back to article Ireland looks like it's outpacing Britain in the superfast broadband rollout stakes

How do Blighty’s future broadband plans compare to its Irish neighbour, which arguably has its sights on a much more ambitious target than BT? The UK’s state-subsidised broadband deployment scheme ends next year, with the scheme on track to deliver “super fast” coverage to 95 per cent of Great Britain. Plans for connecting …

  1. Tony S

    "it is perhaps time the UK ... adopted its own national broadband plan.

    There have been repeated calls for this over the last 15-20 years. Every 2-3 years, we get yet another minister declare that it is necessary for the future of the UK economy; and they point to yet another country that has woken up to this, and is in the process of upgrading their own infrastructure to ensure that they are in a position to take advantage of opportunities. But somehow, it all fades away, and nothing happens to make any changes.

    It's not just the broadband, but other parts of the national infrastructure. Water, Gas, Roads, Rail, Air Transport, Power Generation, public services etc.etc. The money is there, but somehow always seems to be spent without actually delivering what is required now, let alone preparing for the future.

    1. T_o_u_f_ma_n

      Official announcement from the ministry of propa... communication

      Ironically it is always the ministry for communications which promises results within an aggressive 3-4 years time frame yet somehow always fail to deliver the 1st part of the program before said time frame has actually passed. No communication is ever issued when it is clear to all that the plan pathetically failed: the ministry of truth, more like. In Ireland, the former communication monstrosity responsible for delivering the infrastructure, Eircom, sat on its laurels for years ripping off customers with high prices for a rubbish connection (Euro 60 per month for a 2 Mb ADSL or ISDN download speed with mandatory landline back in 2005) while the competition was pushing for fiber and cable connections in the big cities. Sadly if it wasn't for NTL/Chorus/UPC/Virgin (whatever the heck they're called this month) and a couple of smaller ISP, even the greater Dublin or Cork areas would still cry for a decent 20Mb link for home customers.

      The UK needn't worry, your rankings are safe. Count on total inability to deliver on plan to mess this up and that's even before our politicians get involved with it.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Official announcement from the ministry of propa... communication

        "Ironically it is always the ministry for communications which promises results within an aggressive 3-4 years time frame yet somehow always fail to deliver the 1st part of the program before said time frame has actually passed."

        Govt gets into power. Spends a year blaming all the woes of the world on the previous Govt. (no matter if it was a different or the same party). Finally gets around to making what seem like concrete "promises" to "do something". This will take time. Usually about 3-4 years (sound familiar). The 3-4 years is spent on committee meetings and consultations and court cases challenging all aspects of any announced plans. Oops, time for a new election, all plans go on hold.

        Rinse and repeat indefinably. It's pretty amazing that *any* plans ever get implemented, let alone the few that actually complete successfully.

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Official announcement from the ministry of propa... communication

        It's propaganda.

        The NBS was supposed to bring Broadband to 10%, not one single broadband connection was delivered.

        Then the RBS was a failure, because it only offered Satellite.

        This plan was supposed to start years ago, they can't agree who is eligible.

        Meanwhile Siro and Eir compete with UPC (Virgin Cable) and there are fake claims of fibre that are just fibre to exchanges by Eir.

        Imagine's imaginary superfast fibre speed broadband isn't, it's Nomadic LTE on 3.6GHz.

        I'd not applaud until we see fibre rollout outside urban areas that often have 200Mbps HFC via cable (UPC /Liberty licensing the Virgin name in Ireland since they bought UK Virgin Media).

        Ireland outside cities compares very badly with BT's efforts in N.I., we'll see in 2020 if Rural Ireland has Broadband at all.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Both Spain and France have much higher FTTP penetration (the UK currently has just two per cent)

    That's an apples & oranges comparison, the demographics are very different. The "premises" in the UK is much more likely to be an individual house in the suburbs, whereas in France it will be a city-centre apartment block with dozens of homes fed from a single FTTP drop. I live in a house in France, I get 4Mbit/s DSL on a good day, and the guarantee of "superfast" broadband for everyone translates in this area to either a 20Mbit/s satellite downlink (shared by thousands of homes who all nominally have 20Mbit/s. The same 20Mbit/s, shared.) or wifi from access points on poles along the road at 50€/month. The loop to my house might be "superfast", but I'd be lucky to see better overall throughput than my DSL with either of those options. They both tick the propaganda boxes, though.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      France it will be a city-centre apartment block with dozens of homes fed from a single FTTP drop

      France has a relatively small urban population with only 4 large cities: Paris, Marseille, Lille and Toulouse. After that you're into what are essentially larger towns of which England alone has for more.

      In any case FTTP doesn't make much sense for large apartment blocks because the cabling in the building will also need replacing.

      While France was a laggard in broadband ten years ago, at some point the government took the decision both to force France Telecom to buildout the networks and to support unbundling. This has led to much better broadband provision in much of rural France: friends of mine in la France Profonde recently got upgraded to 50 MB/s. I think all the DSLAMS (cabinets) are now connected by fibre but the last mile is still likely to be copper. This obviously isn't the case everywhere, as you prove, but still pretty impressive. Especially in comparison with how little things have improved in the UK over the same time.

