Following the broadband money

What broadband gap is the government funding?

with 22 comments

Miller – knowledge gap?

Last week’s statement by new culture secretary Maria Miller, about cuts of red tape to speed up new broadband roll-outs, actually announced a return to the status quo even before the BDUK process began.

Most UK citizens are not going to get even a pedestrian “superfast” broadband despite the government spending more than £1bn* in taxpayers’ money to get the fastest broadband service in Europe by 2015.

Acknowledging that “Superfast broadband is vital to secure our country’s future – to kick start economic growth and create jobs”, the statement went on to say, “superfast broadband means potential headline download access speeds (are) greater than 24Mbps”.

In Europe the target is 30Mpbs for all, with half the population subscribed to a 100Mbps service by 2020.

This statement also ignores BT’s much ballyhooed announcement that it had doubled the network frequency, bumping download speeds “up to” 80Mbps and higher.

Leave aside the weasel words “potential” and “headline” and consider this: “Our investment will help provide 90% of homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband and for everyone in the UK to have access to at least 2Mbps.” What percentage of the population will receive a speed between 2 and 24Mbps?

In addition Br0kenTeleph0n3 has received reports that even 24Mbps is the top end of what BT’s Infinity fibre to the cabinet service will deliver. It appears that some councils are being told to plan for the average speed delivered from an Infinity cabinet to be just 15Mbps.

Users who live close to the cabinet and have good quality copper will enjoy the top speed, but most will not.

The imminent arrival of LTE, the 4G high speed mobile broadband technology, is unlikely to help either. Theoretically capable of 300Mbps download speeds, experience in commercial LTE markets suggests that 15Mbps is the norm once a number of users are online at the same time. In fact for its LTE service Verizon in the US advertises 5-12Mbps downloads, and half that for uploads .

The government’s desire to have the best i.e. fastest broadband network in Europe by 2015 looks increasingly out of reach, and consumer research by Thinkbroadband shows that nine of 10 people don’t believe BDUK can deliver it.

BDUK’s host, the department of culture, media and sport, has not yet responded to questions about the looming broadband gap.

* Note. This excludes billion in funding from suppliers, local councils, and European Commission sources.

Rural broadband


Superconnected Cities


Mobile broadband


BBC digital dividend


Rural Community Broadband Fund




Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/09/10 at 08:01

22 Responses

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  1. All the more reason for a rethink before it is too late, and to get funding to altnets like gigaclear who will deliver a futureproof solution to those who can’t get a connection and provide competition so that all the telcos will up their game before the new rural networks take all their customers? Why let funding go to cabinets when we all know they can’t deliver the future, all they can do is make a few in urban areas go a bit faster for a short time.


    2012/09/10 at 08:10

  2. “In addition Br0kenTeleph0n3 has received reports that even 24Mbps is the top end of what BT’s Infinity fibre to the cabinet service will deliver. It appears that some councils are being told to plan for the average speed delivered from an Infinity cabinet to be just 15Mbps.”

    Not sure about that paragraph as most of the FTTC connections near me deliver around 50-70Mbps, limited more by the ISPs capacity at peak times since we’re all quite close to the cabinet. Even Ofcom’s data shows that the average is well above 24Mbps. I think this might be more to do with how the gov defines “superfast”, which is 24Mbps+ or 30Mbps, depending on when the project was started.

    As for the 15Mbps figure, that’s more likely to do with BT’s fault threshold for FTTC (i.e. anything below 15Mbps is considered a fault). However FTTC also has a special 5Mbps threshold for connections that have been identified as coming from a longer line.

    Mark (ISPreview)

    2012/09/10 at 09:02

    • Ofcom’s figures say the national average is 9Mbps. That includes VM’s 1.3 million on 30Mbps. Subtract VM from the figures and what do we have?
      Besides, why are all these definitions and caveats around superfast? What’s wrong with the EU definition (30Mbps), unless there is an intention to create confusion?

      Ian Grant

      2012/09/10 at 21:40

      • I meant the FTTC average, within context of that paragraph, not the overall 9Mbps average.

        Mark (ISPreview)

        2012/09/11 at 07:04

      • I agree that it should be higher than 9Mbps. But that’s because the Infinity take-up rate is still below 10%. If the take-up rate is more like 50% contention will kill the average throughput rate, especially if Cisco is right and everyone constantly tries to upload their home videos to Facebook.

        Ian Grant

        2012/09/11 at 07:17

      • Contention where, and why would additional capacity not be provided?


        2012/09/11 at 07:56

  3. A great article which I have just forwarded to the Chief at Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust. Thanks to Fibre Options they get an offer of 100Mbps symmetrical because of FTTH. It’s the only way to future proof your network.

    Neil Bradley

    2012/09/10 at 09:03

  4. ’24Mbps is the top end of what BT’s Infinity fibre to the cabinet service will deliver’. Please explain.


