Following the broadband money

Millions spent on DSL no help as BT seeks rural NGA broadband answers

with 17 comments

BT is treating the UK’s rural areas as new build sites for the purposes of next generation broadband, Openreach CEO Liv

Garfield – green fields and greenfield sites

Garfield told delegates to the NextGen12 conference in London on Monday.

She said she had taken a look at “vast chunks of rural UK, and there is nothing there to assist” Openreach in rolling out fibre-based broadband access.

“There is just ground, and we’ll have to go through that ground, or we’ll have to use aerial poles, and that’s the way rural broadband will be connected. It will not be based on what’s already there,” she said. “It will be brand new provision.”

This is despite BT spending tens of millions of pounds 10 years ago to install ADSL broadband in rural areas. Critics, including former BT CTO Peter Cochrane, say BT’s current choice of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) is a technological dead end that means BT is likely to ask taxpayers for more money in a few years as  its implementation can’t deliver fibre to the home (FTTH).

Garfield went on to say that the present cost is not “the few hundred grand” it costs to upgrade a cabinet, but the millions it costs to upgrade an exchange to support fibre-based broadband.

BT has faced questions over its proposed costs of upgrading broadband in rural areas. Leaked documents prepared by former BDUK contractor Mike Kiely show a stead rise in the cost of cabinets from around £12,000 to £30,000 since BT began rolling out next generation broadband. Garfield’s “few hundred grand” marks a massive escalation in cabinet costs at a time when it is the effectively the only firm likely to win BDUK contracts.

Garfield said putting next generation broadband into rural areas “requires taking a look at an area like Wales, and (seeing what’s there) and saying there is nothing in the ground that is going to help us – there’s directly buried copper in most rural areas, that’s the reality, so there is nothing to benefit (us).”

She said BT had looked at this issue and made sure that it is not holding back consumer rural broadband provision.

She added that BT provides various options to communications provides, but dark fibre is not one of them. “I think people would like to use dark fibre not for consumable provision but to make it cheaper to provide business customers with different options. That’s not something (we) choose to do, if I’m honest, right now.”

Garfield equated different ideas about symmetrical and asymmetrical upload and download speeds to “religious beliefs”. BT had chosen to provide 80Mbps asymmetrical broadband to millions of people quickly using FTTC rather than 1Gbps symmetrical, which is likely to be a fibre to the home (FTTH) network.

She said she had seen stuff in BT’s labs that would make broadband speeds “dramatically higher” without resorting to fibre to the home. 1Gbps upstream is not what consumers need, she said. Nothing the labs had modelled so far required more than 24Mbps, she said.

One such technology is Genesis Technical Systems’ copper-based DSL rings, which at the show were running at 400Mbps. BT is expected to start trialling the technology towards the end of the year, with Genesis planning a commercial launch in mid-2013, probably with a European operator.

Garfield said Openreach would start work on the BDUK contracts it had already won “the day after” Brussels approves state aid under the BDUK procurement framework.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2012/10/09 at 07:02

17 Responses

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  1. I cannot believe this! Has she only JUST noticed – October 2012!? This presumably is a precursor to all those pending LA bid submissions – “Oh, I forgot to mention – it will either cost you a lot more or you’ll get a lot less than you want”.

    mike phillips

    2012/10/09 at 08:16

  2. Perhaps Ms Garfield would like to be reminded of the shambolic mess she and her BT Group colleagues have created in Ewhurst, Surrey?

    At a PSTN level on July 7th 2012, her Openreach colleagues were destroying the network resilience by replacing a broken 20 pr cable with a total of 6 pairs (without any spares) and in so doing failed to reconnect 12 wires correctly. This left the end users themselves having to deal via BT Retail’s call centres to get the two open-ended pairs reconnected after 25 and 28 days respectively. The BT Retail complaints team stated that the temporary repair was to be replaced on 9th September but this did not happen and we are now being ignored by the complaints team.

    At a BT Group level our SEEDA-approved RDPE Grant project was destroyed by BT in January 2011, after they had stated in writing that they had no intention of upgrading their equipment on 1st March 2010. 16 months after our scheduled completion date we now have three ECI 128 cabinets each with a single 64 line card still not available as a meagre substitute for our 500 service capacity cabinets. Single ducts and 100 pr tie cables have been installed (despite our strong protests) so it is impossible to upgrade the cabinets even to 250 services. Furthermore, as the infrastructure was obviously in poor condition, our solution included a new fibre-based backbone throughout the village providing a sustainable upgrade path for FTTH everywhere (As B4RN are magnificently doing in rural Lancashire). Instead of which BT’s distribution node remains at the start of the village with only quad tubes feeding the three cabinets each with only 4 fibres, using the existing damaged ducts nearing capacity.

    It seems that HM Government and the tax-payer are now expected to fund the installation of an adequate fibre replacement.


    2012/10/09 at 08:21

  3. Some interesting words and some that seem to contradict what comes from other areas of BT such as Bill Murphy. Unless I’m mistaken she seems to be suggesting that copper is not viable for rural which seems to be a complete contradiction to the BT Infinity plan. So what is Openreach’s plan then?

