British Internet service providers stretch fiber in 3 million homes

    According to a study by IHS Markit, the UK ranks third from the end (among European countries) in the number of fiber connections. Another problem in the United Kingdom is the slow internet in the countryside, which we recently wrote about on the blog.

    Providers of England thought about how to fix the situation with the "bad Internet" in the whole state. Under the cut, read what projects they plan to implement, and what industry representatives and experts think about this. / The Flickr / Groman123 / CC

    What is the essence of the project

    British Telecom (BT) has announced the accelerated introduction of broadband Internet for a million homes. Openreach, a BT subsidiary that controls Britain’s major Internet networks, has published a plan to connect 3 million buildings to its fiber optic network (FTTP) by 2020.

    According to the Times, now only 3% of homes in England are connected to FTTP. For comparison: in Spain there are 79% of such houses. For most residents of Britain, Internet access is provided using obsolete copper cables that BT laid several decades ago. The average Internet speed in the country is 16.5 Mbit / s, and FTTP connections will provide speeds of up to 1 Gbit / s.

    Under the Fiber First program, Openreach will hire 3,000 people to deploy the network in eight major cities in Britain: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester. Work is scheduled to begin in April 2018.

    Clive Selley, Executive Director of the organization , claims that the project is the first stage to achieve the goal of 10 million connected homes by 2025. When asked about the cost of the project, Selly did not give the exact amount. Nevertheless, he claims that it will be “very large”: only the starting budget will amount to several hundred million pounds. According to The Register, the final cost will vary from 3 to 6 billion pounds.

    Project Challenges

    Openreach hopes to offset costs by pulling fiber to all new customers and disconnecting old copper connections. This decision will increase monthly consumer bills by £ 7 as service providers will pay more for line rental.

    However, Selly said that switching to fiber networks will ultimately help reduce costs: fiber is easier to maintain than copper. Thanks to this, there will be less disruption, and the total cost of using the network for providers will be reduced.

    Some carriers are worried that they will have to migrate all their customers to fiber. However, Selly insists that the cost of new cables will be meaningless if the old network continues to work - therefore, after launching the project, British providers will have no alternative.

    The cost of one fiber-optic connection in the city is estimated at 300-400 pounds, and the connection in the suburbs will cost even more.

    / The Flickr / of Dennis van Zuijlekom / CC

    What competitors are preparing

    Among the rivals, BT and its Openreach division stand out Vodafone, TalkTalk, City Fiber and Virgin Media, which also build fiber optic networks.

    A few days after the publication of the Openreach plan, TalkTalk said it would invest a large sum in fiber optic infrastructure and deliver the Internet to 3 million homes and organizations. Tristia Harrison, executive director of the company , emphasizes that TalkTalk will focus on suburban areas and BT on cities, so the plans of the organizations will not overlap.

    Another operator Hyperoptic, which is the second (after Openreach) largest provider of fiber in England skeptical concernsto the plans of its main competitor. Hyperoptic say it has "led the switch to fiber for many years" (they have already provided access to every seventh inhabitant of London and Manchester to access the fiber network). Openreach, in their words, is trying to present the matter as if prior to their project such initiatives did not exist in the country. By the way, Hyperoptic confirms its intention to connect 2 million homes to the fiber network by 2020 and 5 million by 2025.

    As for CityFibre, representatives of this company generally consider Openreach's behavior to be a desperate step taken in response to growing competition from other market players. CityFiber emphasizes in its official address that their partnership with Vodafone is planningto provide 5 million homes and businesses (20% of the market) with broadband Internet by 2025 - against the backdrop of these statements, Openreach plans no longer seem so grandiose.

    Such competition was approved by Ofcom telecommunications corporation and the government. And the Minister of Digital Technology, Culture, Media and Sports of Great Britain Matthew Hancock called these projects a big step towards preparing England for a “fiber-optic future”. He also emphasized that in order to achieve this goal the government works with many operators, including Openreach, Virgin, CityFiber, Gigaclear, TalkTalk.

    Other solutions

    The development of 4G (as an alternative to fiber optic network) in the UK is also a priority. According to a 2017 Ofcom Connected Nations report, only 7 out of 10 regions of England have access to 4G. The technology covers 63% of the country, within the city 4G covers 90% of the territory, and in rural areas - 57%. The situation with the coverage of roads is about the same: 4G covers 68% of them. Among the operators, EE, Vodafon, Three and O2 stand out.

    One of the joint projects in this direction is the holding of a 4G network in the London Underground by 2019. In the summer of 2018, the main British operators tested the technology on the Waterloo and City lines. As a result of the tests, the suppliers were able to provide uninterrupted 4G Internet over a trip of 1.5 miles.

    TfL company toldThe Register that testing (which included the deployment of the appropriate infrastructure) was carried out in order to determine the expected timing of the deployment of 4G. The tunnels in the London Underground are very narrow, so it was so important to launch a test project and assess what difficulties might arise during the work before proceeding with the full-scale deployment of the project.

    4G will become the basis for another project - Emergency Services Network (ESN). The representative of TfL noted that the organization designs and installs the infrastructure so that it can be used to provide 4G Internet in the metro and for ESN.

    Another 4G solution aims to improve communications in remote areas of the country. EE plans to install4G antennas in 580 thousand rural houses in the UK. The device is a small box the size of a shoe box that attaches to the roof like a regular antenna. Such a solution is suitable for areas where it is currently impossible to stretch fiber optic cable. The cost of the antenna will be from 35 to 100 pounds.

    The corporation claims that during tests in Cumbria (a county in the north-west of the country), the Internet speed reached 100 Mbps. Further plans for EE are to cover 95% of the United Kingdom by 4G with a 4G network by 2020.

    As Member of Parliament Rory Stewart notes, the main difficulty in providing the Internet to the suburbs and villages is the remoteness of the houses from each other. Pulling a fiber optic cable in this case is not very profitable. And the EE solution will help overcome this difficulty so that residents of Cumbria and other areas get access to high-speed Internet.

    The BBC claims that for several years, many operators in England: from BT and TalkTalk to CityFiber and Hyperoptic, will work to improve the situation with Internet access throughout the UK. And their competition should lead to significant changes in the country's network infrastructure.

    PS Some materials on a subject from our blog on Habré:

    Additional articles from our corporate blog on the VAS Experts website:

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