction

            The fundamental issue is that BT is delivering services with cables laid in ducts that have existed for a very long time, so that their costs are lower than a new entrant who would need to install their own ducts and negotiate their own wayleaves.

            This is what broke the cable companies in the 90s, they had to dig up everywhere they wanted to provide service, it led directly to the mergers and debt restructuring and while there is competition in the areas where VM supply service that's only about 50% of the population who can benefit.

            1. HMB

              Re: Correction

              What Brian Morrison says is very true.

              I believe in market corrections and such, but this isn't a free market. BT were given a goose that kept laying golden eggs. They inherited around 100 years worth of capital investment. It's simply not the sort of thing that you can just go out and copy.

              As if that weren't bad enough, eye watering taxes make starting up a national network super hard. This is one of the government's most sickening bit of hypocrisy in my view.

              Cable services do incredibly well, but their efforts to roll out as far as they have has left them saddled with so much debt even the greeks would feel sorry for them.

              In the 60's we were building motorways like there was no tomorrow. These days, due to much higher real term costs to build, we can barely afford to maintain the existing ones. In telecoms terms, we can't pay irish navvies peanuts to put up telegraph poles like we used to.

              BT definitely do the minimum they can get away with. Market 1 exchanges still don't have good enough backhaul to support 8Mbps ADSL connections while they're rolling out 80Mbps elsewhere.

              I watched ADSL2 and then ADSL2+ come out and it took years for BT to unstick it's thumb from it's arse and decide to offer an ADSL2+ product.

              VDSL2 (FTTC tech) was finalized in 2005 but BT's FTTC came much later. It's not just about deployment time, look at other national telcos. BT are just plain slow at rolling out new tech. They're far more interested in milking their investment for as much as they can without laying out new investment. Sure that sounds perfectly reasonable for a business, but that's what competition drives, new innovation and the only competition that BT genuinely has is Virgin.

              1. AndrueC Silver badge

                Re: Correction

                Well it's partly true about the ducting. However the assertion that it's been there for 'a hundred years' doesn't really wash in my opinion. Just how many properties actually had a telephone line in 1912? And how many lines have been installed (new properties built) since BT was formed?


    Remember cable installs anyone????

    This is a bit hard on BT regarding FTTH. doesn't anyone remember the chaos with cable infrastructure? The damage to road/pavement the endless roadworks?

    Not everything BT has runs in nice clear ducts - the copper still works as long as it's been down yonks. Beat them over the head over FTTC, yes but not FTTH. If you look at most of those countries beating the UK; most haven't half the density; age; shear quantity of infrastructure to negotiate compared to the UK.

    disclaimer ; I have just had Infinity installed; works great for me but my house is 120yrs old; no nice front garden to for BT to dig up - just a dual carriageway by-pass; public back ginnell to the rear of property and a hefty pine BT pole with ~ 100 ft of copper running to my house!

    1. Test Man

      Re: Remember cable installs anyone????

      "disclaimer ; I have just had Infinity installed; works great for me but my house is 120yrs old; no nice front garden to for BT to dig up - just a dual carriageway by-pass; public back ginnell to the rear of property and a hefty pine BT pole with ~ 100 ft of copper running to my house!"

      And I bet 120 years ago it was all fields too.

    2. HMB

      Re: Remember cable installs anyone????

      So FTTC is much easier to deploy in other countries because there's less population density? Like in the rural areas of the UK where there isn't enough density? How does this work?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HMB

        I'm guessing that one was an honest misstype. "have over twice the density" was probably what he meant. Half the population, twice the density, half the distance etc is much much less than half the cost as well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: HMB

          The population density thing is quite complicated, because in rural areas you have to go further per property, but you've got far more chances to dig in unmade ground (not concrete or tarmac), and that reduces the cost per metre of the cable and ducting by almost an order of magnitude if you've got the access and the rights. Then you've got any necessary repeaters and cabinets for the longer distances, and (possibly) fewer customers per cabinet which puts the cost up.

          To chuck in some numbers - if you were putting some 125mm ducting into an urban environment under tarmac, then it can cost £300-£400 per metre. If you do this in a soft verge in the countryside it can be done for £40 a metre. But then you need to work out both the backhaul distance, plus the average duct length per property to see what the numbers come out at.

