back to article A UK-wide fibre broadband investment plan? Don't ask awkward questions

The pace of fibre broadband deployment in the UK remains a highly contentious issue. But the current lack of fibre isn't our biggest problem: it's the absence of any national strategy. To put our fibre-to-the-premise broadband infrastructure into international perspective, FTTP services are only available to two per cent of UK …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One thing I'm curious to know... with 5G supposedly a few years around the corner potentially offering gbps and Fibre somewhere over the hill...from a national strategy would it not be more cost effective to focus on getting quality reasonably priced 5G home broadband available to everyone rather than trying to get fibre cables into everyone's homes? Especially since 5G is almost guaranteed to happen in any case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But not everywhere

      There will still be millions of rural and semi-rural locations without 5G (I would be glad of a working 3G service a few miles outside of a major City).

    2. John Sager

      Radio spectrum at the useful frequencies is a finite resource, even with some of the clever coding and MIMO stuff that's in development. Within a fibre the available spectrum is orders of magnitude greater, so in the longer term, as data rate requirements grow, fibre will be essential, not just in the backbone as it mostly is now.

      It would be better if the comms infrastructure were classified more like roads & rail from a state aid perspective. I hesitate so suggest the network should be in public ownership as we would be likely back to the old days of "you'll get what you're given", but if the govt can spend all that taxpayers cash on HS2 without issues with Brussels, then why not also on a fibre broadband infrastructure at the network edges?

      Incidentally, where I live in a country village, I really do have to have what I'm given - no-one other than BT would look at provision locally and it's looking increasingly unlikely that we'll get a fibre cab close by, even with BDUK cash. Gigaclear would probably not consider it either, having looked at their website & the conditions they require.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't just need throughput though, I need transfer per unit time. Mobile always have horrific caps.

      Unlimited has two definitions, a marketing term (a lie) used by cheap ISPs which means super aggressive traffic shaping.

      And for high-end packages it means it's impossible to hit the "cap" given the available bandwidth.

      There's no way mobile will ever be able to offer that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's got to be easier to get 5G out to every rural location than to get a fibre cable there - but like fibre it would require some mandate to do it.

        The caps issue needs to be tackled in any case - if 4g/5g is ever going to be any use to anyone for more than reading the news. I don't believe that in 10 years time we'll still be limited to 20GB.... on an 'unlimited subscription'. There was an ArsTechnica article the other day stating Netflix now allows highest quality streaming to mobile - the consumers going to want that.

        Also sooner or later the mobile networks are going to want to take a slice of the home broadband pie surely? (Of course they're still currently slave to whoevers fibre networks beneath them at present) Does it need significant more investment - sure but so does laying fibre everywhere.

        I'm not sure I buy the radiowave limit either. Various reports are unsurprisingly showing mobile data is sky rocketing - many people use mobile data as their primary internet connection already. Various articles have indicated that 5G will allow everything from your toaster to your socks to be hooked up. It's not hard to imagine more data being mobile in the near future than non mobile based.

        So either 5g is up to the task or it isn't. If it isn't we need something that is...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "It's got to be easier to get 5G out to every rural location than to get a fibre cable there"

          It may be easier to get 5G there but it still doesn't provide the bandwidth.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > I'm not sure I buy the radiowave limit either.

          It's a physical property of radio waves propagating in air in the presence of noise. The physics part isn't up for argument.

          1. TheOtherHobbes
        3. Jon B

          Can have both FTTP and 4G home broadband

          Here in NZ we are in middle of the FTTP rollout, which seems to be progressing as well as it can be.

          Also excellent 4G coverage, including 700mhz for more rural areas, and we are starting to see the first offerings from the mobile companies for fixed home wireless broadband. Costs about 40quid for 80GB, it won't ever be unlimited though, which you can get for about same price on adsl, vdsl (FTTC already completed 5yrs ago) or fibre.

  2. Streaker

    Yawn

    Re-hashed Clickbait. Nothing New, move on.

    PS, while we are at it. Deafening silence from the other Non-Infrastructure companies. Sky, Voda and others want fibre, then build it yourselves chaps. You had as much chance at the BDUK money as BT did. I applaud GigaClear and others who have at least tackled something.

  3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    it amazes me..

    That countries like Malaysia have fibre to home as standard (I'm quite serious about this, my parents in law had it installed a few years ago to replace adsl, and I've seen it in some of the more remote towns and villages I've visited over the years) and yet we in the UK can't get our collective assess together to start the roll out properly. Even fibre to cabinet is a sticking plaster at best and even that isn't being rolled out very quickly to areas that would see the most benefit.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: it amazes me..

      Why should it amaze you? They've got half the population and hardly any legacy network.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: it amazes me..

