Category Archives: General News

DSL Checker Updates and new BT Commitments

Tonight the BT DSL Checker has updated to:

  • retitle FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) as VDSL (very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line);
  • split the different product categories into different sections (VDSL FTTC;  FTTP;  ADSL);
  • add a column for a planed SOGEA service (single-only generic ethernet access – the ability to have a broadband-only service with no phone connection);
  • mention of G.Fast, the ‘next generation’ of “ultrafast” fibre broadband (but which still retains the copper local loop) which BT has committed to roll out to 20 million properties (eventually), likely offering speeds of somewhere between 100Mbps and 500Mbps.
Updated BT Wholesale DSL Checker
Updated BT Wholesale DSL Checker

The changes tie in with announcements made by BT/Openreach over the past year, and a number of ongoing trails.  On 5th May Openreach also announced a plan to deliver FTTP services to 2 million premises by 2020, a marked increase from the current level.  ThinkBroadband say this new rollout is going to be “aimed at new build estates and high streets and business parks”.  Whilst it would be nice to think that includes recent new-build developments such as Everest Park where ducting should be built to current standards, the reality is that seems unlikely and is likely to tie in with February’s announcement on new-build sites.

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PCP95 first line card full?

Following the completion of the VDSL2 twin for PCP95 on 8th April, the cabinet took just over 10 days to ‘sell out’ its initial capacity, with the Waiting List status appearing on 19th April:

Changed:
 -        FTTC Range A (Clean)    80  79.7  20   20   --       Available
 -        FTTC Range B (Impacted) 80  66.6  20   17.6 --       Available
 ... into:
 +       FTTC Range A (Clean)    80  79.7  20   20   --       Waiting list
 +       FTTC Range B (Impacted) 80  66.6  20   17.6 --       Waiting list
 
 Added:
 +     This PCP has a waiters list for FTTC services. You may place an order
 +                       which will be dealt with in turn.

However Openreach reacted very promptly to this, perhaps due to our forecast that the cabinet would be popular, and the good news is the cabinet was back to Available again just 3 days later on the 22nd April.  How long to the next one?

 

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Skippetts Gardens (Basingstoke PCP116) with a familiar story…

Under our campaign, we have principally focussed on:

  • our own new-build site, Everest Park, and its Openreach cabinet, Basingstoke PCP 102;
  • two cabinets on other nearby new-build sites which seemed to be part of Openreach’s commercial superfast fibre broadband programme  but were delayed – Basingstoke PCP92 at Marnell Park, and PCP 95 at Limes Park.
  • another 19 cabinets across Hampshire which also had been part of Openreach’s commercial programme and have seemingly been delayed time and again.

The problem for cabinets that are part of the commercial programme is that the Hampshire County Council / Broadband Delivery UK partnership cannot then look to deliver these cabinets, and some have been in limbo for a number of years.  The good news is Openreach are now actively addressing this, and delivered a number of the 19 during 2015/16, and plan to deliver another batch in 2016/17.

However a few cabinets seem to fall between the commercial and HCC/BDUK programmes, with both claiming the cabinet is the others responsibility;  those supplying new-build sites developed between around 2010 and 2013 being the likely to be the worst offenders – as was our very own PCP 102.  We did have some evidence showing it had at times been part of the Openreach commercial programme, but Openreach claimed this had not been the case.  Certainly the HCC/BDUK team pointed the finger at Openreach.

The case for Basingstoke PCP 116 supplying the Skippetts Gardens development  is less clear;  it may never have formed part of the commercial programme.  However the response to residents of the development on Twitter from the HCC/BDUK team is that their area falls under commercial delivery.  Looking on the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme website map, that doesn’t appear to be strictly true, the area is devoid of any colouring implying it is not part of the commercial programme, nor waves 1 or 2 of their programme… therefore falling into the final 4-5% without any provision.

Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme map showing "whitespace" over Skippetts Gardens, implying no superfast broadband provision at all
Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme map (captured 02/04/2016) showing “whitespace” over Skippetts Gardens, implying no superfast broadband provision at all

For a relatively dense, urban development surrounded by properties with superfast options from both Openreach and Virgin Media, this looks like bad planning.  What is particularly disappointing is that the Chief Executive and the Director of Culture, Communities and Business Services of Hampshire County Council published this report on the status of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme in January 2015, and Basingstoke PCP 116 serving Skippetts Gardens was specifically mentioned in it, under section 3.8 Retrofit.  This details the largest 30 recent new-build sites without superfast broadband in the county, and states “A number of these developments may be viable for commercial investment, but there are few signs that this problem is fully recognised by the private sector or that solutions for residents will come forward in a reasonable timescale”.

One particularly concerning aspect is that the section opens with the statement “Not included in the count of premises remaining unserved in the Intervention Area are some 4,800 new homes on existing phases of housing developments where the developer and broadband providers have not so far arranged the provision of superfast services through commercial investment”.  This appears to imply that the final 4-5% once the Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme has delivered Wave 2, will actually be 4-5% PLUS these addiitonal 4,800 properties, and the properties are essentially missing from the statistics!

Worse, the report goes on to provide a number of properties on each site, but for Skippetts Gardens this is listed as just 67;  and for Basingstoke PCP 102 which was also in the list, 124.  Both developments were long since completed when the report was published so the figures are significantly out of date, as the actual number of properties served by PCP 116 at Skippetts Gardens is 162, and at Everest Park is just over 400.  If these inaccuracies were repeated across the county, there could be well over 10,000 properties in this state – and being ignored from coverage figures.

Following the HCC/BDUK assertion, we have asked Openreach to confirm whether PCP116 is in or out of their commercial programme, and are currently waiting for a response.  However unlike PCP102, we’ve not seen any evidence of it ever being in the programme.  The Superfast Openreach website currently displays the following message, implying they have no plans to commercially enable the cabinet.

Superfast Openreach website confirmation that PCP116 is NOT in their commercial programme at this time
Superfast Openreach website confirmation that PCP116 is NOT in their commercial programme at this time

So what can residents do?  At least their current broadband speeds are better than those experienced in Everest, Marnell and Limes Parks, where speeds maxed out between 2Mbps and 4Mbps;  the estimates for Skippetts Gardens are up to a lofty 8Mbps.

The first thing is to get as many residents as possible to register demand for superfast broadband on the following websites:

  1. Openreach – http://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/expression-gen.aspx – Openreach have just changed their Superfast Broadband website, this is the latest link to their registration form to say “enable my area”
  2. Virgin Media – https://cablemystreet.virginmedia.com – Virgin are undertaking a multi-year multi-billion pound network expansion, so it is a good idea to register interest with them also.
  3. Openreach again – http://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/help-and-support/fibre-broadband-availability.aspx – fill out the form to ask Openreach when fibre will be available.  With requests from multiple residents, Openreach should respond.  As a community you can also ask for a gap-funding quote.  Openreach have commercially enabled cabinets in Hampshire and Basingstoke with less connected properties (though the majority are above the 200 property mark), so it may be they have just not assessed the true number of properties affected, and at that time may decide to enable it commercially.
  4. Hampshire Superfast Broadband Programme – http://www.hampshiresuperfastbroadband.com/get-involved/ – if all residents register the HCC team may more readily spot the problem.
  5. Email the Hampshire Superfast Broadband team  – broadband@hants.gov.uk
  6. And tweet them…. twitter.com/superfasthants

Also contact your local borough and County Councillors and ask them to get involved.  Our councillors, and in particular our County Councillor Jane Frankum, has been particularly helpful.  Skippetts Gardens is in Basingstoke Grove ward, and the local councillors are Cllr Stephen Day and Cllr Ron Hussey. The County Councillor is Cllr Brian Gurden.  Our MP, Maria Miller, would be another good person to contact.

Once Openreach have confirmed the cabinet really is not in their commercial programme, the first goal has to be getting Hampshire County Council to recognise that position – we will certainly forward any emails.

Whilst the figures are not as stand-out as PCP95 in Limes Park for example, where maximum ADSL speeds have been around 2Mbps, and where take-up on completed cabinets is the highest in the county, or like Everest Park where the number of properties (400+) can easily be seen to be commercially viable, much of the BDUK work is enabling cabinets supplying 100 properties or less, and many areas have far higher ADSL speeds attainable than at Skippetts Gardens.  Therefore it should make sense for the Hampshire Superfast BDUK Programme to support delivery of FTTC to the location.