          However, this £40 a metre isn't so clear cut for anybody but BT - they don't need much in the way of special permissions to replace existing damp string with fibre, whereas if you were a new entrant, then you've got to sort out the necessary access rights, and (yet again) you've got the BT threat that can bankrupt you when they suddenly deciding to "bring forward" a network upgrade.

  4. Magister


    Why is anyone surprised by this?

    It does seem that the only people that were surprised, were the senior staff at BT that only wanted to try to sell services that they knew little about instead of concentrating on their core business.

  5. Fuzz

    FTTH is a waste of time

    Current FTTH is a waste of time just have a look at BTs current service offerings.

    Infinity Option 2 (FTTC) 76Mb down 19Mb up £26 per month (plus telephone line rental)

    Infinity Option 3 (FTTH) 100Mb down 15Mb up £35 per month (plus telephone line rental)

    The FTTH service isn't worth it until they offer symmetric upload speeds which should be one of the benefits of a fibre connection. Of course the other benefit should be that you no longer need a phone line but for some reason BT make you take one anyway.

    1. NinjasFTW

      Re: FTTH is a waste of time

      I think you need to be careful about the above numbers.

      Infinity Option 2 (FTTC) 76Mb down 19Mb up £26 per month (plus telephone line rental)

      Those speeds are probably only valid if you live within throwing distance of the cabinet and have nice clean copper lines. There will probably be 80% of customer that get +-20MB due to the age/distance of the copper.

      At least with FTTH you know you are going to get the speed rather than some vague up to amount

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: FTTH is a waste of time

        I think your estimate is woefully pessimistic. I live 500 metres away from my cabinet and get 77 down, 17 up. Based on walking around my town I'd say that distance was fairly typical. On that basis I reckon most people will get at least 60Mb/s. Cabinets are going to be close to the properties they serve otherwise there'd be no point having them. Brackley has around 2,000 residential properties and at least 35 PCPs. Checking on Google maps shows that the average distance between my three nearest cabinets is 315m. Now geographical location is not necessarily an indication of line length but clearly they are quite densely packed around a typical town.

        I think the only people seeing 20Mb/s or less from FTTC are going to be remote properties or those on aluminium cable. I reckon well over 75% will see 50MB/s or better.

        1. Chris Hill 1

          Re: FTTH is a waste of time

          We have a cabinet at the bottom of out road, unfortunately the pair for our house is served from a much more distant cabinet. I get 14Mb/s down and 3Mb/s up from FTTC, which is still much more than I used to get with ADSL and two connections aggregated. I'd consider FTTP if it reduced the latency significantly.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FTTH is a waste of time

        I think the point of FTTC is that most subscribers *do* live within throwing distance of the cabinet and it's also a stepping stone to full FTTH, chuck the fibre infrastructure to the cabinets in, milk it for a few years and then advertise the latest greatest FTTH tech for only a minor increase in monthly subs or connection fee. Cost of the upgrades covered in stages.

    2. Rob

      Re: FTTH is a waste of time

      Exactly the reason I haven't signed up for it, I pay £7.50 for unlimited on Sky with on average 8Mb speed, which does fine for our daily use (streaming, gaming, VPN's etc.). What will make me want to pay more for speeds I probably won't max, especially if my router doesn't support 100Mb WiFi constantly.

      Even taking the fibre option with Sky see's the bill jump up to £20 a month.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FTTH is a waste of time

        You are lucky. I have BT broadband at ~5Mbps whereas my neighbour has Sky and only 0.5Mbps, After seeing the speed for standard broadband I was getting they moved providers and are now at ~5Mbps same as me.

        The Infinity isn't an option yet - it was supposed to be end of September but is now end December.

        Agree with the above posters though - when NTL dug up the roads etc to put cable in they made a right mess of the roads. Cable installs into the home aren't the prettiest, I prefer it just to cabinet and then no major cable changes past that.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: FTTH is a waste of time

          > Agree with the above posters though - when NTL dug up the roads etc to put cable in they made a right mess of the roads. Cable installs into the home aren't the prettiest, I prefer it just to cabinet and then no major cable changes past that.

          OR are having to tear up roads/footpaths to run the fibre in a lot of cases.

          Decades of neglect mean that the ducts are collapsed or blocked with tree roots every 10 metres or so around my neck of the woods.

