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Openreach split could damage broadband investment, says BT's chief exec

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I call BS...

If this was split, you would likely find 3rd party ISP's (Think Sky, Vodaphone, TalkTalk etc) would invest in OpenReach (this would obviously have to be regulated), as well as more cooperation on ducting (Thinking virgin here) as OpenReach is not a direct service-competitor, yet Virgin rely's upon OpenReach copper to delivery broadband to areas that don't have cable.

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Re: I call BS...

Dream on if you think Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone would voluntarily match the level of investment BT are currently making in OpenReach.

The question has to be just what is the value to Sky, TalkTalk et al of having access to BT Openreach's infrastructure... I suggest Ofcom is missing a trick and should hold an auction, with the minimum annual payment being set at BT's current investment level...

With such a commitment the industry itself could fund the delivery of FTTP to every home, including those in remote areas in a reasonable timeframe...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I call BS...

"If this was split, you would likely find 3rd party ISP's (Think Sky, Vodaphone, TalkTalk etc) would invest in OpenReach"

Using money that I presume they could spend today on building out their own networks if they chose? If they haven't done it yet, why would they spend money on part ownership of another network?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I call BS...

"If they haven't done it yet, why would they spend money on part ownership of another network?"

Because while Openreach is part of BT, the alternates know there's no point even trying to compete.

E.g. look at the farce of the BDUK tender process, where in due course players like Fujitsu (and TalkTalk) dropped out, because they realised what they'd been told (and ignored) was actually true: it was impossible to win when the cards are stacked in BT Openreach's favour:

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240179713/Fujitsu-pulls-out-of-BDUK

Plenty more (but less well documented) where that came from.

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Re: I call BS...

Because while Openreach is part of BT, the alternates know there's no point even trying to compete.

Perhaps if we split Openreach from BT, we should also split the satellite broadcast service from Sky and put it under the same obligations. Ie. I want the TalkTalk TV service but I want it delivered over the (Sky) satellite, because the BTOR xDSL service isn't up to it...

Yes I'm ignoring certain properties and limitations of the of broadcast satellite service, but I think the point is valid, namely Sky is effective monoploy satellite broadcaster who is trying to dictate how another monoploy should be run...

Sky has had decades to deploy cable, instead it chose no to and as it has demonstrated with it's MVNO announcement, it has no intention of actually being a fully fledged Telco and thus being subject to the demands and constraints Ofcom puts on MNO's and phyiscal network owning Telco's...

Yes, I agree BDUK was set up to enable the government to give money to BT without it being classed as state aid under EU regulations. At least with Brexit the government won't have to practise such deceptions, it can simply write the cheque...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I call BS...

"if we split Openreach from BT, we should also split the satellite broadcast service from Sky"

And Virgin Cable's infrastructure from Virgin's content-licencing and distribution.

Fine by me on both counts.

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FAIL

Pension scheme.

So, their argument is, that because they can't run a pension scheme properly, they should be allowed to monopolise the market to pay for their incompetence?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pension scheme.

I don't think they do run a pension scheme, that's not normally how it works. A pension scheme runs the pension scheme and the regulator tells the company funding it how much money it needs.

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Re: Pension scheme.

The Pension Scheme Trustees run the pension. They may employ a financial institution for advice and to carry out the investment etc. Many of the Trustees (the majority?) will be on the board of BT. So, yes, BT is responsible for the deficit - BT benefited from the contributions holiday and should pony up.

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Re: Pension scheme.

"So, their argument is, that because they can't run a pension scheme properly, they should be allowed to monopolise the market to pay for their incompetence?"

As per another comment, the pension scheme is run by a separate, specialist company as is normal. The trustees represent BT and employees.

The deficit is a partly result of the Treasury/IR/HMRC screwing pension schemes over the years (Exhibit A: Gordon Brown's ditching tax relief on dividend income for pension funds; clearly a tax on the future as seen from the 1990s and now we are in that future. Exhibit B: the tax-man's suspicion that pension funds* are a vehicle for secreting profits leading to enforced contribution "holidays" when the fund gets in surplus in economic good times, in turn leading to deficits in bad times because of the missed contributions; we've had a lot of those bad times lately. Exhibit C: low interest rates and QE cutting the income from bonds used to pay pensions; IOW more bad times).

The deficit might have been made worse by the cutting of headcount over the years. There are now fewer contributing members but many surviving ex-members who are receiving or will be due to receive pensions.