        Quite so, Dan. The UK's problem is that (a) most people prefer to live in single household accommodation rather than giant blocks of apartments; and (b) dwellings typically last for many decades, if not centuries. New build (and new connections in general) should be fibre, of course, but that still means it takes a very long time to reach any significant proportion of the population with FTTP.

        Installing a new physical connection in 30 million or so homes is a non-trivial cost, and no-one can identify any significant benefit for a typical household. I get 75Mb down and 20Mb up with the last mile over copper, and I pay a small premium for the extra speed (I was previously getting 16+1). If someone wants to pay to install FTTP and give me 1Gb, I won't complain, but I can't think of a single reason why I'd pay an extra few quid a month for the ability to download a Linux distro in 30 seconds rather than 5 minutes (assuming I can find a public download service actually able to deliver effective gigabit speeds).

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: it amazes me..

          "I can't think of a single reason why I'd pay an extra few quid a month"

          And given the cost of retro-fitting a lot of premises it would likely be a lot more than a few quid a month.

        2. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: it amazes me..

          >I get 75Mb down and 20Mb up with the last mile over copper,

          Most people don't. Most people barely get 5Mb over copper.

          Which is a problem.

          If UK PLC can spend £75bn on a train set hardly anyone wants, why can't it spend £10bn wiring up the country so the Internet can get on with creating new business opportunities for everyone?

          1. Chris Miller

            @TheOtherHobbes

            I'm not sure what percentage can't get 10Mb over copper, but I'd be happy to see (say) 10Mb being made a 'universal' requirement and those that can't reach that speed should get fibre (there might need to be exceptions for those who choose to live 10 miles down a goat track in Sutherland). I really can't see what benefits would accrue from universal FTTH, although I entirely agree that UK governments (of all persuasions) find it all too easy to piss away billions on pointless vanity projects like HS2 (the 'benefits' for which would be even more severely undermined by universal high-speed broadband).

          2. AndrueC Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: it amazes me..

            Most people don't. Most people barely get 5Mb over copper.

            Not true.

            My first citation.

            My second citation.

            Almost everyone living in a town or city in the UK has access to FTTC and double-digit speeds. The number of people with nothing better than 5Mb/s available to them is going to be small. Probably less than 10% by now. Maybe less than 5%.

            You might also want to read this.

            A more accurate statement would be: 'A small number of people continue to struggle with single digit speeds'. Note the change from 'most' to 'a small number'. It's still an issue but we're more likely to get a resolution if we approach it from the right direction and don't completely ignore the progress that has been made over the last few years.

            1. MGJ

              Re: it amazes me..

              I live in central Edinburgh and I cannot get FTTC because cabinet 17 on the Morningside exchange is not upgraded and there are no plans from BT to do so. I could get Virgin to install cable, but that involves drilling holes in my house and running cables over my garden as well as losing my email address etc. I get about 7mbps down on a good day, with disconnections if it is windy or rainy.

          3. Steven Jones

            Re: it amazes me..

            Most people do get over 5mbs over copper. Even if it was "a problem" as you call it, over 90% (according to ThinkBroadband) have access to over >24mbps (and over 95% to >10mbps) if they want it. The footprint of the >24mbps part should get to about 97% once the full BDUK (including clawback/gainshare money is reinvested along with the efficiency savings).

            As to the estimate of 10mbps to dow 100% fibre, that's optimistic (to put it lightly). The BSG report estimate for an (almost) 100% coverage on fibre was up to £28bn (for a point-to-point, not GPON solution, the latter being rather cheaper). The York City Fibre trial is aiming at about £500 per premises passed (so excluding the final drop part). It the UK was all like that, then that would be £15bn before the final drop (which would push it to £18-20bn). Unfortunately, the UK is not all like York so the whole cost would be higher.

            http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7413-progress-of-superfast-broadband-roll-out-across-the-uk.html

        3. FlossyThePig
          Holmes

          Re: it amazes me..

          "I get 75Mb down and 20Mb up with the last mile over copper"

          Do tell me your secret. I can only get 10Mb down and 0.3Mb up on FTTC because I am a mile from the cabinet.

          As for 1Gb plus, who knows what may come in the next 20 years (8K video with no compression). How long ago were we all using 56K dialup?

      2. Oddlegs

        Re: it amazes me..

        Indeed. It's slight unfair to compare the UK to other countries in this respect. We've had fixed line telephones for coming up to 150 years! Many (most) other countries have never had a universally connected populace so when they have a choice now of rolling out fibre or nothing then it's a no-brainer. The UK's choice is between rolling out fibre at a massive cost or keeping it's copper based network. For most people VDSL/ADSL2 is 'good enough'. Very very few people would be willing to pay much of a premium for fibre broadband and certainly nowhere near enough to pay for the cost of rollout.

        In 10/20 years time that situation will probably change but who knows what copper based technologies will be available then. If wasn't that long ago that 56kb/s was considered the maximum bandwidth copper could support.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: it amazes me..

