Thursday, 29 March 2012

Fibre-Only Exchanges - the ultimate BT lock-in

The Crown and Tuns, Deddington

BT have announced that Deddington in Oxforshire will be the first exchange in the UK to be "fibre only".  This means that all the services from the exchange will be connected on fibre.

Since BT uses a shared fibre system (GPON), this takes away the ability for competing telephone companies to "unbundle" the local loop and run their own services over BT's infrastructure.  Experience has shown that it these companies who provide the innovation that pushes competition in the market and without them, the subscribers of Deddington will be at the mercy of BT forevermore.

Back in 2004, new telecom company "BE Unlimited" were the first to offer a residential ADSL2+ service on BT's infrastructure by installing their own DSLAMs in BT's exchange and pushing the limits on the copper cables running into subscriber homes.  Customer were able to use new technology for 24Mbps downstream/1.4Mbps upstream service where BT were only offering a maximum of 8Mbps down/800kbps up.

Other providers followed suit and BT eventually responded with its ADSL2+ "21CN" service.  A fine example of competition increasing service choice (and driving down price) for consumers.

With GPON installed, this story won't be possible in the future - a competitor won't be able to push the fibre any faster than BT wants - because all the subscribers on the shared loop have to run at the same speed, no single customer can be singled out for "unbundling" or improvement.

However it isn't clear from the announcement if all subscribers are being upgraded to FTTP or if they are simply rolling out FTTC just to eliminate copper from the exchange building.  The choice of wording in the press release makes it clear that it is BT's "Infinity" services that are being implemented (no mention of symmetric bandwidth or gigabit access speeds.)

Note in the photo (Copyright Duncan Lilly, found on Wikipedia) you can make out the historic OH telephone lines and period white Bakelite insulators.  Perhaps the last vestige of open competition in the Deddington telephone market.


  1. "services over copper are replaced entirely with next generation voice and broadband services running over fibre optic cables" - seems pretty clear.

    " a fibre-only world in which traditional copper will be replaced by the super-fast capabilities of fibre-optic cable " etc etc

  2. a world in which BT is the monopoly provider and there is no incentive for lowering cost, increasing bandwidth or improving service? no thanks