          Fibre in my street was going well when OR only had to dig up footpaths to deal with blockages. Now they have to deal with a cross-road duct that's almost completely destroyed, they're waiting on council permission - and because the road has been torn up 5 times in the last 4 years (Gas, water, power, gas again and water again), they're dragging their heels.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: FTTH is a waste of time

      Not for me, used to have a max connection of 1.5MB due to length of line from exchange, now easily get 40MB (Measured over wifi) with the new cabinet round the corner.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: FTTH is a waste of time

        You might want to try it wired sometimes. In a typical urban setting wifi doesn't have enough free channels to do justice to FTTC. On wifi I only get around 30Mb/s. Switch to wired and it jumps to 77Mb/s :)

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: FTTH is a waste of time

          Use 5Ghz, It's less crowded.

    4. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Re: FTTH is a waste of time

      Lets face it, you aren't going to get 1GB broadband from coax or twisted pair. This is all about planning for future capacity, broadband isn't going to stop at current speeds.

    5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: FTTH is a waste of time

      Out here in the colonies, I'm 10km from the center of a city of 2M people that is allegedly the high tech hub of the country.

      I pay $35 for ADSL 5Mb down / 0.5Mb Up and achieve exactly half that.

      I could pay $70 for cable and get 15 Mb down / 0.5Mb up

      For "cultural and security reasons" we are limited to a choice of one telco and one cable company.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FTTH is a waste of time

        "Out here in the colonies....For "cultural and security reasons" we are limited to a choice of one telco and one cable company."

        That'll teach your great grandad not to steal a loaf of bread, then, won't it? But to make amends I'll offer you a country swap. You come here, and have possible access to decent broadband, we'll go over there and have slow broadband, cheaper property, better weather, and lots of barbecues?

  6. Mark Wilson

    False Economy

    This is going to hurt OpenReach in a few years when people begin to realise that fttc is a dead end technology and for a reasonable sized family is only really just good enough for today's usage. As bandwidth requirements appear to increase massively OR will be forced to scrap all of those nice new cabs and install fibre to the home.

    Even more ridiculous is that new estates are being built with no fibre provision whatsoever and because most of these are on the edge of towns, the ADSL speeds are very poor. Ours included. Took a massive effort for OR to admit that when they surveyed the area for fibre there was just a farm there.

    1. Andy ORourke

      Re: False Economy

      @ Mark Wilson,

      I just moved into a new estate where there is a little ISP (See the light) who have a bit of a monopoly going on. Fibre to the house, good pricing, no need for a phone line

      So I dont think it's true to say ALL new estates are built without fibre provision, it just might not be from the usual suspects!

    2. Spasch

      Re: False Economy

      Unfortunately, you're wrong. Currently OR are trialling "FTTP on demand" which means, for a price, you get fibre to the home from the existing cabinet (the fibre will be spliced off at the existing junction near the cabinet). Mass rollout is due to start next year.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: False Economy

        Likely reason is the overburden. Getting the copper out will sometimes involve tearing something up to get at it. Need to pay for the tearing up, not to mention the putting back once you're done. Cable thieves are opportunists and will usually only go for easy-to-reach cables. I would think BT will be focusing on them first for logical reasons.

    3. Oor Nonny-Muss

      Re: False Economy

      Of course it's not - they bring out their begging bowl again to get the copper local loop upgraded to fibre (and then no doubt also charge the person asking for it for another £500 installation charge)

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: False Economy

        What do you mean 'again'? 75% of the country is being done at BT's expense with BT's money.

        BDUK is the government's idea for covering those parts of the country BT can't do by itself. BT didn't 'beg' anyone. It's the politicians and customers who do the begging. BT just said "Nah, can't do there" and was happy to forget about it. The BDUK money is being made available to anyone that thinks they can cover those areas and I think it says a lot that only one company has won the bids so far. No-one else is apparently capable of using those funds to come up with a bid that anyone wants.

  7. Jim Lewis

    Given the soaring price of commodities such as copper i'm surprised it isn't cost effective to pull the cable, sell it and replace it with fibre from the proceeds.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical British clusterfuck

    In 1990, Videotron (as 'twas) ran cable down the 'rents house, in Harrow. Amusingly, the sales guy was 2 days ahead of the diggers as they went down the street. We signed to get cheap phone for dial up.

    Meanwhile, a friend moved into a brand new build home, a mile away. When I I went to see her, they hadn't laid the road to the rest of the houses. It would have been an hours work (judging by how fast they laid the cable outside our house) to have cabled the entire estate - no pavements to lift.

