back to article UK.gov needs help getting folk to splurge on full fibre and 5G

The government has opened a consultation to understand what makes investing in full fibre and 5G "attractive". Its call for evidence (PDF) follows a report from Ofcom this week, which found that the UK's poor full-fibre penetration of just 3 per cent lags behind 18 other countries bar Nigeria. The responses will inform the …

  1. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Wow!

    So the government left uncomfortable after blighty metaphorically 'picked just short of the kid no one wants for fitba in P.E'....

    Could we have a similar report about trains, British Industry, and all the other infrastructure they've obviously either assumed they were good at or had the cutting edge in, up to dozen or so decades ago.

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Flame

    Er, how about keeping BT's grubby hands out of Openreach's bank account and giving Openreach a free hand to invest in the network?

  3. DaveTheForensicAnalyst
    Mushroom

    End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

    Here's an idea, only slightly over the top.

    Take the entire board of BT/Openreach (Let's face it, they are still joined at the head), line them all up on a North Korea firing range, and just go crazy with them guns.

    After all, once that monopoly (that the government happily allow) which continues for the benefit of it's very wealthy share holders is finally ended, you could replace it with a national communications infrastructure organisation (Like, oh I don't know the GPO, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Post_Office (For the nippers)) and actually look at investing strategically in our countries future communication abilities, and I daresay GCHQ would be quite happy having our comms re-nationalised too :)

    (Personal Note Follows)

    AND THEN I MAY FINALLY BE ABLE TO MOVE OFF ADSL!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

      "AND THEN I MAY FINALLY BE ABLE TO MOVE OFF ADSL!"

      Let's say OpenReach drops roll-out of FTTC and concentrates instead of extending FTTP to those areas where it already has fibre in place, namely those which already have FTTC. Does this shorten or extend the time needed for you to get off ADSL?

      1. DaveTheForensicAnalyst

        Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

        I'm knackered regardless. They've decided that they aren't going to do any more work FTTC or FTTP on the cabinet that serves me, they completed 50% of one module in the cab, but have stopped, even though all existing properties connected to the cabinet were paid for by the Welsh Government.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

          "I'm knackered regardless. ... even though all existing properties connected to the cabinet were paid for by the Welsh Government."

          So your problems aren't just with BT, they are with the Welsh Assembly who couldn't properly manage the BDUK contract.

          Both central government and the quango's set up by local government, up and down the country, should carry much of the blame for the failings of the BDUK project. It was their collective lack of backbone and understanding of commercial realities that created the framework that enabled BT to deploy in a way that in many areas made it commercially unviable for a third-party operator to step in and provide service.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

      Further changes to Openreach, perhaps yes, but you're not going to find many industry pundits that think going back to the GPO would be a good idea. Nor indeed many people over the age of 40. The GPO employed some clever people who came up with some good kit. But the government was unwilling to provide the funds needed to effectively exploit that kit and the result was not good.

      It shocks, saddens and amazes me that anyone who has heard of the GPO (or indeed any other large organisation owned by the government) thinks that it would be a good idea to hand back control of the UK's telecommunications network. The BT group has its faults but the end-user experience is way better than what the GPO managed.

    3. streaky

      Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

      Nothing to do with BT's monopoly that it obviously abuses in the view of anybody who pays attention. Anybody could challenge BT's position and they do.

      The problem here is the government throwing taxpayer funds at BT (and this has been going on since long before we had a tory government) for building shitty networks that aren't fit for purpose. Basically what they've said is here's a huge pile of cash, go connect people at 10mbit. What they should be saying is here's a big pile of cash, you must connect everybody to the internet at 10-100mbit depending on how close to the centre of a city they are and you must only use the cash for building out infrastructure that works at at least 300 mbit and is capable of 10gbit+ with existing technology if it's ever needed, which is to say install actual glass fibre directly to people's houses. Reality is though BT should have been doing this in the 80's.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

        ...and you must only use the cash for building out infrastructure that works at at least 300 mbit and is capable of 10gbit+ with existing technology...

