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Networking The Almighty Buck

High Cost of Converting UK To High-Speed Broadband 268

Smivs notes a BBC report on a government study toting up the high cost of converting the UK to high speed broadband, which could exceed £28.8 B ($52.5 B). The options examined range from fiber to the neighborhood, providing 30-100 Mbps connections for a total cost of £5.1 B ($9.3 B), up to individual fiber to the home offering 1 Gbps to each household at a cost of £28.8 B. England's rural areas could pose tough choices. In the lowest-cost, fiber-to-the-neighborhood scenario, "The [group] estimates that getting fiber to the cabinets near the first 58% of households could cost about £1.9 B. The next 26% would cost about £1.4 B and the final 16% would cost £1.8 B."
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High Cost of Converting UK To High-Speed Broadband

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  • by AccUser ( 191555 ) <`mhg' `at' `taose.co.uk'> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:26AM (#24930463) Homepage

    I'm getting 160kbps on my ADSL connection, and it sucks. Roll me out some fibre, please...

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:58AM (#24930823) Homepage

      You think you got it bad. Out in Dibley the Vicar can barely get 56K and that's only if the local sheep herder is not out shagging his sheep and wankering with the lines.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Hello, American.

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          But PBS is educational television. That's how we know over here that Britain is populated by quirky but lovable eccentrics.

          I'd vote for the Hon. John Hacker for President in a heartbeat as long as he had Sir Humphrey as his chief of staff.

      • by dintech ( 998802 )
        I'm ashamed that show is one of out exports. It should never have been seen outside (or even inside) of the UK.
    • by khakipuce ( 625944 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:48AM (#24931067) Homepage Journal
      They should spend the money that they are spending on rolling out Digital TV on this. By the time they get Digital TV rolled out every where a lot of people will be watching TV over the internet anyway.
    • by FridgeFreezer ( 1352537 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:58AM (#24931129)
      BT are too busy spending £12bn converting the core network to IP (dubbed "21CN" - 21st Century network). None of the current core networks are up to the growing load of existing broadband, never mind stuff 10x or 100x faster.
  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <j@jjcm.org> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:29AM (#24930477) Homepage Journal
    Providing this level of internet infrastructure will be a viable investment for the future. Realistically this level of investment will keep them ahead of the pack for the next 10 years and during that time it will open the doors for businesses that typically operated on sneaker net to operate online. Faster transfer speeds mean more business gets done. More business means a better economy, which through taxes will easily recoup this initial loss.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:30AM (#24930481)
    They're talking about digging up streets to lay fibre to provide households with 1GB/S internet connections.

    Apart from retaining the bottlenecks present at the sites people visit (what point is 1GB to the home, when the site you're downloading from is limited to 300KBit/S) isn't this simply the last throes of "old" technology?

    Countries are already starting to use WiMax and no doubt when the problems around scaling it are fixed, this will be a much more cost effective (and far less disruptive) approach than cutting more trenches just to lay fibre to the home).

    The biggest part fo the problem is providing a service in rural areas - where the low population density makes the cost of each circuit disproportionately high. Even if the decision is made (on purely financial grounds) to "fibre" urban areas, there's still need to be a different solution for areas where this isn't economically viable.

    • by richy freeway ( 623503 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:42AM (#24930527)

      They're talking about digging up streets to lay fibre

      They don't HAVE to though. Check out http://www.fibrecity.eu/fibrecity-england.htm [fibrecity.eu]

      They're doing this near me at the moment, unfortunately I'm *just* outside the catchment area. Googles April Fools joke comes true...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ipX ( 197591 )

        Googles April Fools joke comes true...

        Damn. You were serious...

        Q: When will work start and will this mean digging up roads in the area?

        A: Work is scheduled to start in September. The sewer will be used where possible...

        Source [fibrecity.eu]

    • Oh no, not another one of these "Once we've solved the problems with interference and the shared bandwidth nature of wireless it's gonna be teh awesomes cos I likes has a wireless-g rooter n its awesomes".

      Seriously, wireless access to the internet should be regarded as a low-bandwidth, low-reliability and mobile solution, not something that you try to sell to unsuspecting customers because you're too cheap to lay down fibre (or even copper in some places).

      It's like ADSL here in .se, around 1997-1998 it was

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Candid88 ( 1292486 )

      "the last throes of "old" technology?"

      Whilst WiMax offers some great oppurtunities, wired solutions offer several inherent advantages over wireless solutions, including:

      1) Data privacy & security can be better ensured using wired connections.