    When I asked my friend if she'd asked about cable, she had - they were due to roll it out to her area in 1993. IN the end Videotron were bought out, bought out, bought out, and the cable never got laid.

    Currently, I live in a "deprived area" as designated by G. Brown (thanks Gord - no stamp duty). To this day, no one can explain why we were cabled in the 80s, and yet the in-laws who live in a 12 year house a mile away weren't cabled, and won't ever be.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Typical British clusterfuck

      Because there is no commercial incentive and we have no "public service" company to do it. Even if it were a government project, it would have been done by now if it was profitable.

      The problem is that it's not profitable to spend £100,000 on permits, street repairs, cabinets, cable, hourly wages, etc. to get £20 a month from 100 people (if you're lucky and sign a load of people up). Not for years. And then you barely eek a profit because of the upgrades and support those users demand without paying much more. All the business plans would basically see a pittance for a lot of effort.

      Whereas some roads, or just buying up companies who went bankrupt thinking the pittance would sustain them as in your example, are much more profitable. You know you're going to make money from day one no matter how many sign up.

      The % of people affected who would buy broadband from you.

      The % of those people who would buy something other than bare-basics broadband.

      It just doesn't add up even for a lot of quite "good-looking" streets. You won't make a profit, and if you do it will be at enormous risk.

      If we had a state telecoms operator, they would have been told to "just do it", and it would have taken years but it would have happened. As it is, while there's no profit to be made from cabling your in-law's street, nobody will step up and do it and CERTAINLY not when they can just ADSL over existing copper (which you have to compete with).

      That's why Virgin push the "fibre" aspect - the speeds, etc. Because, over ADSL, most people wouldn't ever bother to choose them and they're hoping to dig up pavements, gardens and god-knows-what to install fibre for you to do it (which isn't fibre most of the time either, but at least technically better than ADSL even so).

      Some things are just not profitable, for small or large companies, even including state subsidies. It probably costs more in copper or fibre to activate that road than you'll see back in 25 years from its residents, if there's a competing ADSL service. Where there is no competition, you'll still only see a pittance after a few years.

      And the less people on the street, the further from other streets, the longer the runs, and the most satisfied people would be with just a basic service, the closer you get to making a loss by even bothering.

      But in high-density inner-city areas that are well-catered for if you bought up, say, NTL, or Videotron assets - easy money. Guess where the focus goes.

      Off-topic, the school I work for was just quoted for a leased line. We are literally 20 metres from the BT exchange (hell, I could lob a patch lead out of the window, it's so close) but their ADSL2+ product is so poor that we've given up trying to balance their dodgy connections over multiple ADSL2+ business lines (my solution of building a Linux-based load balancer / failover router gained us three years of leeway but the modems are so often down or not passing traffic now that it's pointless trying to compensate any more).

      The leased line provider undercut Virgin by 20%, and sent us a map of the street cabinet they will run from - it's 12 metres away. The hilarious thing? The cabinet is owned and underlying cable will be supplied by Virgin anyway. They got undercut by their own reseller on a 3-year leased line contract. But we only have that option by either paying a lot of money or being INCREDIBLY close to a huge exchange in the middle of a populated town.

      I wouldn't like to think what a leased line costs to some place out in the sticks, for the same reasons as cable and fibre being expensive or unavailable in those sorts of places.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Typical British clusterfuck@Lee Dowling

        I'd guess your £100k figure is plucked loosely out of the air, but at £1000 per house served should be about the right order of magnitude for new ducting, cable and cabinets for that number of houses in an urban area. Assuming that the £20 per month equates to £16 a month charged for high speed infrastructure, then we're talking about a 20% internal rate of return if the project takes six months to complete. There's some finessing around any maintenance costs (lowers the returns) and tax benefits (raises), also any setup charges to households (raises). But in essence, the financial case works, and there's plenty of companies would like a piece of that on long life, low risk infrastructure. For comparison, OFCOM estimate BT's cost of capital at 8.8%, and that's only so high because of the regulatory risk from Westminster and Whitehall, otherwise it would be around 6%.

        The reason that this fibre upgrade is happening so slowly is that BT are already getting most of this money at the moment, and from a near fully depreciated asset base. So why should they stretch themselves? For competitors, the problem is that if they move, the lazy dinosaur will swat them, as we've seen when interlopers propose to provide a fast alternative. That makes the risks and cost far higher for new providers, but with OFCOM providing such weak control, BT needn't pull their finger out. It's also why VM have been slow to speed up their network - because they do the minimum given that BT are slow in raising the stakes. So OFCOM's inadequacy benefits BT's investors, but dumps on customers.