      However, I think the overall boost to an economy because of broadband can easily be overstated. Good connections to businesses and offices are important, but boosting residential speeds significantly only makes sense for VoD, which is hardly a GDP booster.

    2. Guus Leeuw

      Dear Sir,

      "in France it will be a city-centre apartment block"... Fibre to the home / premise isn't necessarily going to change that when compared to the UK / Republic of Ireland.

      The real difficulty is that in the UK / Republic of Ireland, there are certain regulations and general practises in place that determine that a lot of the FTTH/P are indeed going to single houses / families, not apartment buildings.

      But surely, there where apartment blocks are created, a loop into the block will then be shared by all people in that apartment building, I would reckon.

      Regards,

      Guus

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But surely, there where apartment blocks are created, a loop into the block will then be shared by all people in that apartment building, I would reckon.

        Of course, but it's one fibre to the building, then cat5 from the lobby to all the apartments. Instantly gives you several dozen homes supplied by "FTTP", with only one fibre. In the UK you'd need to run that fibre loop to every home, with all the digging and wayleaves that implies. It's just far easier to get a high percentage of FTTP when most of the population lives in apartments, even in small towns and villages.

        1. fibrefool

          apartment blocks

          the issue comes down to the in-building wiring. It may be that the BT DPs are hung off the outside of the building, so dropping a fibre into the basement isn't much use. In other cases the BT lines may be internal but will be a voice grade pair to each flat rather than a 4-pair Cat-5E cable so you'd be looking at G.Fast rather than Ethernet for the final drop.

  3. Elmer Phud

    Will they stop at the border and go "sorry, before Brexit we'd have just carried on but now . . . "

    1. joeW

      Actually we'd rather the border wasn't there at all, but you lads do seem to insist on it...

  4. Alan Bourke

    I don't think it's much different than the UK in totality.

    I live on a 10 year old estate and can get 1 Gbps, and most built-up areas can pull at least 20 Mbps these days. If you're well out in the sticks though it's a very different story and that doesn't strike me as much different from what I see in the UK.

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      Re: I don't think it's much different than the UK in totality.

      Fiber Optic cables can deliver Gbps up to 40km. These numbers based on Bell Canada's Fibe network. It's much cheaper and easier to overcome the "last 40km" problem ("last mile" puh!) with the latest FTTH technology. The 'distance' thing is slightly less an issue (compared to copper networks).

      .

      We live in the forest, on several acres. 300Mbps FTTH. The trucks installing the fiber were moving about walking pace. All passive, no need for power drops.

      Providing 500 TV channels 'Cable TV' is part of the financial equation.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: I don't think it's much different than the UK in totality.

        Quote

        Providing 500 TV channels 'Cable TV' is part of the financial equation.

        Do you actually think that having 500 channels of crap/reality crap/ and more crap sent to your home is a good thing?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I don't think it's much different than the UK in totality.

          "Do you actually think that having 500 channels of crap/reality crap/ and more crap sent to your home is a good thing?"

          There has to be a means in place to ensure that that dumb are kept dumb, TV is a wonderfull platform for ensuring this necessity. The last think that the Govt/Industry want is for the population to start thinking for itself.

          As an example, those on the other side of the pond have been kept dumb for many, many years, thanks to an endless choice of drivel. Although they also firmly believe that all the "choice" equates to freedom...

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: I don't think it's much different than the UK in totality.

          Do you actually think that having 500 channels of crap/reality crap/ and more crap sent to your home is a good thing?

          Who cares as long as the TV companies are helping to cover the costs? In reality nobody watches 500 channels (I'd be surprised if anyone watches more than 10 regularly) but people do like niche channels*. So, Jeffy gets to watch the channels about trolls living in the forest. And I get to watch bog-snorkelling and nose-picking championships and everybody is happy.

          *Well, this was the theory anyway back when cable companies could sell you 50 channels of stuff you're not interested in just so you can watch Saffers today. Unbundling will make things change a bit but could mean even more niche and fewer endless MoR repeats.

        3. Teiwaz

          Re: I don't think it's much different than the UK in totality.

          TV is mostly like the sewage system in reverse, the one flushes crap out of your house, the other beams it in.

  5. Novex

    IMO HS2 should be put on hold, and there should be a proper plan to put FTTP to all premises in the UK, regardless of where they are.

    Why?

    In the not so distant future, much of the world of work will be knowledge based, and won't need (or even be cost effective) to do in central offices. So getting the whole country hooked up to good quality fibre is pretty much essential.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Central offices

      Certainly, it doesn't seem cost effective to ship workers en masse into central offices in large, congested conurbations, especially for the workers who meet a lot of the cost (through fares and taxation).

      On the other hand, given the pressure on housing, I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect workers to provide their own permanent workspace - try that in a flatshare in London.