          For most people VDSL/ADSL2 is 'good enough'.

          Agreed.

          But you might be surprised that a significant minority cannot get it reliably, or at even a halfway acceptable speed. And I'm not talking about the Outer Hebrides or an off-grid farmhouse ten miles from anywhere. Someone I know, in a village five miles from the nearest town and 25 miles from Coventry, gets 2Mbps on a fine sunny day dropping to zero whenever it rains hard.

          Use the mobile network instead? Ha bloody ha. No signal. Not even 3G. Not on any network.

          BT/Openreach doesn't give a damn as long as it has a monopoly. It spends (wastes?) the money on installing fiber in places that already have cable, to give its competitor Virgin a hard time.

        2. SMabille
          Facepalm

          Re: it amazes me..

          Waouw...

          So Japan, Spain and Korea just discovered phone and skipped copper completely?

          They might not have waited 150 years before investing again... looks like the same apply to hospitals (lots of old "open plan" wards), trains (Diesel on main lines... HS2? Great but France got most main towns connected with HST since the 80's), ...

          ADSL/VDSL enough? Try to live on 10Mbps with a pair of children that are aware of what YouTube and Netflix are...

          1. Chris Miller

            Re: it amazes me..

            "Try to live on 10Mbps with a pair of children that are aware of what YouTube and Netflix are"

            And I should pay for your kids' YouTube usage because? You want >10Mb, you pay for it (I do).

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: it amazes me..

            Well in Spain the vast majority of people live in flats. FTTP gets you at least 10 households for each building, possibly 20 with newer buildings.

  4. jake Silver badge

    "it's the absence of any national strategy."

    It's actually the lack of clue-full professionals in the decision loop.

    Same ol' same ol'.

  5. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
    Meh

    It's just the how and when that's missing.

    How

    As slow and cheap as they can get away with, ideally someone else's money (milk the taxpayer teat) whilst avoiding anything vaguely difficult or giving poor ROI (dense inner cities, everything rural and/or remote) like the plague.

    When

    When they can be arsed. Or until the regulator grows a pair and forces the issue. So in both cases... never.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's just the how and when that's missing.

      Would you be prepared to pay realistic costs for your own installation? If not, who do expect to pay and why?

      1. Patrician

        Re: It's just the how and when that's missing.

        "Would you be prepared to pay realistic costs for your own installation? If not, who do expect to pay and why?"

        I would expect BT to pay for it out of their profits in the same way that any company invests in their infrastructure. When my company buy new servers for our email hosting we don't expect the government or the tax payer, or even the existing customers, to pay for that investment; we do it out of operating profits, expecting to be able to recover the costs by selling more accounts and increasing our customer base. Isn't that how businesses are generally accepted to operate?

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: It's just the how and when that's missing.

        Would you be prepared to pay realistic costs for your own installation? If not, who do expect to pay and why?

        I don't know why that got you a down vote so I have given you an upvote in the hope of evening things out a little. Quite why a statement of the obvious (or in fact numerous statements of the obvious) attracts such criticism escapes me.

      3. Da Weezil
        Mushroom

        Re: It's just the how and when that's missing.

        I expect them to invest the inflated voice line rental - that I have had to pay for years just to have a broadband service, as its clear they have spent nothing on the copper round here, more than one engineer has told me they cannot move my unstable line to another pair as there are no spare good pairs for broadband available - good luck to those buying the 25 new builds in the former orchard next to where I live now (almost the last patch of green in this town).

        Any other industry would see trading standards prosecuting for failure to use reasonable skill and care in provision of a service" Instead BT are allowed to fudge the issue while refusing to reinvest the payments they get for poor quality and sub standard infrastructure. It is unacceptable to see line speed estimates downgraded simply because of bad copper or even ally sections of wiring. Too often we pay first rate prices for second rate infrastructure, backed up with The "SFI" scam that beggars belief! BT Openreach is a de facto monopoly in many areas of the UK and dont they use that to their advantage!

        The copper needs to go and fibre laying to the premises in the same way that BT engineers have a new van every few years - the existing stuff is worn out and out of date. Replacing Infrastructure is a necessary cost of being in business, not an optional extra - this is a lesson BT need to be forced to take onboard. There is no point in replacing shagged out copper with other copper, and much of the copper is beyond help, its time to bite the bullet - weigh in the copper and remove the temptation for people to rip it out of the ground - and sort out a network fit for use in the long term.

      4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: It's just the how and when that's missing.

        I expect BT to invest in their own infrastructure, to modernise it as technology progresses rather than leave us languishing with infrastructure that may be 100 years old.

        I certainly expect them to have used the vast amount of public money they've received for broadband rollout to actually use in on that.

        Would I be prepared to pay? Yes, if they didn't take the piss and I actually got anything like the expected speeds afterward.