        G.Fast is capable of 300Mbps+ over circa 100m of copper.

        XG.Fast is capable of 10Gbps - over circa 30m of copper.

        So why do you need glass fibre? ...

        But you didn't specify a distance requirement! :¬

        WRT 10gbit+ service, it might be helpful to note that many national backbone networks are only 10Gbps...

        The fundamental problem is building a network today that is fit for tomorrow at a reasonable cost. Thus for example the Milton Keynes cable TV network (designed 1970s) was capable of doing much more than broadcast TV, since it was a full coax network, the only problem, it had used thousands of unidirectional signal splitters because they were cheaper than the bi-directional ones and thus the cost of upgrade (ie. retrofit bidirectional splitters) becomes prohibitive. A similar thing happens with LANs, we deployed lots of 100Mbps LANs and WiFi access points, all works fine until you decide to turn the network into a multimedia backbone and you discover the latency and throughput of the APs and switch backplanes just isn't up to the demands of realtime voice etc. which is what happened to many companies in more recent decades.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: End Openreach, BT, Monopoly

          Trouble is you're being realistic. I've long noticed that in almost any discussion that revolves around 'The Internet' realism is rarely given much credence. It's as if people think that because it's 'virtual' real world rules and limitations don't apply.

          You want a 1Gb/s data connection to every home?

          Typical internet oriented response: No problem. Just drop some cable into the ground and connect it up. It'll take a couple of years and the rental will be £5 a month.

          Real world response: We'll have to decide what kind of cable is needed, where to run it, how it should be connected up. Then we'll need to plan the work and get agreements from affected parties. Then we can draw up a schedule to make best use of our resources. Then we're going to need to train up some more workers and provide them with tools. It'll take at least a decade and the rental will be £30 a month.

  4. ntevanza

    Optional

    You would do worse than have a think about how the FSA used to work. Its premise was that transparency made for better retail decisions. The rest kind of takes care of itself.

    Transparency is an obvious target for regulators because there is a clear incentive for sellers to obfuscate, which constitutes market failure.

    So for a set of service providers, sample and publish these (familiar to networking folk) indicators, for urban and rural, consumer and business, wired and wireless connections, and try to educate people on what they mean:

    1. Uptime

    2. Latency

    3. Throughput

    If a 5G or fibre fetish makes these numbers better, people will buy them. If they don't, they won't. The end.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      If a 5G or fibre fetish makes these numbers better, people will buy them. If they don't, they won't. The end.

      Er... a small point; you omitted Cost to the End User from your list. From that the End User can work out their own cost:benefit ratio and decide to buy or not, as the case may be.

      That is, of course, if they have the choice; the way things are going at the moment any improvements result in increased costs to the user whether the user actually wants them or needs them or not.

  5. Gio Ciampa

    "The market will provide"

    The sooner that HMG sees through this fiction - the better...

    It's very simple - and I've lost count of the number of times I've said this... they should invest in the infrastructure at a National level, and not leave it to the beancounters at BT et al to decide who gets decent connectivity on the result of a "how profitable is it" calculation.

    1. DaveTheForensicAnalyst

      Re: "The market will provide"

      If I could upvote this twice I would.

    2. Brian Morrison

      Re: "The market will provide"

      Sadly previous experience is that the public sector tends to be even worse at this than a private company because the investment rules are even more strict and the people running the show are not from the top of the barrel.

      I don't really know the answer, but making it compulsory to put in FTTP cabling on new build and renovated property would be a good move wouldn't it? The complaint from Openreach et al is that the costs are heavily loaded towards the last mile, shared infrastructure is cheaper so if the last mile stuff is already there then the process is less capital-intensive.

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Re: "The market will provide"

        @Brian

        I'd say that the investment rules are as such because successive governments have stuck to the "market" mantra and so have neglected the opportunity to get some decent management in who'll get the job done at a sensible price (from the taxpayer's perspective), instead appointing the same old nonentities whose turn it is for a nudge up the ladder (Sir Humphrey would be so proud...)