The consequence is that BT is making extra payments to try to get the fund back into balance. That's money that can't be invested in infrastructure.

But don't let's have facts getting in the way of a good rant.

*The tax-man doesn't have to worry about the funding of his pension. That's essentially a Ponzi scheme.

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Re: Pension scheme.

>The deficit might have been made worse by the cutting of headcount over the years. There are now fewer contributing members but many surviving ex-members who are receiving or will be due to receive pensions.

Really?

Surely you aren't relying on subsequent generations of employees to fund your pensions. Otherwise, that's not BT paying in, that's employees and there's no cost to BT. Surely BT should be contributing from profits (which turns them into costs) and they should be ring-fenced so pensions are not diverted to dividends.

Yes you make lower profits when you pay employees. Yes, you make lower profits in the short term and higher ones in the long term when you invest. So What? That is normal. Maybe your profits are due to having good employees who were attracted by the pension scheme.

Its a cost of doing business.

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Anonymous Coward

@Trigonoceps

"Many of the Trustees (the majority?) will be on the board of BT. So, yes, BT is responsible for the deficit"

A ten second google shows that no BT directors are also directors of the pension scheme.

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Anonymous Coward

BHS cough chought

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Openretch should be dragged as far away from the grasping hands of BT execs as humanly possible. Only BT execs disagree...

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Anonymous Coward

I think the shareholders who actually own it would tend to disagree too.

Even if it were split, BT would be the new organisation's biggest customer and the two businesses would have the same owner. If the access network was 'taken away' and handed to someone else those owners will need compensating to the tune of tens of billions, money which then won't be available for doing anything new.

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Anonymous Coward

I've got a solution for "increase the firm's already-ballooning pension deficit"

The interwebs suggest Mr Patterson receives a basic-salary of £950k before bonus (and pension one assumes).

Maybe if he and his fellow big-cheeses redirected the funds normally indented for their bonuses and pensions into the pension pool, that might help !

I wish OFCOM would grow a pair and get on with the task of breaking up BT. The problem is, they are unlikely to, especially as the previous CEO has a seat in the Lords and so only a short walk away from having quiet chats with a the MPs to keep them onside !

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've got a solution for "increase the firm's already-ballooning pension deficit"

£950K is less than 0.0001% of £10Bn

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Headmaster

Re: I've got a solution for "increase the firm's already-ballooning pension deficit"

"£950K is less than 0.0001% of £10Bn" 0/10 see me.

% means one part per hundred. So, per-cent. Now, redo your arithmetic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've got a solution for "increase the firm's already-ballooning pension deficit"

As I said... see "before bonus and pension" .

I think you'll find by the time you add it up it will come to a few million.

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Anonymous Coward

Pensions ...

It should also be pointed out that the net pension position at 31/03/2015 was a deficit of appx. £7.6bn, vs £7bn at 31/03/2014.

A new pension recovery plan was agreed in 2014 with BT paying £2bn over three years. BT paid £875m Q414/15, due to pay £875m 2015/16, and £250m 2016/17+2017/18.

Given BT's forecast profits for the next few years ranges from £2.1bn imminently to £3.5bn in 2019, I reckon they could afford to pay a little more than £250m in the later years of their recovery plan !

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Childcatcher

Re: Pensions ...

What? And take responsability for missmanaging the pension funds?

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Re: Pensions ...

Yep, but the recent drop in interest rates mean that every company with a final salary scheme has to revalue their liabilities.

As soon as interest rates finally start to go up most of these deficits will disappear.

It's not necessarily that the pension scheme is badly run, it's just how the value the future benefits.

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Re: Pensions ...

"I reckon they could afford to pay a little more than £250m in the later years of their recovery plan"

Here's a little exercise for you. You are in charge of BT's finances. Your have £1bn available. You have claims both for investing in infrastructure and payments to the pension fund. If you pay that £1bn into the pension fund how much do you have left over for investment?

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Re: Pensions ...

"And take responsability for missmanaging the pension funds?"

See previous comments about how pension funds actually work.

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Re: Pensions ...

"As soon as interest rates finally start to go up"

But in whose lifetime?

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Re: Pensions ...

> ... You have claims both for investing in infrastructure and payments to the pension fund...