      The problem is not that we don't have a strategy for broadband, it's that we don't have a strategy for anything - economic development, housing, health, power, transport infrastructure: it's all ad hoc, reactive and hamstrung by political timidity. That's one area in which some other parts of Europe have got their act together - they seem to coordinate economic and social planning much better.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Central offices

        "try that in a flatshare in London."

        1. Why would you need to flat share in London if you can work from home. Move somewhere you can afford.

        2. If you do flat share in London, odds are the office is fairly close in time and cost terms anyway.

        1. Warm Braw Silver badge

          Re: Central offices

          Why would you need to flat share in London if you can work from home

          And where would "home" be? The housing stock in the country is already severely over-committed. Where are the London flatsharers supposed to move to? That's why it's about more than broadband policy.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Central offices

            "And where would "home" be? The housing stock in the country is already severely over-committed. Where are the London flatsharers supposed to move to? That's why it's about more than broadband policy."

            Anywhere outside of the SE. Housing is a bit of a problem in some parts of the country, but not as much as the media would have us believe. It would probably inflate house prices for the rest of us, but deflate SE and London house prices. The main issue seems to be long council housing waiting lists but Right To Buy caused that as it also made councils realise that building their own houses was now a non-starter too. Hence all the private landlords, housing associations and higher rent levels.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      In the not so distant future, much of the world of work will be knowledge based…

      Dream on. But if that is the case, then it will be mainly machines doing the work. In case you hadn't noticed: IT tends to concentrate in cities and is accompanied by an increase in travel elsewhere, not least because the business cycle has accelerated.

      It's usually wrong to play one thing off against another. HS2 is merely an expression of decades of underinvestment in the UK's rail network: all of it needs a lot of money spent on it. Sometimes this doesn't just mean replacing the track but adding capacity or choosing new routes. Historically the route of some of the train lines (and later the motorways) was chosen mainly for political reasons, of which the West Coast main line is probably the most glaring example.

  6. Adam Jarvis

    BT: Sit, Hands - carry on.

    BT: Real Fibre? Sit, Hands - carry on. Wait for desperate Gov to pay subsidies for 'upto' Ultrafast Broadband.

    Incompetent Gov pays BT to install Cul-Del-Sac technology G.fast, creates even more obfuscated, bamboozled (more of the same) 'up to' Ultrafast '300Mbps' (take that as 100Mbps if your lucky, given damp junction boxes, lines run in parallel, multiple users) speeds.

    All urbanised 'cherry picked' sites, that map 1:1 to BT's current legacy FTTC technology.

    BT (looking after BT), spends time and effort on researching Femtocell EE Mobile/Wifi Hybrid BTHomeHub type home/biz devices to 'exploit' said taxpaper rollout of Fibre/Ultrafast Broadband backhaul to charge mobile per MB rates (upto £7.50 for USA roamers) for data fed back on Gov/taxpayer installed subsidies lines.This embeds BT's incumbent position by preventing competition access to femtocell router shared Wifi/Mobile services.

    Sounds like a BT plan.

    What a fcuk up and long term mess we are heading for. Ofcom is useless.

    1. Adam Jarvis

      Re: BT: Sit, Hands - carry on.

      See post below, on how it ultimately pays BT handsomely, to restrict the rollout of True FTTP - Gbps speeds, to enable Product 'leveling' across their portfolio.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Why FTTP?

    Aren't we all supposed to be going wireless?

    Aren't fixed connections going the way of the Dodo?

    Part of the UK Telecoms industry wants this and another part would love for people to abandon wired connections.

    I'll leave the well infoemed elReg readers to fill in 'who is who' in the above statement.

    Having wireless (aka Microwave) links (even if it costs a bit) for people out in the sticks would be cheaper than making the 'burbs' FTTP. I would imagine that there are more 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' types out in the sticks than in the burbs.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Why FTTP?

      Aren't we all supposed to be going wireless?

      No. Next question.

      Wireless is good for somethings, bad for others. It uses more power per MB, cannot penetrate buildings effectively and has more problems with contention, which is a problem seeing as there is less bandwidth to go round in the first place. This is why the mobile networks ignore remote populations as much as the fixed line lot do.

      Dropping fibre to a village centre is pretty cheap. It's hooking everyone up to the trunk that's expensive. This is where you can indeed make use of wireless technologies to share the love, which is just what several villages have ended up doing.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Why FTTP?

        "Dropping fibre to a village centre is pretty cheap. It's hooking everyone up to the trunk that's expensive. This is where you can indeed make use of wireless technologies to share the love, which is just what several villages have ended up doing."

        Yep, just stick a transmitter on the top of the Maypole on the village green, job done :-)

        (maybe some repeaters for the more outlying farns too)

        1. bish

          Re: Why FTTP?

          I understand that you're being facetious, but not all rural areas are Trumpton. Oop North, I lived in an area North of Manchester, where a handful of small towns are connected by tiny clusters of houses and farms, scattered all about the hills, some (like the one I lived in) isolated by a good mile or so on all sides by dank, wet, miserable fields full of sheep. Given that BT still hasn't managed to install a landline that didn't sound like Bell himself might be on the other end (distant, crackly, muffled and with regular drop outs), one could understand their reluctance to invest any time or money in laying any cable where weather, fauna and farmers may damage it at a moment's notice.

