back to article UK.gov flings £400m at gold standard, ‘full-fibre' b*&%*%£$%. Yep. Broadband

The government is to release £400m towards full-fibre broadband in its Autumn Statement tomorrow, part of its Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund. The cash is to be matched by private finance, and will amount to a total cash pot of £800m. In a press release the government described it as "gold standard ‘full-fibre’ …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    £400m? That's a long way shy of what's needed.

    As for 'gold standard full-fibre'..hmmm. For me that would be end-to-end single fibre cable and I don't think anyone is installing that except for leased lines. Most people seem to favour TPON. Still a lot better than coax or twisted pair but not 'gold standard'.

    And I'm never particularly happy when the government gets involved in large projects. It usually means poorly organised, expensive and badly scheduled.

    Still I suppose it's something and at least it's sending a signal. We also don't have enough engineers for a massive roll-out anyway so perhaps £400m will feel like a lot :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >It usually means poorly organised, expensive and badly scheduled.

      You forgot something......

      and doesn't work.

      Meanwhile MP's friends (cough) trouser the cash.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Meanwhile MP's friends (cough) trouser the cash.

        Exactly what I was thinking ... set up a bunch of small ISP's to take the subsidies and lay some fibre so that they can later be bought out by BT/Liberty/Whoever ... not only do they get paid to lay the fibre, but sell on the operation at a profit.

        We call that a win-win down here at the trough!

        1. SVV

          Re: Meanwhile MP's friends (cough) trouser the cash.

          "The cash is to be matched by private finance, and will amount to a total cash pot of £800m"

          So, logically the profits made by the private companies will be shared - 50% to the private companies and 50% to the government? After all, if I invest 50% of the cash into a business I would expect 50% of the shares and 50% of the profits.

          Or is this once again taxpayers' money being shovelled into the pockets of commercial companies in the name of the "free market"?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Meanwhile MP's friends (cough) trouser the cash.

            "So, logically the profits made by the private companies will be shared - 50% to the private companies and 50% to the government?"

            It's a little more complex than that. Investing in infrastructure has more wide ranging benefits to the country as a whole other than any direct profit from the initial investment. It's a bit like commercial entities seeing warranty support as a cost centre when the reality is that a good warranty support brings in more customers, hence more sales and hence more profits.

  2. HmmmYes

    Open up bidding.

    Ban BT from it. Theyve demonstratred they are not competent

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Not competent?

      When it comes to reaching remote dwellngs with fibre I think I'd have more confidence in Openreach than Talk Talk or Virgin

      In our patch of rural Wales you can't move for Openreach vans and bods stringing fibre. Yes, it's taken time, but they're getting there.

      One thing I'm curious about though is the cost. Govt Minister says he wants full-fat capable of up to 1Gbps - but how much will the subscriber pay. I'll be on FTTP (330Mbps?) in a couple of months and it's all a bit vague how much that will cost. One version suggests about £150 a month (forget it) another that it's the same price as basic FTTC fibre, because it just works at max speed regardless. 1Gbps sounds great, but not if it costs £500/month! All very confusing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not competent?

        Well, B4RN (rural) are charging £30 a month for unlimited 1Gbps up and down. No BT line required either.

        They are, however, a not-for-profit, community run project. I consider them the "gold standard" ;-)

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Not competent?

          B4RN are very good at what they do yes. Unfortunately I'm not sure how well that operation can continue to scale and I don't see it working in an urban environment at all. There's only so far you can get on good will and free labour. You try laying fibre in an urban environment and see how far asking nicely gets you ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not competent?

        Totally agree with you about Virgin-Liberty Media.

        Here I am less than 15 miles from the old NTL HQ in Hook and the VM cable was laid before my house was built. Mine pad is an 'in-fill' house and VM say 'yes you can have our cable'. Well they should, the rest of the street have it and the cable runs past the end of my drive.

        The VM engineer turns up and after scratching his head he goes away again.

        They need to dig up the road, find the VM cable (COAX) and add a connector. They simply won't do this.

        Ofcom are total W*****s.

        So I am limited to a service with BT supplying the last mile or as in my case, the last 100 yards from the BT green box

        The last OR engineer(sic) I spoke to said that because of the high density of VM subscribers my 'BT Green Box' is not scheduled to get Fibre this side ot 2020. I can fully understand that reasoning from an economics/ROCI point of view. Personally, it sucks...

        Catch-22 at work again.

        1. Thomas Kenyon

          Re: Not competent?

          Some Virgin media installers have historically allowed customers to share a neighbour's drop where there isn't one for their premises.

          I don't know if this is now frowned upon.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not competent?

        Pen-y-gors,

        Don't assume its all Fibre being installed by Openreach. A lot of work recently has been upgrading 0.5mm Copper to 0.9mm Copper to 'just' meet the Superfast Broadband targets for longer lines.

        And that's the problem:

        The Welsh Superfast Broadband contract was about using taxpayer funding for 'Fibre Superfast Broadband', yet quite a bit of what has occurred is improving the copper side of things, to transmit FTTC at slightly higher/longer distances by using 0.9mm copper, rather than 0.5mm copper to 'just' meet the contract threshold, BT (deliberately) never aiming to exceed anything (in terms of targets).

        As taxpayers, we think we're paying for Fibre rollout, yet at times, we're really getting (got) more copper. Longer lines/New installations in Wales are still Copper. That needs to change.

        BT are effectively sitting on their hands, waiting for further handouts for Pointless G.fast. It's obsolete before its even out of trial, and rurally, its as costly as Passive FTTP to achieve blanket coverage, because devices need to be carpet bombed each requires a decent smoothed Power source.

        This is a signal to BT, get off your backside, move aside. Copper is a dead carcass, we're (the Gov) side-stepping you.

        First intelligent decision by this Government, now for Openreach to be truely split, taking on responsibility for Operator virtualisation of (rural) Mobile masts wouldn't be a bad move too.