Invest in the infrastructure, then make the payment to the pension fund in newly-issued shares backed by the value of that new infrastructure. Given that pension funds invest in shares anyway, seems like a good way of resolving the specific question you pose.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pensions ...

It's not a great plan for the pension scheme of a company to be funded by shares in that company for reasons that should be obvious.

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Re: Pensions ...

Nor is it a good plan for the Pension Fund to invest a significant proportion of it's funds in the company funding it; also for reasons that should be obvious. However, being mindful that I'm getting old, I recommend younger readers to familiarise themselves with what Robert Maxwell did to the Mirror Group's pension fund...

Aside: Despite what Frank Field says, what happened at BHS is not in the same league, it had a real deficit and not an 'investment' or shares that on inspection were found to be worthless...

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Re: Pensions ...

It should also be pointed out that the net pension position at 31/03/2015 was a deficit of appx. £7.6bn, vs £7bn at 31/03/2014.

Expect it to get a lot worse before it gets better...

Following the EU Brexit vote, the value of gilt yields plunged, this increasing pension deficits by an average of 19%. Then in August the Bank of England did it's rate cut and a new round of quantitative easing, which is expected to increase pension deficits by a further 7%...

Which would indicate that the BT pension deficit at 31/03/2017 could be circa £10bn...

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Open Reach Split

Whilst separating pension assets and liabilities is not a trivial taslk BT managed it many years ago when they sold their original mobile business. Separating OpenReach is a bigger exercise - but clearly could be done.

Incidentally - much of OpenReach's income and money it should invest in its network comes from Sky, TalkTalk and BT Retail etc. paying for millions of line rentals. e.g. 10M non-BT lines and 12M BT lines gives over £3B a year to run and invest in the access network - not sure extra money would be needed ?

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Re: Open Reach Split

"Whilst separating pension assets and liabilities is not a trivial taslk BT managed it many years ago when they sold their original mobile business."

Actually they didn't sell it. It was split out. BT shareholders received an O2 share for each, now devalues, BT share they owned. It was these shares that Telefonica then bought from the then shareholders.

Whether this was a good idea is questionable given that BT has since paid to buy back into the mobile business.

I'm also not sure how well the pension worked out given that anyone working for BT Mobile who retired before the split is now being paid a pension from the BT scheme.

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What broadband investment?

The post is required, and must contain letters.

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Flame

Under-investment - moi?

'On the question of whether BT has historically under-invested in Openreach, he said investment in the business will increase by 30 per cent over the next two years. "Looking ahead case for more investment further is quite strong," he said.'

Or in other words - "Yes, we historically under-invested, and now recognise that this has made us so unpopular that we need to make some token increase over the next two years which might, if you're lucky, amount to about 0.1% of what we are spending on football rights during the same period. It won't be enough to make any significant improvement in connection speeds, especially in those difficult-to-reach rural areas - but it will give our PR and lobbying wonks enough sales-pitch material to keep the regulators wrapped round our little fingers."

Git.

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BT certainly have a problem with their pension scheme, as do almost all large companies (and many small ones too).

But this is not down to their own mismanagement - it's due to the grasping hands of G. Brown esq., and then after that to the endless ZIRP and QE that's been foisted on us by the Govt. and the Bank of England. Nobody can make investments pay in this environment, which is why they are all falling over each other to renege on their promises to their employees. This will not end well.

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Anonymous Coward

FTTP Order...eeek

As someone who has had an open FTTP installation now for 9 days shy of 6 months I can tell you from my experience Openreach are a million miles away from being in a position to make it the mainstream technology. They have failed me in the planning, communication and even the installation. They are under resourced and over-reliant on contractors who are not reactive enough to get small jobs done in order to push delivery through.

In my case they “forgot” to put a manifold near my house, so when the external guys rocked up only 5 days after my order they weren’t able to do anything. To be fair they called another team in who were going to put the manifold in place that day for them, but they couldn’t as it had to go back to planners. 4 months later I found out that what that planning appeared to involve was getting a contractor to put 1m of blue alkathene pipe from the pit under the pole to the pole so they could pull the tube through (20mins work). 2 weeks later they were back and installed a manifold and then put the external box on my house with the tubes but for some reason didn’t pull the fibre in. They then cancelled my order because it had been too long and my phone number port had expired. New order placed and I was meant to go live yesterday except guess what… someone didn’t work and I have a little red light on my Openreach modem, another external guy mean to fix tomorrow (something to do with the fibre between the village and the exchange, even though others are routing over it without issue).