          According to a friend who's still local (I'd say 'neighbour' but they were fully two miles away) one of the nearest clusters of houses now has a FTTC cab installed, but the hopes of bouncing any kind of wireless signal UP the hills to the farms above seems unlikely, even if they had a maypole (or church spire, or any of the other accoutrements of your picturesque fantasy rural hamlet). Oh, and there's (to the beat of my knowledge - not been back in half a year) neither 4 nor 3 G mobile signals up there. Which is a shame, because it (and many, many similar premises) could easily be converted into a rather splendid office, or at least be used to work from home. I moved in the end because 'working from the coffee shop in town 5 miles away' just isn't the same. They didn't take kindly to me sitting down in my underwear.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Why FTTP?

            "even if they had a maypole (or church spire, or any of the other accoutrements of your picturesque fantasy rural hamlet)."

            LOL, yes, that was the point of the joke icon. Large parts of my local area in Northumberland and Durham are just as you describe. I used to work for a company based few miles north of Manchester and travelled the regularly. (Foulridge still makes me smile when I see the signposts)

    2. tepescovir

      Re: Why FTTP?

      Because wireless is still way to slow and cant deal with things like trees and buildings in the way. It will be the future, but not yet.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Why FTTP?

        "It will be the future, but not yet."

        What will make it the future? Getting rid of the trees and buildings?

    3. Slx

      Re: Why FTTP?

      Wireless is fine in rural areas where you've tons of spectrum available due to low density. If you threw everyone in a city, or even medium sized town onto a wireless network for all of their broadband needs you would completely run out of radio spectrum and the whole thing would collapse in a heap.

      Mobile reception in cities essentially uses smaller and smaller cells to attempt to support more users simultaneously but it has its limits.

      Ideally we should be putting as much data into fixed line networks as possible and keeping radio spectrum for genuinely mobile service and rural services.

  8. Andrew Moore

    Fine if you are a farmer...

    Unfortunately the roll out seems to be more about getting fast internet out to the rural areas whil ignoring business areas in Dublin- We're limited to 1mbs here in the office in Dublin 22 with a telco that can't even give us an idea of if the line will ever be upgraded.

  9. werdsmith Silver badge

    30% of UK homes have access to Virgin SDH broadband cable, so that's almost 20 million people can have 150-200Mb/s right now.

    That's four Irelands already covered, not including the people on the BT fibre connections.

    I suggest that providing for the UK's 60+ million population is a different problem entirely than providing for Ireland 5 million, so I don't know why we would choose to compare.

    Germany and France are more relevant comparisons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      30% of the UK population, is not 30% of the UK landmass.

      Not sure it's best to equate landmass coverage to Virgin Media's coverage, given very concentrated pockets of coverage in mostly city centre/urban areas. 30% of the UK population might have access to VM, that 30% is not spread equally across Britain's landmass, i.e rural/remote areas.

      If you took Cities/urban areas out of the equation, VM fibre coverage would be practically zero, No?

      Maybe there are now a few rural 'pockets'/new towns covered, but its the exceptional still, rather than the norm.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      VM 150Mb+???? Ha-ha

      0% of UK homes have access to Virgin SDH broadband cable, so that's almost 20 million people can have 150-200Mb/s right now.

      If you live on a street that was 'cablelled up' by NTL and if most of the others are VM subscribers then these speeds are figures of someones imagination or a lot of waccy baccy. At best it is 30Mbit and that is on a good day at around 04:00.

      I don't even have that option because VM won't cable my place up as it was built on a vacant plot after NTL had done their (shoddy) work. I'm AC because I get VM letters almost every week and don't want to tempt fate and start to get phone calls as well.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: VM 150Mb+???? Ha-ha

        Why ha-ha ? In my experience VM delivers the speeds it promises, I've had no problem achieving 150Mb/s +. It is possible that the upstream service you are downloading from can't deliver or is throttled, but it will support several 30s at once no problem. Or maybe you have a 5shit WiFi router.

        And my original point is that rolling out to a 65 million population is a different proposition than rolling out to 5 million, regardless of landmass.

    3. Slx

      Virgin (UPC) pass 50.8% of Irish homes and provide 240Mbit/s as standard and 360Mbit/s as an add on. Their business connections are 400Mbit/s.

      Remember, Virgin Media in Ireland was Liberty Global (UPC) to begin with so deployed different infrastructure to Virgin Media in the UK and the cities have always had huge cable penetration going back to the 1960s. The rebrand was weird as Virgin Media UK.waa acquired by Liberty who then adopted the same branding in Ireland. So the networks are still quite technically different.

      The network widely supports 500Mbit/s they're just not rolling it out as Eir and Siro (fibre delivered via publicly owned electricity company ducts and/or clipped to overhead 230V/400V distribution wires) FTTH isn't eating into their cake just yet.