        There's fibre to the cabinet at the top of my street, maybe 100 yards away from my house.

        If I had to contribute say £100 towards the installation cost I would happily do that. But it's not even an option.

  6. hplasm Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Ban BT snouts from the public trough.

    Give the 'grants' (tax money) to someone who actually intends to spend it on infrastructure, not TV sport.

  7. Ashton Black

    Ahhh BT.

    In our little village in deepest Somerset, BT wanted, on top of any taxpayer cash given to it, £197,000 to connect us up to a fibre enabled cabinet. We're quite far from the nearest cabinet of any sort, to be fair. People in the village currently max out at about 1.7Mb. Wessex Internet have come along and offered to do a RF connection to their backbone. This would give us, each, about 30-50Mb with a low latency. They only required we pay £9000 in install costs, and set aside some land for the uplink, plus £25 per month per user. The setup cost is going to be covered by the Broadband Voucher Scheme from the "Connecting Devon and Somerset" council quango.

    BT can eff off.

    1. Missing Semicolon
      Mushroom

      Re: Ahhh BT.

      And then, just when Wessex Internet had spent the upfront money, BT will suddenly reclassify your village as "strategic" and install the fibre anyway.

      That's what happens to each and every local broadband initiative.

  8. IHateWearingATie

    Japan and Korea

    Korea and Japan have (or certainly did when I was looking at this a few years ago) exactly the same rural broadband problem we do. They had both have run significant amounts of fibre in their cities but they have a far denser housing stock, and a much much more liberal approach to overhead wire delivery than we do in the UK. People in UK cities hate overhead wires it seems.

    I'm not entirely convinced by the arguments for a blanket FTTH rollout given the large cost, but more importantly I haven't seen any detailed suggestions for a solution that would actually work commercially, given the need not to completely screw Virgin Media (who at their own cost have built a parallel network), not screw a load of the smaller local providers who are doing things and create a industry structure that works in the future.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Trollface

      This complicated, expensive, time-consuming problem MUST have a simple solution.

      But, waaa, I want faster broadband! And, waaa, it should be easy - it's just idiots laying cables! And, waaa, I want somebody else to pay! And, waaa, a commercial organisation shouldn't be maximising shareholder returns, they should be maximising my quality of porn!

      1. Missing Semicolon
        Thumb Down

        Re: This complicated, expensive, time-consuming problem MUST have a simple solution.

        ... and Waaa! I want an ex-public utility that acquired its infrastructure for basically free to stop acting like they built it all!

        Do you know that the value of the copper metal in the ground, as a raw material, was worth far more than BT was worth when it started? (Ibid)

        If you want to offer a broadband product to a customer, you have a choice of 1 supplier. OpenReach. So BT can exploit this as they have no market pressure - no other competitive business - forcing them to be "better than the other guy".

        This is why OpenReach needs splitting off. BT don't need to invest, as there's no buniess need. As a separate (regulated) company, OpenReach can be told to build whatever mioght be strategically good for UK PLC, rather than BT.

        1. IHateWearingATie
          Megaphone

          Re: This complicated, expensive, time-consuming problem MUST have a simple solution.

          "So BT can exploit this as they have no market pressure - no other competitive business"

          Erm, Virgin Media? They cover approx 50% of households and have a competitive offering with ALL the infrastructure funded themselves (either direct or through acquisition). Any split of OpenReach to a public utility has to consider the anti-competitive impact on Virgin Media or it will get flattened by the courts. I'm yet to see any sensible proposal that takes account of this.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK really should abandon hope for FTTP.

    Hell, we should just abandon hope for fiber...

    1. Tim Jenkins

      Nope, my hope is that OpenReach actually get around to terminating the fibreoptic they strung and pulled all over this bit of mid-Wales almost exactly one year ago. There's kilometres of their black-with-a-yellow-stripe visible, coiled up on poles, leaning against walls, hanging off broken brackets, left on drums by the roadside...

      £425 million public money, 1 tender from the ex-state monopoly supplier. What could go wrong?

      1. Richard 45

        Friend of mine in Leighton (near Welshpool) has decided to bite the bullet and get FTTP. He ordered it as soon as BT's website allowed.

        Richard (from Welshpool, and NPYBB)

      2. IHateWearingATie
        Headmaster

        Interesting side fact - the cable has a yellow stripe on it to show that it is a fibre and not copper cable. One of the main benefits for this is actually to reduce damage by the copper thieves, so that they don't needlessly wreck fibre cables that won't be any use to them anyway.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    'Dan Lewis, senior advisor on infrastructure at the Institute of Directors, says BT's recent FTTP investment plans were "profoundly underwhelming."'

    I wonder how many members of his institute would sanction their own businesses making investments that would be 'would be too costly and take decades to yield a return on investment.'

    It comes down to money and resources - which again comes down to money. Just how many people are available to do this?

