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Life after BDUK rollout

So I thought we should have an open discussion on the future of Lincolnshire Broadband after BDUK and here are my thoughts so far.

Now I know we have a few years to go, but reading some ISP news came across this article

Now some areas served by Virgin are getting 150+ speeds already as part of their supercharge upgrade.

Once the BDUK program is complete, what can we expect going forward? When my family moved to Harmston in 2003, there was no broadband. It was dialup or ISDN. It wasn't until mid 2004 when Waddington was able to offer ADSL and a further 2 years for ADSL Max. Currently on 4.5mbps at the moment and hoping for somewhere between 15-20 with FTTC. Naturally this is below the 95% to gain super fast access and by 2020 in a world of 4K TV, this will need to be addressed.

I know FTTdp is still ongoing trials and FTTOD is just far too expensive at this stage, but do we see a future FTTP rollout after the initial costs of FTTC are recovered? Superfast Cornwall has over 60k+ properties with FTTP access with around 7000 taken up service. I fear cost is the huge hurdle here at this stage. But by 2020, costs should (I hope) come down significantly enough to make it more attractive, and naturally when things become attractive, more people sign up.

6 years isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things… but being stuck on 4.5mbps for 8 years hasn't been fun, I just hope this isn't the end or 'that'll do" for Lincolnshire broadband after BDUK.

Hi William,

Thanks for providing the article, which does make for interesting reading. I did previously see the recent Broadband Stakeholder Group comments re. their view that the median household in 2023 will require circa 19Mb/s. The other estimated speeds contained within vary dramatically from the 19Mb/s quoted by BSG. Depending upon what you read and who writes it, the average download speed of 4K TV is around 15Mb/s, but there is a need to understand the significant advances in video compression year on year which will change this figure.
Conversely, there is work going on to try to develop 8K TV, so that swings the argument the other way.
There has never been any doubt in my mind that FTTP is the optimum solution but the cold reality is that the UK cannot afford to provide it. Typically, between 70% and 80% of the FTTP build costs are 'Civils' related and this is why we haven't gone along that route. We just don't have the money.
However, the likes of BT are certainly working hard to squeeze every last drop of speed from Copper and we are going to see FTTRN in the flesh tomorrow to see what that can do.
I think the critical thing in all of this is to recognise that the Telecoms industry spends billions per year on R & D and we are confident that Copper will deliver more in the future.
I would love to think that the costs of FTTP will come down, but with the current methods we use to deploy it, costs of Civils will likely go up in line with all other similar costs these days. There are certainly cheaper methods of delivery such as micro trenching etc. but at the moment, the Highways Authority do not like this.
My personal opinion is that FTTP provision will likely be delivered where a definite demand exists and the supplier can see a return on investment. For example, where a community will fully commit to taking up FTTP, it might tempt providers to invest. There is a scheme currently ongoing in Peterborough and the South of this county, where GigaClear will potentially provide FTTP to a community where 30% or more of premises commit to signing up. Early days for that one, but we will watch with interest.
Clearly, if this model proves successful, it will drive demand and on the back of that, probably bring costs down slightly, although, it should be remembered that the monthly cost of FTTP at the moment isn't cheap.
In summary, we certainly haven't finished yet and we are fully committed to driving speeds up wherever possible, but equally, money is a key factor.
I completely agree and understand why FTTP has not been rolled out nationwide. When Infinity was being launched, I remember an article suggesting it would cost ~£20-30B*+ where as a FTTC rollout for the commercial 66% was ~£5B and much faster to rollout.

FTTRN/DP* is exciting and will be great to see if by 2020 95% of the county can access over 50mbps+ up from 24mbps. From where I see it, up to 100mbps is more than enough for most user demands, especially large households. 30-60mbps is the ideal butter zone.

One question about FTTRN/DP, is it powered via the grid or from the households?

*This article highlights yorkshires efforts in using this technology and mentioned the cost of a full FTTP rollout
Out of curiosity, how did the review of FTTRN/DP go?

Is this a viable option for Lincolnshire and would funding be able to be secured for a later rollout? I realise BT are still very much in the early trial stage of this technology and I'm sure others (or just me) are quite keen on any information on this development.

Thanks again Steve
Hi William,

Trials are still ongoing, but realistically we see this as a viable option in Lincolnshire given the rural nature of the county and as soon as some of the technical 'Wrinkles' are ironed out, we expect the technology to be rolled out formally.

In addition, trials are ongoing with other technologies such as non-line of sight fixed wireless and we see this as another valuable tool to add to the armoury. From what I understand, this trial will complete in late Autumn and a White Paper issued, but again, it is already being used elsewhere in the world with a great deal of success.

Hi Steve,

Happy New Year! Well, 6 months on, FTTC is active after a few delays from BT breaking our landline once they moved the master socket, but alas, we got there in the end. Albeit only receiving 17-18mbps down, 1-1.5 up, its an improvement from 4-5mbps.

So seeing that some areas, especially Harmston Park estate, aren't able to fully utilise FTTC, how is the OnLincolnshire team going to tackle future deployments? Again, funding and costs are one, but BT's recent announcement of G.Fast should offer some hope?

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this announcement and your feelings on how the project is proceeding to date. From what I can see, very well!

Hi William,

Steve has been out of the office at meetings yesterday afternoon and this morning so I am responding in his absence.

How to tackle future deployments is something we are looking into at length currently as we move towards the next phase of funding. We are scrutinising BT's coverage claims as work is completed and identifying areas where the FTTC upgrades have not provided superfast broadband. Unfortunately at this point in time there are still plenty of vital points to be clarified, which will have a major bearing on the way forward.

Firstly whilst we are aware that there will be significant underspend within the current contract with BT, we still have further work to do in order to calculate the expected cost at completion for the project, once we have this we will have a clearer view of the predicted underspend. This work should be complete towards the end of February at which point BT will then need to acknowledge this underspend so that we can submit change requests for additional work.

Secondly we need further clarity in regards to the technologies which would be available for the underspend in the current contract and those technologies likely to be available during the next phase of funding.
Fibre to the Remote Node (FTTRN) is currently being discussed as the potential next step to take fibre out further into the network, but we have no confirmation that this will be available for deployment within either the current contact or any potential contract for the next phase of funding. Then there is BT's announcement of G.Fast, which while undoubtedly interesting is unlikely in my opinion to impact significantly on the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) projects as the timescales BT have given put G.Fast immediately beyond the current contract with BT and towards the back end of the timescales for the next phase of funding. We believe that any commercial rollout of G.Fast that BT undertake is likely to follow the pattern for ADSL and VDSL rollouts and target dense areas first; meaning it is unlikely to reduce the remaining intervention for future funding. However; if BT's trials and subsequent commercial deployments are successful; if the technology and the services available meet State Aid requirements; if BT is awarded the contract for the next phase of funding and if G.Fast deployment would provide adequate value for money relative to other available solutions, then it is possible that G.Fast could be used towards the end of the next round of funding.

Another issue we have to be mindful of in planning future deployment is the balance between hitting the targets set by the government and providing an actual enhancement to rural connectivity. The current phase of funding is often criticised nationally for not providing any uplift in rural areas. With the next round of funding there will be areas where FTTC is enabled but not available due to line length and areas where FTTC is enabled but not superfast (as highlighted in your post). It will often be the case that the latter will represent better value for money and therefore more numbers can be upgraded, but the former should be prioritised to provide a more significant uplift for those that currently have very poor speeds. There is no right or wrong answer in terms of which case should be prioritised; one is more ethical and the other more efficient.

Kind regards,
Owen Williams
Programme Support - Lincolnshire Broadband Programme
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