My verdict…

- Lack of engineers (only 1 internal engineer trained to cover Pembrokeshire and up to Carmarthen)

- Over reliant use of contractors – why couldn’t Openreach have dug that 1m of duct instead of having to go back to planning and to a contractor?

- Rubbish communication from Openreach back to Retail

- 3hr slot for Engineer to complete the work, 3hr slot for same engineer to complete phone port? So 2 installations a day… not going to get very far like this with 1 engineer.

My fibre better be working tomorrow or I’m going to kick off… again.

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Facepalm

Re: FTTP Order...eeek

> Over reliant use of contractors – why couldn’t Openreach have dug that 1m of duct instead of having to go back to planning and to a contractor?

iz outsourcing, innit?

Diggin' aint da 'Reach's core bizness.

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Re: FTTP Order...eeek

Over reliant use of contractors

There are economies from buying in expertise that isn't your core business - but then BTOR are big enough that they could keep their own gangs busy.

Of course, if one were of a suspicious mind, the use of contractors might look like a means of getting around employment law. Permie staff have rights, staff working for a contractor that doesn't get it's contract renewed (because someone else has undercut them or they didn't meet the impossible targets set) get redundancy without any comeback. And I'm sure the ability to play contractors off against each other in a Dutch auction hasn't even entered their minds !

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No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

BT are backtracking before they have even started, since the ofcom announcement earlier in the year.

Don't associate G.fast with 'inclusiveness', about furthering/enabling the rollout of 'upto' Ultrafast speeds to Rural communities, that was never the G.fast remit as a technology.

With G.fast - notspots remain notspots. G.fast is all about selective rollout to specific locations, to grab the headline "Ultrafast broadband is here!" (as always, that doesn't help if it isn't anywhere near you, because you don't live within 250m {125m as the crow flies} of a G.fast attached FTTC cabinet).

G.fast works best in cherry picked locations that already get close to 80Mbps FTTC.

If you radius out from there - to do a 'proper blanket coverage job' with G.fast it becomes exponentially expensive, because of the sheer number of (important point:) actively powered G.fast nodes required, hence it's not an 'inclusive' (in terms of the population of UK as a whole) technology.

BT have already made it clear that 'selective' rollout of G.fast will map 1:1 with existing FTTC Cabinets, i.e. you only can get G.fast if you already have an FTTC cabinet within 250m by cable length (125m as the crow flies).

No one is saying G.fast can't do the job, (if that's your copper carcass bias talking for you).

The problem 'to do the job' is the distance between the property/subscriber and a newly installed (and importantly, reiterate this point: the actively powered G.fast node.

We're back to the 'upto' terminology governed by distance - of past ADSL and FTTC, but 100x worse, and even more obfuscated, because the final leg is still Copper or Aluminium.

BT love G.fast, because it allows them to sell 'upto' Ultrafast broadband marketing as an artificially capped 'Finite Resource', priced according to speed, with little worry for them, whether its copper or aluminium cabling, because that affects you (in terms of speed) but aids BT, in terms of marketing. It's difficult to sell true fibre FTTP as a limited resource, when the optical cable is all the way to the property.

So how many G.fast nodes would the UK require for blanket coverage?

In a 2km2 area with a FTTC cabinet in the centre of that graphic, you need 'upto' 25 equally spaced G.fast nodes to get blanket coverage depending on the 'upto' Ultrafast Broadband, say 200-300Mbps - you intend to rollout. Thats a lot of high tech/firmware patches to always work / talk to each other (remain powered) and rurally there isn't the maintenance for that to happen.

Real Fibre optic FTTP is a simpler, passive network, it requires no additional power from its source. Once its in, its more or less job done, in comparison to endless fault finding G.fast will create.

Each G.fast node has to be actively powered (making them expensive to install, and inherently adding more complexity into the local loop, i.e. more stuff to go wrong and far more reasons for it to go wrong)

Top 'upto' G.fast speeds are very susceptible to distance, interference, Power Supply smoothing issues, Low frequency Pump Noise, damp, poor cabling copper/alu, poor connections, the list is endless.

Saying the 'expensive' subscriber termination costs are the reason not to rollout real fibre is a con, its doesn't show the true picture of the ongoing maintenance costs of G.fast. It's been done in order for BT to sell their bias toward their legacy copper carcass network, BT want to sell the taxpayer G.fast, because it suits BT (in terms of maintaining their own asset values), not the UK as a whole.