      Eir rolled out very extensive FTTC and sufficient spare fibre to every cabinet to rapidly deploy GPON FTTH.

      Eir (the main landline company) and anyone using OpenEir can provide "up to 100Mbit/s" vectored VDSL from every street cabinet right across the country.

      Imagine Communications are also doing an initial 70Mbit/s using fibre-to-the-tower TDD LTE Advanced in rural areas using 3500MHz recovered MMDS television spectrum and fixed roof antennae.

      Obviously you'll get the odd anomaly anywhere (I couldn't get anything other than bad quality ADSL2 in a street in North London) but in general the broadband situation in Ireland has vastly improved beyond recognition for most people

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why ?

    I have the cheapest available DSL where I live, which gives me 1.7 MB/s.

    I can download films 10 times faster than I can watch them.

    Does the average person *really* need 2MB/s, let alone GB/s ?

    1. Adam Jarvis

      Re: Why ?

      It pays to talk down the need for faster Gbps speeds and talk up the costs/work of installing true FTTP, because ultimately, it will pay BT handsomely, through both bamboozling/obfuscation / product 'leveling'.

      Well if your BT/EE plan is to install a mini mobile base station - EE Femtocell device in every home/(may end up been nearest telegraph Pole/Outside property) - charging per MB pricing, for mobile data sent back over taxpayer subsidised 'upto' FTTC Fibre. You really wouldn't want to offer blanket Gbps speeds over real/true FTTP because it would effect the revenue model for the recently merged EE.

      Why would you anyone use 3G/4G mobile for data (even sent back over your own backhaul) when your home fixed line Broadband is Gbps rather than a few Mbps, because how you use the internet would change very quickly, with Gbps speeds, as opposed to Mbps speeds.

      It was an absolute stupid technical decision by CMA/advised by Ofcom to allow the merger of BT/EE to form 'Sweetie' {nothing implied there between these three}

      It now ultimately pays BT/EE to restrict the rollout of true Fibre to the Home/Biz, because it levels the attainable 'upto' between the 3G/4G mobile / FTTC, where as true FTTP would create a massive obvious speed divide between the two technologies, making 3G mobile data almost obsolete overnight (if you have access to true Gbps FTTP).

  11. DanboMB

    It might come eventually...

    Here in Ireland I used to have max 28Kb on a modem until 2009. Then we 'jumped' to 5Mb/384Kb internet on ADSL1 for years. Now thanks to exchanges going to eVDSL, a bit of ADSL2+ kit has become spare and been fitted into rural exchanges. I'm now rocking 10Mb/1Mb and it's another world.... ;-)

    Have a look at this map. http://fibrerollout.ie/where-and-when/

    Everywhere with a blue line will get fibre by 2020 (they say). Those outside the blue lines will get 30Mbps min by 2022 by some means or other....

    Supposedly they will be stringing fibre cables along the road outside my house with up to 1Gb speeds by 2020. If it happens, it'll be akin to some sorta modern day miracle. Might build a shine out front...

  12. Ed Cooper

    It remains to be seen

    That spending thousands paying a farmer to dig up his fellow farmers land to run a fibre to another farmers property really provides any significant boost to the economy. Those people who need fast broadband to be productive have generally put themselves somewhere where they have access to it.

    If we want to subsidise something let's make it core infrastructure that affects everyone.

  13. Guus Leeuw

    Tips and corrections

    Dear Sir,

    correction: "Eircom" to be replaced by "eir".

    tip: Please make sure we do not have to employ my email infrastructure to tell you about corrections... Just create an online page here on TheRegister from where I (as a logged in user) can send tips / corrections...

    Regards,

    Guus

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Slx

    Bear in mind though Ireland has very scattered rural development patterns compared to the UK, certainly England anyway. The result is very, very low densities in rural areas rather than clustered into villages. That's always been massively problematic to serve with DSL.

    It's FAR, FAR more scattered than rural France or anywhere on the continent.

    The "Irish Dream" tends to be a sprawling bungalow on a huge site several KM away from any village, yet there's an expectation that it should be able to connect like central Dublin or Cork. You've also a history of ribbon development which is extremely hard to serve with technology that's designed for radial networks.

    I know Eir has always used very distributed equipment. For example even the voice network in rural areas going right back to the early 1980s was largely built around Alcatel 1000-E10 switches (and some Ericsson AXE). Recent iterations have allowed tiny remote units housed in street cabinets. Even moving the ADSL DSLAMs to those isn't much use if you're on a 4km copper line. Some of those units only have less than 100 active lines, yet are still classified as an "exchange".

    So you can see why parts of rural Ireland were challenging to connect to broadband using DSL technologies. That's why they're so keen to replace copper with FTTH and very heavily fibre backed LTE.

  15. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The original plan had been to begin procurement by the middle of 2016, bringing broadband to 85 per cent of premises by 2018 and 100 per cent by 2020. It has now been delayed until 2017, with talk now of all homes not having high-speed broadband until 2022."

