Sunday, 3 April 2016

FTTP, FTTP on Demand,, Ultrafast

Apologies to those few who actually still read this blog, and being reasonable why would you, for the lack of updates.

Going to cover a few different things.

Openreach have started a trial in Haydon Wick, Swindon in the hope of deploying FTTP more quickly and cheaply. This is a combination of using the connectorised fibre solution tested in Huntingdon and placing rope into ducting to pull the fibre in advance. This has allowed delivery apparently considerably more quickly and at a far lower cost per premises passed.

Something really strange is why Openreach didn't use connectorised fibre in their original rollout but instead used far more expensive and time consuming fusion splicing resulting in installs as Think Broadband noted taking an entire day. This isn't new technology. Verizon were using it for FiOS installs in 2005.

Placing rope into ducts to pull cables in advance isn't a new thing, either. Virgin Media place rope into their swept tees ready to pull coaxial cable through from taps and this, too, has been used for FTTP in underground plant.

Apart from using an active fibre solution, which wouldn't have happened as it would've left the possibility that other operators could unbundle the fibre, I struggle to see how Openreach could've done their original tens of thousands of commercial FTTP premises more expensively. They ended up having to do a ton of work to build the initial networks due to interesting deployment area choices, have ended up asking for thousands in construction charges to connect some properties which begs the question of why they'd deployed there, and chose to use fusion splicing instead of cheaper connectorised throughout.

In many ways Openreach treated FTTP less like something that they could take mass market, and planned to, and more like each and every property was receiving a leased line. Strangely enough this worked out to be really time consuming and really expensive. Trying to avoid putting the tin foil hat on you find yourself wondering if they ever had any intention of deploying widely initially, instead wanting to prove to themselves it was infeasible, and now they've more commercial motivation they are increasingly using appropriate construction techniques.

FTTP on demand. I've given up on this one. My best laid plan has fallen through because the operator doesn't want to involve themselves in the product any more. The informed that it was awkward to order, the surveying process caused problems, the provisioning caused them problems, the way the product was built at a technical level caused them problems, it took way longer to provision than leased lines, and demand was so low due to the cost being so high. A 100Mb leased line, guaranteed bandwidth, guaranteed availability, would actually cost them and, in turn, me, less to provision than a best effort FTTPoD service with no SLA right up until about month 33, and wouldn't involve a 36 month contract so would be cheaper across the period I required it.

The ISP mentioned that initially the only thing about the FoD product that wasn't a nightmare was the price, and this was swiftly changed in early 2014 when the install price was increased by over 50% and the monthly rental charge to them considerably more than doubled from £38+VAT per month to £99+VAT per month.

With considerable irritation and a couple of rather upset comments to people in places of power I've given up any chance of a resilient solution through Openreach and made Starbucks and Costa my backups for working from home.

This leads on to and the Openreach ultrafast deployment plans.

Openreach have informed they plan to reach about 10 million premises in the UK with ultrafast broadband, likely heavily, by 2020. They could do this relatively simply by putting new kit next to their existing cabinets. No need to push fibre deeper into the network, no need to spend on FTTP. It would, however, mean that if you're further than 2-300 metres from the cabinet you're out of luck.

They have made noises about increasing the FTTP in their network and the trials they're doing seem to imply this, however it should be noted that much the same noises were heard a few years ago, and to date Openreach have built to less than 0.4% of the UK without outside funding. Less than 100,000 premises when excluding co-funded builds in Cornwall and around the country via BDUK.

We'll see. I hope to be pleasantly surprised but, based on past experiences, will keep an open if possibly cynical mind.

An area like this one is interesting. FTTC/superfast broadband uptake is very high here - of about 550 premises covered by our cabinet 500 have taken it. Which leads to the question of how Openreach decide where to deploy and/or FTTP. I'm interested to see if the very high FTTC uptake actually deters Openreach from further investment. From a cold, commercial perspective why spend money, even if it's a relatively small amount colocating next to the existing equipment, building ultrafast when superfast is selling so well?

I've been told one won't influence the other but, for obvious reasons, it's tricky to imagine it won't form part of the business case. Surely where Openreach are having their backsides kicked by Virgin Media or an alternative network they'll be far more inclined to spend to win customers back? Likewise why make even the relatively modest investment in FTTC redundant when it's bringing in a good amount of money and will pay for itself then turn a profit relatively soon?

Talking of Virgin Media I noted on a forum thread that I can't remember when there has been such a large difference between the top widely offered speeds between the two. Openreach only go above 76Mb in a tiny fraction of the UK while Virgin Media are offering 300Mb, which performs at around 320Mb, to nearly half the country.

The explanation is relatively simple - Openreach's customers have no interest in funding a speed war with Virgin Media. won't win it, with relatively modest expenditure Virgin could release services faster than the 500Mb is 'planned' to achieve by 2025, only FTTP would allow Openreach's customers to compete and their customers have no interest in paying for it. Two of the three largest Openreach customers don't offer FTTP via Openreach's existing services and constantly and loudly state their desire to pay less for the existing FTTC services.

There are a number of divides between areas in the UK and here, as in many other countries, a big one is between those who can get cable and those who cannot. The incumbent neither here or anywhere else has a pressing business case to change this with any kind of urgency.

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