BT Responds to Critical Local Article

Peter Cowen of BT denies accusations, published on pages 8 and 9 of the South East Business September edition, that BT deliberately scuppered the Ewhurst & Surrey Hills Broadband project last year. His letter, on page 7 of the South East Business October edition, also claims that average connection speeds in the UK are not far behind the fastest East Asian averages, but on page 6 of the same issue Peter Cochrane casts doubt on the figures quoted.

According to Mr Cowen “The first Ewhurst homes and businesses now have access to this exciting fibre broadband technology” which is news to us! Perhaps he thinks that some Ewhurst premises are served by one of the Cranleigh cabinets which is active. However, enquiries to our BT contacts suggest that in fact he was unaware that his letter could be published so quickly, and optimistically assumed that one Ewhurst cabinet would be active. This might suggest that the works scheduled to start on Thursday are intended to complete the ducting for our fibre link, and that fibre blowing will follow very soon after.

Once again we see the statement “that access will be available next year to our Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) ‘on demand’ technology”, and this time with a clear indication that Ewhurst is to be included. Whether this will provide a practical solution to any of those who will not get adequate service from FTTC remains to be seen. We now know that BT has contracted with SCC to provide “nearly 100%” coverage across Surrey, so we can expect that the FTTP on demand technology will play a key role in this. Critically, what we do not yet know, is how much more the “outliers” will be expected to pay if they want, or need, to take advantage of the service.


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4 Responses to BT Responds to Critical Local Article

  1. Walter says:

    Regarding the Fibre on Demand products I have enquired of two Communications Providers who have no knowledge, or of any discussions, of such a service being available everywhere, although a few of the trial sites were mentioned.

    It’s interesting to note that similar words were produced for the ill-fated Hambleden (near Henley upon Thames) project several years ago.

    In practical terms it’s difficult to see how a list of sufficient interested consumers in a particular area could be produced by BT or any Communication provider. After that it seems that contributions from one or more Communications Providers are required, when there can be no guarantee that any one CP would gain sufficient clients to make it a viable proposition.

    Sadly an inescapable fact must surely be that much of the outlying aluminium and copper infrastructure is in urgent need of replacement; yet such a move would undermine BT’s substantial investment in their FTTC solutions which are seemingly not designed for FTTP distribution. Furthermore Government State Aid for such a large project, whether or not it would be passed by the EC, seems highly unlikely.

  2. David Nye says:

    Hi Walter, We do not know yet that FTTP on demand will require a service provider to sign up a number of customers before it is viable for them to provide a service. Certainly the BT publicity suggests otherwise, in my view. We may have to wait for the product launch in the Spring before we get all the details. It would be good if we had something concrete regarding your own ideas on FTTP for our outliers by then too.

  3. Walter says:

    Perhaps I observe things from a different viewpoint but I cannot see how a single client say up on Winterfold would provide a viable commercial proposition. Leaving that point aside, you have asked for “something concrete” so I have prepared the following as a start. I will leave the next step in the capable hands of Ewhursters but would be very pleased to help in any way I can.

    Ewhurst Fibre ring

    Some of you will know that I have suggested a symmetric 1 Gbps fibre ring through soft dig fields and paths starting with the outliers around Ewhurst, possibly including others not on the Cranleigh exchange. The concept follows many of the design aspects of the B4RN group in rural Lancashire who have the capabilities and the determination and are doing it themselves over a vast and partly inhospitable landscape.

    Another similar approach is possible following the Gigaclear model in Appleton (and a similar completed one in Hambleton in Rutland), although Appleton is probably a small denser area in close proximity to non-BT fibre routes.

    Given that the current BT Fibre-To-The-Cabinet (FTTC) systems in Ewhurst have only been installed for a maximum of 100 services each, an alternative solution seems necessary for the outliers without dependence on the ageing twisted pair infrastructure, much of which is buried without ducts. It follows that significant costs are involved if BT are to install a new Point-To-Point Fibre To The Premises solution. That could also compromise the investment in their FTTC solution they are installing now.

    The current FTTC solution may be adequate for the central area for the immediate future but indications are that the solution is unsuitable for many of the outliers on poor quality longer lines, upon which the entire design depends. This is made much worse when end users are faced with wholly unacceptable practices as illustrated in Peaslake Road.

    Fibre To The Premises is already fully developed and operational in a few places. It has many advantages** and provides full business facilities including symmetric speeds, is more reliable and is far cheaper to run. Thus it would be a significant relief to those suffering under the existing monopoly. However any such project has to overcome local inertia and some short-term competition from the BT Offering at least from those in the central area.


    It follows that nothing will be started without a strong local commitment, full co-operation from most landowners and say at least 100 firm pledges to use such a system. At that time the preparation of a business case would be the first activity from which would follow cost estimates.

    It is difficult to see how political initiatives closely aligned with a profit-sensitive incumbent monopoly can achieve a timely satisfactory solution. E.g.

    If you wish to avoid yet more obfuscation and delay perhaps we should convene a technical meeting ?

  4. David Nye says:

    It does seem unlikely that FTTP-on-demand will be available to those very far from their FTTC enabled cabinet at the kind of cost currently being quoted, but just maybe an installation “contribution” of £1500 is considered enough to justify the much greater investment needed from BT Openreach. However, inevitably some, maybe many, will be out of reach of this service. Unfortunately we still do not know what the SCC/BT contract might do for these, and no date has been set for publication of a detailed plan.

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