I'm not anti-BT, I can see exactly why BT are doing what they are doing, going this route. The problem is, its the wrong approach for the UK as a whole.

Split BT (and reform ofcom while you're at it, too many love-in ex-BT employees making the decisions), concentrate on real fibre optic to the premises FTTP at local loop level, with the use of local support in Rural areas, to get it rolled out across farmland, verges, riverbeds, public footpaths etc. Build on the model of B4RN.

Stop further investment in BT's Copper Carcass now, force all new installs to be real FTTP fibre optic. It's going to take a long time even with active local support rurally, so we may aswell start now.

If BT (on our behalf of the taxpayer) are to use G.fast at all, G.fast should only be used as a last resort (start with a cut-off at distances <500m by length cable, but it really need to be <250 by cable length, everything else real FTTP.

Legislate:

For every G.fast install, mandate an FTTP install at the outer reaches of the local loop/network, so that BT can't cherry pick their customers.

We're already seeing apathy regarding FTTC uptake because subscribers have slowed connections at peak times, it's impossible for any normal person to actually work out the reason their distance based 'upto' copper based ADSL connection is slow, hence users are already sceptical that FTTC won't just be more of the same, with congestion in the backhaul/internodes, not the last leg, the local loop. With real fibre FTTP, subscribers can firmly point the finger at the backhaul, if congestion does occur, not which way the wind is blowing, as is the case at the moment.

The real reason G.fast is been put forward as a technical solution is to extend the life of BT's copper carcass. It's not cheaper in the long run, its potentially a maintenance nightmare. G.fast is certainly not something taxpayers should fund. Don't get sold a Pup, Mr taxpayer.

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

Real Fibre optic FTTP is a simpler, passive network should read Real Fibre optic FTTP is a simpler, more expensive passive network

force all new installs to be real FTTP fibre optic

And will subscribers thus equipped pay a monthly fee that reflects the increased cost of the FTTP, or are those of us on ADSL / VDSL (FTTC) going to find our payments racked up so that we all finish up paying the same?

We're already seeing apathy regarding FTTC uptake because subscribers have slowed connections at peak times

Are you certain that any apathy isn't down to a reluctance to pay for the increased costs of VDSL v ADSL? And can you be sure that FTTP won't also be multiplexed within the cabinet in the same way as FTTC?* For that not to be the case then each individual building will have to have an individual fibre back to the serving exchange, where it will be multiplexed anyway. Running individual fibres from each FTTP subscriber back to the exchange would be ruinously expensive, and I suspect that there simply isn't the space within the ducts to do it anyway. For that idea to be viable then the monthly fee for broadband would be eye - watering, and would encounter serious consumer resistance. OK for business users, perhaps, but for residential customers? Forget it.

* Of course with "cabinet multiplexing" (i.e. that's where the DSLAM is) the local network is no longer going to be passive, but it isn't now anyway. Have you any evidence to suggest that the existing FTTC is inherently unreliable because the cabinets have to be powered?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

How are taxpayers funding G.Fast Adam? Your whole rant seems rather pointless if they're not, and yet;

G.Fast is only being used as an overlay to existing FTTC cabinets, currently. If there's existing G.Fast then the area isn't a "not spot" and there's no taxpayer subsidy. Even if the FTTC cabinet was subsidised, it only covers the cabinet.

The subsidy, to my understanding, is only used where BT would make a loss installing FTTC due to the likely high costs and low takeup. If that situation is proved wrong and there is no loss, BT hands the subsidy back.

It seems that you don't want anyone to have faster broadband until you personally have a fibre into your house and you only want other people to have faster broadband if it's the expensive kind.

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

You're confused in your response.

'If there's existing G.fast then the area isn't a "not spot".

There is no 'existing G.fast' anywhere at the moment as it's still in pilot.

I said 'notspots remain notspots'

If you mean if there's existing FTTC then the (exchange) area isn't a "not spot".

Not technically true, the rollout of FTTC cabinets only cover a subset of the existing full exchange area, once an area become FTTC enabled, due to the technology there are FTTC notspots formed, (that may have been or not have been notspots previous within the exchange area on ADSL). FTTC may also enable areas that were previously ADSL notspots, but its not a given, for the full exchange area.

