back to article Small UK firms laying fibre put BT's Openreach to shame – report

Fibre-building minnows passed nearly one million FTTP connections last year – more than double the amount BT's Openreach managed, according to a report from an industry body. The report by Independent Networks Co-operative Association (INCA), claimed the latest figures place altnets collectively as the third competitor in new …

  1. Oh Homer

    Rome wasn't built in a day

    But I bet it was built faster than BT's fibre network.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Rome wasn't built in a day

      I wonder if more fibre would cure this blockage

    2. Stuart Grout

      Re: Rome wasn't built in a day

      As Rome is around 2800 years old and still being built I really hope you lose that bet.

  2. fibrefool


    Project Lightning is still HFC, right? Not "full fibre".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Virgin

      Do your homework boy, D-

      Overall Project Lighting, which still aims to reach an additional 4 million premises (2 million of those will be via FTTP),

      See me after the lesson for a jolly good bare bottom thrashing.

    2. alwallgbr

      Re: Virgin

      Correct. They use a fibre to coax converter at the premises so that their existing kit can be used rather than an optical modem

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Virgin

        Does it really matter? Most people then use a fibre-to-copper convertor called a "router" to then put it into their other devices anyway.

        Copper can do ridiculous speeds if you are only doing short runs on uncontested connections (which is what these local fibre->copper convertors will have on them - it's the fibre that's contested, not the coax that is shared).

        People fuss too much about this, sure selling it as "fibre" is not particularly honest but I think that nobody cares as in the same way that "broadband / DSL" (meaning everything from ADSL to VDSL) is a certain class of speeds, "fibre" (meaning everything from VDSL, FTTC, FTTP, DOCSIS, etc.) is a better class of speeds. It's like 3G/4G/5G.

        I honestly couldn't care what they know it as colloquially, so long as they're honest about the technology used (small print is fine) and the speed.

        To be honest, I'd be glad of even 10Mbit where I live (inside the M25!), so I couldn't care less what it's called or where the fibre ends. I use a 4G wifi router, because it literally gives me three times anything else that enters my road, and there's no "fibre" of any description at all (and would need my landlord/building management agent/etc. permission to install that anyway).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comparing like with like?

    If the smaller companies are connecting multiple premises in office blocks, flats and towns, this is far easier than connecting residents in rural settings which may be miles apart.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comparing like with like?

      "although the biggest players are likely to be rural broadband pusher Gigaclear"

      Notice the word rural. Sure some of the others may be in cities, but Gigaclear will be one of the biggest, and they are doing the dirty work BT refuses because of 'not enough demand', read 'Not enough profit'.

      Gigaclear are doing the miles apart connections, don't try and insinuate BT are in any way shape or form good, in a true competitive landscape, BT would be dead and buried in less than 6 months.

      1. Elves are not people too

        Re: Comparing like with like?

        Our little village was upgraded to Gigaclear about a year ago, after all the residents came together and agreed to take the service - in small places Gigaclear need a percentage of houses to agree before they do all the hard work. After having BT for the previous 6 years and listening every year to empty promises of upgrades, we now are a very happy place.

        With BT we received on average about 1Meg, with some places managing a screaming 2Meg and others scrabbling at about 512Kbs. With Gigaclear I get (just checked) 947Meg with 250Meg upload speed. It is a revelation and we now don't have to plan 2 days in advance if we want to watch a film, we just watch it and downloading an entire series to watch on the plane is a joy that still makes me smile a year on from the upgrade.

        The cost is about double what we were paying BT, but less than the cost of the Satellite service we took out a few years ago in the hope of better internet, only to find it is rubbish in bad weather and has significant data caps associated with it.

        Now the Satellite dish is unused, the BT account is only there in case Gigaclear goes does - which it does from time to time, but their customer service is a joy and you even get to know them by name, which does make a difference. Of course as they grow and grow this will no doubt change, but at the moment they are small enough to be hungry and care.

        It has also added about 5% to the value of the house according to local estate agents, as small villages with bad internet are becoming increasingly difficult to sell. Oh - and not only did they do a great job with the digging up of the roads, they put everything back nice and tidy - including replacing flower beds. In fact they were so nice that the villagers waved at them as they made their way in 30 yard chunks through the village, moving their traffic lights as they went. Of course, that may have just been the sheer joy the residents had in finally getting some decent connection speed.

        1. Gavin Park Weir

          Re: Comparing like with like?

          I can't believe there are not more Gigclear like competitors set up. In addition small companies should be able to access the same funds as Openreach get bunged by the county councils for connecting properties.

      2. JimBlueMK

        Re: Comparing like with like?