    Tomorrow never comes.

  16. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Cu?

    If we can get telephone service to virtually everywhere, then it should be possible to simply replace the copper with fibre - it's been suggested before that you could probably pay for the entire operation by selling the copper.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Cu?

      it's been suggested before that you could probably pay for the entire operation by selling the copper.

      By whom? And what we they smoking at the time?

      When the telephone networks were built the cables were very much just laid in the earth or behind the plaster along with the rest of the wiring. This was expensive but okay, because the taxpayer was footing the bill. The switch to fibre came to most places after the telcos had been privatised. Digging up and replacing cables is bloody expensive (could be hundreds per metre on a suburban street) and can never be paid for by the copper recovered (currently around $ 4.50 / kg).

      What is supposed to happen with new building areas / renovation is that common cable tunnels are built for the relevant utilities. Maintenance should be a lot easier as well. But someone's still got to do all that expensive digging in the first place.

      1. Slx

        Re: Cu?

        I don't know about the UK, but in Ireland very, very little of the Irish phone network or the power network was 'direct buried' (i.e. just stuffed into the concrete / soil with armoured cables). The vast majority of it is in ducts, or where it's not in ducts, overhead. So, laying fibre in most cases is just a matter of pushing micro ducts through and then blowing the fibre down those to the end users.

        That's precisely what was done with the FTTC cabinet rollout, where the only major civil works involved in most cases were about getting 230V AC power to the cabinets from the nearest 'mini pillar' (ESB Networks connection point) and it's how they're extending that to full FTTH.

        Eir actually set out some pretty strict requirements for how phone lines would access homes quite a long time ago. It's always been ducted, but it's evolved over time so that maybe about 20 years ago they added an ECU (External Connection Unit) which is like a mini version of an electricity meter cabinet and ducting going back to the nearest vault or telephone pole with inspection access at the bends. This was specifically done to future-proof for fibre. It's completely overkill for a POTS line but it's very useful for fibre.

        Eir had a plan to either roll fibre, coax or just extra copper lines at some stage in the future, so they had a plan for this a long time ago, as they obviously knew this was around the corner eventually.

        The state-owned power utility ESB Networks also has some very strict requirements for provision of ducting and inspection points which has allowed for very easy rollout in areas that aren't absolutely ancient.

        ESB uses a very structured setup where you've a substation feeding 'mini-pillars', each of which feeds several homes. It's possible to quite easily push fibre through this and site splitters underground in the vaults.

        SIRO is their joint venture with Vodafone for FTTH. That's running fibre over ESB infrastructure to get into homes via the ducts, overhead wires and ultimately coming out at the meter cabinet on the side of the house and into an ONT.

        SIRO is also fully wholesale / open. So, it's got multiple ISPs using it. So far, just Vodafone and Digiweb but apparently Sky and several others may jump onboard too.

        If infrastructure in the UK is mostly direct buried, it could explain why it's proving more difficult to upgrade.

        --- How an Irish POTS line is installed --- :

        http://www.reci.ie/Portals/0/Documents/eircominterface.pdf

        ---- How to connect an Irish electricity customer ---:

        House:

        https://esbnetworks.ie/docs/default-source/publications/your-meter-cabinet.pdf?sfvrsn=6

        Full guidelines for a development:

        https://esbnetworks.ie/docs/default-source/publications/electrical-services-guidebook-for-housing-schemes.pdf?sfvrsn=4

        OpenEir also gives you a huge amount of information about their network and how it all works, what's available where, what they're planning and so on :

        http://www.openeir.ie/Our_Network/

        (Geeky I know, but this is a geeky site and I have no idea how this compares with the UK or elsewhere)

      2. Steven Jones

        Re: Cu?

        Yes, and it was Tim Worstall on this very site who made the idiotic claim that the copper in BT's network was worth about £50bn at the market rate for copper ingots. He even included the calculations. Sadly for him, there were laughable errors in the estimate (and would-be copper thieves) there were some elementary mistakes. First, he assumed that BT's network of 75m miles of cable was the length of 10 pair cable (when it's single pair). Secondly, in he used the weight per unit length of 10 pair cable which included all the insulation rather than just the copper. The upshot was that he over-estimated the amount of copper in BT's network by about 2,000%. That's without even taking into account the fact that scrap copper wrapped up in plastic insulation is a lot cheaper than pure copper ingots as it needs a lot of processing.

        In practice, some copper (especially that direct buried) would be a lot more expensive to recover than it was worth as scrap.

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/22/bt_copper_cable_theft/

        1. Slx

          Re: Cu?

          Not to mention that for the time being BT, like OpenEir is still required to maintain copper access for voice and certain legacy services. The line cards and network equipment may be located in a street cabinet rather than a big exchange, but it'll be a long time (if at all) before they start as actually pulling copper out of the ground, if the ever do.

          I could see a situation where they won't take new copper orders if fibre is in place though.

