Thursday, 10 March 2016

A monopoly of mediocrity

The announcement of FTTP trials in Bradford alongside 12,500 premises of in Gillingham had me thinking a little.

One thought was who in Gillingham was influential enough to persuade Openreach to invest some serious money there; it's fair to say that it wasn't in any way related to the benefits it might bring given the entire constituency is 92.2% ultrafast, 98.6% superfast, however I suspect the extensive Virgin Media coverage wouldn't have hurt.

Another, partly inspired by Virgin Media digging up pavements nearby, was to what extent Openreach invested in ultrafast technology and indeed the extent of their investment in urban areas generally during their initial rollout.

I've seen the numbers, however they are put into focus when trawling the Think Broadband data.

Leeds is the 3rd largest city in the UK. It has a population of over 3/4 of a million. It has the largest legal and financial centres in England outside of London. It's home to the Bank of England's office outside of London.

According to Think Broadband it has no native Openreach GEA FTTP. BT's contribution to ultrafast broadband in this entire metropolitan area is, as of right now, zero. Every single FTTP/H premises is Hyperoptic enabled apartments, every ultrafast premises is either them or Virgin Media.

This is something I've felt keenly as I've been looking into home office options to get around a wobbly superfast broadband service. The only business broadband option from BT Group potentially delivering both performance and reliability would cost over £15,000 over the mandatory 3 year contract term, and this wouldn't carry guaranteed performance or availability targets.

A leased line supplier informs that the install quote I received for FTTPoD, the shared fibre service from BT, is 'rather high' and they can install dedicated fibre to my property for 1/3rd that.

AQL can probably offer me a leased line, guaranteed performance and availability, for considerably less than what is basically a business broadband service from BT, which is absurd.

Alternatively I can rent office space. Also cheaper than the BT option.

We should, by now, have an urban core of FTTP/H in the major settlements with FTTC/VDSL on the outskirts, in some market towns and where appropriate rural areas. Instead there is far more FTTP/H per head in rural areas and the amount of it in urban areas, apartment blocks and a few areas built out to for political and other reasons excepted, is vanishingly small.

The UK has one hell of a long way to go and a hell of a lot of work to do moving broadband to the next level in the 'just in time' approach espoused by BT Group. The approach that has allowed Virgin Media to tread water and others to sit back and do nothing to one being upgraded to one that's fit for purpose going forward. Openreach deploying ultrafast in an urban area should not be newsworthy. It's depressing that what should be the status quo, 300Mb being available in a couple of urban areas and gigabit to very limited areas of another, hits the news.

Superfast is the new normal. Ultrafast is the new 'superfast'. Both should be available in our large cities to those who wish to pay.

The market as a whole has, with Ofcom's encouragement and indeed thanks largely to their obsessive over-regulation, become a monopoly of mediocrity.


  1. I have heard it's down to the sums. Openreach get £96 per customer per year. Not a lot.

  2. Well Carl I have been saying this on multiple forums. the digital divide now actually has the rural areas as an advantage, e.g. villages in Leicestershire had FTTC before Leics city had it, and now they getting FTTP services.

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  4. So what's the issue with Virgin Media, apart from them overbuilding in Openreach FTTC areas?