An exchanged can be labelled 'FTTC enabled' with a minimum of 1 FTTC cabinet, leaving a large expanse of subscribers on different non enabled cabinets without FTTC, stuck on existing ADSL products.

In the same way, G.fast will be a subset of the FTTC cabinets already in situ, so even with the full 1:1 mapping with FTTC (rolled out in the same locations as FTTC), FTTC enabled doesn't necessarily mean it will become G.fast enabled.

And of course, from this - 'G.fast notspots' will be formed, that may be FTTC enabled, i.e. lines more than 250m from the FTTC cabinet (125m as the crow flies), as G.fast only covers a subset of the area an FTTC cabinet covers.

Subsidies for certain FTTC cabinets, with say current low uptake, will be the litmus test for more BT taxpayer subsidy.

"If that situation is proved wrong and there is no loss, BT hands the subsidy back"

BT have raised the threshold from the original 20% to 30% to avoid paying back such amount.

That threshold is likely to be even higher for G.fast rollout.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

"the existing FTTC is inherently unreliable because the cabinets have to be powered?"

I don't know about the general picture, but where I am, many dozens (around 100?) lines on the same FTTC cabinet have had a problem since mid September. My own first fault report ("squealing noise on voice") was fixed quite quickly, but as more and more faults were reported (including other lines for which I am responsible) the time to fix has increased, though the reported time to fix has always been "next week". There are now (according to local Openreach sources) around a hundred lines which can have *either* usable voice (no squealing) *or* usable FTTC, but not both. Things are still due to be fixed "next week" (just as it was a month ago).

The customer-facing BT Openreach guys tell me a spare part is needed in the VDSL cab, a part which a different piece of BT Openreach ("transmission"?) will be required to install. And that there is no stock of the required parts, but everything will be fixed next week.

The fault is then mysteriously closed without anything actually being fixed and without actually consulting the customer(s) involved (presumably to satisfy some carp BT metrics - for many of these faults, BT are the retailer *and* the wholesaler).

Each time "next week" comes to an end and nothing has been fixed. Being a diligent BT customer, I re-log the same fault as before. Others may have given up by this point. I probably should too, it's not good for me.

Each time, when I re-raise exactly the same fault, the call centre person runs their remote line tests, which the Openreach people *know* don't detect this particular class of fault. Because the line tests say "no fault found", the call centre person threatens a £250 charge (for a business line) if the fault is found on customer premises (which it isn't, and which Openreach know from the fault details on that line, from the fault prematurely closed a day or two previously).

Each time we go down this road, a BT Openreach technician is pointlessly dispatched, wasting valuable customer time (end user rep is required to be onsite) and even more valuable BT Openreach tech's time, despite it being a fault that the BT Openreach tech and their colleagues know they cannot fix themselves.

Each time, the fault gets closed by someone, without actually fixing the fault and without consulting the customer.

On Friday 14th I logged the fault afresh yet again and complained. An engineer call was promised for Saturday pm (!) if I could be available, and a manager call back was promised for Monday.

The technician did phone on Saturday, as promised, and in due course explained that no visit would be required because nothing had changed since the fault was first logged in September, they are still waiting for parts for the cab and when the parts are installed, around 100 lines in that cab which currently can have *either* satisfactory voice *or* no broadband will return to normal service of both voice and broadband at the same time.

On Friday 14th I was also promised a call back from a manager on Monday 17th. Predictably the call back doesn't happen.

When the text message satisfaction survey arrives later, I rate them accordingly and describe (politely) the highlights of this ridiculous picture. Amazingly this *does* result in a call back from someone claiming to be a Team Leader who bithely offers to repeat exactly the same pointless and stupid process I have already been through multiple times and about which I am complaing. So I have to be in the office tomorrow afternoon for an engineer visit which is unnecessary and may not even happen. Nothing will be fixed but the call will probably be closed anyway.

Why so? Apparently because "it's the process".

I ask the Team Leader if there is an escalation path as I am rather bored with this silly waste of customers' and BT's time and money. "Must follow process. Resistance is useless.", drones the Team Leader. "Thank for your total inability to help in any meaningful way" says customer (me).

How broken is this process?

Is any other retailer (other than BT) likely to be in a better position to break through this wall of carp?

Does BT still have a "high level complaints" email address?

Presumably the Alternative Dispute Resolution is still useless due to the effects of 'regulatory capture'?