        To be fair, BT are upgrading the network - just very slowly, and in my view that is because they can treat the existing manky old assets as a cash cow. If OFCOM would pull their finger out, and stop them earning a return on life expired or obsolete assets, then we might see BT keener to invest, instead of wasting billions on sporting rights. There's certainly no shortage of money over at BT - their wholesale divison have recently committed to wasting £738 million quid on Premiership football in the next three years, which would have bought a lot of installed fibre. Instead it will be p1ssed into the pockets of the arrogant, overpaid, ill behaved t**ts who pass for Premiership footballers. Ask yourself, will either customers or investors get an enduring benefit from that, and would they have from its potential alternative deployment by Openreach?

  9. trafalgar

    Dark fibre?

    Wasn't there something about laying fibre optic cables through the sewers? Isn't that a cheaper way?

    1. Tom Sparrow

      Re: Dark fibre?

      Ah yes, Sewernet. A great idea and I was one of the first to sign up for 'when it became available'. 3 years later and it's still not here ( Bournemouth, first FibreCity in Europe!). Got fed up of waiting for inifnity as well (April 2012, still no sign of anything happening at my exchange).

      Came to the conclusion that all ISPs will promise anything as long as you don't expect them to deliver. Might as well ignore the promises and go with whoever gives you the closest to what you want when you want it. I went back to Virgin who do actually provide the 30Mb/s I asked for, and don't force me to take a phone line to go with it. Fortunately, I haven't had to deal with their tech support yet....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dark fibre?

        Their tech support aren't the worry, not in my exerience. It's Virgin media "customer services" and anyone connected to them who will give you nightmares and start you questioning your sanity.

    2. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Dark fibre?

      What makes you think running a cable through a municipal sewer is any easier?

      Permits. Rats chewing (they'll bite through ANYTHING and have to to stop their teeth growing through their jaws). Water. Damp. Effluent (which means new workers, new regulations, new equipment, new H&S training and standards, new corrosion problems, etc. etc. etc.). Then you have to get the cable into the sewer (which is no mean feat though probably easier than digging up a road), and EXIT out of the sewer at points enough for you to - well - dig up the road and go to the premises. Then you'll need repeaters and stations along the route which will need to go on the pavement (not the sewer) and go back to traditional permits and installations anyway.

      All of that needs approval from the sewer companies, too, and the local councils, and you can't just shove any amount of things down there - sewers block all the time because of their under-capacity (I just had a thing put through my door telling me Thames Water will charge me £80 a year extra from next year so they can replace Victorian sewers in London - makes you wonder why they haven't factored that into their business contingency plans and normal upgrade plans since, well, the Victorian era).

      In terms of overall access, it's no better than just owning a permit to put your own "tube" into the road alongside it. You gain little by doing it, and it's a lot of investment to start with, so the risk isn't really manageable. And you'll have to do this with a "new" idea, which inevitably means years of trials, problems, and complaints - and fight every council for some new "right of access" to their sewers that they currently don't offer to anyone else.

      It's just not worth the hassle.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dark fibre?@ Lee Dowling

        Actually it is not too much work. Firstly councils don't own the sewers - the ten regional water and sewerage undertakers do, so you are dealing with one company per region. Second, the blockage factor is minimal - we're talking about "main sewer", not the branch pipes and shared connections where the blockages occur, and the connections to the houses don't come up through the toilets! Third the companies have a lot of experience of threading cables through pipes for reconditioning and survey work (and for that matter trenchless construction). New access holes needn't involve digging in the roads because the manholes already exist, and side connections to bring the fibre up to a cabinet can be made with trenchless methods if need be. Rats, corrosion etc aren't a major issue - the cable would run along the crown of the sewers, and most underground cable is already below the effective local water table because of sewer leakage, so there's not much difference there. The London Underground is rat infested, but you'll have noticed they usually manage to run a service of sorts, and there's a level of cabling complexity about two orders of magnitude greater.

        Regarding the Thames Water plans, bear in mind that since Bazulgette built the sewers in Victorian times they've just been left because they have a century or so of service life. But having been largely built at the same time, they are needing remedial attention at much the same time. No point in starting to refurbish them in 1930, when (by civil engineering standards) they were nearly new.