    2012/09/10 at 09:13

    • Fibre to the cabinet still relies on copper to the home, 24Mbps is achievable if you are within approx 0.6km to 1.3km of the cabinet, beyond that it drops quickly with increasing distance. Until at 3.5km it is as fast as ADSL.


      2012/09/10 at 11:12

      • Somewhere there is a graph showing distribution of line lengths which will put this into context.


        2012/09/10 at 13:00

      • Try this one:

        Ian Grant

        2012/09/10 at 18:02

      • Thanks, but there is some info on the distribution of customer line lengths from cabinets. Yes, some don’t have cabinets…


        2012/09/10 at 18:46

  5. What is an Infinity Cabinet?

    Openreach is deploying FTTC and FTTP networks, which are available via virtual unbundling and WBC GEA network. Thus are being sold by big names like BT, Sky and TalkTalk. Only one of those three call it Infinity.

    As for these reports? Are they believeable? Or has someone mis-interpreted the 15 Mbps assurred bandwidth figures (15 on 40, and 30 on 80).

    A reason 24 keeps being used is given in where maths gives a 24.2 Mbps average if FTTC delivers something to 90%.

    Also on the 24 Mbps being the top end, I guess all those people we see posting speeds of 60 Meg, 70Meg are lying? Or have you got the wrong end of some rumour?

    Yes there are going to be cabinets that have people with long D sides – and these are the ones that probably won’t get enabled, and rely on alternative, i.e. be in the final 10%.

    Andrew Ferguson

    2012/09/10 at 09:29

    • Please do explain why the national broadband average is under 10Mbps. How much higher do you think it is going to get? Then take away Virgin Media’s contribution to see what Openreach actually delivers. What’s your number?
      Whatever your explanation of the 24Mbps figure, it is the number that Miller puts her name to. Knowing civil servants’ attitude to risk, they are unlikely to exaggerate the expected deliverable.

      Ian Grant

      2012/09/10 at 17:58

      • Average <10M, could be because people are not buying VM or FTTC. 50% have potential access to VM 100M. Why aren't they buying it?


        2012/09/10 at 18:50

      • Oh but they are: from the 2Q12 VM financial report

        “The superfast broadband customer base (30Mb and above) increased by 459,800 during the quarter, taking the total to 1.3m, which is more than three times the number of a year ago, and represents 31% of our broadband base. Of these, 590,000 customers are on our tiers between 50Mb and 100Mb. Around 41% of new broadband subscribers took speeds of 60Mb or higher during the quarter. Our programme to double the broadband speeds of over 4m customers is well underway with approximately 765,000 customers benefiting from upgraded speeds. We have upgraded 22% of our network for the new faster speeds since February.”

        As to the rest, perhaps they are happy with what they get from BT and/or Sky. So do give a thought to those living in Market 1 areas, who do not have a choice of supplier.

        Ian Grant

        2012/09/10 at 19:33

      • Some of us may have lost the plot with what you are trying to prove.

        ’24Mbps is the top end of what BT’s Infinity fibre…’ Please explain.

        How about finding out what the average UK speed would be if each property bought the maximum speed service available at that address and had optimum wiring and equipment.


        2012/09/10 at 22:07

      • Better yet, what would be the average speed if everyone tried to get online at the same time?

        Ian Grant

        2012/09/11 at 06:58

      • ‘ if everyone tried to get online at the same time’. Why is that relevant? Networks, be they internet, roads, power, drains, shops etc. are dimensioned for typical demand.


        2012/09/11 at 07:54

      • I’m so glad you noticed that networks are dimensioned for typical demand. That wasn’t true of the British motorway network, nor of the London sewer system, nor the railways, nor the telephone system nor the electricity grid, because there wasn’t any demand for them at that time. You obviously think that Cisco and Ericsson are fools or knaves with their projected traffic volume figures. Clearly the only reason they publish them is to scare telcos into buying more high speed routers, switches, fibre and spectrum, and telcos are too stupid to realise they are being conned. At the weekend I saw just 20 Wi-fi devices hammer a 1Gbps service. Cellphone penetration in the UK is 130%, someone said today at the Westminister e-Forum on broadband funding. If you don’t think that contention is going to be a problem, you are already living in the past.

        Ian Grant

        2012/09/11 at 15:07

    • Re the telephone system, does Erlang mean anything to you?

      Why is contention going to be a problem, networks are built for current and future demand and expanded as required.

      I still don’t understand why the speed with everyone online is of real interest. As usage increases, hopefully, ISPs, circuit providers round the world and servers etc. will increase in capacity.

      Would be interesting to know why 24M is the ‘top-end’ Infinity speed when many can get more.


      2012/09/11 at 17:52

  6. Re councils being told 15Mbps is a realistic speed, this maps into BT’s commercial decision for a given cabinet – internal metrics say 80% of the lines must reach 15Mbps before BT will give the go-ahead to upgrade it to ‘Infinity’.


    2012/09/10 at 11:14

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