Tag: British Telecom (BT)

UK to make Openreach a legally-separate entity


New UK Regulatory Regime Begins for Legally Separate Openreach | ISP Review

My Comments

Australia, the UK and New Zealand have approached the idea of encouraging telecommunications competition in the fixed-line space by detaching the fixed-line infrastructure from the incumbent telco. In Australia, this was with NBN as effectively a public entity buying this infrastructure from Telstra and Optus, or New Zealand who had Telecom NZ split in to Spark as a telecommunications reseller and Chorus as an infrastructure entity.

The Australian and New Zealand effort had an emphasis on creating greater distance between the incumbent telecoms service reseller and the infrastructure entity with a stronger clear-cut emphasis on the infrastructure entity not favouring the incumbent telecoms reseller.  This was through effective legal separation of these companies in a manner that they couldn’t control each other.

But the UK implemented a similar plan for splitting British Telecom by having the fixed-line infrastructure managed by Openreach and BT being a telecoms reseller. But there wasn’t a strict legal delineation between these two companies and this closeness allowed Openreach to continue to operate in the same manner as BT did when it was the UK’s incumbent telco monopoly. This led to poor-quality service and poorly-maintained infrastructure, with BT Openreach ending up with an Internet-wide nickname of “Openwretch”.

The underinvestment in the infrastructure by Openreach was to satisfy BT’s ends rather than providing a high-quality service that would benefit competing telcos or ISPs using that infrastructure. This also rubbed off on the competitors’ customer base with the reduced service reliability and often happened when new technology was being delivered by Openreach. Let’s not forget issues like “cherry-picking” areas that get fibre-to-the-premises broadband or whether rural areas get decent broadband.

New Ofcom regulations were implemented in the UK with the requirement for Openreach to be a company that is legally separate from BT. This meant that they had their own legal identity (Openreach Limited) with its own board of directors and with its staff working for that company. This is meant to effectively permit its own corporate governance that is independent from BT.

There will be the issue of logically moving the employee base to this new identity including rearranging the pensions arrangement for the staff. Let’s not forget that there will be a strong marketing and PR effort directed towards the stakeholders to “refresh” the Openreach image, perhaps with a new brand.

What is meant to happen is that competing telcos and ISPs will he required to have access to the same technology on the same footing as BT. This will also be underscored by newer tougher minimum quality standards including more fibre-to-the-premises broadband deployment across the UK.

There are newer market dynamics affecting the availability of infrastructure for residential and small/medium-business telecommunications and Internet service in the UK. Here, an increasing number of infrastructure providers like Cityfibre, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and B4RN are providing infrastructure-level competition in various urban and rural areas. This is along with an increasing number of full-fibre installations taking place.

The issues that will crop up include Openreach outbuilding the infrastructure-level competitors in urban areas, especially if they can effectively “possess” a building, street or neighbourhood by having exclusive infrastructure rights to that area. Here, the risk that is being highlighted is the possible market consolidation due to competitors being driven out of business or taken over. I also see this risk affecting ISPs or telcos, especially small-time or boutique operators, who prefer to deal with particular infrastructure providers not being able to operate or being forced to use one of a few providers.

Then there will become the issue of what level of competition is sustainable for the UK’s telecommunications and Internet-service market. It is also a question that can affect any market heads towards or already has infrastructure-level competition for their Internet and telecommunications.

This question can affect ISPs / telcos, end-users, local government and premises owners. A core factor that will come in to play here is what kind of access is granted by an infrastructure provider to retail-level telecommunications / Internet providers on business terms that facilitate competitive operation.

-The factors that come in to play include whether there is an innovation culture where the operators can differentiate themselves on more than just price; and what service price level the market can go below before companies can’t operate profitably. Then there is the issue of whether the UK market really expects a pure-play Internet-only operation from these providers; or a multiple-play operation with fixed-line or mobile telephony, pay-TV or other online services. That also includes the existence of franchised IP-based telephony, pay-TV and other services that will be pitched towards retail-level telcos and ISPs who don’t offer these services.

What I see of the recent activity in making Openreach a company legally-independent from BT is that it is a sign of enabling proper competition for the UK’s telecommunications and Internet services for households and small businesses.

BT raises the bar for a carrier-supplied modem router

Article BT brand identity Enquiries about this image can be made to the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369. From outside the UK, dial +44 20 7356 5369. News releases and images can be accessed at the BT web site: http://www.bt.com/newscentre.