    As for the 24Mbs max statement. It may be true today but the UK should be planning ahead. In 10 years time when we have SHDTV coming down the wire and multiple members of the household viewing different feeds, 24Mbs may not seem like a lot.

    Martyn Dews

    2012/10/09 at 08:34

    • This is all so predictable it almost drives one to tears. Willingly or unwillingly HMG have allowed BT to ‘arrive’ at the point of the only ‘competitive tenderer’, and unless some significant easing at EU happens, it is unlikely I feel that Fujitsu (the last remaining of the other 8) will ACTUALLY re-enter the rural bidding process except as a ‘ghost’ contender to satisfy the EU. BT are now ‘playing’ their trump card – ‘now we have the business, we are going to charge a lot more for it’.

      Tales of the King’s New Clothes echo around this seemingly empty palace. What a waste of ,money.

      mike phillips

      2012/10/09 at 08:58

  4. Unless Ian has the quotes wrong and I am reading it wrong the 24 Mbps refers to upstream.

    Andrew Ferguson

    2012/10/09 at 09:36

    • Check the NextGen videostream if you don’t believe me. ( When did 24Mbps ever refer to upstream? Convention and usage says teh headline figure, or where a single figure is quoted, it referes to download speed. It’s too embarassing to refer to DSL upload speeds because they are invariably a tenth or less of the upload figure.


      2012/10/09 at 09:41

      • I’d agree with that assumption Ian. As synchronous connectivity is not widespread, one has to assume that unless explicitly stated that any speed figures stated refer to downstream.

        Martyn Dews

        2012/10/09 at 10:45

      • Okay will remember to apply the rule now if no direction mentioned you mean download.

        As the paragraph it was in talked about upstream I made the mistake, obviously you had no intention to mislead and confuse.

        Andrew Ferguson

        2012/10/09 at 14:39

      • No problem Andrew. As one journalist to another, it’s always a good idea to check your facts 😉


        2012/10/09 at 16:00

  5. “to make it cheaper to provide business customers with different options. That’s not something (we) choose to do, if I’m honest, right now.”…so she has confirmed what Business users are suffering from – BT Infinity by-passing Business Parks to preserve BT’s Leased Line income – the CBI must be well pleased that BT are holding back “the country with the best broadband in Europe by 2015
    ” for the sake of , dare I say it , PROFITS?

    Mel Bryan

    2012/10/09 at 13:23

    • You make a good point Mel. Love or hate BT though, let’s not forget that the main aim of the business is to generate profits for their shareholders. The same as any business really.

      Martyn Dews

      2012/10/09 at 13:33

      • Yes but the Triple Play Services (over Fibre) already offered by BT Openreach will generate plenty of profits AND bring a far greater benefit to the overall Business and Residential Consumer – look what’s happening in the USA -

        Mel Bryan

        2012/10/09 at 13:49

  6. Right-o – so the fact that my rural line is run entirely in ductwork that was laid on BTs behalf less than 6 years ago means I should have FTTH soon then.

    Bear in mind we got DSL less than 6 years ago on the exchange and I think it was an admin cock-up that gave us ADSL2+ this last month, I confidently do not expect to see FTT[anything] here this side of 2020.

    As for triple play and all that caper – I was once with Telepest (or is it Telewaste) and have experienced BT Retail for long enough. All eggs one basket. No thanks. With BT. No chance.

    In my view. the correct thing to do would be nationalise (or at least mutualise) BT Openreach as a separate entity providing last mile for all CP that want it at nationally agreed prices with a target of making zero profit (any profit made should of course be re-invested in the service – but that simply will not happen and we all know it)

    Gym Trainer

    2012/10/09 at 16:15

  7. How much of Northern Ireland was new duct & pole versus re-use of existing duct? How much of current Cornwall rollout is re-use and repair of existing duct? Given the 100 of millions of £ in Extra Construction charges spent on repairing duct for schools in rural areas, is their intention to charge again! Is she describing the costs of the last 5% and applying them to the 66-90%. Apart from the Highlands they can to 90% overlaying on existing assets. Good to see Virgin and Talk Talk asking for more scrutiny today at Nextgen12.

    £1.4bn public subsidy

    2012/10/09 at 17:56

  8. Has the CEO of BT Openreach therefore said the basis of the costs in the BDUK Framework Model assumes no re-use of existing assets? Minister will need to order Ofcom to Order BT to identify and publish its fibre assets including all Collosus assets. The next thing we will see is new handover points appearing where they could be using C+ optics. Her bonus must be on generating free cash flow, rather than NGA roll out.

    £1.4bn public subsidy

    2012/10/09 at 18:19

  9. The KN Networks for Northern Ireland covering Phase 1 confirms £9k for all works including backhaul for 320 fibre paths/plyths, power, planning etc, and £6k for all the stores (VDSL cabs/duct/fibre). . It does make BT £30-£100k a path via BDUK look poor value for money.

    £1.4bn public subsidy

    2012/10/22 at 11:50

  10. […] BT is treating the UK’s rural areas as new build sites for the purposes of next generation broadband, Openreach CEO Liv Garfield – green fields and greenfield sites Garfield told delegates to the NextGen12 conference in London on Monday.  […]

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