      2) Wired bandwidth can always be scaled up massively by laying more/bigger cables. Available bandwidth for WiMax has limitations (unless we can utilize "subspace" of course!).

      3) Wired connections have better ping times, quite important for many of the things requiri

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by leathered ( 780018 )

      Countries are already starting to use WiMax and no doubt when the problems around scaling it are fixed...

      Unfortunately, that involves fixing those pesky laws of physics.

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      what point is 1GB to the home, when the site you're downloading from is limited to 300KBit/S

      That site is unlikely to stay at 300kb/s if customers are faster (except in the US) and not all sites are the same. You're making the same type of mistake as the "640k is enough for anyone" blooper. Demand increases, and higher capacities enable new applications.

  • by AccUser ( 191555 ) <`mhg' `at' `taose.co.uk'> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:31AM (#24930489) Homepage

    I am presuming that the cost of rolling out fibre to the final 16% is based on the previous 84% having already been done, but why not start with the customers with the most need?

    End users in towns and cities tend to have the higher rate ADSL services, some now achieving 24Mbps, which seems more than adequate for the time being. Get the rural customers that have the greatest need served first...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tim C ( 15259 )

      End users in towns and cities tend to have the higher rate ADSL services, some now achieving 24Mbps

      That can vary even on a street by street basis though. I live on the outskirts of London (Elm Park, technically Essex but still with a Tube station) and according to my router get a maximum of about 2.7Mbps of my "up to 8Mbps" ADSL connection (and download rates tend to cap out at about 1Mbps, as measured on PCs on the other end of the 54Mbps wifi connection). I appreciate that there are a lot of areas that wo

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Already been suggested [bbc.co.uk] by Ofcom's Consumer Panel for exactly those reasons.
  • by what about ( 730877 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:41AM (#24930523) Homepage

    I have and ADSL connection that is supposedly at 1.5Mbps downstream, 320kbps upstream. It was working well until July, that means having basically zero lost packets on the first visible IP hop good minimum latency 54ms and reasonable max roundtrip (about 100ms) on the usual five minutes MRTG

    After July Telecom Italia probablly channeled my ATM stream into a busy trunk since I now have about 2% lost packets, extreme jitter on roundtrip (not uncomon to have one second roundtrip on my first IP hop) and so basically my conncetion is BAD for voip and annoying for http

    To measure all of this I use a modified MRTG [engidea.com]

    So, it is good to have a high speed phisical link, but do not forget to check the rest of the infrastructure, othervise the first high speed link is just to make you pay more but give NO additional benefit at all

  • The cost is peanuts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:44AM (#24930537)
    One major UK problem is the Government's feeble approach to infrastructure. When the Conservatives complain that privatising it has been too expensive, you know a supposedly Labour government has got it wrong. However, the quoted cost for neighbourhood fibre is less than the cost of just making the railway line between London and Glasgow work, or of staging that ultimate willy-waggling folly the Olympics. Which do you want the UK to be in 20 years - South Korea or Portugal?

    Disclaimer: here where we are in the UK we have cable. And HSDPA. And we get much more bandwidth to Marin County or Cupertino, CA than we do to North London, UK, or to the non-cable equipped BT supplied town eight miles away. It isn't just rural areas; the whole BT infrastructure badly needs fixing, and there is no way that the company that until recently said the Internet would be a passing fad is going to do the job properly.

  • Fishy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slim ( 1652 ) <{john} {at} {hartnup.net}> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:46AM (#24930547) Homepage

    In the early-ish days of ADSL in Britain, it was quite common to check for availability, only to be told "Oh sorry, there's fibre running to your property - ADSL needs copper".

    So unless they were really stupid and removed it, there's already an awful lot of fibre under people's streets.

    I never understood the problem. Surely nobody cares whether they have ADSL or some other technology, as long as the bytes get to their TCP stack. Either market some fibre-based endpoint, or mass-produce fibre-ADSL media convertors and install them at the appropriate point.

    • Wasn't it the wonder known as ISDN that stopped people getting ADSL? I'm not sure what cabling that's based on, but it could be fibre.

      My parents had to make the choice with ISDN:
      ISDN now, 128kbps symmetrical internet connection that allows phone and internet to be used together. Connection cost to switch. Different wiring so that adsl won't be available unless a cost is paid to reconnect the old line. Fairly expensive contract as well.
      Keep ~48kbps dialup for a few years but not be able to use the phones whi

    • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:07AM (#24930879)
      In fact it almost certainly wasn't fibre. BT experimented with a lower cost aluminium cabling system for a while for POTS. This is what they probably meant. The aluminium cables are so low bandwidth they cannot handle ADSL. In fact, one or two large corporations were caught out like this including npower, who found they could not get ADSL to their HQ in Worcester.

