back to article Openreach asks UK what it thinks about 10 million 'full fibre' connections

Openreach has launched a consultation seeking input from industry to create "full fibre" broadband in Blighty - part of its new cuddly, collaborative approach post legal separation from BT. Under its proposals, the body could roll out fibre to 10 million premises by 2025. Openreach under BT had committed to laying two million …

  1. Blotto Bronze badge

    At what cost to those that don't want fibre or are happy with adsl or just a phone line?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I couldn't say. If you're in a mobile-served area, then why even bother with a fixed line and crappy ADSL?

      Looking forward the better part of a decade, I don't think the minority of refuseniks should be a deciding factor in the decision to modernise the infrastructure.

      1. Oh Matron!

        Agreed. Was stood on top of Lanrigg Fell on sunday with full 3G good enough for video calls.

        Has been good enough in the past to work from home also.

        You don't want full fibre, move along please...

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge

          That's great news, considering that all I do from home is work, downloading the occasional spreadsheet.

          Oh, hang on...

        2. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          contention ratios

          Agreed. Was stood on top of Lanrigg Fell on sunday with full 3G good enough for video calls.

          Sure, when you are the only person doing it.

          Most of the time my 4G phone connection is faster than my FTTC line. In fact my kids don't bother with WiFi on their phones at all, they just use 4G.

          However. When BT/OpenRetch screw up the link and everyone in my area jumps onto their mobiles then the performance sucks big time. I don't know what the full bandwidth potential of a 3G or 4G cell is, but it isn't enough when a lot of people want to use it at the same time.

          1. Mad Mike

            Re: contention ratios

            @Dazed and Confused.

            The issue with 3G and 4G is just the same as for WiFi. At the end of the day, the available bandwidth must be shared by all users and as the user numbers climb, speeds slow or become unstable. The only answer is to open up more bandwidth to enable more channels etc. and therefore increase total bandwidth. This is one of the areas where a cable connection actually helps as you have dedicated capacity, at least until aggregation and uplinks come into play. However, fibre has a far greater capacity than other mediums and you can use DWDM etc. to increase that even further.

            1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

              Re: contention ratios

              Thanks Mad,

              What I had been musing on was what the total bandwidth of a 3G or 4G cell is, Speed testing my backup mobile hotspot I get about 35Mb/s, but when I do that it doesn't impact my kids streaming full HD video on their phones, neither does their activity impact my speed test, so I can see that the local 4G cell has a total bandwidth available of more than 35Mb/s, in fact I can test from both my phone and my hotspot at the same time, without them impacting each other.

              I just wasn't sure what the total bandwidth available is.

              > The only answer is to open up more bandwidth to enable more channels etc.

              I'm pretty sure that there just isn't enough spectrum to cope with all conceivable comms traffic unless we start using gamma rays and the like :-).

              As you say fibre gives you you're only private channel so that you don't need to compete with anyone else over that part of the link. Upstream then you'll be sharing bandwidth with others coming through the same bits of kit. Ultimately if you all want to hit the same website, then they might have a finite amount of bandwidth. There are always limits somewhere.

              1. Mad Mike

                Re: contention ratios

                @Dazed and Confused.

                I totally agree. The amount of spectrum available is limited and that was part of the reason for switching from analogue TV to digital. It freed up some spectrum for the government to sell!! Also, the frequency makes a difference to both speed and range. The higher the frequency, in general, the faster the speed, but the lower the range.

                Having your own physical connection, whether fibre or not, gives you dedicated capacity until the point at which they decide to consolidate it and introduce contention. But, that is controllable by the ISP.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        minority of refuseniks

        With fibre uptake < 20% of "homes passed" in many areas, why do you think it will be a minority? For the non-gamers, non-video streamers, ADSL gives perfectly acceptable performance.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          ADSL acceptable?

          If only - that would require web site to stop polluting their feeds with redundant shit because 'it works in the office'.

