Openreach is at the beginning of a journey to 12 million premises with ultrafast broadband available to them, 10 million via G.fast pods and another 2 million with full fibre (FTTP, 1 million are likely to be business premises). G.fast has had it seems lots of trials and pilots but the scale is starting to ramp up and in a series of press releases BT Group and Openreach1 has given some rough details for where G.fast will be appearing next. So for example we are expecting to see G.fast appear in parts of Sighthill, Gorgie, Corstorphine, Murrayfield, Fountainbridge, Craiglockhart, the Meadows and Morningside in Edinburgh and parts of Linn and Rutherglen in Glasgow with that giving Scotland some 16,900 premises of coverage. The various pilot areas are already said to cover some 100,000 premises. The 20 main pilot locations across the UK are:
- Bolton, Greater Manchester
- Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire
- Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
- Derby, Derbyshire
- Donaldson, Edinburgh
- Gillingham, Kent
- Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
- Langside, Glasgow
- Luton, Bedfordshire
- Newbury, Berkshire
- Newcastle upon Tyne
- Newmarket, Suffolk
- Rusholme, Manchester
- St. Austell, Cornwall
- South Clapham, Balham and Upton Park, London
- Swansea, Wales
- Swindon, Wiltshire
- Sheffield, South Yorkshire
G.fast is designed to allow those within a few hundred metres of their cabinet to get ultrafast speeds between 100 Mbps and 500 Mbps and initially two product speeds are likely to be sold up to 160 Mbps and up to 330 Mbps.
Indicative wholesale pricing is available, but with the impact a user can have on peak bandwidth ulitisation we may see retail pricing that is somewhat different once the service fully launches. We have been seeing people testing with G.fast and generally it does seem to do what it says on the tin and we may be able to share some average speeds for G.fast in a month or two. We know of 25 cabinets where G.fast is currently available and these are (NOTE: some cabinets may not offer full coverage due to different delivery methods from early trials or distance from cabinet):
- Cambridge Central cabinets 24, 37, 38, 50, 59 and 88
- Cherry Hinton cabinets 36,38,39 and 42
- Cambridge Science Park cabinets 21 and 22
- Huntingdon cabinet 61
- Edinburgh Donaldson cabinet 13
- Gillingham cabinets 9 and 19
- Hoo cabinets 2 and 3
- Medway cabinet 37
- Strood cabinet 28
- Gosforth cabinet 42
- Luton cabinet 91
- Swansea Central cabinet 64
- St Austell cabinets 5 and 11
Our checkers know about G.fast with it mentioned explicitly on our speeds and coverage site2 but on the main site checker3 as the products are not live, i.e. nothing to appear in listings it only shows up as faster speeds than would normally be expected from FTTC. Our cabinet list is not definitive as our core focus is on tracking the superfast roll-outs, so if your is missing please do run a speed test from your G.fast connection4 or drop us a message to tell us your cabinet has one of the new pods attached.
Openreach is often criticised for rolling out G.fast since those who can get it already have VDSL2 at reasonable speeds already available, but with Ofcom planning to slash the revenue that is generated from VDSL2 (specifically the 40/10 product) this is forcing the hand of Openreach i.e. to make money and lever the benefits from the fibre and power that was installed for VDSL2 the faster G.fast services are needed may help to keep the return on investment on track. The 2 million FTTP premises in the ultrafast roll-outs are a slightly different matter as we can see many exchange only lines in city centres where FTTP is now planned, but as with Virgin Media and CityFibre roll-outs we are waiting for the complaints about roadworks, since while Openreach has duct access in many locations, pavement chambers may need expanding or blockages need clearing. In terms of market competition the speeds will take Openreach and its customers head to head with Virgin Media, but once DOCSIS 3.1 is properly launched they should be able to easily offer even higher speeds, the big question mark is what will the relative performance of the two competing platforms be.
The congestion and other issues at Virgin Media is already causing those where performance is important e.g.
gamers and twitch broadcasters to switch to services that have lower headline speeds but are much more consistent in terms of latency and the actual speed they get at peak times.
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Residents of North Hertfordshire and parts of Bedfordshire are suffering from internet problems. Sky Broadband has announced on its website that repair works are underway because of problems affecting Broadband, Talk and Fibre Broadband services. On social media customers have been complaining about internet problems in towns in North Hertfordshire and parts of Bedfordshire.
In Mercury land there are issues to Stotfold, Hexton, Shefford, Baldock and Letchworth GC. There are also fibre broadband issues in Shefford, Baldock, Hexton, Letchworth GC and Stotfold. The website says that repair work is currently underway and it is likely to continue throughout the afternoon.