          We've already got a situation in Ireland where every VDSL2 modem / router rolled out for FTTC has a VoIP ATA built in. Notably, only Sky don't do this. The standard modem/router access gateway as from Eir, Vodafone, Digiweb etc all have two PSTN sockets and a built in ATA. The network manages the QoS for VoIP back to the soft switches so, it's more like cable telephony rather than over the top public internet VoIP.

          Vodafone (fixed line) began to default port voice service over to a managed VoIP platform and off the OpenEir POTS network, which is clearly more expensive. Digiweb seems to have offered VoIP as their primary PSTN product from the start of FTTC.

          To me, it looks like the Irish general plan would seem to be to radically shrink the legacy PSTN network over the next few yesrs, pushing as many lines over to SIP based VoIP as possible and then replacing dial-tone service with smaller VoIP based MSANs for the lines that remain in service. It's shrinking anyway due to migration to mobile and businesses moving SIP trunks, hosted PBX service etc etc ... But, I think they'll be giving it an extra push so it'll get to the stage that the only PSTN and ISDN still in service will be either very long, rural lines that don't support adequate VDSL, a few specials circumstances and absolute hold outs who don't have broadband.

          Cutting the whole PSTN over to VoIP cabinets

          Also copper multicore longer runs aren't generally replaced here anymore and haven't been for a long time. New housing developments, business parks and areas where multicore cables have had problems are usually served by a fibre-linked remote unit. You'll see a little group of cabinets containing an Alcatel or Ericsson voice / ISDN exchange, a cabinet with DSLAMs for ADSL /VDSL and then remote FTTC cabinets scattered around.

          Realistically though, I think copper is going to still be in active use for decades to come. It'll just fizzle out over time and more and more fibre will be deployed.

          The only logic I could see in removing old copper lines might be to free up duct space for more extensive fibre.

  17. Steve K Silver badge

    How are the target levels arrived at?

    How are the target speeds arrived at for universal provision?

    If you want everyone to stream 4K movies on demand then that's one thing, if you want everyone to have a stable connection for (say) email/online shopping/browsing/iPlayer then that's a different thing.

    Not wanting to fall foul of the "640K should be enough for anyone" kind of statements, it would be interesting to know what the use case is to back up 4Mbps/10 Mbps/30 Mbps etc. as a benchmark, as opposed to a guaranteed QoS/throughput but at a lower headline rate.

    Steve

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: How are the target levels arrived at?

      "Not wanting to fall foul of the "640K should be enough for anyone" kind of statements, it would be interesting to know what the use case is to back up 4Mbps/10 Mbps/30 Mbps etc. as a benchmark, as opposed to a guaranteed QoS/throughput but at a lower headline rate."

      You effectively answered you're own question in the last two words. "headline rate". Joe punter doesn't know about or understand QoS. Neither do the MPs, Ministers and civil servants involved. Bigger must be better, right? Improving or guaranteeing any level of QoS will just be mumbo jumbo to most when written down as a number. After all, if you've got access to a whole Gb/s of data coming into your house, what does QoS matter? Surely it'll all fit in that big fat pipe easily without any problems or congestion, right?

  18. JJKing
    Flame

    There are non so blind who cannot imagine the future.

    Does the average person *really* need 2MB/s, let alone GB/s ?

    Why, why, why does this short sighted argument always come up? Must have been the same during the steam age when the railways were initially constructed. "Why would we ever need a train line to run the length of the country to all those town? Oooo, at 30mph the forces will ripe your body to pieces. These horseless carriages will never catch on. What a crazy idea these new fangles flying machines are. Who needs a telephone in every house, absolutely absurd?"

    If 2mbps is really ought then great for you. Me, I want, require, need 10mbps minimum UPLOAD speeds. For some of my clients, 40 to 100mbps are needed to backup their data to the Cloud. Can't backup GBs of data with a 1mbps line, well you can but it takes a while and then your backups are out of date. I long for the day when there is 1GB up and down as a minimum.

    In the words of someone who had a better speech write than me and had the good sense to use the words of the great GBS, "Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” Imagine if it had been, "Some men see things as they are and say I don't see the need for anything faster or better."

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There are non so blind who cannot imagine the future.

      " For some of my clients, 40 to 100mbps are needed to backup their data to the Cloud."

      So basically you're saying that you think the tax-payer should subsidise your clients backups in the cloud rather than have them pay for the kit to backup on premises and store the backups off site. Or have I missed something?

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: There are non so blind who cannot imagine the future.

        The question is not whether there's a demand. The question is whether there's an economic level of demand. There are many, many things people and companies want, but there's a limit to what they are prepared to pay for it. A company can have pretty well whatever speed broadband it wants if its prepared to pay the price. Just because somebody wants gigabit level speeds to (say) £50 a month, it doesn't mean that there is a sufficiently big demand to make it worthwhile spending the £25bn or more required to reach (almost) 100% fibre coverage (even that expenditure will not reach everybody).

        It's about time people learned there's a difference between a demand and an economic market. Many people will be happy enough with a few tens of mbps and those that are prepared to pay extra could not be enough to pay for a comprehensive network uplift. Hence the current approach of incremental upgrades in the most cost-effective manner.

