back to article Copper broadband phaseout will leave UK customers with higher bills and less choice, says comparison site

Comparison site Compare Fibre reckons consumer choice will halve and prices will "as much as double" in areas where Openreach is to stop selling copper services. The bold claims came as Openreach gradually phases out sales of copper-based broadband and phone products ahead of a nationwide stop-sell order in 2023, and a …

  1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
    FAIL

    Emergeny calls

    Removal of copper connections in areas with poor or no mobile signal can make it impossible to make emergency calls. Traditional landline phones are powered by the exchange and work even if the mains power fails.

    The adapter that allows traditional phones to work with a fiber connection is mains powered and its backup battery will only last for one hour after mains failure.

    If in an area without mobile coverage the mains fails while people are sleeping then by the time they wake up they will be unable to call for help.

    It should be a requirement for full mobile coverage for an area before the copper connections can be removed from that area.

    Also FTTP and FTTC are both going to be wildly uneconomic in many rural areas where farm houses can be hundreds of yards apart.

    1. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

      Re: Emergeny calls

      What about non-broadband and non-voice services? For most of my working life (35+ years) I have been involved with many forms of copper delivered BT leased line circuits. From analogue presented 2-wires, through kilostreams, megastreams, ISDN etc. All those years ago (and before) 2-wire circuits were often used in the process industry for remote monitoring/control, by using a variety of audible tones, variable, fixed, intermittant, etc. Then PLC's came along, with modems chirping back and forth at 300 or 1200 baud, etc. Then IP appeared, and leased lines were used to connect WAN ports between routers before telco could offer native IP circuits, Lots of stuff, weird and wonderful, operated with leased lines. You could even get DC connected leased lines at one time - ie. a direct physical pair of cables from one side of town to another.

      Has every single telecomms application moved to IP? Is there an IP interface for every conceivable real world application - or were all the systems I worked on adopted to suit the telco availability of the day? All these reports and marketing people seem to think telecomms is all about voice and broadband - is there anything else out there still?

      1. Steve Todd Silver badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        It’s easy enough to wrap any simple serial protocol up into (encrypted if needed) IP packets. Take a look at the TELNET protocol as an example, giving you the equivalent of a dial-up connection over IP. The hardware needed to present to an external device as the old-fashioned interface is dirt cheap (ESP32 microcontrollers for example, at about $4 a pop).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Emergeny calls

          Downvoted, with particular reference to some features which were and are relevant in some application sectors. Lots of stuff will indeed "just work", but there's still stuff out there that benefits from the characteristics found in a point to point connection or near equivalent.

          E.g. low (or at least predictable) latency, and reliability, amongst other things.

          1. Steve Todd Silver badge

            Re: Emergeny calls

            Not quite sure I take your point. You can still lease a line, but the data will be in IP format. You’ll get low latency and guaranteed throughput, at speeds up to gigabits/second. I spent some time working for a company that took real time feeds from stock exchanges around the word. That was all in UDP packets over leased lines, and the biggest overhead was in decoding the messages.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Emergeny calls

              "You can still lease a line, but the data will be in IP format. You’ll get low latency and guaranteed throughput, at speeds up to gigabits/second."

              And why does SCADA, DCS, etc need gigabits/second to poll its RTUs in pumping stations or whatever? Sometimes those things need very low (or at least very predictable) latency, and the need to packetize serial data into IP packets can get in the way. IP is trendy though.

              "I spent some time working for a company that took real time feeds from stock exchanges around the word."

              Figures. Like a parallel universe, where for some weird reason switching from message parsing in software to message parsing in (e.g.) FPGA to save a millisecond or so (or hundreds of milliseconds if the antivirus kicks in) turns a project from failure to massive success.

              1. Steve Todd Silver badge

                Re: Emergeny calls

                “And why does SCADA, DCS, etc need gigabits/second to poll its RTUs in pumping stations or whatever? Sometimes those things need very low (or at least very predictable) latency, and the need to packetize serial data into IP packets can get in the way. IP is trendy though.”

                Who said you needed to buy gigabit links? They are a available if you want them, but lower speeds are available. Yes, there is more overhead compared to simple fixed links, but packets can contain small blocks of data if responsiveness is key.

                “Figures. Like a parallel universe, where for some weird reason switching from message parsing in software to message parsing in (e.g.) FPGA to save a millisecond or so ”

                Now you’re demonstrating your own ignorance. You’re talking about High Frequency Trading, which normally co-locates hardware in the exchange data centre and connects to their core network. Any leased line is extremely short (between two routers in a rack).

                I was talking about near real time reporting and recording, where a single exchange can produce hundreds of thousands of messages per second, which needed to be converted to a standard format and merged with the converted message traffic for all other supported exchanges. Industrial quantities of data here.

              2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Emergeny calls

                "And why does SCADA, DCS, etc need gigabits/second to poll its RTUs in pumping stations or whatever?"

                From a security point of view I'd have thought point to point connections were a distinct benefit for infrastructure installations. What's even the point of using IP if not to route it though a general network and open it up to possible breaches?

                1. EnviableOne Silver badge

                  Re: Emergeny calls

                  however, they are expensive, most that i am aware of use ADSL and internet, not the best solution, but the costs are cheap, and the data rates acceptable, esppecially when you are talking things like JIT manufacturing etc. the data rates are in the kbps, and its the latency and uptime thats important, not the speed.