    Rolling out FTTP to new Ps is one thing (and then finding that in some cases the occupants only want to pay for POTS) as the cost of the work to lay it will be comparable with laying copper which would have been done anyway. It's replacing the existing network that's extra and may well be more expensive than laying fibre through a building site.

    Looking at my own situation, the existing copper comes underground about 25 metres from the manhole of which about 10 metres has been covered in concrete post installation. It enters the house through a hole drilled though 2 foot thick concrete foundations. The access to that from the outset is part of the concrete cover and is capped off with stone flags. Even getting access to the inside of the foundations would take the best part of an hours work and the cost of making good the external access would be horrendous. Unless the original installation involved laying a duct through which fibre was blown this one house would be prohibitively expensive to retro-fit. Repeat that for every other house where post-installation driveways etc have covered up the original ground works. Unless the occupants would be prepared to pay for installation it simply isn't going to happen.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      >I wonder how many members of his institute would sanction their own businesses making investments that would be 'would be too costly and take decades to yield a return on investment.'

      But that way of looking at the problem is short-sighted and - frankly - stupid and wrong.

      Broadband is national infrastructure and generates a huge economic multiplier which goes far beyond a bump in household utility payments.

      Most infrastructure projects are costed with an explicit estimate of the economic multipliers they generate.

      This hasn't been done for broadband. At all.

      And that's frankly bonkers in a 21st century economy. It means that a lot of 21st century businesses - software development of all kinds, the creative industries, even some of the smaller investment services - can only do their jobs in those few parts of the UK that have decent infrastructure.

      Anyone who thinks broadband is a consumer issue is utterly missing the point. It's really about business infrastructure and the potential for data collection and automation across the entire economy - in addition to consumer use.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        All your points are valid. But why should a private company care about any of that?

  11. Tony S

    I'm sure that we had this exact same discussion in 2012; and in 2008; and in 2004 and in 2000.....

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I'm sure that we had this exact same discussion in 2012; and in 2008; and in 2004 and in 2000"

      Of course. The distances in rural Britain haven't changed. The ground hasn't got any easier to dig. And people who want the earth in bandwidth still expect someone else to pay for it.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Of course. The distances in rural Britain haven't changed. The ground hasn't got any easier to dig. And people who want the earth in bandwidth still expect someone else to pay for it.

        It's happened again; have another compensating upvote.

        From this and earlier threads on the same topic is is perfectly clear that there is a significant number of people who simply cannot (or will not) consider the economic realities of universal FTTP. The monthly costs of having FTTC at Maison Commswonk are becoming more than enough as it is, and I certainly wouldn't consider paying any more for more speed than I will ever need however it was provided.

      2. Locky

        Well you say that

        I once found my boradband had completly stopped working, no adsl signal on the line at all. After numerious calls to their hell desk, messing about with the master socket and pleading with it to be escollated, I finally got through to somone who would tell me the problem.

        "You're too far from the exchange" was the problem

        I'd been using this supplier for over 2 years with no connection issues. Clearly my house had jumped down the hill overnight

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: Well you say that

          Have you checked you don't live in a Baba Yaga hut?

  12. Kaltern

    I know I might be missing the point here, and if I am, I apologise. But TV fibre was laid down back in the 90's, and that worked fine from what I understand.

    It seems to be the main issue is BT just not wanting to separate telephony from internet services, which surely would be the obvious way forward.

    After all, if Nynex and C&W laid down all that fibre for Virgin to use a decade later, then it means it can be done.

    Of course, if the only thing that matters is profit, rather than improving the UK, then I guess we'll still be making phone calls using copper (or aluminium in some areas) cable, while the rest of the world are using quantum communication....

    1. Oddlegs

      I suggest you read up on your history. Nynex, C&W, NTL and just about all of the other cable providers went into massive debt to lay their fibre and all went bankrupt when the expected returns just didn't materialise. No one was going to pay a huge premium for cable TV/telephone when over-the-air TV and BT provided a decent, cheap alternative.

      Virgin cable only survive because they didn't have to pay for the cost of rollout. They picked up the bankrupt carcasses of everyone else who did. There's a reason Virgin haven't extended their network in any significant way in the last 20 years.

      1. Kaltern

        I'm not talking about the financial cost of laying that cable. It is true they sold off to each other, ending up with Virgin, but I'm not really talking about that.

        I'm talking about the fact it can be done, and should be done today, by a company who could easily swallow the bill - and why not have the guverm'nt help out with a few million?

        (The concept of the 'taxpayer' is a phrase which pisses me off no end because you personally do not actually pay any more from your wages than anyone else (so you don't notice the difference between paying for a much needed broadband infrastructure update, or paying for millions of pounds of wasted projects), and so bleating about how you shouldn't be paying for something for other people, is a ridiculous argument)

        The fact of the matter is, the current antiquated network is eventually going to fall over. You can only patch something up so many times before it begins to be economically pointless to repair. The problem I see right now, is that BT, being a private company, won't repair anything until they're forced to do so, because there is literally no other choice open to the UK, other than to bend over and take the copper.

