back to article Really – 80% FTTP in UK by 2026? Woah, ambitious!

The government must create an “ambitious strategy” for the majority of the UK to have access to a fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) connections in the next 10 years and near universal coverage by 2030, the representative body for small "alternative network" providers. In its "Building Gigabit Britain" report today, the Independent …

  1. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Holmes

    Start by mandating that all new-builds must be provided FTTP, even if the local exchange isn't fibred up, and connect that fibre point up to the copper backhaul with some weird adaptor. Then mandate a threshold where the exchange is required to be upgraded to fibre backhaul. That will start things rolling.

    Then all you need is some policy that triggers the upgrade of an exchange and connected houses to fibre - whether the rural folk (with their current zippy 1mbps) will bleat loudest and therefore get it faster, or the urban folk (citing economic benefits), who knows, and who cares - as long as it all gets done.

    The only spanner in the works is the crap management/organisation at BT & Openreach.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      That new builds should be legally required to be FTTP is beyond obvious. I can't believe it's not currently the case.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        The same goes for Solar Panels (PV arrays)

        These should be made mandatory for all new builds.

        Is that a squadron of flying Pigs I hear nearby??????

        Effing planners. Couldn't plan their way out of a paper bag.

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: The same goes for Solar Panels (PV arrays)

          Hmm - if the govmt/utility companies pay for it, maybe, but would rather not have to add £10-20K cost to the roof when building a house, particularly if it's in shade.

          1. Oneman2Many

            Re: The same goes for Solar Panels (PV arrays)

            You can retro fit a 16 panel system for around 4 grand. If you did it at build time and in bulk the cost should be around 2 grand or so. In addition you could actually design houses to maximise benefits of solar panels (both power and heating) instead of trying to find good cases where to retro fit them.

        2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: The same goes for Solar Panels (PV arrays)

          With the aim of pricing people out of buying a new build, for no discernible benefit?

    2. Jan 0

      The only spanner?

      Considering the ludicrously low rate of new builds in the UK, isn't that another spanner?

      Also before we get too carried away with fibre to the home, how quick and cheap are repairs to accidentally cut fibres? (When a scaffolder snags my "wire" to the pole down the road, a repair is easy.)

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Some weird adapter?

      What's wrong with running copper alongside the fiber, and using it in the meantime? Though really, there's exactly ZERO point to having fiber running into the house. Run copper to the nearest corner, and interface with fiber there. Running fiber into every home just makes things cost more, because you will still have "some weird adapter" in every house to turn it back into copper.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Some weird adapter?

        >Running fiber into every home just makes things cost more, because you will still have "some weird adapter" in every house to turn it back into copper.

        Some weird adapter in the house like a router? That's what I use - quite handy, and didn't cost more at all.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          @JetSetJim

          You don't get that it costs a lot more to have a router with a fiber port, in addition to costing more to terminate that fiber port, do you?

          What's the point of the fiber? Copper can easily supply gigabit today - hell 10 gigabit if you used RG6 and DOCSIS 3.1 instead of GbE cat5. 10 gigabit ethernet will be cheap eventually.

          And as I always say, show me the possible use cases for having even a gigabit to the home? Even a dozen 4K video streams doesn't come close, and video is the densest sensory input we have. I always ask this question and no one has yet provided a single example. Why go to all the expense to provide fiber when there is ZERO chance there will ever be a use for more than 10 gigabits into the home (and that assumes we are never able to do better than that over copper, which we surely will)

      2. Napoleon Solo

        Re: Some weird adapter?

        What you have inside your house is up to you. I'd guess that anyone with any sense would plug a fast wireless router or ethernet switch directly into the fibre termination point to avoid unwanted bottlenecks.

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Start by mandating that all new-builds must be provided FTTP

      Openreach have been supplying cable with copper and fibre cores for some years now for use in new developments. I think the mandate isn't so much the need for a weird adaptor but to simply require those fibre cores to be connected between street cabinet and premises on largescale developments (ie. any development that requires the installation of new street cabinets). Then when the local exchange goes fibre, it is only necessary to run fibre from the exchange to the street cabinets.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        >Openreach have been supplying cable with copper and fibre cores for some years now for use in new developments. I think the mandate isn't so much the need for a weird adaptor but to simply require those fibre cores to be connected between street cabinet and premises on largescale developments (ie. any development that requires the installation of new street cabinets).