        2. gsal

          Re: Emergeny calls

          lots of modem connected devices will struggle to work over IP (VOIP codecs are all geared to speech not extreme and short burst audio tones as used by modem protocols). Think burglar alarms, Point of Sale/Credit card machines, SCADA and industrial control systems, care alarms. There are solutions for some of these but they are relatively expensive compared to a few dollars for a modem chip and the cost of the kit they are supporting will often not justify the expense of moving to IP. The industry and OFCOM have largely ignored this problem thus far.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Emergeny calls

        You’re forgetting the layer 2 products that exist alongside the IP ones. You can buy FTTP or FTTC or leased lines that present an Ethernet interface each end and you can do with those what you wish. (Probably not you personally, but an ISP or comms provider can). You don’t have to run IP, you don’t have to end up on the public Internet.

      3. JohnG

        Re: Emergeny calls

        For better or worse, telcos are gradually removing legacy services from their product portfolios and moving inexorably towards only IP based/cloud services. Obviously, these don't offer customers anything like the same visibility as many of the traditional serial services but the telcos see that as an advantage e.g. does this IP cloud service actually have the promised reslience between point A and Point B?

      4. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        You could even get DC connected leased lines at one time - ie. a direct physical pair of cables from one side of town to another.

        A blessing and a curse. Working for ILR we had several of those things - EPS85 (IIRC) to the sports grounds, for example. Problem was that a typical BT engineer, rocking up at a local DP looking for a spare pair for a temporary phone line would put his meter across the pairs in turn and finding neither 50V or 75V (POTS or ISDN) assume the line was free. We would often find our lines suddenly stopped working just before (say) a major international rugby match.

        We fed programme constantly up the line, and when the OB kit was unplugged at the stadium it was looped back to our racks, so the procedure - in the days leading up to a match - was to check for programme on each line, probably daily and certainly both the day before and on the morning of the match. No programme? Instant callout. Or in the case of the National Stadium, a quick jog up the road, probably get there before the engineer has finished and point out what he's done...

        I've recounted here previously that a week or three after starting work at the radio station - my first "proper" job out of university and still very much finding my feet - we did an OB for the breakfast show. Most of the stuff could not be set up until the morning, so I turned up very early with cables and connectors, wondering where our temporary line would terminate, to be surprised when an engineer poked his head out of a hole in the road and handed me a scraggy bit of telephone cable with one pair twisted out. "There you go".

        8½kHz back to the studio. It "just worked".

        Of course, it wasn't long before ISDN became more convenient and then - eventually - the problems with IP were mostly sorted, though for OBs which may not have a thoroughly robust network connection, dropped packets and latency can still be issues.

        Our FM signal used starquad to the local transmitter with an amplifier at the exchange. The more distant transmitter used starquad to the exchange and then NICAM to the transmitter. Both our AM feeds used EPS85 (or something similar, can't really remember the designations now) on bog standard twisted pair, bundled in with all the phone lines. We had a memorable occasion where a pair of likely lads was replacing a bit of cable outside our studio, listening to the AM service on their radio, and one of them - when we went off air - jokingly said to the other "did you just cut the wrong pair?"

        Yup, of course he had...

        M.

    2. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Emergeny calls

      Mobile is getting much much better. Here in the lakes we are using mobile voip for our tier one mountain rescue comms. There are few blackspots (and can relay in those)

      1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        I have relatives on the Isle of Skye - there are many dead spots there. Even in the largest town on the island (Portree) there are dead spots. The Isle of Skye is about the same size as Greater London - but has a permanent population of under 13,000. As a result there are few mobile phone masts and combined with the hilly nature of the island makes for many areas with no signal.

        Any hilly sparsely populated area has mobile dead spots as it is not worthwhile for the mobile phone companies to cover them unless they are forced or bribed into doing so.

        1. WhereAmI?

          Re: Emergeny calls

          We live in a wide valley between a range of hills (< 1500ft) and a range of mountains (> 1500ft). Mobile signal is potluck - sometimes it works out of the back of the house, sometimes the front. Nearest mobile mast is over the hill about four miles (??) away - at least, I don't know of any one closer. Irony is, although the mobiles are tethered to the wi-fi router when within range, that's potluck too. We need the landline, even though it might get used for one call a quarter.

    3. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Emergeny calls

      Power over fibre (POF) is a possibility, and it seems like it's enough to run a phone, but may be beyond the competency of Openreach, or whoever they subcontract to yank and chop fibre.

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        Power over fibre (POF) is a possibility, and it seems like it's enough to run a phone, but may be beyond the competency of Openreach, or whoever they subcontract to yank and chop fibre.

        Indeed. Or just install copper + fibre. There's no problem with installing copper, so long as you're not installing only copper. The actual fibre is a rounding error on the per-metre cost of road-closure permits, labour (trained with appropriate StreetWorks tickets), reinstatement, the insurance for that, plus contingencies like backhoe-ing into another utility which causes other delays.

        It is criminal that copper-only installation has remained an option for so long - presumably because OR hope they can scrounge some money in a few years to come and overbuild it with fibre.

