Following the broadband money

The gap between theory and reality in UK broadband

with 13 comments

Mel Bryan of Cambridgeshire’s Alconbury Telecom has done some homework on how much money is really available to get high speed broadband to most if not all the homes in Britain, which I am pleased to reproduce here.

Mel said: “I have analysed the rural population of Cambridgeshire and concluded that half the population (Ofcom 47%) live in villages of less than 1,000 dwellings which can’t therefore meet BT’s current requirement of 1,000 signatures per exchange to demand BT Infinity – some 130,000 dwellings (CCC’s statistics dept).

“Digital Britain/Next Generation Access (NGA) report estimates the average cost of providing SFBB (superfast broadband) to a rural dwelling is £1,750 per dwelling.
“What we have now on the table for Cambridgeshire is:
Central Government (BDUK) £6.7m/130,000 £51 per dwelling
CCC contribution £20m/130,000 £153 per dwelling
Private Industry £43.3m/130,000 £333 per dwelling
Total per dwelling £537.00
“So we have a shortfall in funding of £1,213 per dwelling.
“The government have set a target that every home should have a minimum speed of 2Mbps by 2015; this is totally inadequate to provide acceptable response times now, let alone in four years time when the internet will be unrecognisable compared to today.
“It’s also technically impossible to provide that without fibre to every BT street cabinet – typically today’s rural dwelling in Cambridgeshire see speeds of 0 to <2Mbs if they live more than 3km from their local exchange.”
Perhaps some other counties would like to do the sums and see how they add up. That should help manage expectations. And provoke some questions.

Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2011/11/01 at 08:00

13 Responses

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  1. The average cost is swelled by getting a connection to the really rural places. It is a lot cheaper than the average to do a village. B4RN project is currently working in the rural uplands, and we are raising the finance to do it from the community themselves. We have costings in the business plan that would be of interest to anyone reading this article. Once we get to the villages the costs decrease dramatically, and when the service gets to the towns it will provide competition to the incumbent.
    The really rural areas are only suitable for a fibre connection. Nothing else is cost effective, it works out cheaper in the long run do do the job properly. If a community is prepared to pay and dig, they can have a futureproof connection which means they can live and work in a beautiful area, and it adds value to their property far more than any other home improvement.

    Chris Conder

    2011/11/01 at 08:25

    • You don’t have to be out in the sticks to be rural, Chris, I can see the A1M from my window but I can’t get good mobile coverage and Broadband is about 1.3Mbs and falling!!!

      Mel Bryan

      2012/01/23 at 15:53

  2. How many of the 130,000 will get good speeds from ADSL2+?


    2011/11/01 at 08:39

    • BT recently made a major announcement about new services for some of Cambridgeshire’s rural exchanges:
      Dave Hughes, BT’s East of England regional director, said: “At a time of economic uncertainty these major improvements will provide a big boost for local businesses and offer many additional educational and entertainment opportunities for local households.

      “We want to work with the public sector to find ways of bringing faster broadband to areas, which are geographically and commercially more challenging.”

      Was he talking about BT Infinity I hear you ask?…well look at the announcement:

      …as Homer would say …Dough!

      Mel Bryan

      2012/01/23 at 16:00

  3. “Villages” isn’t a criteria for BT’s FTTC project, it’s based on exchanges. So a rework of the 130,000 is needed. It’s also more complex than that as some will not be connected via a current cabinet and quite a lot of people on small village exchanges will be fed direct from the exchange where BT are not yet providing “Superfast broadband” ie VDSL2 direct from the exchange.

    Many many people that are 3km or more from the exchange get well over 2M so that’s just a distraction. In fact 2M is universally available by satellite so that debate’s been and gone.

    If an FTTC cabinet installation costs say £50 – £100k then anywhere above 100 subscribers puts the cost below a grand each. Campaigners never address the poor takeup that these projects see in reality, like the whole 12 people in a sub 2M village that stepped up to the plate. As it happens Ryhall is getting Openreach FTTC from the Stamford exchange so a solution is imminent at no cost to the public purse.

    I agree with Chris that for isolated properties and sparse rural with long distances from the exchange then an alternative infrastructure in the form of FTTH is required to get them “superfast” broadband, however defined. Whether B4RN’s parallel universe economics work out is a question history will answer.


    2011/11/01 at 09:23

    • Phil, you make an interesting point about take-up.
      If there is no demand, why do you think BT said this week it will spend £300m to ensure that it covers the two-thirds of the population it promised to cover a year ahead of plan? Surely BT’s shareholders would rather see that money distributed to them if BT was going to lose money by its actions?
      Or perhaps it has somethuing to do with the number of Virgin Media customers taking the >30Mbps option?