UK ISP BT Launches New Smart Hub Wireless Broadband Router | ISP Review

My Comments

BT have offered new consumer-premises equipment that has raised the bar for Wi-Fi performance that has been said to be “beyond ordinary”.

Typically a carrier-supplied modem router has been designed as a low-cost item to provide to new customers who are taking on Internet service through that carrier. This typically had customers purchase modem routers with better specifications from anywhere that sold computer equipment with some of these devices having improved throughput or Wi-Fi reception.

But BT’s latest DSL modem router which is now known as the Smart Hub but could have been known as the Home Hub 6 has circuitry that places its Wi-Fi performance on a par with the better retail DSL modem routers. This circuitry is driven by some highly-strung up-to-date Broadcom processors (Broadcom 63137. 4366 and 43602). It also implements 7 antennas to set up a 3×3 802.11g/n MIMO Wi-Fi segment (up to 217Mbps) on the 2.4GHz band and a 4×4 802.11a/n/ac MIMO Wi-Fi segment (up to 1700Mbps) on the 5GHz band.

This modem router implements a “smart-tune” logic to set itself up for the optimum operating frequency for both the bands when it is set up along with other “smart-scan” logic to keep the Wi-Fi segment working in an optimum manner. There is also extra filtering circuitry added to the Wi-Fi circuitry to deal with overloading from radio activity on the neighbouring wavebands, which is said to happen with UK 4G mobile-broadband deployments.

This kind of technology was causing BT to rate the Smart Hub as the UK’s strongest carrier-supplied Wi-Fi router and I personally see this as appealing to other carriers like Telstra who want to choose the kind of equipment to provide to their customers.

Of course, it has up-to-date Gigabit Ethernet LAN as a four-port switch along with ADSL2+ / VDSL2 modem on the WAN (Internet) side. From what I have read, I am not sure if this modem also offers an Ethernet WAN connection for FTTP or G.Fast (next-generation DSL used for some fibre-copper networks) broadband deployments that implement a separate modem. Similarly, if this modem router implemented a field-programmable “software modem” for its DSL modem, there could be the ability for it to be updated to work with G.Fast technology expected to be used with fibre-copper deployments.

There was also some reference to the BT Smart Hub being compact enough to fit through most of the letterbox slots installed in most UK front doors, with a view of the device being supplied to customers without them needing to be present. But my question about this is whether the size that is quoted is for the unit itself or the unit when it is packed in its box with all its accessories and cables.

BT does sell the Smart Hub for GBP£50 with VAT inclusive or you can have it for free if you choose to “roll over” your BT Infinity Internet service contract or start a new BT Infinity service. Stumping up that £50 for this modem router and setting it up as an access point for your existing wireless router could come a long way as something to extend Wi-Fi coverage or simply “ramp up” an existing home network’s Wi-Fi performance.

BT to go IPv6 across their consumer Internet services

ArticleBT brand identity Enquiries about this image can be made to the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369. From outside the UK, dial +44 20 7356 5369. News releases and images can be accessed at the BT web site: http://www.bt.com/newscentre.

UPDATE3 BT to Deploy IPv6 Across Entire Network by December 2016 | ISPReview

My Comments

Another step towards widespread IPv6 adoption has taken place with BT, one of Britain’s major ISPs, moving their UK customers including households towards IPv6. This is after Comcast had provided a 100% IPv6 rollout to their customers in August 2014 and is a sign of the times for big ISPs who have the large customer bases because they are running out of public IPv4 addresses to issue to customers.IPv6 logo courtesy of World IPv6 Launch program

There is a goal to have half of the UK covered by April 2016 then to have all covered by Christmas that year. They will also want to get this going with a soft launch rather than with a lot of publicity.

This will typically be in a dual-stack setup like most other IPv6 ISP developments but customers who use their Home Hub 5 routers. Home Hub 4 routers will be IPv6-ready after an upgrade.  But this can also work with third-party routers that implement IPv6 in a dual-stack manner, a feature that is being asked of for recent premium and mid-tier equipment but is starting to become more common. Some of you may use a router that can be enabled for IPv6 after a firmware upgrade and it is wise to check at your equipment manufacturer’s Website for any newer firmware that allows for this. Typically, you just have to enable IPv6 on your router’s WAN (Internet) connections to have this function enabled which is something you do via its management Web page.