        Returning to Sewernet, the real problem is that there's a huge threat that BT, faced with competition, upgrade their network in that area, and that the business case for Sewernet falls apart. OFCOM could fix this by making BT give binding and public obligations about where, when and how it will upgrade its network, but they don't. That's why it isn't happening.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dark fibre?

      H2O networks, yes?

      Unless you have loads of kids (which most native brittons do not), why do you need fibre speeds?

      Stop breaking copyrights, 1 p0rn stream is enough, no one can tweet a load of bullshite that fast, or update twatface with shite that fast.

      For the majority, its a waste of time. Only the saddest of the saddos need shite but fast.

      1. ChrisC
        Thumb Down

        Re: Dark fibre?

        Why? Why not. It wasn't all that long ago that people like you were asking why anyone would need ADSL speeds, yet these days who would consider reverting to a dial-up connection unless they had no alternative? The recent online coverage of the Olympics showed me how useful a fast and reliable network connection could be for the future of broadcasting - imagine a few years from now when a sufficiently large number of people have fibre (or fibre-equivalent) connections to the home, giving content providers the incentive to start rolling out services that are able to make use of all that lovely bandwidth. Imagine a day when you could turn on the TV and, without any delay, start streaming on demans any TV show or film ever produced, at the highest quality available from the source material. We can just about do some of that now, but to get a quality level high enough to persuade people to ditch blurays, AND to allow for expansion into higher resolution material as 2K and 4K displays start to enter the mainstream, anything less than a 30Mbps downstream link isn't going to cut the ice, and anything less than, say, 50Mbps is going to be pretty restrictive. Throw in the ability to stream different things to multiple screens around the home, and suddenly you start thinking to yourself that maybe even a 100Mbps link is going to cause you some issues sooner or later.

      2. No such thing as an Anonymous Coward

        @H2O networks, yes?

        Spot on - who actually needs fibre "capacity".

        When you go from 1kbps to 100gbps (and anything in between), the speed does not change - only capacity to move data in a given time period.

        Unless you change the laws of physics, your stuck at about 60% of the speed of light.

        All this talk of speed is B.S.

        1. mjwalshe

          Re: @H2O networks, yes?

          er not 60% it is arroud .5C for both copper and fibre from what i recall from my CCNA

        2. Badvok

          <Pedantic science and grammar nazi alert>

          Unless you change the laws of physics, you're stuck at the speed of light (which in optical fibre is about 50-60% of the speed of light in a vacuum.)

        3. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: @H2O networks, yes?

          "When you go from 1kbps to 100gbps (and anything in between), the speed does not change - only capacity to move data in a given time period."

          Maybe, but when you want to shovel dirt, it usually helps to have a bigger shovel. Or if you want to move lots of people, it helps to have wide thoroughfares. Sure, it still takes time to get from A to B in any event, but the more things you can have flying at once, the faster it takes to get everything put together.

      3. Ragarath

        Re: Dark fibre?

        Ahhh so remember all if you use the Internet as Obviously! does there is no need to upgrade. In fact we should all go back to dialup as that was fast enough.

        Okay seriously, your saying my 1Mbps to 1.5Mbps is fast enough for me to stream anything? I tend not to like waiting several hours and have loads of buffering when I want to watch something. This is the way the industry seems to be headed, towards streaming and watching what you want when you want. I currently can not do that.

        Remember the majority today is not the majority of the future!

      4. Aldous

        Re: Dark fibre?

        "Stop breaking copyrights, 1 p0rn stream is enough, no one can tweet a load of bullshite that fast, or update twatface with shite that fast.

        For the majority, its a waste of time. Only the saddest of the saddos need shite but fast."

        and while we are at it why do we need more then 640k ram. damn freetard saddo's with their futureproofing i remember when we had 14.4k modems and we loved it, the internet was much better in those days none of that yootub or bookface rubbish.

        1. bobbles31

          Re: Dark fibre?

          IMHO we are reaching a sort of saturation point with tech. Most people get by with a tablet these days, whilst they certainly aren't a 640k 8bit machine they are also much much lower spec than a top of the range PC. My point is that the difference between what you could get and what you would actually use is getting wider and wider, I had virgins 40meg product about 4 years ago it was extortionate but I felt that As a heavy user I needed that bandwidth. Then I realised that in actuality I would rarely go over 10 meg in terms of what I actually used so I dropped my service down to that, no noticeable difference in service I merely stopped flattering myself that I needed that much bandwidth and accepted the fact that at 10 meg I could probably receive a file quicker than the source can pump it out.