        An example (admittedly from a different arena) - when they took the East Coast Mainline back into public hands, because National Express (or whoever it was) chose to walk away, they managed to get a decent team in place and it made money for the taxpayer. Fast forward to today... and Virgin/Stagecoach have been given the heave-ho after yet another bailout (and their shareholders are laughing all the way as the stock price rises as a result)

        It can, therefore, be done - it just take a government with some balls to actually do it.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: "The market will provide"

        .. but making it compulsory to put in FTTP cabling on new build and renovated property would be a good move wouldn't it? The complaint from Openreach et al is that the costs are heavily loaded towards the last mile...

        Interestingly, it would seem that BT/Openreach aren't the issue here, from a reading of this article from Sept-2016:

        Openreach offers free FTTP broadband to more new-build homes

        It would be interesting to know the reasons why not all 'new site' orders get FTTP, the inference from the tone of the article is because of the developer...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The market will provide"

      Yep, what BT, who still are a monopoly (if you follow the 'looks like a monopoly, quacks like a monopoly' principle) has to do with any kind of real, competitive free market is totally beyond me. There are in my view, stuff that the state should provide, and utilities are one of those things. They are currently not investing in infrastructure, then bleating about lack of productivity. Investment = Productivity.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: "The market will provide"

        @nick_rampart: Investment = Productivity

        A popular mantra that does not always work depending on the precise circumstances.

        "Productivity" is a perfectly valid concept for business users, but it hardly applies to domestic / residential systems. A business may invest with the intention of improving productivity as a result of that investment; all well and good. A business may want someone else to invest in the hope of achieving productivity gains as a result; if its costs of doing business increase as a result then it pays for those increases from the income it obtains from its customers.

        However, the way things are going, or are likely to go, with broadband, the fibre - fetishists who cannot and will not differentiate between business and non - business users are handing BT a perfect excuse to increase everyones' costs by force - feeding full fibre broadband (costs) to all users, whether they need it or not.

        If business wants it, let business pay for it. Don't force domestic users into the same model on the grounds of "productivity".

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: "The market will provide"

          "Productivity" is a perfectly valid concept for business users, but it hardly applies to domestic / residential systems

          Better internet speeds = faster youtube consumption???

          The internet in my neck of the woods has been so frustrating I've been forced to go out and do something in my free time.

  6. James 51
    Megaphone

    Make the coverage/uptime/speed/latancy part of the license with massive fines that bypass any finanical structures if they fail to meet their commentment. Renationalise the equipment they can't come up with a plan to meet those comments (with no compenstation) and if they can't find a company willing, use the GPO model and invite MVNOs to do the selling to customers part.

  7. steelpillow Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Presumption in favour

    There needs to be a minimum quality standard for laying FTTP and a presumption in favour of development, with exemption from Local Authority approvals. Otherwise, the multiplicity of LA departments and sub-departments involved >cough!< Worcestershire Highways >cough!< will continue to find endless reasons to say "No".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Presumption in favour

      Nationalise the fibre network, put in legislation to bypass the councils/local authority.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 Weeks to submit?

    You can pretty much rule out 3-4 weeks of those 6 weeks, due to Xmas/New Year. Is this a consultation, that is to result in no consultation in order we get no proposed solution?

    We haven't solved this problem in 10 years of well paid pontificating, regards BT/Openreach/Narcissistic (self interested) Ofcom. (Ofcom's solution is always more monitoring, that inflates Ofcom's role). Ofcom needs to be repremanded for it's "We're technology agnostic" bullshit weasel approach for a start.

    I doubt we'll solve it in 2 weeks and every new consultation is money that could have laid new fibre from the public purse/subscribers paying Ofcom's oversight of the "up to" obfuscated, bamboozled alu/copper carcass BT monopolistic network.

    The real elephant in the room is any alu/copper carcass line longer than 500m (250m as the crow flies) in the local loop, they represent the poor helpless bastard left after everyone has chosen sides of BT's fantasy 'BT Sport' football team.

    Those lines will have to be full FTTP.

    There - I started it for you.