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

I don't know about the general picture, but where I am, many dozens (around 100?) lines on the same FTTC cabinet have had a problem since mid September. (snipped...)

An interesting report, and I genuinely wonder what might be causing it all. The cabinet is (or ought to be) totally passive as far as the speech circuit is concerned, with simple filtering to combine the VDSL and the speech bands for connection to the copper local end. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is that a / the power supply (i.e. the DC supply after conversion from the incoming mains) has become wildly unstable and is putting noises at audio frequency on to the line, but even then I cannot really see how it is getting in.

Does BT still have a "high level complaints" email address? Yes; it's called Ofcom, or perhaps Trading Standards, on the basis that you are being charged for and paying for a service that you aren't getting.

Failing that try to get "You and Yours", "Watchdog" or "Rip - Off Britain" involved. That puts things firmly in the public domain which BT is unlikely to appreciate; it might just spur the company into action to limit the bad publicity.

Or you could write to the Chief Exec or the Chairman of the Board...

Without wishing to be unkind you are clearly beyond the point where you keep repeating the same actions in the hope of something different happening; see Einstein's definition of madness.

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

So what's you answer when 'UK Plc' needs to move quickly, be agile - upgrade networks as jobs start to move to areas/Countries with true fibre optic FTTP, say 10Gbps, because UK businesses can't compete on time/price, because of the time it take to move vast data farms/collate data, they can't compete. Did you predict the data used today even 5 years ago, let alone 10 years ago?

The problem with your response, is your pushing the same BT line ever single time, 'Fibre is expensive, G.fast is cheap', its just not true, once you take into account the maintenance / noise/ interference aspects of G.fast.

G.fast isn't cheap, I repeat G.fast isn't cheap, its a biased legacy copper technical solution put forward by BT, for BT, that favours BT's legacy copper carcass of a Network.

G.fast is overly complicated (regarding fault finding, more so than FTTC) requires exponentially carpet bombing an area with G.fast nodes to get any form of blanket Ultrafast coverage. Powering the nodes is real challenge. Interoperability of existing makes of routers/firmware. As stated you need a minimum of 25 G.fast nodes per 2Km2 area to get blanket Ultrafast Broadband speeds. A single G.fast node covers a very small subset of the area covered by an existing FTTC cabinet..

Realistically, you ever need more than 'upto' 300Mbps, G.fast technology can't be upgraded, its a Cul-de-Sac Technology, yes, you could add more G.fast nodes, bringing G.fast closer to the premises but as said, the number of G.fast nodes you need goes up exponentially, and so does the cost, to the point it would have been cheaper to just connect fibe to the premises in the first place. And if the taxpayer is paying, that's what we should do.

Taxpayer shouldn't listen to BT, because Cul-de-sac tech G.fast is fundamentally the wrong technical solution for UK Plc.

To make that jump to true fibre optic 1-10Gbps, you have to reverse out the Cul-de-Sac and start again.

Everything you put forward, works within the confines and limitations of the existing legacy BT network. The talk of BT Ducts, duct capacity etc. The Ducts in the past, carried a minimum of 200 copper pairs from the exchange to the cabinet. Are you saying that's now not possible with Fibre? or just another excuse, biasing your choice of G.fast over FTTP.

We setting ourselves up for failure, G.fast is not the route to take, its just not ambitious enough.

I do understand how pseudo/multiplexed FTTP is currently rolled out from Huawei FTTC cabinets, how this Fibre backhaul is limited to provide true FTTP, and its already showing its backhaul limitations in terms of true FTTP.

BT will never recommend true FTTP rollout because its not in BT's interests in any shape or form. But that isn't a reason not to be ambitious (in the interest of the UK PLC, not BT PLC) and go down that true fibre FTTP route, because its the right long term route.

G.fast won't cheap in any shape or form, it's a con put forward by BT for BT.

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

The Ducts in the past, carried a minimum of 200 copper pairs from the exchange to the cabinet. Are you saying that's now not possible with Fibre? or just another excuse, biasing your choice of G.fast over FTTP.

