Friday, 22 January 2016

Why the lack of FTTP?

I've seen a whole bunch on forums people wondering why the UK doesn't have as much fibre right to people's homes as a number of other countries, and has less of it planned.

I've learned a few bits from watching Virgin attempting to dig in South Leeds alongside other experiences that have educated me.

The obvious major reason is, of course, that actually getting it out there is expensive. Secondary to this comes that the UK has little appetite to spend more to pay for it. Following on though why is it so expensive to deploy in the UK?

We have fewer people living in flats/apartment than many other countries. People very much like their houses with garden, ideally detached if possible. Bringing up kids in flats is something that doesn't appeal to most, and the flats are built with that in mind. It's way more expensive per property to service a hundred houses than a hundred apartments in a building.

Our infrastructure has for quite a while now been almost universally underground. Digging is expensive. Despite poles being in use in North America, Japan, and other first world nations an apparently commonly held British attitude to them is that they make streets look 'like a third world country.'. There's also the concern that they lower property values and reduce the beauty of views.

Of course digging roads and pavements produces its own issues, as do the cabinets that accompany it. I'm aware of at least two instances in the South Leeds area where residents are demanding that Virgin Media completely relay pavements at a cost of thousands of pounds per home and another instance where a resident seeks any excuse to complain about the cabinet sited near their property. The demands for full relaying aren't due to safety concerns, but aesthetic ones.

In summary as far as building the infrastructure goes if you put it on poles you're making streets look like a third world country, if you put it underground you upset people by leaving tracks in pavements and street furniture on pavements and verges.

We've stronger health and safety requirements than many with a bunch of rules that must be complied with in order to carry out works. Watching videos of fibre deployment in Southern Europe the regulations there are either far less onerous or they are ignoring them. This isn't an option in the UK.

We have a system whereby it costs a company three figures before they put a single shovel into the ground in order to notify local authorities they intend to build, then after they build a bunch of complications and headaches.

Building to new estates of mixed status such as my own is extraordinarily problematic. I'll detail this separately in a different post.

That's the cost part. The benefits of building in terms of the money that can be made back are tricky, too. Virgin Media off customers 50Mb, 150Mb and 200Mb tiers. Less than 5% of the customer base take 200Mb.

Dozens of operators offer 38Mb and 76Mb via BT Openreach's FTTC product. The majority take 38Mb. Operators have been hiding price rises of broadband in line rental for years, because people are so reluctant to pay for it and know that a couple of low-end providers have heavily skewed the market.

With that in mind it's no surprise that catering for the highest end users who want the state of the art products and are prepared to pay for them is problematic. Many don't want to pay the list prices for the lowest end products. Who'd want to spend money building a network that delivers ultrafast speeds and a quality service experience to be faced with people trying to haggle because x operator delivering services on wafer thin margins over a network they didn't pay to build will give them y for z price?

1 comment:

  1. Funny enough is poles everywhere in Leicester, I think the entire city is poled up with only the feeds from exchange/cabinet to the pole's themselves underground.