        Gigaclear came to our village and I was very keen to sign up for their 50MB synchronous service. Problem was a)they promised a connection pot at the edge of our land but like a number of people I live down a private road and they didn't want the hassle of getting approval and b)probably more important, BT decided that despite refusing to put in FTTC for years and talking about maybe doing in 2019, suddenly decided that putting it in 2017 was not a problem.

        The consequences are that a)I had to go with BT (via Plusnet) and b) Gigaclear got very few customers in the village. Personally I would still go for their product (moving to VOIP as part of the process) but they didn't bother to follow up with those of us who had expressed definite interest in their service (I even signed a contract which died when they didn't bother to call and discuss a connection).

        So Gigaclear are potentially a good solution for rural users, but watch and see how quickly BT jump in with FTTC to avoid letting competitors in to these areas where are clearly still profitable to them.

      3. William Old

        Re: Comparing like with like?

        "... don't try and insinuate BT are in any way shape or form good, in a true competitive landscape, BT would be dead and buried in less than 6 months."

        Here's to a true competitive landscape then.

        Well over a year since Openreach Limited was incorporated, the best that BT can do to update the Openreach web site is to stick on the disclaimer "We've endeavoured to update the documents on this site to reflect the Openreach ownership and identity. Any anomalies will be rectified as soon as possible."

        The "anomalies" include the failure to include the information required by law (Companies Act 2006) about the company's name, registered office address (which changed in December last year), company number, and where in the UK it was registered - a criminal offence, but nothing that worries anyone at BT.

        Don't hold your breath.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surveyed the altnets about their top concerns, overbuild by Openreach...

    Overbuild? Fat chance

    I fall under a BT Fibre enabled exchange. They spent months hassling us with offers etc, we contacted them within a week of the service going live and switched to BT Fibre.

    We then got a message from BT 5 days later explaining the fibre service was oversubscribed, and they could only put us on a normal line, well that was worth cancelling the old internet for, the same shitty internet service on the same shitty phone line, but now from BT instead.

    1. robidy

      Re: surveyed the altnets about their top concerns, overbuild by Openreach...

      I'm on a fibre enabled exchange in London.

      My CAB is NOT profitable to fibre enable...according to Open Reach.

      It does seem to be close to a lot of business offices...guess theyy must have BT leased lines...

  5. Baldrickk

    Moving house

    And I will have FTTP. Yay!

    Though I thought I would have access to HyperOptic's network.

    Full duplex gigabit if I wanted it, but probably would have gone for the 150Mbs full duplex package instead.

    Found out today that instead, it's an Openreach connection.

    Which, as far as I can tell is a maximum of "up to" 76Mbs.

    So, half of the download I would have chosen with HyperOptic, at a larger cost, and approx 10% of the upload speed (18Mbs I believe)

    It's also less than what I have with Virgin (was the lowest package until the recent wake-up where they added a 50Mbs bottom tier) and instead of 100Mbs down, Virgin pretty consistently hit 120Mbs on speed-tests.

    Oh, and the openreach link I've been sent to see all the details of my new connection doesn't work.

    You know, just to stick the knife in.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Moving house

      There is always one arsehole who has to rub it in.

  6. 5p0ng3b0b

    Slow and steady wins the race

    Openreach and Virgin are bigger and subjected to more regulation and scrutiny than the minnows like Gigaclear who are backed with government funding and get fat by subcontracting cheap fly by night cowboys that leave inverse speedbumps everywhere for local councils to deal with. Dont know how long will it be before the rabbits and traffic etc chomp through their shallow unducted rural networks, but by then, the directors will have long bolted with the dosh and it will fall upon the dumb investors to pick up the tab.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Slow and steady wins the race

      >Openreach and Virgin are bigger and subjected to more regulation and scrutiny than the minnows like Gigaclear

      Given it seems the market, as regulated by Ofcom is sort of working, namely by holding back BT and Virgin, an opportunity has been created for the Alt's, like Gigaclear, B4RN, Rutland etc.. Once BT starts serious building of FTTP the opportunities for the alt's will dramatically reduce and in some areas totally disappear.

      So I suspect the El Reg headlline and article was penned by someone who deep down really wants to buy their broadband from BT...

    2. William Old

      Re: Slow and steady wins the race

      "... shallow unducted rural networks..."

      You mean, like Openreach when they lay a 50-pair replacement (copper) cable after years of complaints about noisy exchange lines, only a couple of miles from the exchange?

      Their "engineers" (ha!) had an interesting installation methodology... lay the cable along the side of the road for a few miles, leave it lying there for a couple of months, then pay a bloke with a tractor to cut a 12" deep slot along the grass verge to push the cable into... © Openreach Limited

      PS - They still had the required skill to bork our ADSL broadband (yup, the original 8Mbps sort that was made obsolete years ago, that's all that's available to most rural customers in our part of the UK) when changing over from the old cable...