        Let's hope B4RN is open to letting their model be the basis of further rollouts across the UK, because its a true success story, and should be copied. We really need to make sure this money doesn't go on highly paid people that talk the talk, but instead of physically putting cables in the ground. There has been far too much paid 'analysis'.

        Crucially, this needs the public to be involved (if you really want true-Fibre having the public onside, helping with rollout, reduces costs immensely. Rallying local support is crucial.

        The ones most keen to help should be rewarded first - make it a competition, but base the final winning roll outs on tried and tested B4RN methods), co-ordination is key, so that access to streets at time are upgraded, not house by house.

        Hopefully these funds can produce 'best in class' approach to rolling out true Fibre to as many people as possible, but crucially lay the cables, even loosely unprotected across fields, ditches, riverbeds if necessary - use the revenue gained, to then go back and install these protectively, over time. This should be about laying Fibre, not money spent, talking about laying Fibre.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Not competent?

          Let's hope B4RN is open to letting their model be the basis of further rollouts across the UK, because its a true success story, and should be copied.

          It can't be. I'm not trying to be argumentative here but B4RN relies on some things that are simply not possible nationally, especially not in an urban environment which is where most of the UK population live.

          * Free wayleave access.

          * Free labour (farmers and even residents digging trenches in their own time at their own expense).

          * Absence of any meaningful alternative.

          If you're trying to connect Bob, Old McDonald and Little Piddling Upon-the-Marsh it's pretty easy to arrange a meeting in the village hall. Everyone agrees that it'll be a great event. They can even have a community BBQ afterwards and roast a hog. Bob and OMD will bring their tractors. Great fun for all the family.

          That kind of thing is cute and warms the heart. Sadly it doesn't translate too well to Tower Hamlets :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not competent?

            @AndruC

            Why cant it work in Tower Hamlets?? Here's how I envisage it working. Local yoofs & gang bangers go and nick the diggers, pipework etc, local Eastern europe residents provides the labour to dig up the roads & pull the cables, local criminal element provides "security" to manage night time traffic around the unscheduled road works and "manage" the business going forward. "Guy in pub" selling loaded Kodi boxes sees business go through the roof now everyone has super fast interwebs. Local fraudsters cash in from falling down unknown holes in roads & pavements. And once it's done there's a massive rave in an abandoned BT exchange with complementary coke & weed to celebrate a job well done. Everyone's a winner !! :)

            1. John H Woods

              Re: Not competent?

              "Why cant it work in Tower Hamlets?? Here's how I envisage it working. Local yoofs & gang bangers go and nick the diggers ... " --- AC

              ^^^ COTW

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not competent?

            Tower Hamlets is probably more to with BT protecting their lease line commercial business, by failing to upgrade cabinets (with a high number of commercial {leased} lines). BT don't have one singular approach to the UK, so why comment regards B4RN, as this is somehow a singular homogeneous 'perfect' approach, when the comment was clearly not meant that way.

            The B4RN model about getting communities that can, actively interested in the type of Broadband they can achieve using community effort, using FTTP as the preferred model.

            There are plenty of places requiring better Broadband in the UK where the B4RN model does work, and in fairness, will work at lot better than BT's approach to sitting on hands, waiting for further handouts. So much technical talk is wasted regarding 'upto' speeds, which could be better put to use putting Fibre cables in the ground.

            BT constantly pushing the same line 'FTTC is cheap, true FTTP is expensive'. That Pointless G.fast is a good(aka. mostly untested) solution to provide the UK's needs of Ultrafast Broadband, when on longer lines/rurally it clearly isn't, its expensive due to the number of nodes required.

            G.fast is a 'cherry picking' selective technology, its not about providing blanket uniform coverage to hard to reach areas of the UK, without a awful lot of nodes being deployed (hence the term Carpet Bombing G.fast, for it to be effective). And Carpet Bombing node costs rise exponentially, the higher the blanket/average achieveable ultrafast speed. You reach a point, where further rollout of nodes, doesn't help, you hit the physical limits of poor copper cables, interference, crosstalk + damp junction boxes etc.

            Hence the term, describing Pointless G.fast as a Cul-de-Sac technology, you get to a point where you have to reverse out the Cul-de-Sac and start again, install what you should have done in the first place, true FTTP.

            Let's face it,

            BT's biased copper carcass technical lobbying in favour of G.fast has been called out today, by this announcement against further FTTC/Pointless G.fast in favour of true FTTP. The Government are saying to BT, get your act together, FTTP is the way to go, we're not accepting more obfuscation/vague 'upto' Mbps services.

            The statement is as much about saying cul-del-sac technology G.fast is all but obsolete, before rollout has even begun, that G.fast it isn't a cheap alternative (especially rurally), that technically interference, low frequency noise, crosstalk, power supply issues are much bigger problems than BT dare to admit.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not competent?

            Sure they get some things "for free", but it takes a lot more than simply holding a community meeting and get a few people on board. That's why two of the leading players were given honours last year.

            I think the biggest thing they have shown is what can be done if the community work together. This model may only work in rural areas, but that's where a lot (most?) of the people with really poor provisioning live and where the likes of BT say it's not commercially viable to deploy. I think that the original per-line install quotes given by BT for the B4RN area where £10,000 to £20,000 PER USER. B4RN are running at about £500 per connection. There must be an intermediate position where a network can be operated commercially at "sensible" costs.

      4. JetSetJim

        Re: Not competent?

        > Govt Minister says he wants full-fat capable of up to 1Gbps - but how much will the subscriber pay?

        I'm on Gigaclear at £40/mo for 100Mbps Up & Down, could pay £70 for 1Gbps, and they're trialling higher rates for more cash, too. On top of that is a use of an IP phone service, as I have no BT in my house and no intention of letting them anywhere near it.