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Basingstoke PCPs 76 and 101

Following requests from residents connected to PCPs76 and 101, which are currently in the “Waiting List” status implying current cabinet capacity is full, we have raised the plight of these cabinets with Openreach.

The response, which generally provides good news, is as follows:

Basingstoke 76 (Chineham)
·         Due to great demand, this cabinet is completely full, and requires an Incremental Cab (ie/ 2nd DSLAM).
·         There were some challenges with the location and wayleaves for the second cabinet which caused some delays.
·         The delivery team have now found an alternative location which does not require a wayleave.
·         All jobs have been issued to suppliers for the new cabinet build and it will be managed by the team who have delivered PCPs 92, 102 and are now completing 95.

Basingstoke 101 (Marnell Park)
·         Due to the excellent high take up, this looks like a capacity issue.
·         This has already been escalated to the relevant team, and once there has been a formal update and confirmation of action / plan, it will be provided to us.

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Update on PCP95

Apologies for the lack of news on PCP95;  a flurry of activity in mid January saw the cabinet being installed, but there has been little sign of progress towards it going live.

[EDIT 01/04/2016] Openreach have today confirmed Basingstoke PCP95 is now in final test, and will be released for customer orders by or on next Friday 8th April.

The problem appears to be with providing fibre to the cabinet from the local distribution point in Priestly Road, which itself is affected by the roadworks on the nearby A340.  Due to the width distribution point being in the carriageway itself (rather than under a pavement or verge), Openreach had decided a road closure was necessary to carry out the works, and the county council had said this should be done once the A340 works are complete in July.

The good news is that following further involvement of residents and ourselves, Openreach have renegotiated access with the council, and were allowed to carry out the required works from 5am to 9am this morning (with access again tonight if necessary) to complete the connections required to the cabinet.

Openreach are therefore hopeful that the cabinet will be commissioned and tested in the next few days and live in the next week or two.

 

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Uncertainty over broadband at Spiers Meadow

David Wilson launched their show homes at the new Spiers Meadow development, adjoining Marnell Park which the same developers constructed in 2009-11, last weekend.  The first few residents appear to have moved in around a week earlier.

The homes are, on the face of it, very well equipped for the future with Ethernet points collocated with standard phone and tv/dual-satellite points, plus additional phone and TV points for Virgin Media, in the lounge, kitchen, study and master bedroom of each property, wired back to a central patch panel.

What is somewhat disappointing however is that the BT/Openreach connectivity appears to be copper rather than fibre-to-the-premise though like many new developments, residents have moved in before Openreach have actually connected anything up, so it’s feasible things could change.  However ports inside the property are copper, and two copper cables emerge through the external walls awaiting for Openreach to pull cables through the external ducting to meet them.

Lets hope that if the premises don’t receive FTTP, at least FTTC will be offered, though even that isn’t currently clear.  With neither, the Openreach offering would likely to be around 2-3Mbps.

The somewhat good news is that at least superfast and even ultrafast broadband will eventually be available from Virgin, regardless of what Openreach deliver, and both providers installed ducting to the site over six months ago so planning has obviously been going on for some time even if the work is not yet complete.

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95 and 102 Updates

After a few days with little obvious progress at PCP95, serving part of Limes Park, which is currently being installed, yesterday residents reported significant progress with the power obviously being connected and the ground filled in, and all other ground works around the cabinet being completed and the pavement restored.

Openreach themselves were also in attendance carrying out cabling works, believed to include installing tie-cables to the existing PCP cabinet, and installing fibre.  We therefore hope this cabinet will go live around mid February, well in advance of the end-March deadline set by Openreach.

The other good news is that the third line card appears to have been installed in PCP102, as the BT Wholesale Checker updated this morning to show that FTTC is available again.  Residents of Everest Park are therefore able to upgrade to fibre again.