          El Reg with an addblocker is fine on 512k, BT.com needs 70M just to get to your account in less than half an hour so you can complain about how shit your service is.

        2. Mad Mike

          @Anonymous Coward.

          Absolutely. The uptake of the higher speed services is the minority (although increasing). You don't need fibre for video streaming either unless you want to run several streams at a time. Even 1080p only takes about 10Mb/s.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: WTF?

          For the non-gamers, non-video streamers, ADSL gives perfectly acceptable performance.

          Really?

          Are you 1000000000000% sure of that?

          Come to my place when it rains and see what happens the DSL speeds. (Drops to less than 256Kbits)

          Don't put all the blame on BT. They wanted to put a nice new green cabinet in but the NIMBYS complained so the council refused PP. Speaking to one BT bod who was working on the old cabinet a little while ago and he said that his job would probably go if everyone went FTTP as there would be far fewer faults in the bits of wet electric string between the exchange and the end user.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: re: WTF?

            Are you 1000000000000% sure of that?

            Yes.

            Come to my place when it rains and see what happens the DSL speeds. (Drops to less than 256Kbits)

            So you have a faulty line. I had the same issue, total dropout when it rained. I complained, they fixed it (took three attempts, admittedly). That has no bearing on whether you need FTTP speeds. Most people don't need them yet, and won't pay extra for them. By the time they do need that performance we may all be on 5G, so why waste taxpayers' money putting in today's technology where it isn't needed?

            1. Down not across Silver badge

              Re: re: WTF?

              By the time they do need that performance we may all be on 5G, so why waste taxpayers' money putting in today's technology where it isn't needed?

              And where do you think the backhaul for the 5G comes from?

              So not so much of a stretch to branch off from the cellsites.

          2. Mad Mike

            Re: re: WTF?

            "Come to my place when it rains and see what happens the DSL speeds. (Drops to less than 256Kbits)"

            What you're talking about here is faulty infrastructure. That's because of the age of the infrastructure in the UK and lack of investment over the years. In reality, Openreach should fix their infrastructure. There might come a time when replacement is the only solution and then yes, you install the best that is economically sensible. However, at the moment, the current infrastructure when working is capable of supporting the vast majority of users. If their network is broken, they should fix it rather than trying to sting the taxpayer and their customers to pay for an upgrade for Openreach.

            Anyone who's worked on fibre knows that it's a mixed blessing. Yes, you don't get the electrical problems, but you do get other problems instead. Also, as long as there are boxes in the street, you will get problems if for no other reason than vandalism etc. However, in reality, fibre becomes electricity at various places along the path anyway, so problems will persist.

            1. streaky Silver badge

              Re: re: WTF?

              What you're talking about here is faulty infrastructure

              That infrastructure is faulty because it's copper and nobody makes it any more. The way to get it upgraded is for the network to be upgraded and the only way to have that is to make it economically viable by, I don't know, rolling out FTTP/H.

              This nonsense is circular. I don't use 1gbps so lets stick with the gear we've got is why BT screwed up it's network activities in the first place. It went out its way to constrain the internet so it could constrain people to copper phone lines that don't need to exist because charging for line leasing is how it makes all its money.

              That all being said I don't trust OR *at all*, the 21cn debacle proves just how low they've sunk; the money they've been given by central government could pay for an 80% fftp rollout multiple times over. Government should stop giving them money and if they want customers in 20 years they should have to invest and upgrade their network to get them.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: re: WTF?

            The main benefit of fibre is that there is no point in stealing it to sell as scrap metal.

        4. Dave Bell

          I get enough from ADSL for video streaming and gaming, but I am living alone. When my brother visits, we have to be careful. There are some things emerging which would need more bandwidth than ADSL can provide, but whether they are even usable from the UK, because of the effects of ping time, I am not sure.

          The current fibre to the cabinet option is expensive, and I just cannot get reliable info on how much more bandwidth I would gain. If Openreach want people to buy into this, they're going to have to reach out and be more open.