        I find it unlikely that other areas would charge significantly more, but could see it being up to double that for the harder to reach villages, and even more for a one off isolated house in the boonies somewhere - unless the govmt actually deliver on making broadband of reasonable quality one of the universal rights that attract subsidies when installing it, unlike the shite that is guaranteed at the moment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not competent?

          "I'm on Gigaclear at £40/mo for 100Mbps Up & Down, could pay £70 for 1Gbps, and they're trialling higher rates for more cash, too. On top of that is a use of an IP phone service, as I have no BT in my house and no intention of letting them anywhere near it.

          I find it unlikely that other areas would charge significantly more, but could see it being up to double that for the harder to reach villages,"

          The last 10% of a network costs the same as the first 90%, so your villages and remote locations will be more like £400 a month unless some kind of subsidy comes into play, which sees your £40 become £80.

          That's the heart of the problem - doing this rurally costs more than people are willing to pay for it.

          1. JetSetJim

            Re: Not competent?

            > The last 10% of a network costs the same as the first 90%, so your villages and remote locations will be more like £400 a month unless some kind of subsidy comes into play, which sees your £40 become £80.

            I am in a village, not in a town, and not particularly close to any major town. Population less than 600. And there's no subsidy involved.

    2. Locky

      And watch it be given to TalkTalk....

    3. Paul Chambers

      BT not competent?

      I'd argue that it's government that's not competent.

      BT, to my certain knowledge, were working on fibre in the local loop at Martlesham Heath in the late eighties, and early nineties. I myself did a project in conjunction with them regarding fault finding in the local loop (TPON) in 1991.

      Why did it never get deployed?

      The conservative government were keen to sell off cable franchises, at maximum price. So they prevented BT competing on services (legislatively), and did not require cable companies to achieve full, or substantial coverage (they could meet their targets just by focusing on high density housing, and in many cases former council estates that were the major market for cable TV services at the time).

      The UK broadband infrastructure has never recovered from this cynical politically motivated carve up, seemingly purely for profit (tax cuts == buying votes).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT not competent?

        "I'd argue that it's government that's not competent."

        Yeah, just about sums it up - British governments actively working against the population for decades.

  3. Gavin Chester

    Get the basics right first.

    My Mother is 6 miles from Barnsley, and joking aside that's not a technology backwards northern town, nor does she live in a small village consisting of two houses and a well, but a village of probably 10K of houses, that is more like an extended suburb. And Yes I've posted this comment before.

    She gets 0.5mbs on a good day, all down to the old ally cabling that no-ones interested in renewing as it would mean re-wiring the entire estate she lives on..

    If the Government wants to be serious they need to mandate *ALL* premises need to get the minimum speed they indicated in the past.

    Yes I knowt his may be an unpopular post, and yes some people will be hard to reach and be costly, but until its mandated companies will continue to avoid doing expensive, but needed remedial work and concentrate on cherry picking the quick wins and the highest paying contracts.

    1. Chewi

      Re: Get the basics right first.

      This is what I thought when I saw this on the news this morning. They seem to be implying that FTTC is too slow!? Some people would kill for that speed. I can get FTTC where I am but I haven't bothered with the extra expense, 10Mb/s is plenty fast enough for me at the moment.

    2. Pen-y-gors

      Re: Get the basics right first.

      concentrate on cherry picking the quick wins and the highest paying contracts.

      Fair point, but it's not entirely BTs fault. In the midst of lengthy correspondence with some senior Openreach bod about why we were promised fibre in 2013 and are still waiting, although the exchange and neighbouring cabinet went live a year ago, I got some interesting information. I'd complained that it was the constantly changing deadlines was the real pain. If someone had said in 2013 that you'll get it on 1st Dec 2016, and that happened then that's acceptable. They can't do everyone at once. But promising it in three months and then changing the date every three months is not on. His point was that they are set targets for delivery by the bean-counters who manage the funding, and they want to see new connections, not improved connections for existing customers. It therefore makes sense (to the beancounters) if they are slipping a bit, to concentrate on an easy area, and defer the tricky ones that they had planned to do.

      1. Gavin Chester

        Re: Get the basics right first.

        "His point was that they are set targets for delivery by the bean-counters who manage the funding, and they want to see new connections, not improved connections for existing customers"

        I wasn't just looking to point the finger at BT but they have history here...

        I absolutely understand that for the accountants the potential returns are the key, which is why the government needs to mandate a minimum speed or bean counters won't do the work.

        Mum's estate was built in the 1960's when Ally was cheap and copper expensive, Ally is fine for voice so they used that through the estate, but its bad for data. Add in to that years of wiring fixes, cuts and re-soldering joints, and general age and weather degradation, and the only real means to fix is it to re-wire the estate. That's a large outlay but unless there is some legislation to force the issue (sort of like the post office has to deliver letters to everyone in the country) it won't happen.

        4/5G may be an answer, but at the moment Mum has no change of fast broadband and FTT(anything) is just a dream for her.

        1. Pen-y-gors

          Re: Get the basics right first.

          yeah, dodgy cabling is a problem. A few months back we got upgraded to ADSL2+, and I appeared to get 17.5Mb - unfortunately with so many errors it was unuseable! OR engineer had a dig around and said there was some dodgy cable (Al?) further up the line, and booked a replacement. cranked speed down to 9Mb and it's fine. It's now crept up to 13Mb again and is dropping out all the time - 1000 corrected blocks per minute!

        2. James R Grinter
          Coat

          Re: Get the basics right first.

          Wait a little while and some scallies will come along and nick the alu by dragging it out the ground late one evening (probably whilst hoping it's cu). Especially with the way the economy is headed.

      2. AndrueC Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Get the basics right first.

        It therefore makes sense (to the beancounters) if they are slipping a bit, to concentrate on an easy area, and defer the tricky ones that they had planned to do.

        A lot of missed targets are also down to third parties.