      I can assure you that if there was cable in your area with FTTK, BT would be the very last people in the world to tell you. A Telewest salesman once told me that Telewest liked to employ people who had actually been sacked by BT rather than being made redundant, because redundant employees still believed one day they might get their jobs back, and so didn't want to sell against BT. The attitude Telewest liked was the guy who, in WW2 fighter style, put a little telephone sticker on his car every time he managed to move a business away from BT.

    • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
      Rubbish. BT never laid any fibre to consumer premises. Private cable companies did, but mainly when new estates were built in the 60's and 70's. So BT couldn't even have checked for fibre as it wasn't part of their network. And in the early days of ADSL, BT was the only game in town.
      • by s7uar7 ( 746699 )
        It's not rubbish. There's a very large housing development in Aylesbury, Fairford Leys, which was cabled with fibre when it was built. BT had to overlay it with copper because they wouldn't provide a broadband service over fibre and everyone was stuck with dial-up. It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were similar situations across the whole country, given the proliferation of these types of development over the last 10 years.
    • In some places there was main exchange -> fiber -> roadside box exchange -> copper -> consumer.

      In the early days of ADSL it wasn't physically possible to fit ADSL equipment into the roadside box exchange. I think this might now have changed BICBW.


  • It'd be nice if they'd actually *do* something like this though, but I can't see it happening. This is kind of like standing in an Apple shop going "Mmmmm pretty. Shame I can't afford it."

    Spend the Olympics money on it; we'll only make a complete and total Millennium Dome style "designed by clowns" cockup of that anyway.

    The thing with opening up massive broadband though is that something will also have to be done about bandwidth costs for the sites that are being downloaded from.

  • by ribuck ( 943217 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:52AM (#24930569) Homepage
    For now and the next few years, most people would be more than thrilled to get the 8 to 24Mb/sec that they have paid for. This only needs more backbone, not the ultra-expensive "last mile infrastructure".

    Fiber can then be laid opportunistically when infrastructure is upgraded, then connected together wherever the demand arises. To spend enormous amounts of tax money debating hypothetical universal options is stupid.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      For now and the next few years, most people would be more than thrilled to get the 8 to 24Mb/sec that they have paid for. This only needs more backbone, not the ultra-expensive "last mile infrastructure".

      In a lot of people's cases, that will mean replacing the ageing, poor-quality phonelines between them and the exchange. If you're going to replace them anyway, might as well do it with something that you're not going to need to replace again in a couple of years time.

  • by paulhar ( 652995 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:54AM (#24930581)

    Still cheaper than the money they will end up wasting on ID cards.

  • by hmallett ( 531047 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:56AM (#24930589) Homepage

    England's rural areas could pose tough choices

    I would imagine that the rural areas of Scotland and maybe Wales would pose tougher choices, as they are also in the UK.

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      You might thing so but you would be wrong. I would appear that the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly already see this as an issue and are making have made the investment to fix the problem to at least some extent.

  • Maths (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slim ( 1652 ) <{john} {at} {hartnup.net}> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:56AM (#24930593) Homepage

    From TOA - £28 billion fibre infrastructure bill.
    Currently there are 16 million households with Internet access in Britain [statistics.gov.uk].

    If all of them adopted fibre, the cost per household would therefore be £1750, which would need to be recouped in ISP charges etc. over the course of this generation of technology's lifetime. Maybe £350 a year over 5 years = £30 a month.

    That's more than I currently pay for unmetered ADSL, and doesn't factor in any profits, nor all the other stuff ISPs do.

    OTOH commerce and government get a lot of value out of the Internet, so it makes sense to me that the effort should be funded by the public purse and taxes on business.

    • by BBCWatcher ( 900486 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:19AM (#24930673)

      If all those households adopted fibre, then none of them would pay for ADSL. So you would have to subtract all current ADSL revenues from the pool of money available to fund this infrastructure. That's a big subtraction.

      Chances are excellent that most households which already have ADSL would not switch to fibre unless the difference in price is zero (or very nearly zero). Slashdot audience aside, most households are perfectly content with ADSL "last mile" speeds, at least with the present range of Internet-delivered services.