      3. Cuddles Silver badge

        "Looking forward the better part of a decade"

        Indeed, this is the rather important part that all the people complaining that a 28.8 kb modem should be good enough for everyone seem to miss - we're not talking about what it's possible for many people to make do with now, we're talking about what will be needed decades into the future. It might be possible to get away with ADSL to stream fairly poor quality, low framerate 1080p video, but we're already at the point where 4K and higher framerates are becoming the norm. Is your ADSL still going to be good enough in 30 years? Unless you're the kind of person who still only has a black-and-white TV license for their 10" CRT dating back to the war, no, it really isn't.

        In addition, the complaints seem to avoid noting the difference between average and peak use. I'm perfectly capable of saturating my FTTC 60ish Mb connection for an hour just by downloading a single game on Steam. Even if I use no other internet for the rest of the week and so have very low average bandwidth use, I would still get a significant benefit from a faster connection. And what happens if I want to watch Netflix while I'm downloading it? What happens if I'm in a house with three other people also wanting to watch different things at the same time? ADSL might be OK for a single person who occasionally streams single programs and does little else on the internet, but the majority of people share their houses, and thus internet connections, with multiple other people who will frequently all want to engage in high-bandwidth activities at the same time. And despite the persistence of outdated stereotypes, the majority of people actually are gamers these days; Netflix and Youtube make up the majority of usage, but peak use will tend to come from downloading large files such as games - even mobile games can be 1 GB or more these days, while PC console games are much more and are only going to get bigger over the next couple of decades.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          what will be needed decades into the future

          Have you considered lending your crystal ball to OpenReach?

          30 years ago did the phone companies predict the web? The smartphone? Always-on wireless connectivity? What makes you think we'll still want or need fibre in 2050?

        2. Dave Bell

          Any download can saturate a connection while it is running, and one advantage of bittorrent is that is doesn't put all the load on one server. I used if for my last Linux upgrade. That tech has had options to limit download rates for years, and just being able to do that, not saturating the physical connection, would make a big difference. Why not run the download overnight? How many different huge files do you need to download now?

  2. LegalAlien

    Get on with it....

    Consultation response (even though I'm NFI'd as I'm not an ISP): get on with it. Make it faster and more widely available than all other European countries (or at least as fast!). If there's $1Bn for the DUP, and $100Bn for a bloody train, there should be several billions ($10Bn?) of public money for making the UK's connectivity network brilliant/future proof/fast.

  3. Disgruntled of TW
    Mushroom

    The "demand" is irrelevant

    It is the necessity of remaining competitive in markets where other countries have FTTP and have capabilities and opportunities that are being denied to us. Openreach's argument is old ... they have the monopoly and should be investing in UK Plc's future.

    It is plain dumb to think anything other than FTTP, and FULL FTTP, not some G.PON asynchronous pong, is what we need. BT unilaterally decided that we all wanted to suck FROM the internet and never send large amounts of data TO the internet. That was correct decades ago, and utter nonsense today.

    Bought a 16GB phone with a 4MP camera recently? Tried backing that up to "the cloud"? If you think you sent GBs to the cloud you are being lied to by your provider.

    Scrap HS2, and get the whole country FTTP. No brainer.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: The "demand" is irrelevant

      "BT unilaterally decided that we all wanted to suck FROM the internet and never send large amounts of data TO the internet."

      A cynic would suggest that they're trying to protect their leased line market...

      1. StephenD

        Optional

        You don't need to be a cynic to suggest that.

  4. John Sager

    Not here methinks

    I have, finally, just got on to FTTC, which took ages and rural broadband money to get the cabinet locally, then another several months to get moved off an EO line onto that cabinet, then a bit of intervention from my ISP to get Openreach's data in some semblance of accuracy before the order went through. Sadly, some more distant EO lines in our area will have to wait another 2 years, but then they get FTTP, apparently. I sincerely doubt they'll upgrade those of us where FTTC is available.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Not here methinks

      My dad passed away a few years ago and just after we sold his house we got an email from the neighbour letting us know the news about the small community there and informing us they'd got B4RN to help them fibre up. 1G each way! He was complaining he could only get 760MB when busy though.