        * Councils taking a long time to approve planning.

        * Councils refusing planning permission.

        * Local electricity network operator taking a long time to provide power to cabinet (very common reason).

        and another common one BT has to deal with:

        * Local ducting in worse condition than expected.

        This can be a double whammy. First because it delays getting the fibre to the cabinet and secondly because clearing it requires roadworks which come with their own delays and problems.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Get the basics right first.

        "His point was that they are set targets for delivery by the bean-counters who manage the funding"

        But who made the original promises? If it was the bean-counters then they should keep them. If they were made by someone who didn't have the authority to implement them they shouldn't have made them.

        If a schedule is made and published it should be with the sign-off of everyone involved, including the finance. And that everyone should then consider themselves bound by it. Yes, there could be external reasons why it can't be kept - fire at the exchange, for example. Accountants should not be external reasons.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Get the basics right first.

      Agreed, rather than upgrading bits of London to FTTP, they should be throwing money at making sure everyone (including people outside of the M25, we do exist!) can get at least 1MB in their home.

    4. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Get the basics right first.

      If the Government wants to be serious they need to mandate *ALL* premises need to get the minimum speed they indicated in the past.

      Ofcom is working on it. Sorta. They are trying to set a minimum connection speed of 10Mb/s. Unfortunately that doesn't mean you get it for free. It's going to be a BT USO which only means that BT cannot refuse to get you 10Mb/s (which is actually slightly faster than the '1MB' you are asking for). It will allow them to charge you 'excess construction charges'. The details aren't clear yet but if it's like their telephony deal they will probably swallow the first three grand then bill you for the rest.

      Unfortunately whilst it sounds easy to mandate a minimum speed for all premises Ofcom have to be practical. Areas like your mother's haven't been ignored because BT hates her and her friends. It's because for some reason it is very expensive and/or difficult to upgrade her service. Even if Ofcom did rule that your mother should have something better it's going to give BT time to deal with it. Anything else would be unreasonable.

      Ofcom can require BT to climb Everest but they can't demand that they get there before this weekend ;)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get the basics right first.

      ... all down to the old ally cabling that no-ones interested in renewing as it would mean re-wiring the entire estate she lives on

      I feel your pain. At a previous job, we had a site on the Isle of Wight which we fairly quickly found out was served with a lump of alli cable somewhere down the lines. We had repeated line faults, and it seemed we seldom had the full complement of lines working (voice POTS lines, fax line, one Kilostream leased line and ISDN2 as backup for the leased line - yes, this was some time ago). It was probably the number of faults on the leased line that triggered the replacement of the trunk cable - the SLA on that probably meant that multiple faults triggered some reporting within BT. Once they replaced that length of cable, everything became stable and reliable.

      BT will take the view that "if it aint broke, don't spend money on it". So unless they start getting a lot of line faults which are because of the alli cable, they will not do anything about it. Of course, it would be terrible (wink wink) if a car had a mishap and petrol spilled into the ducting and melted the cabling in the ensuing fire. Or if some corrosive chemical (slightly salty water doesn't mix with steel and alli, wink wink) found it's way into some of the supposedly sealed joint boxes and made the alli turn to white powder. Of course, I couldn't under any circumstances suggest any form of vandalism, that would be illegal and immoral.

      Oh yes, and don't mention to any of the dodgy characters in the pub that alli has a good scrap value either.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Availabilty vs cost

    FTTP is still way too expensive regardless if it is available.

    FTTC has a ridiculous roll out speed - BT are really dragging their heels if they can get away with it - been exchange ready for ages waiting for the fibre cabinet to be installed "typically it'll be available to your premises within the next five months." reality is almost 2 years now..... I know I am not alone in this....

    1. oomwat

      Re: Availabilty vs cost

      It took them almost a year to enable my cabinet, and then they told me I couldn't have FTTC anyway because my line is too long from the cabinet - instead I can get 'Faster Internet' which means maybe 12 Mbps - great!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Availabilty vs cost

        Blanket Coverage with FTTC was never the plan.

        It was always designed to only cover a subset of the exchange area, to 'cherry pick' the easiest areas, and its just going to get even worse with G.fast, because you need upto 25 G.fast nodes in a 2Km2 area to get blanket Ultrafast coverage.

        Each G.fast node requires a decent very high quality (expensive) Power source. Blanket rollout of G.fast isn't cheap either.

        Yet we're constantly fed the line G.fast is cheap, true FTTP is expensive. The Goverment seem to have seen through BT's own propaganda today, and side stepped them.

        Pointless G.fast is not the best Ultrafast Broadband solution for the topology of the UK, especially rurally. It's a solution that is technically biased towards BT's existing Copper Carcass infrastructure.

        If you aim is blanket coverage, G.fast is not the answer.

        If your aim is to obfuscate, use 'upto' speeds, have a technical method to artificially 'restrict' Broadband to pretend its a finite resource, so you can have a tiered charging structure, for faster services, then BT's approach is the correct approach for BT, there is no denying that, but its not the right approach for UK plc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Availabilty vs cost

          "If you aim is blanket coverage, G.fast is not the answer."

          It's possible to do multiple things at once Adam. Paracetamol doesn't cure cancer, but no-one's suggesting it be banned from sale because of that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Availabilty vs cost

      " BT are really dragging their heels if they can get away with it"

      Why would they deliberately do that? If there's money to be made then the soonest the work is complete, the soonest they make money. BT seem to like making money so the issue must be something else - availability of resource, kit or capital.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Availabilty vs cost

        " BT are really dragging their heels if they can get away with it"

        Why would they deliberately do that?