      Put these two facts together and one quickly concludes that, if the cost of the infrastructure is accurate, in order to execute the project the vast majority of funding would come from sources other than household rate payers. I really don't see the point given that there are likely much more attractive alternative business cases, including some combination of urban fibre, wireless, and improved copper-based technologies. Which coincidentally is exactly the approach Japan is taking. New high-rise apartment buildings in urban areas tend to get fibre, most of the rest of the country gets progressively faster ADSL, and various wireless data services keep getting more prevalent. Much of Tokyo has cheap 802.11b/g service available, for example, and the mobile telephone carriers keep boosting their data speeds.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      If all of them adopted fibre, the cost per household would therefore be £1750, which would need to be recouped in ISP charges etc. over the course of this generation of technology's lifetime. Maybe £350 a year over 5 years = £30 a month.

      So - I currently pay £19/month for "up to 8Mbps" (really at best 2.5Mbps and I don't get that sustained either) ADSL, or for an extra £30 plus say £10 profit a month (total £60/month) I could have 1Gbps fibre broadband?

      I'm sold.

  • 52 billion is not really all that much. Granted its enough to make one person filthy rich, but I'm guessing there's more than a few billionaires in London. Plus its not like the investment won't reap huge benefits.

    If you really want to be scared do research on what it would take to upgrade the interwebs in a country like Russia, Canada, China, or the US. Note the extra zeros at the end.

    Regardless, what will end up happening is it will flood the populated areas and sparsely inhabited areas will have to wa
  • BT is ineffectual. (Score:5, Informative)

    by fialar ( 1545 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:07AM (#24930645)

    There is a simple explanation of all this. BT is one of the most inept companies in the UK. I used to work for a DSL provider in the UK and had to deal with BT Wholesale all the time, who, in turn had to deal with BT OpenReach. It's a complete and utter mess thanks to the UK Gov't privatising and stifling actual competition.

    Add to that, I've seen cases where a new customer signs up for ADSL. If that customer isn't a BT Broadband customer, BT OpenReach will "mysteriously" switch their copper to the cross-wired/noisy pair and miraculously, the BT Broadband customer will have the quietest lines!

    It's a complete mess.

  • by spasmhead ( 1301953 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:16AM (#24930665)
    The real mother of all broadband - 1 gigabit fibre to your home

    Download 10000 MP3's or 500 movies in 5 minutes*

    All for only £500 a month (Fair usage limits apply**)

    *From legal sources only, though everyone knows the only place you can get that amount of files is from illegal sources, even though we hate file sharers making us a bunch of 2 faced cunts.

    **If you download more than 1Meg during some unspecified time limit that differs throughout the country we will limit your speed to 512k. Full speed will be reinstated after another unspecified time period. Unrestricted access is only available between the times of 01:00 - 01:10 each day.
    • The future's already here (according to Samuel L Jackson). Virgin ADSL already pull this sort of crap, glad I left them.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      This raises a serious question, doesn't it? Is it worth destroying the existing recording industry, just to have all the new industries this would create? ...
      Hold on. What could I have been thinking?

  • 3G LTE instead? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mapnjd ( 92353 ) *

    Or we could just let the Mobile Telecoms companies roll out 3G LTE http://snipurl.com/3ohwz [snipurl.com]
    (should be here about as quickly as laying fibre to everyone's house...)

    With T-Mo and 3UK consolidating their 3G RANs coverage is going to be expanded substantially.

    Let's face it: the 3G licence holders (3UK, T-Mo, Orange, Voda and 02) paid a hell of a lot more
    in the spectrum auction to HM Govt. than this £28.8bn!

    Disclaimer: I work for a Managed Service company directly working on the 3/T-Mo consolidation.

  • by ChrisH619 ( 1319159 ) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @06:33AM (#24930729)

    This kind of topic REALLY rubs me the wrong way.

    BT work great as a company, but have had no intention (until lately) to upgrade their networks or lay down a decent infrastructure for future improvements.

    Work great as a company, much like the Petroleum companies in the UK, they can make a staggering profit, while screwing the consumers.

    TeleWest/NTL/Virgin Media have had a solid network from the start, while BT prolly ridiculed them at spending such a vast amount on laying fibre.

    Now when the profits are being squeezed & the copper core disadvantages are being highlighted, and every kbps is being used, BT/UK Govt complain of the Upgrade costs that have to be passed onto the consumer.

    Needless to say I'm an ADSL, BT "boned" user, (although my ISP IS NOT BT), I only wish they had cable in my area.. :(

    • by Inda ( 580031 )
      You should see the pavement outside my house and everyone else's house in Swindon - first town in the UK to have cable. Not only did Swindon Cable dig every single little bit of tarmac up 20-30 years ago for TV fiber, they thought it would be a good idea to dig it up again to lay super-duper fast cable for 50mbit speeds, on-demand services, 1000 channels of TV that no one watches - no one wanted any of this. No one wanted the mess.