        As you say - only valid for developments where new cabs are being installed. These are not all that common except on the massive developments anyway - my last house was on a development of ~30 houses - no new cab for that, and only DSL (admittedly decent DSL, though). Then I built my own house, completed last year. BT (a) couldn't even organise the engineers to turn up to install the new line even with many months notice and the nearest terminator on a pole being a mere 20m from our front door, and (b) would have been hobbled by the local poles only having copper termination points. At no point did they mention the option of supplying combined fibre/copper, and it was not documented in their "developer guides" that they publish.

        Fortunately Gigaclear were deploying in the area and now I have shiny-fibre and no BT infrastructure. Cheaper running costs, and a higher bitrate. The only niggle I might have is that there are more unplanned outages than I've ever had on BT infrastructure (2 significant ones in a year, both reportedly due to non Gigaclear infrastructure falling over - which possibly highlights a lack of investment in redundancy of backbone links)

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    When a Telco installs fiber...

    When a copper twisted pair Telco rolls out a fiber optic network, they can start to offer 'Cable TV' service.

    Over their new network, they can offer modern telephone service, Internet service (even Gbps), and 'Cable TV' service.

    The new Triple-Play bundle brings increased cash flow, and prevents the coaxial cable Cable TV competitor from stealing all if their customers.

    I'm not sure if the UK situation is similar to North America, where the twisted pair Telco has to compete with the coaxial cable Cable TV company.

    Twisted pair is worse than coaxial cable, fiber optic is better. Telco can choose to remain worse, or leapfrog.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: When a Telco installs fiber...

      I'm not sure if the UK situation is similar to North America, where the twisted pair Telco has to compete with the coaxial cable Cable TV company.

      The UK situation is slightly different, ignoring quad-play bundling. We basically have Virgin, which is a co-ax Cable TV company with a growing fibre network and BT a twisted-pair Telco with a growing fibre network which is enabling it to offer 'Cable TV' services.

      However, we also have Sky, who are a satellite TV company and want to be in the fibre Cable TV business and TalkTalk who are a relatively new Telco who also want a slice of the fibre Cable TV action. The issue is that neither Sky or TalkTalk have their own network and to remain competitive against Virgin, are dependent upon BT delivering a fibre infrastructure; ... Hence why these two players are the leading lights in beating BT up, both to deliver FTTC/FTTP quicker and cheaper and to reduce the monies BT has to develop it's own 'Cable TV' offering...

      1. collinsl

        Re: When a Telco installs fiber...

        Interestingly TalkTalk do posess some backhaul cabling (see Andrews & Arnold the ISP's FAQ for more info) but nothing to any premesis (as far as I'm aware)

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: When a Telco installs fiber...

          @collinsl - I was applying a very broad brush, and focusing on the local loop more than backhaul and the odds 'n' sods they have picked up through acquisition.

          I find it interesting that Sky are most probably wanting BT to provide them with a FTTC/FTTP service, which enables Sky to compete with Virgin, without Sky incurring the capital costs of building a network and thus have lower costs... I wonder if the current Ofcom/Sky/TalkTalk love in should be investigated, as it might contravene state aid rules...

  3. Tezfair

    This can only mean one thing....

    Another 50p (or more) increase on the quarterly bill every 13 months to cover the Openreach costs.

  4. Chris Miller

    "have access to FTTP"

    What exactly does that mean? presumably it doesn't mean "having an FTTP connection" or that's what they'd say. I already have 'access' to FTTP - I'd just need to pay BT to string a fibre line from me to the exchange - it would only cost me a few grand. (I fully appreciate that not everyone has even this level of access.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "have access to FTTP"

      I think the "have access to FTTP" includes me. The telegraph pole outside my house now has a fiber manifold on it and from the BT website I see I could get BT Infinity 4 for a 300Mb/s connection. Unfortunately the cost is £52/month on top of the £19/month line rental and I just don't need the bandwidth as my ADSL+ that costs almost nothing on top of the line rental and runs at 13mb/s is adequate for everything I need.

      1. David Webb

        Re: "have access to FTTP"

        FTTP removes the "upto" part, if they say you can get 80, you can get 80, people on FTTC are on up to 80. You can then drop the phone line itself and go VOIP which will save you £8/month (or £19 if you go PAYG VOIP and use mobiles).

        The major problem with FTTP is the lack of consumer support, 3 or 4 ISP's support it on their back end with the rest saying you can't get fibre at all, which then brings in a lack of choice for providers. Having mass coverage is all well and good, if the ISP's supported FTTP, as is it you have the cheap Plusnet (who are quite good) or the rest who are expensive, and A&A who are really good and very expensive.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "have access to FTTP"

        So you're not prepared to pay for it and can easily do without it.

        How many other people are in this position. How many people without fast internet actually just need about 10Mbps.