As for your equipment, your computer, tablet and smartphone will be IPv6 ready if it is running a recent operating system and most of the high-end home and small-business NAS devices will support IPv6. At the moment, if you are after a network-capable printer that supports IPv6, you will probably have to purchase a small-business device from one of the big names.

What it is showing is that IPv6 will become a strong reality for the provisioning and sustenance of your current or next Internet service. If BT can go IPv6 for their Internet services, why can’t Telstra do it for their BigPond Internet services?

Claverton assists BT in providing real broadband to that village

Kennet and Avon Canal near Claverton, Bath, Somerset © Copyright Clive Barry and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons LicenceArticle

UPDATE Tiny Village of Claverton co-Funds BT Fibre Broadband Rollout | ISPReview.co.uk

From the horse’s mouth

Claverton Parish Council

Broadband rollout web page

My Comments

I have previously covered some community efforts that have taken place in the UK to see real broadband Internet be available in various rural villages such as some of the Gigaclear efforts.

But the 115-strong community in Claverton, a Somerset village just a stone’s throw from Bath, have been the first community of its kind to co-fund British Telecom to establish a “fibre-to-the-cabinet” broadband network to cover that village. Here, BT responded with laying 2 kilometres of underground ducting and 4 kilometres worth of overhead and underground fibre-optic cable. This was terminated with 2 new street cabinets with one delivering regular ADSL and telephony services and the other serving as the fibre off-ramp for the next-gen FTTC broadband of up to 80Mbps.

Previously, the broadband service that covered the Claverton community was a joke with bandwidth of less than 1Mbps. This village was one of those communities that would be considered too small for the UK Government’’s “Broadband Delivery UK” programme and of course too small for commercially-viable rollout.

This was about a community that can work together to get something real done about their broadband service, making the village more viable economically. As well, it was about forcing an incumbent carrier like BT to adapt to the needs of a small community. Similarly, the infrastructure that is laid as a result of servicing Claverton can be used as a thoroughfare to service communities that are further out from there.


BT now offers an Android home phone that goes all the way to Google Play

Article BT brand identity  Enquiries about this image can be made to the BT Group Newsroom on its 24-hour number: 020 7356 5369.  From outside the UK, dial +44 20 7356 5369.  News releases and images can be accessed at the BT web site: http://www.bt.com/newscentre.

BT’s new home phone is as smart as your Android mobile | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

British Telecom

Press Release

My Comments

There have been some attempts by device manufacturers and established telecoms companies to provide an advanced home telephone to justify to residential customers the idea of keeping an existing landline phone service. It was something we used to do before the availability of cost-effective mobile phones especially smartphones and was the main business for these phone companies.

Examples of these phones include the Telstra T-Hub series which had a separate handset and a separate tablet which ran on a proprietary operating system along with various Android phones that didn’t have mobile connectivity but could work with a Wi-Fi home network.

BT used to offer an Android home phone but this didn’t have access to the Google Play Store which had all of the apps available for the Android platform. Rather this relied on the Opera Browser app store as a place to purchase these apps. Now they have just launched to the UK market the Home SmartPhone SII which has some interesting features.

The BT Home SmartPhone II is based on a fully-fledged Android 4.2 phone with integrated 2Gb memory which can be expanded like most Android smartphones. As well, you can download apps from the Google Play app store which has a large plethora of apps. You could even do things like load one of the many casual games like Candy Crush Saga or even install some of the “over-the-top” communications solutions like Viber,Skype or WhatsApp which are also supported with a front-facing camera for videocalls.

There is also the ability to filter out nuisance calls like “unidentified”, “number-blocked” or “payphone” calls so there is less risk of receiving unwanted calls  But this phone may be a hard sell with younger people who are sold on the idea of a mobile-phone-centric household but would appeal to older households who still place value on the traditional telephone handset in the home, especially as a common “catch-all” solution.

BT to investigate remote-node setups for fibre-copper broadband


First BT Fibre-To-The-Remote-Node FTTrN Broadband Trial Set For Q4 2014 | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

British Telecom are trialling in Yorkshire a deployment setup for fibre-copper (FTTC, FTTN, etc) next-generation broadband setups. This is based around a miniature housing containing VDSL2 DSLAMs that can be mounted in smaller locations and able to serve a small number of copper connections.