        I dont know - round here they would be better off pulling fibre through rather than the two or three attempts at repairing the 'copper' every year. It could be they are waiting for the government to give them a grant to do it. I dont think you can expect rational decisions from BT and Openreach. I'd guess the fibre is already in place from the amount of fibre they have installed - but they dont seem to want to connect it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Availabilty vs cost

          "I dont know - round here they would be better off pulling fibre through rather than the two or three attempts at repairing the 'copper' every year. "

          But if you abandon the copper, people are left without service. There are burglar alarms and private lines that need the copper pair and the Ofcom rule about 999 service during power cuts becomes problematic. You'd have to install new kit in everyone's house and then you run into issues with power sockets not being next to phone sockets. All of these need to be solved, I'm sure, but there's no direct path I can see to just dumping the copper network.

  5. Ol'Peculier

    5, 6, 7, 8G...

    Surely we are getting to the point where cables are unnecessary. I already get a faster download speed at home on my mobile compared to my home broadband. (and I live in a mid-sized town, FWIW) Must be better to put the money into getting everybody tooled up with 4G and move from there?

    1. oomwat

      Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

      I live behind a hill and inside a 200yo house with 3 foot thick stone walls ... I'm lucky if I can get a 2G signal.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

        Are you one of my neighbours!

        I can only use my mobile indoors near some of the North facing windows, no internal mobile signal otherwise

    2. Tom Wood

      Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

      There isn't (and can't be, due to limited frequency space) the capacity though. Certainly in an urban area, if all the data that flies about through cables was replaced with mobile you wouldn't be getting those good speeds...

      1. idiot

        Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

        The trick is to use fixed microwave links rather than "mobile" technology. I've got a 10meg connection for £20 a month through a dish on my roof to a mast some distance away. You don't need a fixed phoneline with voip so its even cheaper than it looks. I'd get 30meg for £40 if I was closer to the mast. No throttling or bandwidth limits either. Perhaps wouldn't work as well in a city, although its great where I live, which is disturbingly flat.

        To give you an idea of the scale of what these guys are doing http://www.boundlessnetworks.co.uk/coverage/. The do seem to cover at least parts of Preston so... It might make more sense to fund companies like this in a lot of places (geography permitting).

        1. SImon Hobson

          Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

          The trick is to use fixed microwave links rather than "mobile" technology

          Again, that only scales so far.

          With narrow beams you can improve things somewhat, but there is still only a finite amount of spectrum available and it's a shared resource - not to mention the practical issue of housing all those small antennas when the subscribers are measured in (tens or hundreds of) thousands rather than dozens. Add to which, even with well focussed narrow beams there are still practical problems of frequency re-use since the near end crosstalk between the systems at the base make frequency reuse between subscribers on that same base "technically challenging".

          The beauty of cable (whether it's copper or fibre) is that adding more cable increases the bandwidth available - because what you put down your bit of fibre has no effect on my bit of fibre, or our neighbours fibre, or ...

    3. Ryan Clark

      Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

      I live 3 miles from a city and 4 miles from a large town in a village of over 1000 people, mobile reception is flaky for the one network that works here. No 3G let alone 4 and no I don't live in the mountains or back of beyond but only 15 miles from Birmingham.

      Fortunately we do have Virgin here and I have a good broadband connection and also BT fibre as an option, but that only appeared last year.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 5, 6, 7, 8G...

      And monthly bandwidth cap exceeded in 30 mins, 5 minutes, 1 minute, 1 second...

      mmm progress :/

  6. Stephen Wilkinson

    I bet as I live in a village 10 miles from the nearest town and currently get 1-2mb, it won't get any better

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hurrah!

    I look forward to being in the last 5% to get this, too.

  8. circusmole
    Unhappy

    IGb/s

    In a press release the government described it as "gold standard ‘full-fibre’ broadband, which has the capacity to reach speeds of more than 1Gbps."

    A double or treble the 2Mb/s I get at the moment would suit me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IGb/s

      The proposed universal service obligation of 10Mbps is a headline con.

      That's why there is so little oposition to the new regulation from BT. Anyone getting say 2Mbps-6Mbps, would have the ability to ask BT to provide a solution to provide a service capable of 'upto' 10Mbps (note, the 'upto', would just to sync above this rate) but there is no limit or structure to what BT can charge for this.

      So the subscriber ends up with a quote of say £5000-£15000+. Hence BT know that apathy will prevail, and anyone with 2Mbps-10mbps, will just make do. Hence the 'upto 10Mbps USO is a con.

  9. Paul 25

    What are people doing that needs fibre?

    Genuine question. I rarely hit the upper limit on my 40mbps line.

    FTTP feels like HS2, a flashy and expenisve project that will benefit a relatively small portion of the population, when the same money would make a massive difference to the vast mass of people stuck on crap, slow and congested lines who just want "not crap".

    1. Lee D

      Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

      A family of four will swamp a 40Mbps line just with base level streaming, background browsing software updates, etc.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

        A family of four will swamp a 40Mbps line just with base level streaming, background browsing software updates, etc.

        In my household with two teenagers who are into multi-player Xbox games, Amazon Prime and YouTube, plus parents who think nothing of video calling/conferencing and running concurrent RDS sessions; we've yet to top out our 38Mbps FTTC line. However, I am aware that there are times when contention beyond my FTTC circuit causes things to slow down - and does it really matter that a Win10 image download or the recent Xbox update takes circa half an hour rather than a couple of minutes?

        So whilst I don't doubt there are households who can swamp a 40Mbps line, I suspect they are (currently) very a small minority.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

      The speed really helps me as I work from home and have to download some large files. Pushing files back is also much better with a 16 Mbps upload rather than the 1 Mbps I had before - uploads used to take over 15 minutes. I would still like a faster, symmetric service.

    3. TheTick

      Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

      "What are people doing that needs fibre?"

      There's probably a few households with several people all watching separate Ultra-HD Netflix streams (25Mb/s each) needing a big pipe it's a bit of an edge case.

      Downloading big Steam games of 30GB or more are much nicer with a big pipe but it's not crucial.