        Without a foreseeable need for such speed it becomes more of a nice to have thing. Even as a futureproofing thing it is not critical, as we have seen it's not terribly difficult to go to FTTC from copper.

        It would be nice for more people to have access to helicopters but cost and need prohibit this for most people.

        I suspect mass backups to the cloud and more homeworking (are you listening Google and Yahoo?) will probably push along FTTP.

    2. Napoleon Solo

      Re: "have access to FTTP"

      I think means being able to buy an FTTP service in the same way that you or I can buy an ADSL service today. Or perhaps more accurately, a bit like how you or I could buy Virgin's cable service today, assuming their infrastructure passes your premises.

  5. Mark Allen
    Flame

    What about the 20%?

    This is getting ridiculous. What about getting that 20% group up to speed? It is too easy to flood a high density populated city with fibre and make easy profits. But there is zero incentive for Openreach and the rest of the to bring the countryside up to speed.

    I have clients in large towns that don't happen to be in a city. And they are suffering from 4Mbps and below. Try running a business on that kind of bandwidth - just a total headache.

    An example bad case I have is a client on the "wrong side" of a trading estate. At the North End there is fibre. But the Southern End is connected to a different exchange with no fibre available.... and he has ten people in the office trying to use a 4Mbps connection.

    BT are playing games with them as they are trying to get one of the business on the estate to stump up the £10K to get the exchange upgraded. (Or some other random cash figure)

    There needs to be something built in to these deals when a high density area is cabled up so of those cost savings should be used to fund the out of the way locations.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: What about the 20%?

      Gigaclear specialises in fibre-ing up rural communities. Admittedly they need a certain uptake to make money, but it's nowhere near "dense urban" in my village of <600. If they get sufficient uptake, though, they do run the fibre past every property there. So I happily enjoy 100mbps in both directions...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about the 20%?

      "This is getting ridiculous. What about getting that 20% group up to speed? It is too easy to flood a high density populated city with fibre and make easy profits. But there is zero incentive for Openreach and the rest of the to bring the countryside up to speed."

      It's a difficult economic problem. There's no answer that satisfies everyone.

      Rural deployment costs far more than urban deployment and there are less customers available per pound invested. Pricing FTTP in rural areas with a reasonable return on investment means that very few households will actually take up the service - making the investment problem even worse. Even in urban areas, most people who have the option of a premium broadband option don't take it. Most consumers choose solely on price.

      If the telco takes a long term view and accepts that repaying the investment might take 20 years or more and prices appropriately that causes a problem for other networks because they can't get close to the same price and be profitable. It looks to competitors like predatory pricing, which is illegal under the Competition Act. People will be upset if Openreach are instructed to deliver FTTP to rural areas but also to price it at £100 per month to give Virgin and others a chance to compete with their own networks.

      In a century we haven't found a way of economically delivering mains gas and sewers to most rural areas and that's a model in which there's no competition.

      TLDR: The cost of urban broadband deployment results in either pricing that customers won't pay or pricing that other network providers can't compete with. There's no current answer that resolves both problems.

      1. Napoleon Solo

        Re: What about the 20%?

        Take a look at http://b4rn.org.uk for an excellent example of how to do rural fibre cost effectively.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: Building regs need to be changed as well!

      > provide space in the home for 19" cabinet

      Is this sarcasm? Not sure of the need for this in a small terraced house, and it would probably be accounted for in larger mansions - I'd instead encourage architecture university courses to update their design rules to adequately provision houses for their expected occupancy and use.

      For example, from the ingress point of the broadband provision (fibre or copper), send the data-portion to a corner of the loft where a 4/8/16 port switch can be located, then Cat-6/7 to any relevant room (e.g. to where any TV is assumed to go, but you could well further future proof by running it to every plug socket). This will also require power to the loft, which is not that usual for new builds unless the purchaser requests it as an extra - equally not that difficult to retrofit as you can spur a low ampage socket off the lighting circuit.

      It would also be nice if a wifi-plan could be produced at design time to minimise the APs you might need to get decent coverage in your house.

      Internal BT-specified wiring is a bit redundant now, as you can either get an IP phone, or just DECT from the main socket.

  7. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    And of course to ensure customer choice INCA members will all agree to provide a wholesale service so that other Communication Providers can compete with the fibre owner and sell alternative services over it.

    Just like BT has to.

    This is a serious suggestion. If INCA really intends to move out of the niche market and compete nationally (especially if it expects to get government funding) it will have to provide a wholesale product. All CPs (including BT retail) will have to be given the opportunity to sell services over the fibre on a level playing field.

    I'm pretty sure that's what locked these altnets out of BDUK. It destroyed the RoI.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: altnet's providing a wholesale service.