        Until something is done to either force them to spend the money and sort this mess out, and separate telephony from data, then nothing will change. And the chances of that happening right now is zero - stuff 'works' and we're paying through the nose for it - so in Capitalist Britain, why should anything change?

        Oh and I personally think the 'expected returns' will be much more significant than 25 years ago. Other countries can do it, we have absolutely no excuse.

        1. Oddlegs

          If the expected returns are going to be 'significant' then why isn't Virgin or any other provider chomping at the bit to lay fibre. Despite appearances BT aren't stupid. If they thought there was money to be made in replacing copper cables they'd be doing it.

          The truth is that for the majority of people their current copper-based connections are 'good enough'. Certainly good enough to not be willing to pay much more for fibre. There will always be a small number of people (and links posted above show that this is a small number of people) who do have very low speeds but these are likely to be the most cost-prohibitive to lay fibre to anyway.

          Finally you mention 'paying through the nose' for broadband. As it happens the UK is pretty competitive for broadband prices compared to the rest of Europe (http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/10/mixed-uk-results-in-eu-study-of-broadband-speeds-price-and-coverage.html)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I'm talking about the fact it can be done, and should be done today, by a company who could easily swallow the bill "

          BT's profit this year was £3Bn. There are 25M homes in the UK. Let's ignore business, commercial and government premises for now.

          That's a profit of about £120 per home. The cost of FTTP around the world is averaging out at £2000, give or take. That's 17 year's profit. I don't think that equals 'easily swallow the bill'. Any business doing it would have to borrow money to do it. The first thing a potential investor will ask is "how much return will I make?" and the answer is "probably nothing".

          Where FTTC is available most people don't buy it. They'd rather have cheaper Internet than faster Internet. Who is going to lend BT - or anyone - money to roll out FTTP when it raises zero extra money. We haven't even begun to look at the interest cost of that loan.

          TLDR: Any business that tries a national rollout of FTTP will go bust.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The problem I see right now, is that BT, being a private company, won't repair anything until they're forced to do so, because there is literally no other choice open to the UK, other than to bend over and take the copper."

          Virgin's network reaches more than half of UK homes. The 4G mobile providers even more. There's plenty of choice.

      2. ZootCadillac
        WTF?

        I suggest you read up on your history also Oddlegs

        You are wrong. You are very wrong and when someone is wrong on the internet? Well, you know the drill.

        Most of the UK fibre network was installed by US company Nynex. I say most because there were some smaller, local players over the years but it was pretty much all handled by Nynex. They ran some cable TV plus dial up internet services and had a backbone to the US.

        In 1997, the UK assets of NYNEX were merged with the Cable & Wireless subsidiary Mercury Communications, cable operators Vidéotron and Bell Cablemedia, then renamed as the new company Cable & Wireless Communications. This company offered the UK its first alternative to BT for telephone services and continued to operate cable TV Services.

        C&W changed their business focus worldwide in 2000 and decided to pull out of the UK domestic market ( as well as the US corporate market) and sold their UK assets to NTL. They did little to no infrastructure expansion during their ownership.

        NTL ran in parts of the UK with Telewest being their only real competition. Some time around 2005 NTL had been running an ISP for Virgin ( Virgin.net) and bought that company out to begin their own ISP service. They also struck up talks for a merger with Telewest. That merger eventually went through in 2006 (top of my head here) but to prevent triggering a change of ownership clause with the BBC for services the smaller Telewest acquired NTL to become NTL:Telewest.

        In 2007 this company, now running Phone, cable TV and Internet purchased Virgin Mobile to become the first quadplay media business in the UK. At the same time NTL acquired a licence to use the Virgin brand name from Richard Branson in exchange for shareholdings. So NTL:Telewest was re-branded as Virginmedia but were exactly the same company as previously but now had a mobile phone network in their asset locker.

        NTL and later as virgin invested very heavily in infrastructure over the years regularly increasing their reach and are currently undergoing a £3Bn improvement to reach a further 4-5 million homes in the UK and improve speeds and services. Virgin's current lowest package available is 50mb/s with the highest being 200Mb/s. The 100 Mb/s package has been upgraded to 152Mb/s and unlike non-cable competitors those speeds are pretty accurate most of the time. All of this is with fibre to the cabinet and copper to the premises.

        So you see my incorrect friend nobody went bankrupt. Nobody paid for infrastructure that a later company benefited from because it was all bought and paid for. If companies have disappeared it is only through the normal business processes of acquisition and merger and in fact both NTL and Telewest exist today as Virginmedia because all they did was change their name.

        I hope that helps you brush up on your 'history'.

