British Telecom – aka BT – is offering real world verification of the speed claims made regarding the G.fast standard, which is technology that’s designed to get fast, fiber-like broadband speeds out of copper wires. The results are encouraging and live up to reasonable expectations, if not all the marketing hype surrounding G.fast.
The provider is seeing great interest from customers and favorable technical results from its G.fast technology pilot deployment.
BT has been conducting G.fast trials with Nokia’s Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary, Adtran, as well as Huawei.
During its trials, BT found it can deliver about 330 Mbps to a home within 300 meters of a remote terminal (RT) cabinet.
“[Among] the first pilot customers the indications are that the performance of the product over the new equipment is pretty much spot on what we had predicted from the labs in the earlier few trials and I am very pleased with that,” Selley said. “I’m very pleased with where we stand right now on G.fast.”
It’s not a substitute for fiber, which supports speeds a thousand times faster over distances a hundred times greater, but it’s better than what telcos have now and keeps them in the same ballpark as cable companies. If they adopt G.fast and make the necessary upgrades to their copper systems. Simply slapping the gear onto existing networks would be like dropping a V-8 engine into a go-kart: amusing but any improvement in performance would be short lived indeed.
Universal broadband service in Britain will have to follow demand, not lead it. That’s the decision, as it currently stands, from the U.K. government as it works out the details of implementing a previous commitment to deliver broadband service with at least 10 Mbps download speeds to everyone.
It’s a straightforward commitment for about 95% of the country, but the last 5%, in rural areas, won’t be automatically hooked up. It’ll require what amounts to pre-orders, and possibly a financial commitment from property owners. According to a BBC story…
Given the high costs of providing broadband access to premises in remote areas it is right that this is done on request, rather than rolling it out and waiting to see if people in those areas want to be connected.
We know from the various interventions that the government has made to date that it is unlikely that everyone will want to be connected, even if that option is made available to them, and so we do not believe that an additional broadband rollout programme at this time is proportionate or would represent value for money.
The experience of BT – the company formerly known as British Telecom – in more densely populated areas points to the problem: of the 24 million homes upgraded to fiber-driven service, only 22% have opted to take it. those upgrades are not necessarily all fiber to the home; the figure also includes fiber to the node or cabinet, similar to upgraded DSL services in the U.S.
No financial details have been worked out, but according to the BBC the likeliest model will be for BT to pay the costs of line extensions up to about $5,000 per household, with the property owner covering anything over that. It could be a while until the final 5% even get the chance to pay for connections – a final decision on the program might not come until 2020.
British Telecom is putting its cards on the table for real estate developers (and prospective home buyers) to see. The company has been criticised for not providing fast broadband service to new housing developments. There’s been plenty of finger pointing and blame shifting along the way, with no easy way to tell why some homes get service and some don’t. That’s changing now.
Confirmation of whether or not the site is covered by existing [fiber to the cabinet/node] infrastructure, which will be connected for free. New Infrastructure is required to serve new sites of 100 or more new homes in all cases as such these are deemed outside of existing coverage.
The option of new Fibre Broadband Infrastructure based on a Developer Contribution (if applicable and where there is no existing infrastructure)
Clarity and certainty of the costs to connect a site outside of existing Fibre coverage
The expected broadband speed range based on copper infrastructure, should the developer not wish to take up the option of FTTC infrastructure.
If a new development won’t be covered by existing infrastructure and BT won’t pay the full cost of building new facilities (the minimum for that is 250 units, according to a British broadband blog), developers will have the choice of paying the tab or settling for old school copper. Whether you think this approach is one-sided or not, at least everyone’s terms, intentions and responsibilities are open to public view.
The report quotes a BT source as linking the pull back to success with its fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) offerings, which are already touted as being in the 40 to 80 Mbps range and could soon go as high as 100 Mbps. It’s similar to the technology and speed targets AT&T has picked for its Uverse service, where copper lines connect homes to neighborhood fiber nodes, usually located in cabinets installed along the street.
A sub-25% market target is consistent with research done last year in Palo Alto, and that I used to model a similar user-financed FTTH feasibility analysis. At a monthly rate in BT’s range – $60 per month – 26% of homes would subscribe if the upfront cost were $1,000, but only 17% at $2,000 and not quite 7% at $3,000. BT isn’t revealing its new FTTH subscriber target, but walking BT’s pricing through Palo Alto’s price sensitivity numbers gives a ballpark take rate in the 10% range.
The key similarity between BT’s territory and Palo Alto – and, incidentally, Provo – is that Internet service in the 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps range is readily available, from BT itself and from AT&T and Comcast in California. Speed and price matter to consumers. Technology, not so much.
The cost of directly connecting a home to British Telecom’s fiber network will be in the thousands of dollars range. BT has released details on the formula it will use to calculate the charge for running fiber from a neighborhood node – fiber to the cabinet in BT’s terminology – to a home or business.
The minimum charge is £700, about $1,075 at today’s exchange rate. BT says that 55% of its customers can fiber up for somewhere between £700 and £1,500 (about $2,300). Nearly all the rest, BT reckons, would cost anywhere up to £4,000 (about $6,125).
That’s not necessarily what homes or businesses will pay upfront. It’s a wholesale charge that Internet service providers will pay to connect a subscriber to BT’s open access infrastructure. ISPs will then figure out how and how much to charge their end users for the connection. The cost might be passed on via higher monthly rates, for example.
Essentially, BT is implementing a user-financed fiber to the premise business model. Analysis done last year by Tellus Venture Associates for the City of Palo Alto found that too few residential customers would pay a significant upfront connection fee to offset construction and operation costs. Only 26% would pay $1,000 upfront and $60 a month (BT’s price range). At $2,000, the take-rate dropped to 17%. Palo Alto is reasonably well served by AT&T and Comcast, which contributed to the low interest.
BT is also targeting a served market. The same fiber nodes are currently used to provide high speed copper-based service, not unlike AT&T’s Uverse service in California. But BT’s business model is different from Palo Alto’s: it’s the national incumbent provider operating, to a large degree, under government direction. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of take-rate BT gets.