      I'd like to do similar and was thinking of doing so when our local exchange went FTTC - it was two miles to my cabinet and we could have fed fibre with only a little digging along a few farms. The bastards de-cabinetted the cabinet and decided my cabinet was at the exchange 6 miles away and even now some of the older openretch engineers call the old one 'your cabinet'.

      What really gets my goat is BT had the capability to fibre up all the premises in the UK nearly 30 years ago for less than they spend maintaining copper but shelved it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not here methinks

        What really gets my goat is BT had the capability to fibre up all the premises in the UK nearly 30 years ago for less than they spend maintaining copper but shelved it.

        30 years ago my office installed fibre everywhere in the expectation that it would be required when we upgraded from 10baseT Ethernet. In fact we went to 100baseT and then GB Ethernet, over newly-installed Cat 6e twisted pair, because it was cheaper and more effective than installing fibre cards and switches. That fibre is today obsolete (single-mode) so all that "future-proofing investment" was wasted. Just as it would have been if BT had installed it country-wide.

        Every time I see people advocating spending billions on fibre everywhere so that it's there when we need it I think of the 19th century Canal Mania. Vast sums invested digging canals everywhere to carry all our goods faster than ever, and then someone invented railways...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not here methinks

        "What really gets my goat is BT had the capability to fibre up all the premises in the UK nearly 30 years ago for less than they spend maintaining copper but shelved it."

        You do realise, don't you, that BT were prevented by HMG from doing that. Instead the opportunity was given to the cable companies who cherry-picked what they considered the best areas. Even then they had trouble making money out of it, hence the consolidation.

  5. Michael B.

    I'll take a not so wild guess and say that those FTTP lines will be solely in those locations that already have VM cable installed.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Not quite. It'll also be any location where an MP has one of their houses.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Fortunately our village went FTTC some time ago. A friend living in an even more rural area is still on a very marginal ADSL. If FTTC doesn't get rolled out to him before OpenReach start cherry-picking areas for FTTP he's got no chance. That's going to be the real world trade-off.

    1. Jon B

      My parents, in a small North Wales village were connected to FTTP recently, after being on the end of a 5km ADSL line previously. It's great when I visited, and set them up so their phones were actually using it. Was built using funding from the EU though, so good luck for any other similar villages..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whenever BT talks about penetration I can only picture the customers walking like cowboys.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is currently just 2 per cent "full fibre" penetration in Blighty

    Is that, perhaps, because not many people have the option to use it?

    Or that it's too expensive? It should be cheaper to maintain in the long term.

    Or that G.PON is being offered and people want to be able to upload as well as download?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is currently just 2 per cent "full fibre" penetration in Blighty

      Or that you don't need it if all you do is send email & do your online shopping. Like most non-techy people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There is currently just 2 per cent "full fibre" penetration in Blighty

        How very 1990s of you. These days most non-techy people regularly stream video, and increasingly may even work from home via their internet connection. At least they do if they're lucky enough to have lines that can support these types of services.

        It doesn't serve anyone's interests to pretend that technology which all too often only delivers a few hundred kbps is still good enough for the average houshold. The days of high (and steadily increasing) bandwidth requirements being a niche for geeks only have gone for good.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There is currently just 2 per cent "full fibre" penetration in Blighty

          The days of high (and steadily increasing) bandwidth requirements being a niche for geeks only have gone for good.

          So why do only 15% of the people who can have fibre actually change to it?

  9. Mad Mike

    Why?

