This question from Tony is typical: “Following a recent problem on my line, BT Openreach carried out work on the cable junction boxes in Wykehurst Lane. My line became operational again BUT the speed dropped from 2Mbps to just 1.4Mbps. The multi-core cable that feeds the lane (partly overhead and partly underground) has had many problems over the years and, I believe, now has no spare pairs. The cable has not been replaced for at least 35 years to my certain knowledge, and probably many more. Perhaps now is the opportunity to replace it with FTTH?”
In our opinion, all old and failing BT metal (copper and aluminium) cables should certainly now be replaced by cheaper and more robust fibre optic cables, and this would indeed offer a high speed and very reliable FTTH/FTTP (Fibre To The Home/Property) broadband connection (various FTTH/FTTP services are available via BT equipment, the fastest currently provides 330Mbps download but only 30Mbps upload; irrespective of line length). Unfortunately, although the fibre cables are cheaper than copper, and ongoing maintenance costs would then be reduced, the installation cost for new cables to existing services is very substantial. To illustrate this; look at the works involved in simply getting FTTC cables through supposedly existing ducts from Cranleigh to the three Ewhurst street cabinets. Imagine that work extended to every property, bearing in mind that much of the underground cabling is not even in ducts. BT claim that their shareholders are simply not willing to support the necessary investment to embark on such a policy, and the UK government is reluctant to offer this level of subsidy in the current economic climate, when the majority of voters seem to think that existing and planned services are just about good enough. So, BT are trialling a potential solution, which may allow the more demanding consumers to fund their own FTTH, starting in 2013. It is not yet clear exactly how this will work, but the trials are well advanced with promising results reported so far. However, it is worrying that BT are still installing copper cables to new residential developments. Walter Willcox remains keen to help install a “DIY” FTTH solution in Ewhurst (1,000Mbps download AND upload to be available on all connections), but it remains to be seen whether there will be sufficient interest to get this off the ground. Note that BT installed FTTH to much of Capel in early 2012 (also the other “Race to Infinity” winners and various other “trial areas”) proving that they can do this if they want to. Meanwhile, BT Openreach will generally replace faulty metallic cables with new copper cables only when they become incapable of providing a satisfactory telephone service.