Engineers are currently working to repair the broken fibre cables between Luton and Dunstable.
A spokesperson for Sky said: “We’re working on fixing the problem and we’ll provide an update on this page once we’ve discovered what is causing the fault.
“We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.”
The Local Government Association has upped the ante in it broadband campaign now looking at getting speeds in broadband advertising changed1 and to eradicate ‘up to’ and replace it with an average speed. Part of the campaign highlights that remote rural areas can suffer more congestion at peak times and thus lower speeds, but this is based on Ofcom research from 2014 and while we for those who pick the wrong provider on an IPStream only exchange this may still be the case there are many now who can get something better. Critically for those on rural exchanges it is important to check what options are available as while LLU expansion has been stagnant for a couple of years, the WBC IP network is from BT Wholesale can offer better peak time performance and has a much better DLM system than the old IPStream services.
“Councils are working hard to ensure everyone has good quality internet access. Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses. As central and local government services increasingly become digital by default’, more people will need to have faster and more reliable speeds.
The headline up to’ download speed, which can be advertised legally, is misleading and does not reflect the reality of broadband service received across the country. Broadband users deserve greater honesty and openness about the download and upload speeds they are likely to receive depending on their location.”
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board
While Ofcom concentrates on monitoring a few thousand broadband connections and modelling those to get a national picture and is expanding the footprint of its monitoring boxes to more rural areas, our years of speed test data mean we can actually give a good idea of the picture in rural areas and as our results are showing user experience it covers issues such as congestion and people on older slower services being stuck with slow old Wi-Fi routers.
NOTE: The figures above include England, Wales and Scotland, the ONS definitions for Northern Ireland do not easily align and thus are dealt with separately. When we publish UK wide data obviously Northern Ireland does feature and coverage and speed data is on our coverage and speed tracker2
The relationship between higher levels of superfast coverage and average speeds is clear to see, but also highlights the danger that even when advertising uses average speeds due to the high speeds and large proportion of the population in urban areas, a UK wide average speed is still not going to mean too much to those in rural areas. The drop in speeds between Q2/2015 and Q3/2016 in some areas is a reflection of the changing demographics of how people use the Internet, i.e. more tests (as is day to day use) are on tablets and mobiles and complaints of low speeds from Virgin Media users are on a rise, plus as some people cut back on utilities spending people may be downgrading from the fastest services to one that is a bit cheaper but still adequate for their needs.
The speed profiles showing the speeds people are using is not the full story, as when we split out the different technologies you can see that while VDSL2 is often berated over its distance limitations for those ordering and using the service there is not a massive difference between the different parts of Great Britain.
Area FTTH Average
Q2/2016 Cable Average
Q2/2016 FTTC Average
Q2/2016 ADSL/ADSL2+ Average
Q2/2016 Down Upload Down Upload Down Upload Down Upload GB Urban
70.8% premises 82.2 Mbps 39.8 Mbps 48 Mbps 5.9 Mbps 29.9 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 7.1 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Town and Fringe
9.2% premises 62.4 Mbps 20 Mbps 50.5 Mbps 6.3 Mbps 29.8 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 7.6 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Village
6.1% premises 58.5 Mbps 30.7 Mbps 47.4 Mbps 7.8 Mbps 28 Mbps 6.9 Mbps 5.2 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Urban
3.9% premises 109.9 Mbps 55.8 Mbps 46.4 Mbps 5.9 Mbps 29.4 Mbps 7.4 Mbps 7.9 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Town and Fringe
3.2% premises 87.4 Mbps 15.9 Mbps 52.1 Mbps 6.6 Mbps 29.5 Mbps 7.1 Mbps 7.8 Mbps 0.6 Mbps GB Hamlet
2.7% premises 56.7 Mbps 24.3 Mbps 41.4 Mbps 6.1 Mbps 27 Mbps 6.7 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 0.5 Mbps GB Village
1.5% premises 57.5 Mbps 16.3 Mbps 47.4 Mbps 6.5 Mbps 28.4 Mbps 6.8 Mbps 6.5 Mbps 0.5 Mbps GB Hamlet
0.7% premises 54.2 Mbps 15.9 Mbps n/a n/a 28 Mbps 6.7 Mbps 4.7 Mbps 0.5 Mbps
At the end of the day the most important thing is what speeds a provider gives a user as part of the ordering process which is a key component the voluntary speeds code of practice.
Admittedly some providers slip in language that can include the word guarantee when in fact on a best efforts consumer service you cannot guarantee speeds and they don’t all use the same criteria for ranges quoted.