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FTTC for PCP92 (Marnell Park) now available again

Following Monday’s news that an additional line card would be commissioned to serve PCP92 this week, today the cabinet status has updated on the BT Wholesale DSL Checker to show that FTTC is now available to order again – good news for the residents there, who had around 10 days to order after the cabinet went live before the initial capacity sold out.  It has since taken a month to have the additional line card added, frustrating a number of residents.

To order, contact your preferred service provider.  Our Costs and Options page has details of current offers;  for most people the best value comes from switching supplier, whilst taking advantage of cashback and sales offers, allowing some bundles to average less than normal line rental charges over the minimum term, but also including fibre broadband and even some calls.

2016-01-20_PCP92

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Superfast Extension Programme and “Private” Rollout

Some interesting updates are starting to come through the online systems, confirming which cabinets are next to be upgraded to provide superfast fibre broadband.  These, and updates to the Superfast Openreach website also give an indication on current progress on each cabinet, as to whether surveys have taken place for example, or physical installation has commenced.

We have only looked at data for Basingstoke so far and not the entire county, but this shows:

Cab Location Status Phase Postcode
180 Town Centre, Alencon Link FTTC being Built, live due by June 2016 BDUK Hampshire 14a RG21 7TW
20 Old Basing FTTC being Built, live due by June 2016 15a RG24 7BH
95 Rooksdown FTTC doing Field Survey, live due by October 2016 15b RG24 9GY
89 Sherbourne Fields development, Rooksdown / Popley FTTC doing Field Survey, live due by October 2016 Privately Funded RG24 9UP
90 Sherbourne Fields development, Rooksdown / Popley FTTC doing Field Survey, live due by October 2016 Privately Funded RG24 9XG
47 Daneshill Business Area (nr Lychpit) FTTC doing Field Survey, live due by October 2016 SEP Hampshire 16a RG24 8FB
164 Houndmills Business Area FTTC doing Field Survey, live due by October 2016 SEP Hampshire 16a RG21 5UG
167 Crockford Lane (Chineham Intl Bus Park) FTTC doing Field Survey, live due by October 2016 SEP Hampshire 16a RG24 8NA
31 Houndmills Business Area FTTC doing Design, live due by January 2017 SEP Hampshire 17a RG21 6QD

It is good to see that FTTC is being provided, presumably by the developer, for the Sherbourne Fields development, currently the largest new homes development in Basingstoke – though the first stages of the development have been occupied for around a year now so better late than never.

Upgrades under the first part of the second wave of the Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme with BDUK (termed the Superfast Extension Programme, SEP) have also started to show up, and it is now the turn of business to benefit, with cabinets serving parts of the Houndmills, Daneshill, and Crockford Lane business areas first to benefit.

Note that the first three cabinets above should actually be complete before the end of March according to data shared by the Openreach team with us, so unfortunately it appears the data in some BT systems isn’t kept up to however.

 

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Good news updates!

Openreach are trying to stop us getting the Monday blues with a good news update to welcome in the still fairly new year!

Firstly they have confirmed that an additional line card is required for PCP92, which has been in the “Waiting List” state since 18th December.  The job for these works has now been issued to the specific organisation in Openreach who handles it, and the card will be installed ready for further customer orders by this Friday 22nd January.

Secondly Openreach have provided the following update for PCP95 in Limes Park.  This cabinet has until now not seen any work despite PCPs 92 and 102 being completed.

“We have had to change supplier for this cabinet.  We now have a revised DSLAM stand date of 22nd Jan 2016, and power and fibre and copper connections will follow from this.”

Better than this, residents have spotted contractor teams actually commencing work this morning on the VDSL2 twin for PCP95, laying the plinth foundation and commencing ducting works.  This tallies nicely with the above update from Openreach, as the DSLAM stand date is thought to be the date the main cabinet shell is installed, and therefore preparatory works would need to be undertaken before then.

PCP95_Base_19_1_16
PCP 95 foundation installed 18 Jan 2016 – photo courtesy J Godfrey.

Based on the timescales of PCPs 92 and 102, residents could expect to see fibre available to order in around a month’s time.

Finally Openreach have confirmed an additional three commercial cabinets in Hampshire are due to be enabled/completed this quarter – unfortunately they have not advised which as yet.

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