      Aside from them I can't think of much else the average household needs 1Gbps for.

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

        "Aside from them I can't think of much else the average household needs 1Gbps for."

        I think the problem is that the increase in speed isn't linear. We don't have technologies with max speed of 10Mbps, 20Mbps, 30Mbps, and so on.

        Yes, there is xDSL - but we are trying to get away from bad cooper wires. So, what do we have, speed wise?

        Basically 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps, 10Gbps... It doesn't matter if the speed sold equals to the maximum - we have these speed jumps (at physical level) to work with.

        10Mbps is a joke.

        100Mbps is good enough - but will not hold out much longer.

        1Gbps is great now, and will hold out a lot longer than 100Mbps.

        1. Otto is a bear.

          Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

          Actually, that's not quite true, you can have 2Mb/Sec, virtual networking allows you to do this, all be it that the underlying cables tend to be rated at 10Mb/100Mb/1000Mb, those can and are divided up by the likes of Virgin, BT and the rest to provide a wider range of products for the business consumer. If you are a contended user then it's up to the line capacity.

        2. Terry Barnes

          Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

          "Basically 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps, 10Gbps... It doesn't matter if the speed sold equals to the maximum - we have these speed jumps (at physical level) to work with."

          You're confusing line speed with interface speed. Depending on the technology employed there are lots of line speeds available between your interface speed steps.

          G.SHDSL and EFM have lots of speed options in the 10-100MBps range, especially where multiple copper pairs are used.

          WDM on fibre offers a typical throughput of 2.5Gbps per channel.

          Networking 101: Line speed is not interface speed is not throughput speed.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

      > 640K ought to be enough for anybody.

    5. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

      Anyone who can get 40Mbps can be lower on the priority list.

      But there are many many who don't get anywhere near that, including on FTTC, and especially those on plain old ADSL or with no access at all. It seems to me that it makes sense to go for "the best" ie. FTTP when upgrading anyone not on fibre at all.

    6. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: What are people doing that needs fibre?

      As someone with lovely symmetric gigabit fibre (thank you hyperoptic), mostly what I'm doing with the connection is sweet FA. Every time I think of something to do on it, one click and it is already done. Its good.

      For work it is good. I can be video conferencing with clear picture and no dropouts, regardless of what other people in the house are doing - gaming, streaming or torrents just don't affect it.

  10. Neil 44

    Fibre for Exchange-Only lines : no chance!

    Maybe they could make the current, orphaned "Exchange only" lines FTTP? After all we MUST be close to the exchange, mustn't we? (well only about a mile from the exchange...)

    Currently there is no plan for the "exchange only" lines to get faster connections. I'm lucky that I get about 8meg but many don't.

    (they don't seem to count our "concrete connection pillar" to be a cabinet - nor will they make it into one. If they did, we could probably latch onto the fibre that already goes through the underground chamber next to our pillar and give us FTTC...

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Fibre for Exchange-Only lines : no chance!

      I thought they were putting in new "cabinets" at the exchange for exchange only lines? They have done here.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Fibre for Exchange-Only lines : no chance!

        I thought they were putting in new "cabinets" at the exchange for exchange only lines?

        In some places, yes. Unfortunately it depends on the nature of the EO lines. If the properties being served are close to the exchange then a cabinet will be worthwhile. But some EO lines are serving distant properties like farms or small villages. In those cases a new cabinet outside the exchange does nothing. And if the lines fan out from the exchange there may be no single point where enough EO lines are in the same place to justify installing a cabinet.

    2. Pat 11

      Re: Fibre for Exchange-Only lines : no chance!

      I feel your pain. We are the abandoned urban ADSL peasants.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Fibre for Exchange-Only lines : no chance!

      My cabinet was about a mile and a half from my house. When my exchange went FTTC they designated the exchange 4.5 miles further as my new cabinet. The annoying thing is they pulled fibre to that no-longer-a-cabinet around two years ago.

  11. mlvj

    Last 5%

    I live in Somerset - not too far from Wells, Radstock, Shepton, Frome - but with about 2.5 miles of copper between myself and the nearest FTTC enabled cabinet.

    I am really sad that this is considered the final 5% - and that there seems to be soooo many of us in this situation. The OpenReach man on Radio 4 this morning was talking about the final few percent being incredibly hard to get to, without water supplies...

    Connecting Devon and Somerset are nicely responsive to queries - but the only thing that they are offering are vouchers towards satellite broadband - which just seems rubbish to me.

    Grr.

    For those that say "why do you need more than x%" - why would anybody want more than 640KB RAM?

    4K streaming is coming, for a start. Multiple people in the same house will want to do that.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Last 5%

      For those that say "why do you need more than x%" - ...

      4K streaming is coming, for a start. Multiple people in the same house will want to do that.

      That may be so, but that doesn't mean the government/taxpayer should be paying for the necessary infrastructure out of the tax pot...

  12. David Roberts
    Mushroom

    Shonky speed illustrations

    "The Department for Culture, Media and Sport illustrated the point by comparing it to downloading an entire series of Game of Thrones in less than a minute."

    Given that I am not convinced I could shift that much data (although unquantified) across my wired Gigabit network in less than a minute.

    Unreliable sources suggest that an entire series is around 7GB which is roughly 70 Gbits over a network. Absolutely flat out that is still over a minute. Presumably they just multiplied by 8 to get 56Gbits and conveniently forgot about any protocol overheads.

    I would be impressed by a remote server and an ISP network which could deliver that kind of content at that speed to multiple households on the same street.

    This kind of illustration is bad because, although the absolute figures may stack up in a lab environment it builds the expectation that this is a real world scenario. People will now expect to be able to download a complete series in less than a minute.

    Try telling people that the speed means that they could download a complete Patch Tuesday update in well under a second. Blame Microsoft when this does not happen. Tell them that any web page should load in a fraction of a second. Blame Google when this does not happen. (Hang on.......)

