3 Broadband delivery |
27. Most broadband in the UK is currently delivered
from a local telephone exchange, through a Fixed Line Access Network
(FLAN), usually made of copper wires to a local street cabinet.
Further copper wires connect the street cabinet to homes or businesses.
BT's copper broadband network covers more than 99% of premises
in the UK. 
This network provides the 'basic' 2 Mbps broadband access.
28. Copper wires have two main disadvantages for
broadband delivery: the longer the copper wire between the street
cabinet and the premise, the slower the speed received; and increased
usage can significantly reduce the speed delivered to individual
29. Superfast broadband is delivered by 'upgrading'
street cabinets. An upgrade means that the wires between the telephone
exchange and the local street cabinet have been changed from copper
wires to fibre optic cables. Fibre optic cables allow faster broadband
and better reliability than copper wires. The remaining distance
between the cabinet and individual premises is still connected
by copper wires. This is called 'Fibre to the Cabinet' (FTTC)
and is often described as a 'hybrid' fibre solution. FTTC is being
rolled out by BT across the country as phase one of the BDUK programme.
30. FTTC does not fully address the problem of slow
speeds caused by long distances of copper wire between the premise
and the street cabinet.
An alternative solution is Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) which is
a full fibre optic cable connection between the telephone exchange,
street cabinet and premise, with no need to use copper wires at
any point. Optical cables are cheaper than copper cables, but
the advantage is mitigated by the huge cost it would take to update
all the telecoms systems to each individual premise.
BT's Sean Williams stated that an FTTP solution would cost five
times as much and take five times as long as the current FTTC
method, although BDUK's Chris Townsend admitted that this would
be the "ideal" solution. 
31. Fibre to
the Cabinet (FTTC) is an efficient, cost-effective method of improving
broadband in areas where premises are located close to their local
street cabinet. However, this 'one-size-fits-all' approach to
broadband delivery does not take into account the varied topography
across the 44 local areas receiving broadband upgrade. FTTC allows
those within a short distance of a local cabinet to experience
the benefit of an upgrade to superfast broadband but can leave
those already a long distance from the cabinet, and therefore
experiencing slower broadband, with limited or no material change
32. There is concern that "BT is only interested
in fixed-line solutions".
Satellite broadband provides an alternative to fixed-line broadband
options. It is recognised as reaching areas that, for geographical
reasons, the current broadband rollout programme cannot. BT state
that the commercial availability of satellite broadband means
that everyone now has access to 2 Mbps of broadband. This has
been sufficient for the European Commissioner to declare that
the objective of at least 2 Mbps broadband being available for
all has been accomplished.
33. However, satellite solutions do not solve the
problem of poor coverage in all rural areas. There are few companies
offering satellite broadband commercially in the UK. Satellite
broadband also requires an initial up-front cost as well as a
monthly charge. Later in this report we discuss how to ensure
satellite is an affordable alternative.
34. Furthermore, written evidence indicates that
there are some areas where even satellite broadband cannot reach.
George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for
Farming, Food and Marine Environment, recognised that satellite
"probably won't do it", when it comes to reaching the
final 5%. He went on to say:
The drawback of the satellite-based systems is that
they tend to be slightly less reliable. There is sometimes a delay,
and it slows them down if there are too many people on them.
technology provides a potential alternative to those in remote
areas where fixed-line delivery of broadband is impracticable
or can achieve only very low speeds. However, it will not fill
all the gaps. Satellite technology is not widely developed on
a commercial scale in the UK and the technology itself can suffer
from delay and reliability issues.
FIBRE TO THE REMOTE NODE
36. We have heard frustration about the situation
in which a local street cabinet has been upgraded, but most connected
premises are too far away to benefit.
Sometimes such premises may experience enhanced speeds but do
not reach superfast service speeds. This appears to be one of
the main failures of the current programme.
37. Fibre to the Remote Node (FTTrN) has emerged
as an alternative to FTTC. In this system, a fibre optic cable
is used between the telephone exchange and the local street cabinet,
then FTTrN links a further fibre optic cable to a significantly
smaller 'remote node'. This remote node acts like a small street
cabinet, and it can be positioned on nearby telegraph poles. This
reduces the distance using copper wires between the street cabinet
and premise, which is key to reducing speed loss.
38. The fact
that Fibre to the Cabinet is not a suitable solution in every
circumstance or every community means that alternative solutions,
such as wider satellite coverage or Fibre to the Remote Node,
are necessary. Alternative solutions are required not only to
ensure that the current commitments of basic and superfast broadband
are met but also to ensure that the infrastructure being deployed
is future proof and able to meet demands for increasing broadband
27 Q27; Note: Some premises are still connected to
the street cabinet by aluminium Back
BT (RBB 0091) para 1 Back
Roy Giles-Morris (RBB 0006) para 3 Back
Throwley Parish Council (RBB 0084) para 6 Back
Compton Bassett Parish Council (RBB 0059) para 1 Back
Central Bedfordshire Council (RBB 0089) para 6 Back