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "...the only thing that matters is profit..."

      Welcome to the future. Or the present, forever.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Kaltern

      "I know I might be missing the point here, and if I am, I apologise. But TV fibre was laid down back in the 90's, and that worked fine from what I understand."

      No, it was co-ax. It was only delivered to areas of high densirty housing. The companies that laid it all went bust.

      "It seems to be the main issue is BT just not wanting to separate telephony from internet services, which surely would be the obvious way forward."

      My understanding is that BT have requested Ofcom to change the rules so that they can deliver the voice USO over VoIP/SIP instead of copper PSTN. Today the rules prevent that.

      "Of course, if the only thing that matters is profit, rather than improving the UK, then I guess we'll still be making phone calls using copper (or aluminium in some areas) cable, while the rest of the world are using quantum communication...."

      BT is a PLC owned by shareholders. Those shareholders (mostly pension funds) expect a reliable, steady return. If the board decided to spend billions on infrastructure that raise no new revenue or profit, the shareholders would sack the board.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: @Kaltern @AC

        "I know I might be missing the point here, and if I am, I apologise. But TV fibre was laid down back in the 90's, and that worked fine from what I understand."

        No, it was co-ax. It was only delivered to areas of high densirty housing. The companies that laid it all went bust.

        Well from memory in the 90's (glass) fibre was primarily deployed in the backbone, in part due to it's very high termination and splitting costs compared to co-ax and twisted pair. Hence why the local distribution networks remained copper. I suspect we should be thankful that the UK cable TV networks were deployed some years prior to digital TV and IPTV and higher speeds over twisted pair otherwise the operators may have been tempted to make further savings and deploy twisted-pair...

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: @Kaltern @AC

        "It seems to be the main issue is BT just not wanting to separate telephony from internet services, which surely would be the obvious way forward."

        My understanding is that BT have requested Ofcom to change the rules so that they can deliver the voice USO over VoIP/SIP instead of copper PSTN. Today the rules prevent that.

        Agree, it is Ofcom who are preventing BT from turning off the old PSTN service, specifically the delivery of power, originally from the exchange, that enables (old fashioned/basic) home phones to be used during a power outage.

        Also we should not forget that BT's preferred deployment method to the home is to use a single cable containing both twisted pair and fibre cores. Hence regardless of which set of cores you are actually using, there is a common cable cost and hence service charge.

        Thinking about twisted pair, it is amusing to think that back in the mid to late 1980's no one really expected great speed from twisted pair and PSTN lines specifically. Hence if you wanted higher speeds in your WAN, it was going to be achieved through the use of co-ax or fibre; a situation that wasn't going to change until the arrival of ADSL in the mid to late 90's.

  13. Disgruntled of TW
    WTF?

    Denial of own figures

    Why does our Gubbermint ignore their own figures on ROI and benefits for infrastructure projects?

    HS2 is estimated by the DfT to deliver a benefit ratio of 2.3 to 1. For every £1 spent on HS2, it will return £2.30. The DfT paper is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/365065/S_A_1_Economic_case_0.pdf

    Right. Providing FTTP to the entire country is estimated to deliver an ROI of approximately £20 for every £1 spent. DCMS commissioned the report here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/257006/UK_Broadband_Impact_Study_-_Impact_Report_-_Nov_2013_-_Final.pdf

    Which project would you do?

    Is our gubbermint thick, or do they just ignore information they don't like, or doesn't fit their political agenda?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Denial of own figures

      Is our gubbermint thick, or do they just ignore information they don't like, or doesn't fit their political agenda?

      Yes.

  14. John Miles 1

    100 years old and still working

    So if some of the copper is 100 years old and still working whilst other copper is a few years old it looks like the newer stuff has a long life. Why would one pay a lot of money to replace a working resource with a new one?

    Fibre can make good sense for new build or for a new alternate network (and also for remote locations if only someone was willing to pay the huge installation cost). But there is no significant consumer NEED for 1 Gb to premises (bear in mind that the network backhaul from the combination of 100's of users in a small village may only use 1Gb).

    Whilst countries like Japan have much higher FTTP penetration their network usage (in terms of GB downloaded per month) is, surprisingly, much lower than the UK. It seems that UK BB lines at several 10's Mb are not an impediment to using the network.

  15. batfastad

    Do it. 20 years ago.

    Gov pays for it. BT (probably) builds it. Charge BT etc a nice lump to use it. Profit for the people!

    At the very least I'm amazed that there hasn't been some sort of rule that requires ducting and last mile infrastructure to be in place in new builds/estates for some years.

    With a two-party system where debate consists of childish bickering, you are never going to get a strategy for anything longer than 5 years in the future. With each government just trying to look busy for their term and hoping to not screw anything up too much so they get back in for another go at the buffet.