This system, known as FTTrN (Fibre To The Remote Node) allows for longer fibre runs and can be powered either by the client premises or by a low-power independent power supply like a solar panel or simply neighbouring electrical infrastructure. It is intended to be mounted on telegraph poles, installed in small manholes or integrated in to existing infrastructure in some other way.

This is pitched as an alternative to the street cabinet that is essential to the FTTC (Fibre to the Curb / Fibre To The Cabinet) model because these have costs and installation issues as their baggage. This includes aesthetics and streetscape issues including attractiveness to grafitti vandals as a tagging surface as well as assuring dedicated power-supply availability.

Useful for difficult installations where a street cabinet would be difficult to install – cosmetic issues with large cabinets including attractiveness to grafitti vandals, planning / streetscape integration, dedicated AC power requirements including cabling infrastructure

Personally I would see these setups appeal to fibre-copper setups like “fibre-to-the-node” / “fibre-to-the-distribution-point” where the bridge between fibre-optic infrastructure and copper infrastructure is closer to the customer. They also do appeal as a way to “wire up” remote settlements, estates and hamlets with next-generation broadband in the fibre-copper way while assuring improved throughput.

I do still see these having the same limitations as any fibre-copper setup where the user experience can be impaired by use of poorly-maintained copper infrastructure which would be a common problem with rural installations.

At least BT are trying out a highly-flexible fibre-copper next-generation broadband setup which can also appeal as a tool for supplying real broadband to rural areas especially where there are the remote settlements or estates.

Telstra split ‘won’t fix monopoly’ according to rivals


Telstra split ‘won’t fix monopoly’ as rivals fear reform will fail | The Australian

My comments

A lively competitive market

When I think of a competitive broadband infrastructure, it needs to be lively and competitive with many different wholesale and retail Internet service providers. Here, I would rather see the competition occur more on value than on who offers the cheapest service.

What can happen if the competitive market focuses on who offers the cheapest service is that companies can cut corners to achieve this goal. This can lead to situations that are consumer-hostile like poor customer service, rigidly-enforced terms of service that don’t allow scope for human variation and budget-tier services that don’t offer what customers need.

The proposed Telstra split

This proposed wholesale-retail breakup of Telstra could sound very much like what is happening with British Telecom in the UK. At the moment, BT are running a retail arm as well as a wholesale-infrastructure arm called Openreach.

In the case of the Telstra split, the infrastructure would be managed by a monopoly which is the National Broadband Network while there is a “wholesale” group and a “retail” group. There will be issues like preferential tariff sheets for the Telstra service as well as something yet undiscussed.

Telstra as the baseline telecommunications provider

This is the provision of the baseline telephone and Internet service. It encompasses the maintenance of public payphones; the definition and provision of the standard telephone line; the provision of the national emergency telephone services, as well as communications needs for the social sector. It can also include covering for communications through natural and other disasters. At the moment, Telstra’s discretionary mobile and Internet services prop up their role as this baseline telephony provider.

What I would also like to see is an improvement in how the baseline telecommunications service is provided and funded for. This could involve the use of tenders to determine the provision of parts of the baseline telecommunication service as well as the creation and management of universal-service funds that subsidise the provision of these services. This avoids the need for a service provider to jack up the price of discretionary services to cover the costs associated with the baseline services.

Wireline infrastructure competition

One driver for real competition is the ability to supply competing wireline infrastructure. This typically comes in the form of sub-loop unbundling where an ADSL service can be provided through the use of equipment installed between the customer’s door and the exchange and the customer’s line connected to that equipment. In an FTTH fibre-optic setup, this would be in the form of extra fibre-optic lines controlled by competing interests run to the customer’s door; a practice that is taking place in France.

For that matter, it may be worth examining what is going on in the UK and France where there was incumbent “PTT” telephone carriers but have now become lively competitive Internet-service markets. This includes how the tariff charts yielded “best-value” plans for retail telecommunications service as well as enabling factors for this level of competition. such as telecommunications legislation and regulations. It would also cover access to established physical telecommunications infrastructure in public areas like poles and pits; as well as creation and use of new infrastructure.


What I would like to see is that our telecommunications ministers and departments talk with their peers in both those countries ie OFCOM in the UK and ARCEP in France so they can know what was achieved for competitive telecommunications.