  10. nigel 15

    Who Penetrates Whom

    > Britain's failure to penetrate the Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) market

    Surely fibre would penetrate britain, and not britain penetrate fibre.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copper is the current technology

    The last thing BT needs is to have some people on FTTH and some on either FTTC or copper all the way. Having two technolgies is hard enough to manage on a national scale as the supply chain and support organisation have to be able to cope with it and they barely struggle with two techs to deal with. I am sick of calls offering me infinity only for them to realise I live in the styx and can't get it yet.

    I agree with the earlier commenter who said 'do it once and do it right' - that was the method when we had copper in the ground in the first place, two copper wires are expensive but of sufficient quality that some of them have been down there a very long time. Compare that with the cheap aluminium cables that went into some places (and now have crappy broadband speeds) and you realise that a large investment upfront pays off over the years. Unfortunately there is no incentive for a private company to invest in stuff that will pay off over 100 years because the shareholders will be dead by then; public utilities should be nationally owned no matter what your political views.

    I'm off for a cuppa before I get onto the problems of privatised power. Sell of the NHS and use the money to buy back the rail, water, power and telco infrastructure.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Copper is the current technology

      Yes but copper wasn't laid in the ground all in one go. Nor were power cables. Nor were the railway lines. Nor were roads. You have to start somewhere and you have to stay within some kind of budget. FTTC is a reasonable compromise that can over time (will be when the product is released) a stepping stone to FTTH.

      The only real shame here is that BT is unable to fund a 100% roll-out of FTTC and that the government's solution - BDUK - is such a screw up. Amusingly the BT/EU partnership is going really well and giving Cornwall a big uplift. If I was a regional council I'd be telling UK government where to stuff it and just going to Brussels. They seem much faster to come up with the funding.

    2. mjwalshe

      Re: Copper is the current technology

      well as a BT share holder ok cool give us 20 years to payback the cost of FTH then

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Copper is the current technology

      "Sell of the NHS and use the money to buy back the rail, water, power and telco infrastructure."

      There speaks an AC who doesn't remember (or chooses to forget) the shocking service that BR provided. Or the GPO. Or the water sector. Or the gas and electricity industries. Maybe you'd like to re-establish the NCB, whilst you are at it?

      Because when the pols get their hands on these things, they stop investing (eg British Rail), they start pursing jobs at any price agendas (NCB, electricity), they start to treat customers as a nuisance (GPO), and they don't give a hoot about the standard of their product (water).

  12. FlossyThePig

    Blue in the face

    I have said it before and I will say it again. FTTP should be rolled out in the same way as the National Grid was in the 1930s.

    If the government were really serious about broadband they would pay for it. If they scrapped the HS2 London to Birmingham line the maney saved would pay for HTTP many times over.

  13. wowfood

    BT doing a job half arsed?


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT are a public relations front company

    for the UKs most evil collection of people posing as a legitimate business.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BT are a public relations front company


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT are a public relations front company

        the most evil people who weren't smart enough to be bankers

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet BT seem to get all the work when the government is handing out cash for broadband roll out. Thus making the problem worse.

    BT have always been slow off the mark, we got ADSL about 5 years late as ISDN was a nice cash cow for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While it's not cost effective for BT to do the work off their own bat, they have the organisation and experience to do the job when someone else is paying.

  16. skeete

    Ironically the copper in the ground is worth as much as BT Openreach, so if they were to dig it all up and replace it with fibre it would cost very little. Unfortunately BT dont own all the copper so their hands are tied. OFCOM need to be lobbied to have this issue resolved.

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      In theory the Cu might be worth the same in the ground as a replacement. What about once you have paid someone to dig it up, make good, transport it, traded it to a metal dealer, etc. etc?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder how population is spread

    in other countries and what existing infrastructure is present that would be disrupted.

    Although outside EU people look at places in Far East with high broadband but in many countries people live in flats in cities so cabling is different to the UK with people living more spread out in their own properties and with water, gas, power, sewers and other cables and pipes all in the way.

  18. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Faster Infrastrtucture is Pointless for two reasons

    Faster infrastructure is pointless (1) because the capacity will just be used up until it's as slow as it is today and was 10 years ago. It's just the same as widening the M25 - it's all good for a few months then more cars use it and pretty soon it's as clogged as it was.