    Infrastructure investment appears to have fallen way behind other European nations consistently for at least 30 years... rail, road, air travel, energy, telecoms etc. At the risk of creating a new quango/buffet, maybe infrastructure decisions and strategy should be a separate commission, independent of political parties and their agendas. Might exist already, I don't know.

    What I do know is the sooner you have it, the sooner it pays for itself.

    Or just buy new shiny nuclear death weapons with our money instead. Fsckers.

  16. Infostack

    The answer is settlements

    We faced similar issues back in 1910 and failed to address them correctly. Until we fully grasp network effects we'll continue to fail at the challenge.

  17. Red Bren

    Minor correction

    If broadband – to use the cliche – really is the “fourth utility”, then surely it deserves to be built at extortionate cost using public funds by tax-evading consultancies, then flogged off at a loss to the government's rich donors, run into the ground and bought up by French and German state companies, who will charge UK customers an arm and a leg to subsidise better, cheaper services for their domestic markets.

  18. BurnT'offering

    This is the free market at work ...

    From Wikipedia - "The Uniform Penny Post was a component of the comprehensive reform of the Royal Mail, the UK's official postal service, that took place in the 19th century. The reforms were a government initiative to eradicate the abuse and corruption of the existing service. Under the reforms, the postal service became a government monopoly, but it also became more accessible to the British population at large through setting a charge of one penny for carriage and delivery between any two places in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland irrespective of distance."

    Nationalise OpenReach

    1. annodomini2
      Headmaster

      Re: This is the free market at work ...

      Re-nationalise OpenReach

      1. BurnT'offering

        Re: This is the free market at work ...

        Quite. If we called it the GPO, they wouldn't even have to re-brand the manhole covers in my street.

  19. batfastad

    Promises

    > "it had already promised to build FTTP lines for a large number of the one million new homes planned to be built by the end of this Parliament."

    Make a promise to a regulator on the back of a promise by the Government which they are never going to achieve. Genius!

  20. Nigel 11

    Do it yourself?

    Are we allowed to do it ourselves?

    A good while back I read about some guys who connected the Burning Man festival to the internet. They did it using firmware-modified commercial routers, commercial medium-high-gain antennas, NiMH batteries, solar panels and poles every few miles from civilisation to festival in the middle of a desert. Just erect a pole, strap a relay to top, point one antenna at the last pole and the other at where the next will be. They were self-configuring.

    I suspect that this would be illegal in the UK, even if all the relays were on private land. Unless somebody can assure me otherwise, in which case the above ought to be a business proposition. Yes, we'd need to add some weatherproofing, but in a lot of cases we could use a tree instead of a pole.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do it yourself?

      "I suspect that this would be illegal in the UK, even if all the relays were on private land. Unless somebody can assure me otherwise, in which case the above ought to be a business proposition. Yes, we'd need to add some weatherproofing, but in a lot of cases we could use a tree instead of a pole."

      It's not illegal at all. Anyone can start a telco or ISP or infrastructure company. There is no mandated monopoly.

      The problem you'll have is finding people to lend you the money and then not going bust. It's the scaling to tens of millions of properties you'll have trouble with.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FTTP available now in the UK

    1Gbit symmetric, no price premium, only one problem really...

    https://ultrafibreoptic.talktalk.co.uk/

  22. jake Silver badge

    I'm amused by most of the above angst ...

    Internet access itself is hardly a necessity for life. So-called broadband is a luxury on top of that. To suggest otherwise is roughly the same as saying owning an automobile[0] is a necessity, so everyone should drive top-of-the-line sports cars.

    I personally use a 9600 baud dial-up connection about 7 days a month (our place up in Fort Bragg is roughly 14 miles from the CO, and I hate Satellite connections). When it rains or is foggy, I'm lucky to see 4800, and 2400 is common[1]. About the only thing that I do differently up there than down here in Sonoma is my choice of Web browser. Up there, I use Lynx[2], down here I use Firefox. The end result is pretty much the same.

    Note that "Up there" is barely 200 miles, by road, from Silly Con Valley.

    [0] Substitute "personal form of transportation" if you prefer, and adjust.

    [1] Old cable plant and cracked, dusty wires make for a bad signal/noise ratio when wet.

    [2] There are other arguably better text-only browsers, but my fingers know Lynx. That'll happen to a guy when he's been using software for a decade and a half or so ...

  23. jackr

    BT/open reach should drop the G.Fast idea and only start phasing out the copper. It is long over due and they need to stop building and modernising the network. why not just jump to 1 gigabit to the premises. Why mess around with lower speeds? The government should allow international companies like google to come in and use all the existing poles and pipes to implement real fiber/FTTP. BT even sell their Fiber product as fiber but actually it is VDSL not fiber. I don't see why laying some fiber cable has to be so expensive either and I am sure people would be willing to pay a large setup cost if it meant gigabit speeds.

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