      None of the new houses, in the fastest growing town in the UK, have cable - w
  • Before the state owned telecoms company was sold off they had plans to run fibre to the door of every home in the UK.

    Then the cable TV companies ran fibre to the street cabinet.

    Then BT ran fibre to the exchanges.

    A fucking great duplication of effort and wasted opportunity.

  • I live in the Scottish Highlands, 3.5 Miles from the local exchange measured point to point. We don't have fibre of course, but we do seem to have extremely good copper - possibly because the branch of the line I'm on ends another 8 miles further down the glen. I routinely get 4.5Mb on my line (Demon as ISP), have seen 6.5Mb, and Demon tell me they are seeing a little over 7.2Mb raw connection speed at the Exchange. Furthermore because the exchange only has 130 people on it contention is virtually unknow

  • 802.11 N supports up to about 300mbps, and has a range of .5 km, wouldn't it be more cost effective to dump a few of these around the place.

  • It's funny how this is supposed to costs billions in the UK however in France they were able to roll out Fibre with 1000mbs products showing up almost everywhere for a sub 1bn investment (can't locate the source of this at the moment).

    Funny how every other country with a successful Internet deploment strategy (France, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Korea, etc.) are all able to get this deployed without anybody getting out of business. The old dinosaur BT however needs oodles of cash. Yeah right.

    Guess the old "Rip-

  • Source and report (Score:2, Informative)

    by yogibaer ( 757010 )
    http://www.broadbanduk.org/ [broadbanduk.org] and the report (PDF):http://www.broadbanduk.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,1036/Itemid,63/ (4 MB). Wy dont submitters bother to give the source of a news report?
  • Fibre to the street cabinet, and then a DSLAM in the street cabinet means they don't have to disrupt customers too much, or make access appointments and so on, but it would mean maximum of ADSL2+ speeds.

    Digging up streets is extremely expensive and labour-intensive, which is why when all the little local cable companies had built their networks, they had very little money to invest in the actual serice, and they ended up being taken over by what eventually merged into Virgin Media. Virgin Media seem to h

  • Have you ever worked with fiber? I have, and it is generally to be avoided. Nasty stuff. But people look upon fiber as if it were some sort of Holy Grail. As usual, the more it is so touted, the less it really is.

    The point is the UK has stacks of long copper circuits running everywhere they need to go. This copper can be much better utilised with modern electronics than the primative dedicated POTS circuits. Also keeps the Hysterical Preservation Boards less unhappy than trenching.

    The key is to conv

  • Do the boondocks **HAVE** to be wholly wired to the hilt? I mean, those people have deliberately chosen an energically-wasteful and ecologically dubious lifestyle. And with increasing pressure put on the environment precisely by the transportation needed for those people, why should they not be penalized for their willful choice, instead of having those made wiser choice having to foot their connection bill?

    • We have 60 million people in a tiny island, and the population density in our emptiest areas is not much different from US exurbs. What's more, a lot of the people in our remote areas are doing something called "farming", which is rather important just at the moment; they are exporters rather than consumers of energy sources. We actually need to encourage more people to go and live there, because at the moment they all want to live in London. We have just had revealed a £3 billion gap in funding for t
    • by zrq ( 794138 )

      ... those people have deliberately chosen an energically-wasteful and ecologically dubious lifestyle. And with increasing pressure put on the environment precisely by the transportation needed for those people, why should they not be penalized for their willful choice ....

      • I have chosen not to live in a city
      • I work as a software developer for an eScience research project
      • I work from home, as do most of the people on our project, including my boss
      • We do all our work online, using standard ADSL connections
      • I
  • I would like to know exactly when it became a right for people that live in the middle of nowhere to have fast broadband. Purely letting the market decide is not the correct solution because we would end up with a situation in which probably only 30% of the country would ever get fibre. Going out of our way to make sure every isolated house gets fibre is not the correct solution either.

    Personally I think we should aim for about 80% of houses with fibre to the home (yes, I would be in the 80%). If that means

  • If I were to actually use 7.6 megabits/second constantly I would get an unpleasant email from my ISP. The maximum bandwidth your connection can handle has little bearing on how much data the UKs creaking network of copper cables and fibre optics can actually shift.

    Only a tiny fraction of people use the Internet to its full potential. We are not a small % of antisocial bastards; whenever I have shown someone what is out there they have taken it. People only self-regulate their usage through ignorance. BBC ip

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