      From when I looked at it, this in itself wasn't an issue. It was more that there was nothing in BDUK that placed any obligation on other operators to actually use our infrastructure rather than get BT (or other) to overbuild and thus destroy our RoI... Which really got to the fundamental flaw in the BDUK program; if the government seriously wanted private companies to deploy FTTP etc. as part of a national network then it is fairly obvious it had to define interconnect standards (interface and service-levels) so that households in my altnet area could subscribe to Sky and get service delivered over my FTTP network, rather than BT's sub-2mbps ADSL twisted-pair and Sky pay me for the usage of my infrastructure.

    2. Napoleon Solo

      From the INCA website: "The members of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA) are supporting, planning, building and operating sustainable, independent and interconnected networks that advance the economic and social development of the communities they serve and permit the provision of applications and services through open competition, innovation and diversity. They will work together to create cohesive interconnected next generation networks." Which sounds to me like open access networks in the way that you describe.

    3. collinsl

      On that note why not force VM to open up their co-ax as a wholesale network?

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Yes to VM. And it does sound like INCA would be happy to do that. I think what we want is all infrastructure providers offering a wholesale service. Open the market up properly like the National Grid does for power.

  8. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Shouldn't that be "ambiguous"?

    I'm sorry, I'm not a native speaker of English, but shouldn't that word be "ambiguous"?

    I mean they are talking about "FTTP". That could be anything from a bunch of dedicated fibres which can be patched to the "central office" to a passive fibre optic network which barely can handle cable television. It could also mean a data network which only allows for the services of the provider (thanks to non-existing or weak net neutrality) or simply fast unlimited Internet.

    FTTP means nearly nothing without going into the details.

  9. mazzy2u2

    Fuck BT

    I have had nothing but shit service from BT, I wanted Infinty looked on the useless BT checker and it said I could, so I ordered it. Turns out that I couldnt have it and the monumental fuck up that is BT began. First they cut off my line and when it was reconnected I lost my phone number, no biggie, not that bothered about. Then something that I was very bothered about, my old line could do 15-16 Meg a sec, quite respectable. The new one does 6-8 meg a second, so in one fell swoop I lose my number and have my broadband speed halved. Thanks.

    Complained to Ofcom, they said they dont deal with this. How fucking useless is Ofcom, they aint fit for fuck all. Made many many complaints to BT and was told they cant do anything for nothing, which I pointed out to the person on the end of the phone that they did do something for nothing and that was disconnect me for 2 weeks, lose my orignal phone number and halved my broadband speed all down the incorrect info on the BT website.

    I originally left BT for a lot less than this shit, but this is definitely the last time. I need my fucking head examining.

    So after all that heres my 2p worth, I wouldnt trust either BT, Openreach or Ofcom to keep to their pointless policies and let someone who doesnt think of money to do it.

    Why not create a not for profit foundation and lay the fibre opitic lines and then lease them out to whoever. Pie in the sky? Yes. will it ever happen? Not sure, just going to look out of the window to see if there are any flying piggies going by.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fuck BT

      "Why not create a not for profit foundation and lay the fibre opitic lines and then lease them out to whoever. Pie in the sky? Yes. will it ever happen? Not sure, just going to look out of the window to see if there are any flying piggies going by."

      Because it destroys the business of other companies - Colt, Virgin, Gigaclear.

      They build networks because they can make a profit and so investors will lend them money to do it, expecting a return. If a not-for-profit was set up and sold connections for a lower price, those companies that have invested go bust. The markets would be furious with a government that deliberately sent private companies to the wall.

      The not-for-profit would also have huge problems raising money - where's the return for investors? It would need to be publically funded, and then you might as well just nationalise Openreach. Unless you know of a 100,000 unemployed telecoms trained people the new foundation would employ the same people who work today at Openreach. The net result would be mostly the same organisation as Openreach but with less money to invest.

    2. Collector21

      Re: Fuck BT

      I totally agree and OFCOM are so useless it isn't even funny

      Getting away from BT and yet I have to spend £10 on 0844 numbers to get to even speak to BT. How pathetic and curse on them for all time.

  10. Adam 1 Silver badge

    good thinking on a FTA with Oz

    That way when you get your FTTP ramping up, we can trade you the ability to convert it to a FTTN cluster explicative which will cost just as much to build but run out of capacity at about the same time the build completes.

  11. Joseph Haig
    Coat

    *TP?

    Is it just me who saw the headline and thought this was a new network transfer protocol?

    (OK, the answer is probably 'yes')

    1. collinsl

      Re: *TP?

      Or Time Protocol?

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