    4. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Emergeny calls

      Both my router and phone system run off my UPS, which having only two very low demand systems can sustain service for many hours without the main supply. This was originally done to provide house wide DECT service during periods of critical medical care treatment in case the mains supply failed. Both internet and phone services are thus protected. The UPS battery was recently replaced by a unit 25% larger than the original due to fat finger trouble, but should extend the potential support time even further.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Emergeny calls

      Also FTTP and FTTC are both going to be wildly uneconomic in many rural areas where farm houses can be hundreds of yards apart.

      Whilst there are indeed issues with certain emergency services and the fact the PSTN self-powers (for as long as the battery bank in the exchange lasts), rural FTTP need not be as expensive as people think (granted, for a given value of "rural". There are rural areas of the West Midlands which struggle to get ADSL speeds due to wonky network layout, that's a different calculation to running 15miles of fibre to a single house in a Highland glen).

      There can be significant distances involved, but those houses are almost universally connected via overhead wire. Fibre is cheap (especially when you're buying it by the mile) and much of the installation cost is in labour. A small crew can overbuild hundreds of yards of overhead fibre relatively quickly - much quicker than hard-digging up a city street (and without needing road-closure permits, performing reinstatement or any of the attendant paperwork to boot).

      Rural fibre projects mostly haven't done this because they couldn't afford or didn't want to be beholden to OpenReach for pole access, and the people pushing for it included farmers with hardware who could soft-dig the fibre in fairly efficiently themselves. But for OpenReach - with an existing pole network - it's fairly cheap to sling up fibre. Although you have lower density, your cost-per-premises may work out comparable to urban areas once you dispense with permitting, hard-digging and remediation works. There's also zero chance of delays from putting a backhoe through a power or water main if you're not actually doing any digging.

      They just haven't done it because it's still more expensive than sweating their CCA.

      1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        I live in rural Cornwall and have had fibre for three years now.

      2. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        the last place you want fibre is on a pole, Copper works because it can flex and grow without significant end to end changes in its capacity, Fibre is prone to breaks especially when constrained by connection to poles in high winds.

        There s a reason why the cities have the roll outs, its easier cheaper and more cost efficient to roll out connections on 3000 core fibre to an entire city block than running a pair 25 miles over hill and dale to the isolated cottage in the highlands, or welsh valleys

    6. Xalran

      Re: Emergeny calls

      No worries...

      Here ( France ) you cannot get a real PSTN line since 5ish years ago ( I had to fight to get mine in 2011, and at that time it wasn't officially dead yet ), all you can get is DSL wireline. ( and yes that already create a problem ).

      Now in area with fiber it's even worse, your only option is fiber with a triple play box... even if what you want is just a fixed phone. ( in that case they deactivate the TV and Internet on the box )

      They did hope to get rid of the copper in 2025 when they announced the end of the PSTN ( ... And they since have pushed back the date to beyond 2030 unofficially because there's places where putting several kms fiber for a few houses that see people only between may and september is a financial nightmare. )

    7. David Hicklin

      Re: Emergeny calls

      Problem with mobile as found in Lancaster in 2012 is after a couple of hours without power the mobile masts die, not to mention the FTTC cabinets also die after a while.

      No power situations are a serious problem.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Emergeny calls

        Have an update for mentioning that great example of "all eggs in one basket".

        For those you haven't heard of it, major floods, local substations taken out of service (electricity and dirty water don't mix well), whole town and surrounding area without power. And it took around a week to get power back again - which considering the extent of the flooding is a great testament to the engineers at Electricity NorthWest.

        PSTN still mostly working using exchange batteries - but only for people with a wired phone (no power for DECT base stations). Mobiles stopped working only a short time after the power went out as the base station batteries ran out. Some people found themselves with no water when the electric booster pumps stopped working. Shortage of generators as everyone (at least those who actually had any plan at all) had a plan that involved just hiring them as needed - so not enough to go around.

        Most shops were stuffed as they didn't have working tills. And a panic to buy batteries for FM radios to listen the local radio station which had one phone line working and power - so was able to broadcast update messages.

        It's a fascinating read https://www.theblackoutreport.co.uk/2019/12/11/lancaster-floods-living-without-electricity/ and follow the links to the Living Without Electricity report.

    8. Ralph Online

      Re: Emergeny calls

      Regarding FTTP in rural areas.... suspending fibre from posts is the cheap solution. And it's being done in many rural areas eg Fastershire serving Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.

      I'm guessing it may actually be more economic to string fibre for several hundreds of meters rather than up/down every suburban pavement?

  2. fwthinks

    Mobile to save the day?

    I agree with the assessment - the base cost of having fixed line broadband will increase. If you have a house full of people with heavy usage, the cost is reasonable, but a single person just wanting to do a bit of browsing is paying way over the odds if they need to pay for a fibre connection.

    What is missing from the assessment, is that I suspect mobile broadband will take up this slack. Even today a simple 5GB monthly SIM can be had for less than the price of fixed line rental. Connect a SIM to a Wifi Dongle and you have cheap broadband that will rival a basic copper connection. It just needs to be made a bit simpler to understand and install for non-techies. I am surprised that we don't see more bundle offers for mobile broadband as a replacement for fixed line.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Mobile to save the day?

      If I plug my iPhone into my MacBook, I get a slightly faster connection than if I plug an ethernet cable into it.