  7. Lorribot


    FTTP to the premises is all well and good but a decent TTC would be. What is missing is more green cabinets closer to peoples houses. as in less 100m rather 1000m or more that way FTTC could easily provide 300-400Mbps services.

    However none of the 20,000 new home being built within 20 miles of me in north Essex has had a new green cabinet installed, most new housing developments either have no service as there is no capacity or are so far from teh cabinet that they get only 10bps if they get fibre at all.

    Make all new builds have FTTP or atleast put a new FTTC cabinet in. If only local planning departments actually thought about making peoples lives a little better for all teh pain new developments cause they may get more local buy in.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: FTTP

      "Make all new builds have FTTP or atleast put a new FTTC cabinet in."

      Virgin have said in the past that the house builders want too much cash to allow them in. Not sure what the BT excuse is since they are laying phone lines anyway. Although why the house builders would want to charge for access is beyond me. Surely selling houses with full fibre connections is a selling point?

      On the other hand, new builds don't actually seem to have problems selling any old shite. Demand is high, so why bother with incentives?

      1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Re: FTTP

        Although why the house builders would want to charge for access is beyond me

        Because they can ? I suspect that for many house builders, it's just another way of squeezing a few more quid out of someone. As you say, it ought to be a selling point to have decent connectivity available - but as you say, demand is so strong that they can throw up any sort of cheap s**t and know that it will sell.

        Mum was looking at a new build a while ago, I commented on the lack of any phone and data cables internally to get the response "it's all wireless these days". As to lack of ducting for BT to put the phone lines in, "they wanted too much money" - so instead they get washing lines on a new build where it would have been trivial to put some ducting in while they were doing the rest of the services.

        But then, they'd packed them in so tight that there wasn't room in the houses for "proper" staircases - they had those stupid (and difficult, even for me without hip/knee problems) with a "circular staircase" section instead of a flat half landing. And they weren't even built well - evan after being bodged with bits of 3x2 underneath, they had treads that dropped 1/4" when stood on. Icon says what I'd like to do to the groups responsible for allowing such rubbish to be built.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: FTTP

          >I commented on the lack of any phone and data cables internally to get the response "it's all wireless these days".


          >Estate: The thing is that they are some around here who also believe the hype about the capabilities of 4G/5G...

          >House: Just so long as the master BT socket is located somewhere sensible and has an adjacent power outlet then you will be doing better than my 2003 build: master socket behind a radiator, no power outlet and like most modern builds, constructed in a way that discourages retrofitting of services.

      2. JimBlueMK

        Re: FTTP

        No selling houses leasehold is the way you make lots of money now from new builds.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've heard rumors...

    ...that BT actually wants to invest more money into sports than their telecommunications network.

    Not sure how credible it is, though.

  9. Mintyboy

    B4RN These Guys have it right

    Have a look at the B4RN stuff, they are stuffing the likes of BT (Where are the billions you got for doing fibre.... a$$wipes) or Virmin Media (thank you for the speed increase and price) cannot or won't do and the annoying bit where I am was supposed to be part of the SuperFastSouthYorkshite network there is a fibre cab with 1 GB in it at the end of the street approx 200yds away can I get it no way no one will supply it due to wayleaves and build costs.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    My girlfriend has an OpenReach fibre NTE (complete with separate battery back up unit) in the utility cupboard of her flat. But she gets her "1Gpbs" broadband from Hyperoptic (delivered over Cat5E IIRC - presumably from an Ethernet switch in the building - so it's FTTB, but not really FTTP). I'm guessing both of those will be counted as full fibre connections. But it's still only the one property.

  11. BRISHE

    But At A Price

    I live in rural Devon and Gigaclear are due to start installation of fibre in August 2019. However, from what I understand, Gigaclear have a monopoly on that fibre and my only option will be to buy my service from them. No other ISP can use this infrastructure. And guess what, Gigaclear prices are wholly uncompetitive compared to the competition. For my needs, will probably stick with the old copper network.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But At A Price

      We got Gigaclear last year and it's been solid. 200Mbps symmetrical, fibre to the premises. There have been two outages, both planned, both in the early hours, both well-communicated. Price is reasonable for what it is and not that much more than BT wanted for 1.5Mbps D/L and 0.7Mbps U/L (when including the price of line rental etc). Installation took longer than they initially told us and there was some issue with the fibre to our house which caused further delays (compared to our neighbours) but now it's in, I have no regrets whatsoever.

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