    Faster infrastructure is pointless (2) because the ISP's throttle capacity based on some random process designed to annoy me. I was getting about 150 kbps so complained to my ISP. ISP blamed BT. BT came and measured the line. BT said 4 Mbps - computer said 150 kbps. ISP said Oh! then admitted that at peak times they restricted throughput but they were sure I'd get the full 4 Mbps after 2AM. BT technician said that he gets this all the time.

  19. Lozsta

    BT Suck balls!

    Having first hand experienced the issues BT have raising a simple Home Move order, this comes as no surprise that they are unable to lay cables.

    Yes there was chaose when Cable and Wireless dug up half the country, but now having got out of my BT contract 11 months early and cost free, I am a 60Mbps Virgin customer and I am really enjoying the speed of decent internet.

    Although I was sad to leave BeThere due to BT's incompetence.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Id just like someone to get fibre to my cabinet so that I may be able to squeeze more than 6 megs out of my clapped out BT copper pair. A 3 km line that struggles to maintain 6 megs on an upto 24 megs service and wont hold sync more than 48 hours suggests to me that the comments about BT not being bothered about the end user experience are bang on.

    sadly although I can get off the BT notwork after the exchange I an tied to it twixt here n there.

    All those years renting a voice service I don't want or need and paying broadband subs apparently doesn't entitle one to a line that is fit for purpose.

    BT really are the biggest barrier to progess.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT cant afford? You mean to say all that speculative invoicing... ahem sorry I meant SFI charging.... hasnt seen them coining in the money for chasing faults that are often down to lack of ongoing maintenance on the local loop?

    What kills me is as a tax payer I subsidize the upgrades.. then get charged full whack for a service I helped to finance in the first place,

    Gotta love that business model!

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuss over nothing if you ask me. Service covers my present needs. I suspect tomorrow's service will cover tomorrow's needs. Some just like to have something to moan at.

  23. the-it-slayer

    Shame the Gov doesnt still own BT...

    ...Or it could of used this plot to invest millions into created new public sector tech, support and engineering jobs in creating a FTTH infrastructure and then make more money to reinvest by selling some of that fibre space to third parties.

    Silly, silly Gov and BT.

    1. rhydian

      Re: Shame the Gov doesnt still own BT...

      The reason BT was sold off in the early 80s was mainly because the government didn't want to cough up the money to upgrade all BT's old mechanical exchanges to the then new system X and system Y units. Do you really think that the government would spend any more money on telecoms if they owned the company? They'd probably just milk the profits out to cover holes in other budgets before putting a "content filter" on the system...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A question

    (Anonymous cos I don't want to appear to be asking a bloody stupid question in public.)

    When the run is FTTH - do they have to run it under the pavement or can they string it from the telegraph poles (strange they are still called that) to your eaves like the current copper?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A question

      "do they have to run it under the pavement or can they string it from the telegraph poles "

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "BT's upgrade is heavily concentrated on deploying the fibre to street cabinets (FTTC) with traditional copper cables then being fed to the home"

    What is the difference between FTTH and FTTC in a speed/capacity sense?

    I ask because CAT-5 can support Gb/s speeds and that is copper. I realise the distance to the cabinet is a lot further than the distance to my switch, but if it only supported 100Mb/s speeds to the cabinet, then surely FTTC is a better mid-term solution as surely FTTH requires FTTC as well?

    If what I say is true, surely rolling out FTTC first and giving most of the population 50-100Mb/s speeds and then worrying about FTTH is the way to go. Forget what some "leaderboard" says.

    I could be chatting rubbish though, I know nothing about phone networks.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >not doing anything

    C'mon, are we really surprised by this?

  27. Buster

    I am on 39+ Meg copper from the cabinet and still get throttling of iPlayer etc. The installer said it could go to 80 as it stands. So my take is that BT do not have the capacity upstream to really deliver 40 Meg and that they want to retain the option of charging for the next increment in speed or use it for customer retention.

    Me, cynical.......

  28. Trustme


    Given the last article I read on The Reg about this I'm surprised to see that FTTH wasn't referred to as "Fibre To The Hedge"...

  29. groMMitt

    Fibre to Anything!

    As a confirmed Wood-cabling to the Exchange user, with a consistently huge speed of maybe 1.4mbps, I just wish BT would forget about glass and at least upgrade my line to String

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