    Business users are different, as there is a clear need there. However, very few home users actually need full fibre, with the speeds to match. There are two major issues in the marketplace at the moment and they are availability and poor contention ratios. Everyone needs to be able to get a minimum speed of broadband, followed by the offered speeds actually being minimums rather than maximums and dropping substantially during contentious times of the day (evenings etc.), If they advertise 50Mb/s, it should be that as a minimum all the time.

    Very, very few domestic properties need speeds such as 100Mb/s and higher. Also, broadband is still predominantly download based and asynchronous connections are fine. Yes, a few want faster uplinks because of specific peculiarities, but there's not many. Certainly not enough to justify making that the norm.

    Let's get everyone on a minimum of 50Mb/s connection (regardless of contention) first before spending huge sums on going faster than that. However, if a few want more for specific reasons, they can of course, purchase it as a special and pay appropriately for it.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      if people aren't using the higher upload speeds then there's no downside ( on 100mb fibre ) to providing it.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Why?

        @disgustedoftunbridgewells.

        The downside is economic. The cost of installing synchronous connections whilst maintaining adequate download speeds goes up. Customers will then start complaining of the cost. The whole point of asynchronous is that it uses the available capacity within the wire in the best way. If the vast majority of dometic customers don't need massive uplinks, there's little economic point in providing it for everyone.

        1. Dave Bell

          Re: Why?

          I don't see any reason why there has to be a single choice of ratios. If I could trade a bit of download capacity for extra upload bandwidth, I'd be tempted.

          The current situation is like expecting everybody to drive an 850cc Mini. It could do a lot, more than you think, but sometimes I needed a Land Rover.

          When there is only one product, maybe with a bit of badge engineering, do you really have a market?

      2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Why?

        The downside is that any internet service you like could be downed by a very limited DDoS from muppets who can't use a home computer without installing everything that gets offered. (Sorry, didn't mean to be offensive to the fluffy creatures)

        A website with a full 1Gbps connection downed by just 20 home PCs? No thank you.

    2. simon_c

      Re: Why?

      I don't necessarily wants a fully symmetric 50Mbps service, but I'd really like an upload that doesn't start getting large ping times whenever I use half the advertised 3Mbps. Can't wait to "downgrade" back to an openreach FTTC 40/10 services from Virgin's 50/3 one.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Why?

        @simon_c.

        I think that supports my point. Let's not worry about 100Mb/s services until we can actually get the currently advertised services operating as advertised. If it says 50/3, it should operate at this speed all the time regardless of time of day etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why?

          Part of the problem with DSL and it's wonderful "up to" connection speeds is that you can't guarantee minimum speeds of 50 Mbps unless you've got recently installed copper and a short distance to your cabinet or exchange. This is inherent in the technology - the newer variants like G.Fast still only work on very short and decent quality lines so they only really give a boost to people who already have acceptable connectivity anyway. If you really want a universal service obligation of 50 Mbps for everyone then full fibre everywhere probably is the best path currently available to achieving it.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Why?

            "If you really want a universal service obligation of 50 Mbps for everyone then full fibre everywhere probably is the best path currently available to achieving it."

            Really?

            "My" cabinet is about 2 miles from the exchange. There are cabinets at a number of other points along the way where the copper comes in from side roads. So to get from the exchange to install a cabinet about 300 metres away from my house BT had to lay 2 miles of fibre. Myself and anyone else on those cabinets who wanted a faster connection could then have their copper links connected as and when they wanted it.

            If BT had started connecting FTTP to every house along the way, working up the side roads as they came to them that 2 miles would have been a tiny fraction of the whole. I can't even begin to guess at how much longer it would have taken. In fact, our exchange probably wouldn't have had fibre at all because they'd still have been at work on the exchanges that were higher up the list.

            It makes far more sense to get on with extending the coverage of the FTTC network than rolling out FTTP in the areas where there'll be RoI to support it and enough prospective customers who'll be prepared to pay for it.