BT Openreach to trial fibre-only exchanges in the UK


thinkbroadband :: Fibre Only Exchange trial candidate locations released

BT to trial fibre-only rural broadband exchange | uSwitch.com Broadband News

My comments

This is a very interesting direction that will come about as the next-generation broadband Internet service evolves.

At the moment, a typical next-generation broadband service will be based around central-office exchanges that serve and support copper and fibre-optic infrastructure for all communications. This allows for integration with copper-technology services such as PSTN voice / ADSL data.

The newer fibre-only exchanges will operate on fibre-optic infrastructure only with Fibre Ethernet backhaul and FTTH / FTTP fibre-optic service to the customers. The primary advantage of this setup would be to achieve higher throughput for the data that the high-bandwidth technology would provide.

The BT Openreach trial is primarily focused on new exchanges rather than converting existing exchanges to fibre-only operation. It is to assess how much it would cost to switch to fibre-only operation for existing exchanges or go “all-out” fibre-only for new or replacement exchanges. Such a trial could also be used for “infill” exchanges in dense urban areas or to satisfy new developments in potential “Silicon-Valley” areas around universities.

A good question about these exchanges is whether a “fibre-only” exchange could work with a part-fibre part-copper setup like a VDSL2-based fibre-to-the-cabinet or fibre-to-the-building setup.

UHF-band “white-space” tests for wireless broadband successful in UK


BT: Tests using white space for rural broadband are ‘very encouraging’ – FierceWireless:Europe

My Comments

There have been a few tests taking place in various countries to use bandwidth vacated by TV stations when they gone digital for use as the wireless last-mile in broadband service delivery. This application of the “white space” will be used primarily to deliver real high-speed broadband in to households and small businesses in rural and remote communities.

The BT Openreach tests that occurred recently and were cited in this article were performed on the UHF TV band and were covering the Isle Of Bute in Scotland. This exploited the ability for this band to be received on indoor antennas (aerials) like the typical “rabbit’s ears” used on portable TVs, as well as outdoor aerials.

A good question that may be worth raising with a UHF-based “white space” setup may be whether such setups may cause digital-TV reception problems for stations broadcasting on that band. This is more so in areas where the UHF band is being used as a “repeater” / “translator” broadcast band to fill in reception black spots in a TV broadcaster’s market area. In a rural area, there will be these transmitters being used for each TV broadcaster that is to be received in the area alongside any “white-space” Internet-delivery setup.

Other questions worth asking include whether such a setup will use “fibre-to-the-transmitter” or other high-speed wired backbones, what kind of bandwidth is available to the customer and whether it will be a “shared bandwidth” setup like DOCSIS cable-modem setups or a “dedicated bandwidth” setup like what Ethernet and DSL setups can provide.

BT rolling out real-standard broadband to Wales and Shropshire communities


BBC News – BT rolls out broadband to two Valleys towns

BBC News – Broadband for two rural market towns

My comments

I have previously covered efforts by companies like Rutland Telecom to have villages and small towns in the UK covered with proper-standard broadband. Examples of this include Rutland Telecom “lighting up” Lyddington in Leicestershire and Hambleton in Rutland as well as Vtesse lighting up Hatt and Higher Pill in Cornwall. Now, British Telecom, the UK equivalent of Telstra, have stepped up to the plate and started rolling out next-generation broadband in to various rural communities in the UK.

Examples of these include Pontcymmer and Baenganw near Bridgend in Wales as well as Oswestry in Shropshire and Stourport in Worcestershire. Infact, they are wanting to “wire up” properly more of the market towns in rural Wales like the whole of Bridgend,  Chepstow in Monmouthshire, Hengoed in Caerphilly, Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre in Rondda Cynon Taf.

One of the aims stated by BT Openreach who manage the infrastructure and provide the service to retail providers was to reduce the numbers of people that left out of the broadband loop when they were talking of the Midlands deployments. Other quotes included the fact that this was not a rural issue but areas of some of the towns wore not receiving Internet service that wasn’t of proper expectations. This was also going to affect the use of broadband Internet service as a business tool.

What I had observed was that even in the tough economic times, broadband Internet service was being pushed to the same level of expectation as mains electricity or a telephone service. This can then allow for ideals like improved business knowledge as well as the ability to provide your goods  and services in a competitive manner.