      I still use the ethernet cable though, because O2 has a data cap, and Plusnet does not; and 4K YouTube uses a lot of data.

      1. Pete B

        Re: Mobile to save the day?

        "If I plug my iPhone into my MacBook, I get a slightly faster connection than if I plug an ethernet cable into it."

        Bet it's not faster if you're trying to upload files - that's the bit that seems to be missing most to me; unless you go full leased line route then you get an asymmetric connection which is based on the premise that all users are consumers of data and not creators; particularly with mobile working this is proving less and less true as time goes on.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Mobile to save the day?

          Speedtest on O2 - 55 down, 15 up

          Speedtest on Plusnet - 53 down, 14 up

          Yes I know those are not typical O2 speeds, I have a particularly good signal. The mast is attached to the same street cabinet as my landline connection, and the very short 4G hop works slightly better than the somewhat longer run of telephone wire.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Mobile to save the day?

      "but a single person just wanting to do a bit of browsing is paying way over the odds if they need to pay for a fibre connection."

      And even worse for a single person who just wants a phone. That's a phone that even works if you don't have mains available.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mobile to save the day?

      mobile internet 'should' take up this slack, but generally, it compares VERY poorly with cable / phone-line connection. Even if you find equivalent mobile package (allegedly 'unlimited') in a comparable price range, you'll find out (if you do your research) that a) it's dongle-based (not exactly compatible with a 2+2 family in lockdown, and later on, with lockdown habits), and b), even if you do go a mobile 'modem' route, you find out that the mobile signal is patchy, or just shit (and so is your speed), even in relatively densely populated area. In theory, 5G might jump into the niche, but given that 4G has never morphed into proper, widespread, household business service, I hardly expect 5G to be any better, given the rollout cost and time, etc. In theory, Musk starlink could jump into bandwagon, but he'd need to reduce his subscription pricing by about 70% to compete effectively.

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Mobile to save the day?

      £20 - unlimited data SIM with Smarty (based on Three network), with a stated 1000GB/month fair use after which they will slow you down a bit. Unlimited free calls, texts.

      Been with them for three years on 2 different SIMs (one in my phone, one running my entire house as a broadband replacement - including access to my local network cameras, services, media, streaming my TV direct from my house, etc.)

      When I moved into this place three years ago, and the broadband was still talking in single-digit Mbps, I didn't even bother to activate the phone line. For less than most people pay for their phone line and broadband, I have two unlimited data SIMs, free calls on two different phone numbers, decent speeds on both, complete mobility and a recurring month-to-month contract so I'm not tied in at all.

      If BT kill copper, it'll be replaced by 4G/5G, not by fibre (though presumably most 4G/5G masts are running fibre leased line or radio-relaying to one that does?).

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mobile to save the day?

      £20 will get you 20GB (per month) - and the price seems to be coming down. We (a local charity supporting our elder population) have been giving MiFi and Vodafone 20GB/m SIMS to isolated folk during the Covid lockdown (plus iPads and Chromebooks); financed under a government scheme, with SIMs prepaid to summer 2021. They've got a lot of folk online and back in better contact with relatives, and connected to online services.

      The two main problems we've encountered are:

      1) Mobile signal can be patchy. Not had anyone in a blindspot but several clients need to keep the MiFi near a window. Probably a consequence of rural and thick stone walls.

      2) New users discovering how useful their new tech can be and running out of their monthly allowance. For those, we're recommending unlimited fibre broadband (which, from BT, costs about the same as the SIM i.e. adds around £20 to their landline bill). Before anyone points out there are other ISPs, we're in a rural area where all connections are via Openreach, and BT actually provide a good service at a competitive price.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I'd have thought Flockton had enough problems being on an HVG rat-run between the M1 & Huddersfield without being robbed blind on telephone charges.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      I remember the sign on entry being graffiti'd with "kill a flockton child, not your speed"

      Thats about all I remember from the M1 run

  4. cornetman Silver badge

    Ah, Flockton Flyer. I remember it well.

    Superseded by now by Flockton Fibre.

  5. Flak
    Stop

    Copper won't get switched off for a long time, only WLR

    The devil is in the detail here:

    The PSTN is getting switched off (which includes many of the services most people are familiar with such as analogue exchange lines and other services that rely on the WLR product from Openreach such as ISDN2 and ISDN30, lift alarm lights, traffic light connections, etc).

    The copper remains in the ground and will provide services for a while longer...

    Many will still use FTTC (the connection from the cabinet to the end location is still copper) and ultimately then migrate to the follow on product SOGEA (i.e. no underlying phone line anymore). Even at that time the copper is still in use.

    It will take much longer to connect every home with fibre all the way.

    The marketing machines selling FTTC as a fibre service have a lot to answer for!

    1. Bob the Skutter

      Re: Copper won't get switched off for a long time, only WLR

      Openreach have issued a number of stop sell for copper at exchanges where initial rollout of full fibre has started.

      There is also plan to switch off about 4600 exchanges as part of the move to fibre and switch off of copper. So will be left with just 1000. The first of these due to be switched off by 2030, before a rapid closure of remaining exchanges.