  10. Mail_order_innit?

    27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

    Let us not forget that BT was working on fibre at Martlesham (Ipswich) back in the 1970's and 1980's... succesfully completing trials of FTTP that could be cheaper than copper.

    But hey ho, a politician starts to meddle, calls in anti-competitive, and in 1990's all that fun was stopped thanks to one Mrs Thatcher and some careful lobbying by corporations. However Korea (watching our technical prowess and bizarre political wranglings) did continue - look at the success they had.

    Calls for scrapping of HS2 (a vanity project to move politicians, lobbyists and such like around the country 15% quicker) seem quite reasonable idea, if we could put money into telecoms and enable proper virtual working with ZERO travel time.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

      If someone could have worked out a way of feeding 10km of fibre down a duct the cost of 2.4Gb end to end would have been less than £100!

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

        @Tom 7.

        They did, decades ago. It's no harder than feeding standard copper wire fown a duct. The issue is not everywhere uses ducts etc.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

          Mad Mike - not 10km of it in one go though - well not through existing ducting.

      2. AlbertH

        Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

        If someone could have worked out a way of feeding 10km of fibre down a duct

        They did - a long time ago. It's called "blown fibre" and the ducts have lots of smaller plastic sub-ducts within them. Fibre is added to the duct by blowing a puck attached to a drawstring down the duct with compressed air.

        I built a network of fibre like that over some tens of kilometres (for traffic monitoring CCTV). The plastic ductwork is cheap, can be "moled" in (no surface digging required) and provides capacity for literally thousands of fibres through a 10cm diameter duct.

    2. FlossyThePig

      Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

      ...was stopped thanks to one Mrs Thatcher and some careful lobbying by corporations...

      The story I heard was slightly different.

      At the time there was a push for competition with rival telephone companies and cable TV operations starting up. MrsT's argument was that fibre would make BT an "entertainment" company rather than "telecommunications" which they were at the time.

      Remember this was before www (it might have been used at CERN) and the internet was only used by academia and military.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

        MrsT's argument was that fibre would make BT an "entertainment" company rather than "telecommunications" which they were at the time.

        No, it was that allowing BT to provide TV over fibre woiuld have given them an unfair advantage in the market since they already had huge amounts of underground plant (ducts etc.) in place. They were therefore blocked from offering entertainment services (the "triple play") until the other new companies had got a decent foothold in the market. That, of course, never really happened. Anyone remember Mercury phones?

        I worked for BT at the time. We were not happy.

    3. AlbertH

      Re: 27 years too late, after Thatcher killed it

      Small point of order:

      Thatcher had nothing to do with stopping the FTTP roll-out. That happened in the first years of the Blair Reign Of Terror, because Blair's pet companies (like NTL and Telewest) couldn't compete with BT - not because of cost, but because of fundamental ineptitude.

      Amalgamating all cable TV services in the UK into one company was just one step away from Nationalising it, which Gordon Brown proposed a few years later.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How can you tell Openreach is lying...

    ...their mouth is moving.

  12. Lorribot

    They would be better spending (investing) the money on 2 million more green cabinets for the benefit of those of use who live miles from their current one, it would benefit far more than the 10 m premises and also would increase capacity on the network. if 80% of the population were withing 100 meters of their Green box most could easily run up to 1Gb with fibre to the prem, that should be reserved for those in very rural areas or really need a full 1-10Gb connection.

  13. mkdonspaul

    It's a no brainer

    I'll have fibre to my house please...yes I have FTTC 68/19 at the moment, but as Virgin Media aren't here in Milton Keynes, Openreach - give me fibre, not just to the cabinet, but to my house..and the fastest possible.

    We should be striving to have the fastest possible network here in the UK, people who say "oh adsl is fine", come on...it's not 2001 still.

    We shouldn't be ashamed of building infrastructure, it really annoys me, where it be road, rail, broadband...let's do it now, build a fibre network for the now and the future rather than continue to try and sweat out as much as possible from the copper from the cab to your house...

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