        The Australian NBN tied itself up in knots trying to deliver FTTP (and even then to nothing like 100%) and has had to cut back its aspiration such that it is now dominated by FTTC. That is with a budget which would equate, in UK terms, to around £45bn when adjusted for population.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There are non so blind who cannot imagine the future.

      I long for the day when there is 1GB up and down as a minimum.

      The logical equivalent to that argument is "why build 1- or 2-bed starter homes, since most people will eventually have a family. Builders should only ever build 4-bed homes, to be future-proofed."

      What, you don't want to pay for a 4-bed home when you only need 2? That's short-sighted, you should be planning ahead, the people who move in after you will probably want 4 beds, and if you won't pay for it, the taxpayer (which includes you) should pay.

      Sorry, doesn't work.

  19. Shane McCarrick

    Believe it when I see it

    While its interesting to see you look at Ireland's broadband plans- the one comment I would have to make- is I will believe it when I see it.........

    If an area is rural at all- it is probably going to end up relying on copper connections- and keep in mind much of rural Ireland's copper connections date back to early 1980s party lines.........

    I've too much experience of just how appalling some of our rural areas are (check my name on Facebook- you can find an abundance of Speedtest.net scores).

    I hope what you're suggesting about a 30mb bb connection becoming the norm in Ireland- comes to pass- however, as it stands- and as with a lot of the promises we've heard over these parts- most of us certainly aren't going to hold our breaths waiting for it........

  20. sonicwind

    Living in Ireland, I have 320MB/s broadband at €40 a month... its a real pain having to throttle downloading for some of my harddisk equipped PC's. First world problems and all..

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure, looks great until you learn this has been imminent since 2006....7..8..9..10..11.12.13.14 etc

    ....."the Irish government's National Broadband Plan intends to ensure that between 2017 and 2022, every address in Ireland will have at least 30Mbps broadband and be “future proofed”......

    ....."Currently 1.4m homes and businesses, some 60 per cent of premises across Ireland, can access high-speed broadband, according to incumbent telecoms operator Eircom.".....

    WTF??? With work I regularly move between Ireland and South America... The problem here is your sources, there's no independent vetting!!! Ireland's broadband is 3rd world. You can get faster speeds in rural Latin America...

  22. Slx

    I'm sitting in on the edge of Cork City with 360 Mbit/s

    You can get 1Gbit/s in some of Cork's suburban areas from Eir and from Siro in at least a couple of county towns.

    It's very hard to generalise about Irish broadband. It's very good if you're in a cabled area or on a phone line that's less than 1km from a street cabinet and basically every line is on one of those.

    You'll always get exceptionally broadband in some odd locations. It happens me in rural France and rural Massachusetts too.

    If you're on a rural long line, you shouldn't be using Eir at all. Check out fixed-wireless options like Imagine LTE.

    The issues are about density of housing and one-off-homes in the countryside.

    It's actually very easy to provide solid broadband in a small village. Throw in a couple or VDSL2 cabinets with vectoring enabled and link it back to the core network with fibre - everyone in the village has 100Gbit/s.

    Its exceptionally difficult when you scatter 100 homes across 20 square miles and connect them back with kms of copper to a tiny village exchange somewhere.

    You either have to replace copper with fibre or LTE radio signals to get any kind of solid services.

  23. ma1010
    FAIL

    Livin' in the USA

    Well, over here, we're so much better off screwed.

    I live in a large city in California, not the sticks. Some folks in urban areas here might be able to get high speed, but it's going to cost you a packet. Actually, there are people who live in a small town about 25 miles from here who have fiber to the premises, while where I live (did I mention it's in a fairly large city?), I can have high-cost, ZERO customer service-oriented Crapcast cable. Or I can have slow DSL from a small provider, which is what I have. It's slow, but it works, and on the rare (2 times in 6 years) occasions when there was a problem, it got fixed right away. Comcast? I've heard too many horror stories to want to open that Pandora's box. Fiber? Well, AT&T says they will provide it, but they lie. There is no fiber available where I live, nor do they have any plans to make it available. I did mention this is in the middle of a city, right?

    The real operating plan of our Data Oligopoly is to keep milking the consumers for the absolute maximum profits while providing the minimum (or less) service and zero customer support. Don't like it? Try one of the other members of the Oligopoly! They're totally different - well, at least they have a different name. Same business model.

    I say erin go braugh!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Livin' in the USA

      It sounds like a good line for Apple vs the EU: "We're not here for the lower taxes, we're here for the faster internet."

  24. Kev99 Silver badge

    There's something to be said about a government that kicks the telcos/ISPs in the jewels instead of kissing them when it comes to high-speed broadband. And Eire's service will still probably a fraction of what any ISP in the US would charge.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really Rural

    I live in Shetland. What is this Mbs of which you speak!?

  26. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    Well, with €13B Apple Tax coming in...

    Fiber To Every Last Wee Feisty Irish House.

    Guinness raised! Cheers!

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