broadband Business

Future Broadband Planning Requirements

It seems to be one of those weeks where UK broadband stories are coming thick and fast. Not only that, but more and more people are pitching in with considered opinions on stories and, in fact, the comments are beginning to make for far more valuable reading than the original articles! And perhaps that could be the case here too. 😉

I want to follow up today on two stories that have broken this week on new build and broadband.

The first story was on ThinkBroadband, regarding a new build housing estate in West Yorkshire and broadband availability for the new homeowners in Calderdale. ThinkBroadband believes that this new estate will have a reasonably good chance of achieving that oh-so-elusive “superfast” connectivity from cab 106 — approx 93% chance of greater than 30Mbps. (Bear in mind that this is only in reference to download, so anyone looking for a reasonable upload should hold their horses before buying!)

The ThinkBroadband article makes the point that though this is not a rural cab it has been funded by BDUK, which if you recall was for the Final Third and rural properties, so questions probably ought to be asked as to why taxpayer money is being used to fund what should have fallen into BT’s commercial rollout in Halifax.

Oh look, in the comments! Questions *are* being asked!

John Popham notes:

This is all good news for the people who live in this area, but….. this is a relatively new housing development built well beyond the point when most of society realised that broadband was an essential component of life. And now, the taxpayer is having to subsidise their connections. This does not make any sense at all.

Can it be that difficult to put planning conditions into new developments that they must make provision for fibre-to-the-premises connections? From the developers’ viewpoint it would help the properties to sell.

Popham makes an extremely valid point that should be raised over and over again. Why have planning agencies, housing developers, and the government not yet cottoned on to the importance of building homes that are broadband enabled? Isn’t that like building houses that from the moment the architect gets involved are not legislated to be environmentally friendly, cheaper to heat, with a reduced carbon footprint and so on? Ah….no, we have not yet mastered that either.

So whereby countries other than the UK can 3D print a whole house out of recycled materials for less than £1500 in a couple of hours, we have not yet quite gotten around to enforcing environmental standards on new build, let alone tech requirements?

New build homes should be covered by a broadband-ready planning requirement, and not one that mentions copper in any way shape or form. After all, FTTP / FTTH is hardly a new development, having been around since at least 1984 if you take into account BT’s plans before Thatcher threw a spanner in the works courting US cablecos. If we cannot take on board in 30 years that a technology is what everyone will need to adopt, it would seem to be a poor do, as well as awfully short-sighted and lax not to have acted prior.

One of the problems (which I addressed in November 2004, with a conference in London aimed at property developers, planners and government) is that many cannot find the correct information on the available options, and thus these folk take the ill-informed route of assuming that for Telecoms you need to go to the incumbent. As the honourable owner of this blog can tell you, there are many companies across the UK, such as Timico, that can offer alternative solutions for communications. Want fibre to a new housing estate or business park? Make certain you get at least three quotes from non-BT affiliated companies or simple resellers, rather than just defaulting to BT as your first choice. Know what options are out there before making your choice!

It would seem also that housing developers need to get educated on the options available and stop assuming that nothing has moved forward, just because  in ye olde days of packhorses, telegrams, and the Penny Red, you had to go to the GPO. Good fellows and ma’ams, nothing could be further from the truth. Now, we haz competition in comms!

The second story I want to visit happens to be from my own doorstep in Cumbria, arriving in my inbox two days ago. The Lyvennet Trust has been involved since 2009 in rural housing, and was (through Eden Valley Digital) at the forefront of the BDUK process when Cumbria was initially announced as one of the BDUK Broadband Pilots. As such, I was a tad surprised to receive an email invite to the Open Day of the new housing estate this week which bore no mention of broadband to these new houses. Surely, methinks, with the four years of work taken on by local people on the thorny broadband issue, these houses would have been provisioned to be FTTH-ready? Especially as so many people in the vicinity are fully aware of the limitations of copper and wireless in that particular geographically-challenging area? If these houses were FTTH ready, and knowing what we do about house prices being affected by broadband choices, then surely this would be mentioned somewhere on the site?