    Just irritated by non-technical unachievable sound bites (bytes?).

    1. Lee D

      Re: Shonky speed illustrations

      Gigabit network here - I could shift 7Gb in under a minute.

      Admittedly, it's an internal network with well-specified hardware, but that's do-able.

      Also, patch download times and Google load times? I question your network setup. INSTALLATION time is an entirely different matter and nothing to do with the Internet line, but download should be at line-speed from any Microsoft update server. And Google used to tell you the page generation times, but if it's not an instant-return, you need to fix your connection.

      Although I agree in principle, a Gigabit line is enough to run a HUGE workplace from quite happily, and everyone to get something they consider blazing fast in terms of Internet. I'm in a school with a 100Mbps leased line (symmetric, but I'm automatically removing symmetric scenarios like uploading), and with proper management it's instant and fast and the only delay is actually our web filter (which downloads, interrogates, then relays, so it adds latency - but speed tests still return near-line-speed once the connection is downloading).

      And although it's different on the ISP line, we've been handling Gigabit connections connected to a central location with hundreds of such connections for years. Admittedly it's Ethernet-backend but those kinds of connections are far from unusual and Gigabit-to-the-desktop has been my minimum spec for nearly a decade now. If a £20 switch from Amazon can handle it, I'm sure the expensive telco equipment can do too.

      Now they have to push it through to a series of peering points, sure, and those are large, sure, but that's always been the case and it's basically the POINT of an ISP or telco to have that expensive gear and push it down to us. We've gone from 56K to 10Mbps being standard in a matter of two decades, and that's a 182-fold increase. In that time, the ISP backend must have increased at least 182-fold as well, and that's not something that's ever going to stop until we hit technical barriers (given that sub-ocean cables are capable of taking much more with no visible upper limit yet, we shouldn't need to worry about getting from BT headquarters to Telehouse Docklands, for example, for a long time yet).

      Cost? Of course it's not going to be cheap. But that's the point - ISPs buy the big expensive pipes, and squeeze all their customers down it, and charge them a percentage. And I guarantee they still have plenty of room for profit, other services, installations, equipment upgrades, etc. by doing just that.

      But Gigabit to the home is a reality in many countries, with comparable distances to cover and comparable peering arrangements, and they can even do it cheaper than BT can.

      Past gigabit hasn't really been necessary or properly standardised yet, mostly because even most PC's can't do more than gigabit themselves, let alone home networking gear, but it's nowhere near being unachievable.

      That it HASN'T been done in the UK is more a sign of profit-over-investment, and an incumbent telco, rather than physical capability.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Shonky speed illustrations

        That it HASN'T been done in the UK is more a sign of profit-over-investment, and an incumbent telco, rather than physical capability.

        Plus the problem of existing kit that is fully functional and working well. A lot of countries that have rolled out FTTP have been countries that didn't have much of a telephone network to start with.

        Unfortunately (so to speak) if all you want to do is get people talking then BT's network is amongst the best in the world. It's cheap and extremely reliable. So internet access has always been an add-on. What makes it worse is that most of BT's asset value is in the local loop so they have a problem going to the markets and asking for money to replace it.

        Borrowing money to replace what you're offering as collateral is a tricky sell.

    2. JetSetJim
      Pirate

      Re: Shonky speed illustrations

      >> "The Department for Culture, Media and Sport illustrated the point by comparing it to downloading an

      >> entire series of Game of Thrones in less than a minute."

      > Given that I am not convinced I could shift that much data (although unquantified) across my wired

      > Gigabit network in less than a minute.

      He didn't say what resolution they were recorded at... 16bit colour, 640x480?

      In all seriousness, some encoding of tv shows plop them out at 200-300 MB for an hour's (aka 42mins show + 18 mins stripped adverts) show at a half-decent resolution (or so I've heard). There are 10 episodes per season, so 2-3GB, or 16-24Gb. I've got 100Mbps, so that's 2:30 minimum, excluding protocol overheads - unless the lumps of video are delivered in jumbo-frames.

      Is downloading it the best way of obtaining it? Or instead subscribing to a Sky package that includes Sky Atlantic? Enquiring minds want to know....

  13. Disgruntled of TW
    Facepalm

    Protect your non-profit network from purchase

    Using the right legal framework for a community network over private land (saves 80% civil engineering costs) will prevent later procurement by BT, Virgin, whoever ... look at B4RN.

    That's a dedicated fibre to every household. No TPON, GPON or any other type of P4WN.

    What guv needs to do is compel the owners of the dark fibre backhaul to the internet exchanges to make it available at fair cost.

    We also need to wait a couple of years, probably not much more, so that we have the evidence to demonstrate how poor VDSL2 is performing in rural areas. Folk won't realise how dead-end the copper bearer is until 4K TV and other services eat up the incremental (sorry Ed, it *is* a waste of money for dead-end infrastructure, not a short term "fudge") benefit delivered by BT and the BDUK funding.

    The BDUK FTTC network has no future. The full fibre network won't be able to use that fibre in a commercially viable way - Openreach owns it. Diggers have to roll over public or private land. Guv can influence either, but do they understand the consequences?

    Just sayin' ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Protect your non-profit network from purchase

      "What guv needs to do is compel the owners of the dark fibre backhaul to the internet exchanges to make it available at fair cost."

      Watch out for unintended consequences there. If operators are compelled to sell dark access to fibres they've installed, why would they install any more? It's far more efficient of capital to just wait for someone else to install some and use theirs.

      It's like forcing Mini to let Ford make cars in their factory. There's every chance that Mini and Ford might come to some private business arrangement where such a thing happens, but mandating it will do all sorts of weird things.