      Ian Grant

      2011/11/01 at 09:58

      • BT are not happy with takeup of superfast but it may still pay in selected areas as FTTC is relatively cheap. They are doing a lot in non-VM areas too which should see better takeup. For the BT Group as a whole the extra margin on BT Infinity and retaining the phone line / calls income will sweeten the pill even if Openreach’s share of the bounty looks a bit pale.

        In my experience the average residential customer doesn’t know they have FTTC available, or doesn’t care, or doesn’t believe it will be any faster.

        You also have to look closely at VM figures – only 8% of *new customers* are taking 50M or higher and the total number on those services is still only 5%. Mapped to a 500 line PCP that would suggest 40 customers for FTTC which would fit on one 48 port card and isn’t likely to be a stunning investment.


        2011/11/13 at 11:08

    • Uptake has been much higher in other Rutland Villages:
      “With over 60% of residents signed up in Hambleton and 60% for Broadband in Lyddington Rutland Telecom is now working throughout Rutland to ensure that everyone who wants Ultrafast Internet access can switch to their equipment in exchanges already upgraded and active in Oakham and Uppingham.”

      Mel Bryan

      2012/01/23 at 15:49

    • I would ask you to prove that “many, many people will get over 2M , 3Km from the exchange even ADSL2+ won’t improve that much – we are 3-4km from our exchange where ADSL gives us 0-1.9. A neighbouring villager, on the same exchange, who is 2.9 cable Km away, with a highly tuned line (tweaking the dB margins) only managed to improve his speed from 4.2 to 6.2 when moved to ADSL2+ but many in his village are below 2Mbs.
      Our copper has been in the ground for 70 years or more with several connection’s as thieves have stolen the main cable 3 times in 3 years!

      ADSL vs ADSL2+

      Satellite costs around £250 to install and the satellite up/down transmission delays are significant.

      Rutland have much better take up in other villages:
      “With over 60% of residents signed up in Hambleton and 60% for Broadband in Lyddington Rutland Telecom is now working throughout Rutland to ensure that everyone who wants Ultrafast Internet access can switch to their equipment in exchanges already upgraded and active in Oakham and Uppingham.”

      With our Village FTTC costings from Rutland Telecom it is the cost of running in the Fibre from the exchange to the PCPs is the killer BT Openreach quoted £6/meter/fibre cable to run in Fibre IN THEIR OWN DUCTS!! Each PCP needs one Fibre cable – go figure your costs!

      Mel Bryan

      2012/01/23 at 16:45

  4. The thing about take up, is that the ‘superfast’ service is only available where people already have a reasonable connection. That is why the marketing hype from BT says ‘homes passed’. That is why take up is so poor.
    If they brought a decent service to rural areas take up would be much better! I don’t see the point in using fttc at all, virgin already cover most of the areas where the cabinets are going, far better to spend the money and manpower creating a new footprint where folk would appreciate it.

    Chris Conder

    2011/11/01 at 10:20

  5. ~sigh~ “It’s also technically impossible to provide that without fibre to every BT street cabinet”

    As ever it is technically impossible for “BT” to provide this without mass FTTC if the phone line is the only delivery method.

    It is the delivery method they would prefer of course as it maintains a poorly disguised monopoly by maintaining control of the ever increasing “line rental” as you still use the copper to your premises.

    As Chris states, it is commercial sense to overlay their service in areas where there is already VM cable and in areas where population density is high.

    Their is no perceived benefit commercially to provide a service to the people that would snatch it out of their hand at a moments notice out in “the sticks”. However they talk of the last 10% in a “let us put in the 90% first then we will do the 10%” way”. This was confirmed as central gov policy by Jeremy Hunt at the West Sussex Broadband Summit.

    As i see it, Openreach will milk what it can out of the pot offered and like ADSL2 and everything that has gone before will hold up its hands when it comes to the final 10% and say “it isn’t viable to provide it there” followed by a monty python style “well we have this ‘new’ technology we are considering that is better than the old, please give us millions to repeat the same cycle again”. They might as well say “I have a plan, lets make this giant wooden badger”.

    The problem with VM cable is it does not scale to rural spread out communities, same as FTTC ..

    bill lewis

    2011/11/01 at 13:23

    • Bill, this is what Sean Williams, BT’s strategy boos, told
      “We’re using Fibre-to-the-Premises only where it is more appropriate to use, which is firstly for lines where there are no cabinets, or for lines that have long copper from the cabinet. We also plan to use it where from a network and value perspective it is more commercially attractive to deploy. We expect it to be a quarter of our overall deployment.” No time scales, but if I was a county councillor about to spend BDUK money, I’d be asking BT to explain itself, with deadlines.

      Ian Grant

      2011/11/02 at 00:31

  6. Chris – Communities in the towns can’t dig. Even in Hampleton the ‘villagers’ did not dig themselves.


    2011/11/01 at 13:30

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