Thursday, 3 February 2011

More "winners" in the "race to infinity"

BT have announced the all of the top ten finishers in their Race to Infinity PR stunt will be enabled for their FTTC service.

Naturally the campaigners are pleased but I worry that they will be missing out in the long-term.  With such high levels of community interest in high-speed broadband, they have missed an opportunity to apply the Big Society solution - commission their own network and get much more than BT will be offering.

Of course BT don't tell lies, but the truth can be buried in their enthusiastic PR messages.

The reality is that BT's "fibre" "Infinity" is actually VDSL (an evolution of ADSL) running on existing phone lines.  How they are allowed to call this "fibre broadband" is a rant for another day.

The step up from existing ADSL ("up to 20Mbps") to VDSL ("up to 40Mbps") isn't that impressive when a community fibre solution delivering 1000Mbps could have been realised.  Notice a real fibre service isn't "up to", it's guaranteed for all subscribers.

To quote from one campaign site:
users at the very extremities of the exchange will know to their cost that their broadband can be 0.5Mbps (frequently much worse) - and sometimes simply not available at all. Future broadband performance for FTTC properties will primarily depend on how close a property is to the street cabinet that serves it - rather than how close it is to the exchange as is currently the case.
true of course, but in rural areas there aren't that many street cabinets and properties out of the reach of ADSL from the exchange are as likely to be outside the reach of VDSL from a cabinet.  I suppose if you live a long way out of the village you get used to not having broadband and if you don't know there is a better way, you will just accept it as a fact of life.

the intention (and funding) is there to bring a great solution to almost everybody
BT there admitting that not everyone will get "Infinity" service.

most properties will not get the theoretical maximum 40Mbps

It seems like BT are setting realistic expectations - i.e. low.  The name "Infinity" promises quite a lot, and a real fibre solution could have delivered a lot too.

we will all surely remember where the money to upgrade the exchange came from when considering telecommunications providers in future

yes indeed - it came from the company with the most to lose if the community dared to think different and strike out on their own.  "Race to Infinity" was little more than a cynical plot to identify the ten rural exchanges most likely to undermine BT's monopoly.  By simply shuffling their roll-out schedule to hit these exchanges ahead of some in urban areas (areas that would have been more profitable in the short term) BT's long-term interest has been protected.

Sadly when the "winners" get their "Infinity" (in a year or two, BT aren't rushing this deployment - it's enough to tell them it's coming to stop them looking elsewhere) there will be other areas with their own, real fibre, non-BT Gigabit networks that will make BT's offering look a bit old-fashioned.

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