It was me that mentioned duct capacity, but not in the context of supporting G.Fast. Clearly there would be duct space if all the copper was pulled out first, but that really isn't an option. Pulling the copper out would mean that telephony would have to be over fibre; perfectly feasible but not necessarily a good idea because each individual subscriber would need a powered terminal just to maintain a telephone, and without battery back up the telephone service would fail in the event of a power cut. I doubt if many would see that as a good thing, as it would rely on non - technical subscribers (i.e. almost all of them) understanding what could go wrong and why, and what they could do about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

"The cabinet is (or ought to be) totally passive as far as the speech circuit is concerned, with simple filtering to combine the VDSL and the speech bands for connection to the copper local end. "

I'm largely repeating what I've been told. Of the half dozen or so Openreach techs I have spoken to on different occasions in connection with the various faults I have logged, several have mentioned "crosstalk", others have said "I can fix it today if you want to choose *either* broadband *or* voice".

I used to understand what was in and around a DSLAM in the exchange back in the day (thanks ADSLguide and Kitz), I haven't kept up with VDSL equivalent. I've no real idea what components (passive or active) are in a VDSL cab.

"Without wishing to be unkind you are clearly beyond the point where you keep repeating the same actions in the hope of something different happening; see Einstein's definition of madness."

Clearly. And note also that what you see above is the expurgated version. Two other snippets I didn't mention in Fit the First:

One: I have my own residential line and am also responsible for an office (business) line in the same building. BT lines in both cases. Faults were initially logged on both at around the same time - same symptoms. The engineer dispatched to look at the residential fault was not officially allowed to look at the business fault on the same visit: "there is a process to follow. Resistance is useless.". My residential fault was fixed quite quickly. But not the business line fault.

Two: a week or so into this nightmare, a BT Openreach engineer is onsite running tests on my office/business line because at that point the underlying cause was still not widely known inside the local Openreach team, and they were still running fresh tests each time the same fault was re-logged (left hand not co-ordinated with right hand). A different BT Openreach engineer then turns up at the same time, to address an identical fault on another residential line in the same building.

There appears to be no system inside BT Openreach (round here at least) for left hand and right hand to be talking to each other officially so I informally introduced them to each other and they had a chat and went their separate ways. The residential line was fixed that day. The business line is still broke, hasn't been right for weeks.

Madness indeed.

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

"Or you could write to the Chief Exec or the Chairman of the Board."

Yup. Write to the chairman. It used to be a good ploy and probably still is.

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Re: No one is saying Pointless G.fast can't do the job - up to a poiint.

Plus if taxpayers are paying, you get to soak them once for G.Fast and again for fibre in a few years.

Its all in the planning!

*See also, NBN

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What Era are you living in?

Look at the Alton Tower's tragedy. Everyone filmed the crash, not a single person phoned 999 for 11 minutes. No one via a landline. It's telling of today's generation.

The idea of having to power an analogue telephone as the inhibitor reason to rollout G.fast over real Fibre FTTP. It's just more (BT) Copper Carcass biased reasoning from you as why pointless G.fast should be the solution, over real Fibre.

The analogue phone is completely irrelevant for all everyday tasks (other than a last resort Emergency) and that would only be in a real World situation where there isn't Mobile.

Don't take my word for it, look at BT Retail's own call revenue figures or any ISP for that matter. NB. Note the use of 'ISP' in terms of BTRetail, that's what it is now, primarily an ISP.

OK, BT's argument is to keep analogue phones For Emergencies? Fine. You think most worry? Maybe those born before 1980, most only care about their Broadband connection, Messaging Apps, Facebook and Mobile.

Every communication for me, is either Messaging Apps,Skype,Mobile, email even the odd text.

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Anonymous Coward

"Every communication for me, is either Messaging Apps,Skype,Mobile, email even the odd text."

And obviously everyone else should be doing the same, right?

People like you may not need line power for phones most of the time. As soon as it is taken away, people in general WILL regret it. E.g... when the extended-duration wide area power cuts start to arrive in the UK, as they very likely will, the mobile networks will lose most of the coverage they currently offer. Very few mobile base stations have real standby power, and even if some did still have power, those few remaining base stations will be congested beyond usability.

The congestion will be caused in large part by people like you, with your bandwidth-hogging "always on" applications each of which is eating enough radio and network bandwidth for dozens of basic voice calls.

Afaik cable phones (which are mostly urban areas only) are already reliant on mains power in many places so they'll be off too.

The people who have intentionally or otherwise retained landline phones which don't need mains power will suddenly be quite important, whether you like it or not.

But hey, you've got your WattsUp and stuff, for now, and no one and nothing else is of any consequence, apart from gigabit ethernet to the home/office.

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