Seems not. And it seems that my question to the Lyvennet Trust on this matter may have been moderated out of sight. 🙁

Until housing developers and communities (as well as everyone else who has had vast quantities of Herdwick wool pulled over their eyes) realise that we MUST start building properties that are ready for the 21st century and not stuck back in the days of stagecoaches, pigeons and smoke signals, it is going to be a very tough climb to catch up with other nations who have already addressed this issue and who now look at us as something of a Third World country. I am beginning to think, in fact, that those furrin folk could be right where broadband is concerned.

Off to polish my pigeon so that it flies more quickly. It seems that my house in Cumbria may be stuck with substandard broadband for many years to come. Ooh, maybe I could just 3d print a digital village pump and tap into the underused fibre less than 1km from the house that BT doesn’t want ANYONE to use….?

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Lindsey Annison

By Lindsey Annison

JFDI Internet marketer, author, Fibre To The Home and rural broadband campaigner, idea merchant

12 replies on “Future Broadband Planning Requirements”

Another interesting observation I have seen this week is that cities are being given £3k vouchers to enable SMEs to get good broadband. I was under the impression that all cities already had ‘superfast’ or is this not true? Is this because business areas with cabs don’t get them enabled because it will cut off the leased line revenue?

Cabs in commercial areas tend to be tricky to cover and cover relatively few premises, hence fail the commercial tests.

One massive issue that I will happily harp on about again and again is that regulation requires BT to leave copper in place. Even the ‘Fibre only exchange’ at Deddington isn’t fibre only at all, it has ubiquitous fibre availability but each and every property continues to have the universal service obligation copper present.

It would change the financials considerably if BT were allowed to retire the copper when they deploy the fibre.

Correct Chris – our office almost within touching distance of the BT tower cannot get superfast broadband – just off the Tottenham Court Road in central London. It’s pretty pathetic. Luckily I work remotely on the edge of a largeish town 17 miles from the centre of Edinburgh. 40 Meg no problems. It’s not a simple urban: rural divide.

Domhall – surely there are many telcos in central London ready to supply circuits into any building?

BT has publishes a developers guide showing how to build for access for copper and fibre.

There’s a new development near Peterborough (Cardea) being built into former arable land and that has some sort of fibre only infrastructure from a 3rd party (IFN see the light). So it can happen. I would be opposed to wired ethernet to be honest, could be more cost effective.

When Northants planners were consulting on their guidance documents I did point out that the word “broadband” could not be found in the whole document via a text search, but the reply was that the market provision was adequate and they didn’t feel the need to say anything specific (unlike gas, water, electricity…..).

BT seem to be promoting fibre for >25 unit developments in but I guess it takes two to tango and no mention of relative costs to developers (but probably in the price list if interested).

The other news item this week was the cityfibre/talktalk/sky fibreoptic infrastructure project in York, rolling out gigabit broadband to the home.

Yes York is an city, but I understand that outlying villages will be reached as well.

If this model is successful I’m sure it’ll be duplicated elsewhere…

.. and just maybe the penny will drop that fibre is the future (although I have a sneaking suspicion that LTE then 4G might be a better bet in some areas).

Interestingly this is exactly the issue that Fibre For Middleton ended up dealing with. New build estate, sub-1.5Mb speeds for many, recently received FTTC after a campaign heavily involving moi, and 50% take up.

Way higher take up than many areas and no doubt there are some areas BT have seen fit to bless with FTTP that have both cost more per premise passed than the shiny new ductwork here would’ve and shown lower take up.

Ridiculously it’s only a matter of months since this area received FTTC and I’m already wondering about where it’ll go from here.

As we no longer install ethernet cable round houses as more devices use wifi is the next step LTE or 4G into the home totally removing the need for a physical connection? Depending on timescales of course…

Lindsey – what’s the underused fibre near you used for?

We never did install ethernet cable round houses, hence all the nonsense with wi-fi repeaters and power over the mains gadgets attempting to achieve coverage. The model of FTTB that gives Swedes and other Baltics fast low cost connections is often that of ethernet wired apartment blocks fed by fibre.

LTE, 4G etc all hit a bandwidth problem – they simply cannot supply the total bandwidth into a street or village that one fibre or a handful of VDSL lines will. The “sector throughput” of an LTE base station with 2 x 20 MHz allocation (more than any UK mobile telco) is probably less than one FTTC line of <500m copper from the cab.

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