      They are estimating just 1million copper lines left by 2025

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Copper won't get switched off for a long time, only WLR

        mine will be one of them, no sign of decent broadband in this are in the next few years, rural, isolated (ish) so bottom of the pile as no economic incentive

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Copper won't get switched off for a long time, only WLR

          The predictable consequence of diverting resources to FTTP where FTTC service already exists.

  6. Abominator

    Have given up waiting for fibre. Have ordered Starlink instead.

    So long BT. You will not be missed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why the thumbs down?

      For some people, something like Starlink is the only way they'll get a reasonable service any time soon - even if it is pricey.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why the thumbs down?

        Thumbs down because SpaceX still haven’t resolved the issues astronomers are facing due to littering the sky with this garbage.

    2. purplecatqueen

      Same here, shocking as it is,Starlink is the only answer. Live in Weymouth Dorset,the slow copper speeds,are so slow and anticrated. No choice,just frustrating. Signed up starlink 2 days ago,a little wait,£90 upfront,then per month,as signed up for Beta while back.Now the wait,to see if we get our slot.Its the only way forward,sick of being left in the dark zone. 23 .mbps is what we get,£30.99 a month ,a rip off,for a rubbish service, and we can't even watch our amazon prime or Netflix it's a joke.

      1. BenM 29
        Coat

        u sure about that?

        DT4 9BP can get FTTC of all varieties. You must be somewhere near Weymouth rather than in Weymouth... though that postcode is Wyke Regis so not really Weymouth...

        /mine's the one with a map to South Wales, via Surrey, in the pocket...

      2. Tom 38 Silver badge

        23 Mbps is what my old man gets at home (rural East Anglia) - plenty enough for Netflix/Prime/iplayer in HD and video chat in HD. I wonder if you had line problems as well as lowish speed.

        Hopefully Starlink works well for you; there's nothing more frustrating than internet that doesn't work properly.

        1. Andy629

          I get 23Mbps down, 2-3 up. No issues with 2 children on Zoom lessons / Youtube and two adults working over VPNs. I manage to run a small web server over this, just keeping images small (most visitors are on mobile devices anyway, so 20MP images are probably overkill). Having said this, was very pleased to see OR contractors prepping outside for fttp yesterday

      3. CountCadaver

        Your not mentioning the £400+ equipment fee Starlink charge....

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        First post, I see

        Presumably it's your comms problems that prevented you posting on el Reg earlier.

    3. sitta_europea Silver badge

      "So long BT. You will not be missed."

      Couldn't have said it better myself.

      Ditched BT when they kept putting the price up. Eventually, after thirty years with them, they wanted to charge me over £400 for my service. Finally I snapped and told them (and here I paraphrase) to go forth and multiply.

      They rang me, then, for the first time I can remember in thirty years, to offer me the service for £72.

      I told them it was too late because I'd got a better service from a competitor for £20.

      That was all about three years ago.

      They sent me a credit note for about £150 every quarter.

      I asked them to send me the money.

      They didn't, so I raised a complaint.

      They still didn't send the money, but now they've stopped sending the credit notes.

      BT will fleece you if you let them.

      I hope they dry up and blow away.

  7. Silas S. Brown

    Low-income households could lose out

    The trouble with those growing percentages of people opting for fibre is they may leave out low-income households for whom price is a much more important factor. If fibre is too expensive, they may have to go mobile-only and be subjected to data caps (whereas their previous ADSL contract gave them unlimited data). Has anyone in authority thought of giving fibre discounts to people on benefits? (although not everyone who needs them knows how to claim them, but it's a start)

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Low-income households could lose out

      My mother pays £15-£18 *a quarter* for her landline ... she doesn't have to remember to charge it, the buttons are big enough to see and it works nearly all the time by picking it up ... I wonder how the outlay of £29.99 a month for "full fibre" added to her expenditure of her state pension would influence her attitude towards keeping a landline? I know of multiple household with old people in the same boat, where the phone is not media distribution channel but a simple lifeline and something to shout the shopping list at ...

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: My mother pays £15-£18 *a quarter* for her landline

        https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/12/bt-to-continue-discount-for-landline-only-uk-phone-users.html

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Low-income households could lose out

      Lower income never got home broadband at all.

      They use mobile phones as that's their only internet capable device.

      Not like they've got PCs they're hooking up.

  8. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Anectodal Evidence

    Over a year ago I noticed Virgin was way over-charging me for my broadband, and had been for a while. They'd almost doubled the price without telling me, so I cancelled it. Then I got a nice phone call from a Sunderland salesman who offered me £19/m for 18 months. It was easier than swapping so I took it.

    Then a year later they bumped up the price by a few quid but gave me the chance to quit, which I did. Then I got a nice phone call from a Sunderland salesman who offered me an upgrade from 20Mbps to 108Mbps for £18/m for 18 months.

    I declined as I have no use for 108Mbps. Not until El Reg allows me to embed my videos here. I'd far prefer a £1.80/m 2Mbps account but that is not an option, so I'm swapping to my pay as you go phone.

    I guess the takeaway is cancel and haggle if you want a good deal.

  9. aidanstevens
    Stop

    This makes the huge assumption that pricing will stay as it is, over the coming years, in a rapidly changing market.