  14. Otto is a bear.

    It's the Network Stupid

    In the early days of the telephone network, the telephone companies had area monopolies, and took the view, the more subscribers you had the more money you make, a remote village was not just a source of revenue, it also created network revenue, after all not only can people call out, they can also call in as well, so revenue is generated from both ends, and there are trunk charges. People in the big city like to call their dear old mum in the country, so there is a commercial incentive to build the network. Broadband isn't like that, there is no cross subsidy as such, and there's a lot more competition for your traffic, but only the revenue generated by broadband is from the subscriber, there is much less direct network benefit.

    Thus the business case for connecting Much Binding-in-the-Marsh to super fast fibre isn't that good, because the residents will 1000 homes will only pay say £1000 a year and the cost of upgrade is £10,000,000, so there's no return on the investment. This is why B4RN makes sense as the local infrastructure is paid for by the community, and there's a ready made backhaul contract.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on, what just happened here?

    The Department for Culture, Media and Sport illustrated the point by comparing it to downloading an entire series of Game of Thrones in less than a minute.

    Wow. That's the first time I've seen a government department actively pointing at a torrenting benefit.

    /ducks quickly

    :)

  16. Alistair
    Coat

    at lest you right pondians

    can argue about FTTP being possible. Over here is still much of a rarity, despite the voluminous wikipedia entry for Canada.

    Bell just came by and lied to me again about getting 'upgraded fibre' connection. Since we still have UTP or BNC, and all of the local services are subterranean I'd like to know when they dug up the service tunnel around the crescent. They've run an additional link to the neighbourhood node, providing additional node to network bandwidth, but .. )cough( it still runs over copper from the node to the drop block and UTP from the drop block to the house. And in most cases aluminium UTP. Exposed to the weather at the drop block. But its FIBE service, its better than what you have! *ugh*.

    Grabbing my coat since you lot are making me irritated. <at the crap I put up with>

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just out of interest,

    What is so difficult about making every cabinet in the country fibre connected?

    Wouldn't that improve things for most people?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Just out of interest,

      What is so difficult about making every cabinet in the country fibre connected?

      I'm not really sure what you're asking about here. Are you just asking what's so difficult about extending FTTC to every cabinet? If so the simple answer is because they have over 40,000 of them dotted around. For each of those you need to:

      * Build a concrete plinth, run a duct over to the nearest voice cabinet. Mount the new cabinet to the plinth. Basically just civils but still going to take a couple of days.

      * Arrange for the local power network operator to provide mains supply (can take a couple of days or maybe months depending on what's available in the ground).

      * Install the first batch of line cards. A bit of wiring to do in the cabinets.

      * Connect the two cabinets through the new ducting using twisted pair. Not much wiring to do there as lines are patched over only as/when the service is enabled on that line.

      * Connect the new cabinet to the exchange using new cable. Sometimes that's overhead, often it's underground through ducting that may or may not be full/blocked/collapsed.

      If we were optimistic and assumed that councils, civil construction company and power companies operate efficiently and to schedule and that most ducting issues can be resolved in a couple of days you're still likely looking at a week's work per cabinet.

      So right off the bat you're looking at 40,000 week's work and that's being very optimistic. The two cabinets they put up near me had people working on them for two weeks (first one), three weeks (second one after first became full). This is a techie site so we should all understand that the above list of things-wot-need-to-be-done isn't going to have issues. Coordinating at least two other companies and the local council is a nightmare in and of itself.

      Now if you are interested in FTTP then you can take all of the above and add:

      * Pushing the fibre from the cabinets into each road and street.

      * Installing a manifold somewhere in the street.

      * Microtrenching from pavement to house (or running new dropwire).

      Now the last step there can be done as/when required.

      But this can all be summed up as 'it's a helluva lot of work and it's amazing how much can go wrong'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just out of interest,

        Granted it's a lot of work but plenty of other countries seemed to have managed the equivalent and provide their populations with decent speed connections.

        According to this site: http://www.kitz.co.uk/adsl/fttc-cabinets.htm, BT can process more than 20,000 cabinets a year. So if you're saying there are 40,000 left, and they all become FTTC within 2 years, surely that's enough to satisfy demand in the medium term if most people in the UK could experience, say 20 Mb/s speeds?

        Or is it just a case of "it's all too hard and be grateful you've got a connection at all"?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Just out of interest,

          Granted it's a lot of work but plenty of other countries seemed to have managed the equivalent and provide their populations with decent speed connections.

          The headline data is highly misleading. For example, for the UK the data shows the impact of fibre. I suspect those on fibre are getting significantly higher speeds than the 13Mbps average. However,because the UK has a very large installed base of ADSL of which around 5% gets sub-2Mbps, the average is pulled down.

          We shouldn't forget the internet connection speed Akamai is reporting on, isn't what the infrastructure is capable of supporting, but what the customer has selected to satisfy their needs and budget constraints. This even with 100% of cabinets upgraded to FTTC, the UK's average connection speed may not fully reflect what is available on the ground.

          If the UK could simply pull the plug on the ADSL service, the average connection speed, as recorded by Akamai, would probably jump to circa 40+Mbps - enabling us to congratulate ourselves whilst turning a blind eye to the vast majority of homes that didn't have access to fibre...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just out of interest,

      "What is so difficult about making every cabinet in the country fibre connected?"

      Planning permission and provision of electricity to what was previously a passive device. The former is difficult in urban environments - councils aren't keen on new street furniture restricting pavement space, and the latter is difficult rurally - try ordering a mains supply to be delivered to an unlit country road two miles from the nearest village. That and the actual running of the fibre I'd guess - roadworks need to be planned and agreed with councils too.

  18. PNGuinn
    Coffee/keyboard

    "which has the capacity to reach speeds of more than 1Gbps."

    Translation: "Up to 1.0000000000000-----00001 Gbps"

    So about 2 megs then. In years to come. Only on the other side of the village. On a good day. With a following wind. In the right direction. If you're not too far from something quite far away.

    Nothing to see here - move along please.

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