    Whatever the solution, the current ones proposed by BT/Narcissistic Ofcom ain't working.

  9. davemcwish

    New Shiny Sparkley

    HMG seem to want to spending our money on what we think we need rather than what we want; the opposite of Henry Fords maxim. Apart from HS2, where IMHO a better approach would be to upgrade the local/regional infrastructure, 5G seems to be HMG looking at the potential revenues and media headlines rather than rather than addressing the areas of the country where current mobile and broadband provision is unequal.

    1. Gio Ciampa

      Re: New Shiny Sparkley

      Don't get me started on HS2 - I totally agree with you on that score...

      (and this isn't an anti-Birmingham thing either - I spent 15 years there in one form or another, and would go back if the chance arose)

  10. Disgruntled of TW
    WTF?

    Remove the VOA fibre-tax (permanently)

    I've said enough about FTTP and why BT and OpenReach are failing, so here's one for the gubbermint.

    SCRAP IMMEDIATELY the Valuation Office Agency business rates on lit fibre - not just the 5 year reprieve started in 2016. It is the equivalent of taxing windows in 18th century Scotland. Not only is it stifling innovation and deployment, it is unfair as BT gets assessed differently from everyone else.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Remove the VOA fibre-tax (permanently)

      >SCRAP IMMEDIATELY the Valuation Office Agency business rates on lit fibre

      The silence from Ofcom on this matter is deafening and speaks volumes about just how much Ofcom really understands the sector.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remove the VOA fibre-tax (permanently)

      SCRAP IMMEDIATELY the Valuation Office Agency business rates on lit fibre

      ... and replace it with an equivalent tax on copper lines. Stand back and watch Openreach jump.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Remove the VOA fibre-tax (permanently)

        ... and replace it with an equivalent tax on copper lines. Stand back and watch Openreach jump.

        Wrong; it will be end users who jump; they will pay it - Openreach will merely act as tax collectors.

        Like any business Openreach / BT has no money of its own, only that which customers pay it in return for a service. Apply a tax to the service (or the means of its delivery) and its the customers who pay.

  11. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    The government has opened a consultation to understand what makes investing in full fibre and 5G "attractive".

    Very little. Low prices, high customer expectations. Expensive and lengthy roll-outs. The RoI on both of the above (certainly full fibre) is horrible.

  12. W Donelson

    RAISE TAXES ON THE RICH. RE-INTRODUCE CAPITAL EXPORT CONTROLS. TAX OVERSEAS EARNINGS UNDER PENALTY OF PRISON.

    Raising taxes is PROVEN to increase local investment. Tax cuts send money overseas.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Raising taxes is PROVEN to increase local investment in tax avoidance.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm probably never going to switch to fibre unless forced to.

    BT will gladly set up an account and charge me for it, but when all my neighbours that decided to "upgrade" are still getting the same speeds as me with ADSL I think there's something going wrong.

  14. Slap

    This is just bloody typical

    Quite frankly this is just bloody typical of the UK Government. They want to be the top dog in communications technology, but they just don’t want to carry the can.

    Bunging a few million in terms of investment to the carriers with what are effectively only words of encouragement to the carriers to build this just isn’t going to get anywhere when the carriers prime motivation is profit.

    If the UK Governmet wants to be top dog then they should man up, grow a pair, put their big boy pants on, and buld the fucking thing with their money, and then recoup the investment by renting the capacity to the private players.

    However with the current trend of the UK Government washing their hands of any responsibility, and then moaning when things don’t go their way means this has a about the same chance as the sun going nova tomorrow.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: This is just bloody typical

      If the UK Governmet wants to be top dog then they should man up, grow a pair, put their big boy pants on, and buld the fucking thing with their money, and then recoup the investment by renting the capacity to the private players. (Spelling as per original)

      "Their money"; I assume you mean taxpayers' money; in other words use taxpayers to fund the initial outlay and then charge taxpayers all over again to use it.

      Excuse me while I slowly shake my head in wonderment...

      Another believer in the Magic Money Tree, I assume.

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