    My FTTP ISP has an entry level 50Mbps/50Mbps product for £20/month which is only a little more than the cheapest ADSL offering. I don't see why Openreach won't follow suit especially as they are supposedly overbuilding existing FTTP networks and need to stay competitive, given that Virgin covers 50%+ of the population and have their own gigabit offering.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      50Mbps/50Mbps product for £20/month

      Is that with Virgin or someone else?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. CuChulainn

      Virgin's gigabit offering is still embryonic.

      You can only get it in a few places. I'm waiting for it, but I can't get it yet.

      Right now, when it's quiet, my VM 500Mbps package delivers 663Mbps, and 550Mbps when it's not. But although gigabit still uses copper to the premises (I believe), only downstream uses DOCSIS 3.1. Upstream is still DOCSIS 3.0.

      1. slooth

        My brother in Thailand called a provider at 9am on a Thursday morning. Ordered FTTP and by 6pm the same day, everything was installed. 1GB up and 1GB down. Monthly payment is £26 equivalent. He lives in the sticks (13.89388907943398, 101.45684404004487 on google maps). We need to get rid of BT/OpenWretch and open up the provision in the UK. We look positively 3rd world from other countries broadband perspective.

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          £26 in Thai money is a lot, buys a lot of meals/beers and is a significant chunk of monthly rent. That’s probably equivalent to several hundred pounds a month.

          I also suspect that in Thailand they can just do stuff without planning permission, wayleaves, health and safety etc etc which significantly adds to costs.

        2. BenM 29

          >>We need to get rid of BT/OpenWretch and open up the provision in the UK.

          Err the provision is opened up in the UK - it's just that nobody wants to take on Openwretch... anyone is free to build an exchange building somewhere, and start installing infrastructure to connect it to customers. Just it is not finacially viable to do so.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Well, Virgin’s network reaches most U.K. homes so clearly some people have made the sims add up.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            And, as it's so often convenient for some people to forget, BT were confined to copper only for a long time when the newcomers were free to use other technologies. Oddly enough, out here in the Pennines there were no newcomers. They didn't, and still don't, like the idea of digging up roads which are solid rock under a few cm of blacktop.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They do need to pay back the investors who lent them the money to build the network. If prices drop before the rollout is finished, guess what happens to the investment to finish the job?

      If each connected property costs somewhere between 500 and 1000 gbp to connect, and a £20 a month broadband bill results in about £10 to Openreach, investors are looking at the best part of a decade just to break even. Better to stick your money in a saving account at the post office.

    5. BikNorton

      When I was allowed to order FTTP in June 2019 it was £54.99/mo for 150mbps. By the time openreach had stopped kicking itself in the balls and I could *actually* order FTTP - July 2020 - it was £47.99/mo for 300mbps, and by the time install rolled around (October 2020) they offered me 500mbps for £2/mo more.

      Still not as cheap as the free my 20mbps FTTC ended up being during the intervening period. Openreach *really* likes kicking itself in the balls.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Choices

    Issues as I see it:

    1) There are fewer providers to choose from if you are after FTTP;

    2) FTTP packages often cost more than an equivalent FTTC package (same speed profile);

    3) Lack of emergency phone provision in some cases (no mobile coverage, power outage) needs some work.

    I'm currently with Plusnet (FTTC) and would like to switch to FTTP as some point (it is available). However, they have no plans to offer FTTP, even though it is available wholesale. Is this because they're now part of BT and they don't want to make it available through a "value" provider? I would like to stay with Plusnet, as I use the static IP they offer on a consumer account - BT only offer this on a (more expensive) "business" package.

    1. Bogbody

      Re: Choices

      Does that mean the demise of PlusNet in 3 to 5 years time when only FTTP will be available?

    2. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Choices

      Choice is the problem.

      I moved to FTTP a few years back and still the only providers available to me are BT and Xen. When I enquire through their websites the other providers (Plusnet, TalkTalk etc.) all say "Unlimited Fibre isn't available in your area yet, but if you take out Unlimited Broadband you'll be able to upgrade when it is" and offer me a 3.5-6 Mbps connection. BT can give me 500Mbps.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Choices

        It would be interesting to know just what the hurdles ISPs have to get through to resell Openreach FTTP;

        as on the face of it, it should be like the xDSL services and just another product line on their sales system. But given how long its taking for the pool of ISPs reselling FTTP to grow beyond BT and Zen there must be some major hurdles and/or costs involved.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Choices

          You have to build your OSS to interface with Openreach’s via APIs. Then you have to decide if you’re going to use your own backhaul, use BT’s or rent from someone else. You’ll need to put all the interconnects in place and then decide how hot to run your backhaul. Presumably if you’re an ISP you already have peering sorted but if not you’ll need to work out who to peer with and where and buy connectivity to those PoPs. You’ll need V4 and V6 address ranges sufficient for your expected customer base, or implement some kind of CGNAT.

          You’ll have to be able to quote for it and sell it and bill it and be able to take service calls and do some level of self-diagnosis before handing faults to Openreach. You’ll also need to pick a CPE that is compatible and test it and build some kind of config for it.

          There aren’t that many hurdles but you have to jump all of them fully. In telco timescales, that’s a year’s work for maybe 50 people, 100 if you have to develop some clunky old OSS you’ve been using since the days of ADSL. You’ve got to have an end to end design, you need to plan what changes that design needs, go build them, test them, fix the bugs, place a few test orders, fix the bugs, test again, fix the new bugs, then you can launch.

          You could of course just white-label and re-sell a complete package assembled by someone else, but where’s the fun in that? .

  11. bin

    So the solution for loss of a proper phone line is to plug in an adapter - presumably that's an ATA VOIP box. These of course are provided free by your ISP then? Oh and that assumes you've got broadband in the first place - and that you have the skills or even the kit to configure/reconfigure one of these things.

    The world doesn't give a toss about about folk who are not into the latest gadgets and gizmos and staying connected 24/7 and all that crap - but there are a lot of people for whom this is going to be a very difficult transition.

    Suggesting that Mobile Coverage Will Be Better is just deluded without change. The biggest single change which should be enforced on all mobile providers is that all masts must provide connections for all networks. After all you don't get a new line every time you switch electricity provider so why should you depend on a particular mobile provider having THEIR mast near you so you can use the damn thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because if you do that you encourage the mobile companies to sit on their hands and let some other chump build the mast. It creates a disincentive for anyone to roll out their network. Why go to the expense of building your own tower when you can just use someone else’s?

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        It needs enforcing in rural areas as not worth phone companies while to build masts in low population areas, so they don't..

        Though the push to EE for emergency service network (with subsidised mast building) is gradually giving EE a defacto monopoly in many rural areas, but not good if someone wants choice of a different provider

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: encourage the mobile companies to sit on their hands

        Not just the mobile companies.

        "Why go to the expense of building your own tower when you can just use someone else’s?"

        Why go to the expense of building your own grid (for electricity, or gas, or water) when you could just use someone else's?

        Who remembers the days of the regional Fixed Wireless Access broadband auctions in the UK, which was followed by deals post-auction deals where almost all the regions ended up in one company?

        Said company then just sat on the licences, and last time I checked, still had no significant rollout.

        NB this isn't Ionica etc, it's the company once known as PCCW, and which has used various other names to promote its largel nonexistent wireless broadband.

        https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/1981-pccw-may-scale-back-investment-plans-for-the-uk

        Leave it to the markets. What could possibly go

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: encourage the mobile companies to sit on their hands

          According to this November 2020 report PCCW Global Networks (UK) Limited were brought by Wifinity

          [ https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2020/11/wifi-provider-wifinity-acquires-pccw-global-networks-uk-and-isps.html ]

          However, reports from 2017 suggest PCCW had agreed to sell UK Broadband Ltd to Hutchison 3G UK Ltd.

          [ https://www.commsupdate.com/articles/2017/06/01/three-completes-uk-broadband-acquisition/ ]

          Looks as clear as mud as to who actually has the spectrum licences.

          Mind you, getting kit that supports the relevant spectrum is going to be difficult and expensive.

    2. CountCadaver

      Funnily enough ISPs ship out routers every day that are pre-configured and just need plugged in, often with colour coded cables that only fit into one hole on the back and even supply a printed quick start guide with village idiot level hand holding on how to plug it all together, seemingly written by donny don't.....

      Adapter will likely end up looking similar to an NTE6, plug phone to one side and router to the other, that or router will have a phone jack on the rear (my Fritzbox 7530 has a VOIP port with an adapter supplied to connect to a BT phone plug (seriously can we just swap to RJ11 already.....)...

      My grandparents are tech phobic (both in their 80s), my parents however are tech savvy enough to connect a router and buy stuff online etc and they are in their early 60s (and thats fairly typical given how many of my parents work colleagues, friends etc are online and using social media etc etc), by 2030 my grandparents (if they are still with us) will be 90 and 95 respectively and one of a small number of their generation left, my parents will be in their early 70s so the number of people completely tech phobic is going to be quite a small number of people if any......heck even your average farmer has to be au fait with technology due to various online forms, setting up machinery (much of the new stuff with display screens and computer controls for stuff like spread rates etc)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        And however tech aware they are they'll have to hope they have a mobile signal and, contrary to sod's law, a charged up phone to ring in to report a power failure.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "After all you don't get a new line every time you switch electricity provider so why should you depend on a particular mobile provider having THEIR mast near you so you can use the damn thing."

      The physical electricity network is run by a single provider in each area. Ditto for gas.

      If the same vendor independence were to apply to provision of mobile service then it's likely that the same thing would have to be done with the masts. I suppose it's possible that the threat of that would lead then to offer a roaming arrangement instead but without at least moves to force a combination the present situation will remain.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget that some people are forced to choose fibre over ADSL

    Since even where ADSL is still offered and _appears_ to be a valid low-cost choice, it is often so under-invested and over-subscribed that bandwidth and reliability are on a par with early 56K dialup.

    So really it's the same old "monopoly dressed up to look like competition" story that we see playing out over and over again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't forget that some people are forced to choose fibre over ADSL

      If you only got 56k from an ADSL connection you’d be entitled to a refund under Ofcom rules. Most ISPs won’t even offer a service that runs that slow.

      What investment are you expecting to take place on ADSL? It’s clearly moribund. The few operators that still have ADSL kit (I think Sky, talktalk and BT) won’t be wanting to expand those footprints and the number of customers is in rapid decline (the opposite of oversubscription).

    2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: Don't forget that some people are forced to choose fibre over ADSL

      Also – everyone talks about "copper" connections, but I suspect that one of the problems is that a lot of them are actually aluminium.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Aluminium? Pah!

        All we have here is aluminium oxide.

        When I were a lad...

  13. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    No change

    Nothing will ever change until Openreach is 100% separated from BT, both as a business and as a culture.

    For those who want the old tech, sorry but the relentless march of progress is leaving us all behind so you have a choice of buying what's on offer, or doing without. It's no different to us all soon being forced to buy electric cars or any other area of technological/sociological progress.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No change

      BT would still be Openreach’s biggest customer, by far.

      If nothing has changed I presume you’re still using dial-up?

  14. TheManCalledStan
    Meh

    Not really true about VM

    "And although Virgin has not had Openreach's legacy copper network to contend with,"

    They did have ADSL customers on Openreach copper, but sold them all to TalkTalk... so more accurate would be "Virgin avoided future copper issue by offloading the ADSL "luddites" to another reputable supplier"

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: "TalkTalk" and "reputable supplier"

      Two terms that don't belong in the same sentence. Unless "was never a" lies betwixt.

      1. TheManCalledStan

        Re: "TalkTalk" and "reputable supplier"

        Agreed in the now, but the transfer of ADSL customers was in early 2015, the infamous data breach was in October 2015 so at the time they still had a facade of reputability! Alas, no option for Vulture style with strikethroughs to get the tongue in cheekiness across...

  15. a_builder

    OMG

    Where do I start taking this article apart.

    The author has NO clue what he is writing about and has conflated a lot of the basics.

    @ Authour FYI this is a tech journal - you do know that: right?

    So here goes

    Howler 1)

    "The bold claims came as Openreach gradually phases out sales of copper-based broadband and phone products ahead of a nationwide stop-sell order in 2023, and a forecasted withdrawal of the copper network by 2025."

    This was never the case.

    The author has confused the 2025 date which related to POTS -> VoIP with the stop sell and/or forced migration of broadband -> FTTP this is being trialled in Salisbury and there is NO announced national date for this. And in any case the FTTP network would not nearly be ready nationally for this to happen at that point in time.

    Howler 2) "Hill-Haimes noted that customers wishing to move superfast (FTTC) services after the copper stop-sell deadline will be forced to upgrade to FTTP, although this doesn't necessarily mean connections would cost more."

    Where FTTP is available then FTTP is the price regulated product for lower social tiers. So the price might well be cheaper for FTTP than FTTC.

    Howler 3) "But curiously omitted from Compare Fibre's claims was the fact that legacy all-copper subscriptions have shrunk year-on-year over the past eight years, while adoption of FTTP has accelerated. According to TalkTalk's 2020 annual report [PDF] [PDF], nearly 78 per cent of its consumer base were using a fibre connection (across FTTP and FTTC). Moreover, 85 per cent of new customers opted for fibre, and the majority bought high-speed (80Mbps+) products."

    The only way you can arrive at this amazing misconstruction of the facts is to confuse FTTC/GFast/VM all called "Fibre" by their respective sellers with FTTP Full Fibre......The only thing that has in fact shrunk over 8 years is ADSL and that is mostly ADSL -> FTTC migration.....GFast didn't exist 8 years ago.....FTTC was growing strongly until about 18 months ago.....VM has also grown but it is impossible to pick apart if full fibre offering from its coaxial offering as they don't break the figures down.

    I mean really there must be someone in El Reg who understand this stuff properly? Surely? It is not hard. Maybe even ask Mark Jackson or Andrew Ferguson if in doubt.

  16. This Side Up

    Why can't ...

    Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML OK, Why can't the ISPs and Openreach use the technologies they have to deliver the performance they advertise? I pay for 'up to' 8Mbps. I don't care how it's delivered. I do care if I'm only getting 300kbps on an ftp download.

  17. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    £5Bn from Government

    With the small profits that BT/Openwretch group makes, why is the government throwing cash at them.

    As someone who lives in the sticks, the government subsidy (Gigabit Voucher) for BT bringing me FTTP-OD is a waste of time because BT are not interested in connecting me unless there are six in the "group buy", considering my nearest neighbour is another half a mile away, and so-on, and I'm a SME so *should* qualify for £5K of govt cash.

    Not according to BT, it's their Rural Voucher scheme for me... £750 max, eh, it says up to £3K, no says BT, not how they do it, It's pay £13K or not have it. As there are no alternative "pipe" providers out here, I'm royally stuffed.

    BT don't give a shit about customers, only that HMG is daft enough to keep spunking billions of £££ into their open mouth, all to give to their shareholders.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £5Bn from Government

      It’s mostly down to the law. If Openreach install rural fibre and charge you less than it cost them the other network operators would take them to court for predatory behaviour and breaching the Competition Act. Openreach would lose that court case.

      Nothing would kill the businesses of the alt-nets faster than Openreach rocking up somewhere they were rolling out and then using their deep pockets to sell below cost until the alt-net has gone bust.

      That’s why these rural rollouts all use government funding to cover the gap between the actual cost and a cost that would be considered economically viable. Bidding for, and winning, a government funded rollout for an area is the only way around that legal problem.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £5Bn from Government

      The voucher scheme rules are set by the government, not BT. You don’t have to use the voucher with BT.

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