Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In search of a Superfast Broadband answer

A regular Gurnite attended the Superfast Broadband – benefits and uses session at the Digital Showcase held in the Community Centre today, hoping to find out information on why some places in the town aren’t able to access the superfast broadband apparently available in Nairn.  Unfortunately, the person giving the presentation was standing in for someone who was unable to attend, she did well but wasn’t in the position to give any answers on the access issue.  A brief discussion took place amongst the attendees with some surprise over the lack of availability.  Someone from HIE outlined their Superfast Broadband Project, but it was clear that this would not supply a solution for Nairn in the short term and that their project was different to the current BT roll out.  A suggestion was made that it might be worth talking to the BT representatives in the main hall.  They were tracked down but, as they quickly ascertained, their department of BT had nothing to do with the issue and they pointed in the direction of the Bus Station car park where a BT OpenReach contingent was sitting in a van. 

BT Openreach is the subsidiary which deals with the management of local access networks, the infrastructure that delivers the service to homes and businesses.  The question was put to the contingent of why the High Street was not included in their much vaunted broadband improvement?  The reply centred around the fact that Nairn has 13 cabinets but only 9 have been upgraded at the moment as it is not viable to have all cabinets done at the same time, the areas which will give the best return of investment and likely demand for the offer,. So, although the exchange has been enabled and some parts of Nairn may now have access to Superfast broadband, other parts have missed out - including the High Street area which is yards away from the exchange.  It’s puzzling as two of the main places where business are located in Nairn, the High Street and Balmakeith Business Park, places where you would think would be of high priority from a commercial aspect, have no access to the new offering.  Still, it seems to be down to the cabinet rather than the exchange.

A suggestion was given by the BT Openreach representative that future upgrades might be included in the HIE project and it would be worth approaching the HIE people but, given that HIE are in the early stages of getting their separate project off the ground, is this a case of BT Openreach passing the buck onto another organisation?  Knowing the merry-go-round and timescales which result from multi agencies involvement there could be a long wait.

So, did the Gurnite get a useful answer to their question?  It would look like they got the standard corporate response and, having done a quick check on the Internet, it would appear that the situation happening in Nairn is not unusual and seems to be par for the course, in which case, the regular Gurnite will not be holding their breath that the much acclaimed Superfast broadband will cover the whole of Nairn any time soon.


Busby said...

In real terms it won't make much difference anyway. Your webpage might load a fraction of a second quicker (more dependent upon the CPU) and downloads won't be much quicker either as they are throttled by the hosts servers!
Businesses who use multi-stream dependent services and or multi-site LAN/VPN and SIP/VOIP will see a huge benefit but is there anyone in Nairn utilizing this type of networking?

The Nairn Cringe said...

I've yet to hear an explanation as to why Nairn was chosen for this partial roll out of super fast broadband. I understand issues with distance from the exchange, boxes etc, but not the seemingly ad hoc way the High St and certain other areas have been ignored by BT.

Someone ( a councillor?) should be asking questions, and why are the likes of HIE partnering with BT if Nairn is indeed a typical town whereby some parts are not covered by the new super fast service?

Makes it all farcical and very unfair

Anonymous said...

Does this problem of unaccountability originate from the decision to privatise BT back in 1984. Oftel seemed to have years of constant battles with enforcement issues with the commercial behaviour of BT. So will Ofcom do any better or will we have to ring 'Maureen'?

Regular Gurnite who was there said...

To the person on the street there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to which cabinets are upgraded although I'm sure BT Openreach must have some reasoning behind their decisions. It would be interesting if they could share them with us?
It was also mentioned by an HIE representative attending the session that it may not be a done deal that BT are the partners for their project.

Sandy said...

I regularly work from home (Househill area), so a faster upload, VPN & VOIP would be very useful ! Unfortunately , as other appear to have found, BT call centre / officialdom don't have a clue as they are just reading off a screen, and while the actual engineers know which cabinets have been upgraded, they only do the ones they are told to.... Very frustrating to not have the speed, and doubly frustrating to not be told when I will actually get a decent speed !

RobC said...

Ok, I went to the Openreach caravan on Tuesday and asked the questions and got the answers that I was looking for.

Nairn was chosen for the simple reason that it is up in the North, and is cost effective - we may think of Inverness or Elgin as more sensible, but they are larger areas with vastly more street cabinets to be upgraded and fibre nodes under the street to be installed, so the cost is much greater and the RoI longer to achieve.

As to why certain cabinets are upgraded but not all, again it's all financial. The planners at Openreach will look at the cost of upgrading a cabinet vs the number of premises connected to it, and factor in an estimated uptake of the FTTC product. They will then determine if that cabinet will be upgraded, or if it will be left alone. This unfortunately means that a lot of business parks are actually avoided, because they just don't have the density of connected premises, despite businesses being a prime candidate for FTTC - another example of things being purely down to numbers and not paying attention to the reality of the situation. However, on a slightly happy note, as the exchange has been fibre-enabled, the work to upgrade the remaining cabinets in town is significantly less than for a completely new exchange upgrade.

Finally, with regards to the High Street, this is actually a technical anomaly of the FTTC product and there is a clue in the name... The majority of premises on the High Street, as well as some along the A96 and all the way down Harbour Street are not actually on a street cabinet as their lines originate directly from the exchange. As there is no cabinet, they cannot be provided with Fibre to the CABINET products. It is my understanding that this is something that is being looked into by Openreach, however it will be a while before this is resolved.

(And regards HIE's comment regarding it not being a done deal that BT will be partners on the project - that is true, however the only other major player (Fujitsu) has just stated that it is cancelling all existing bids for BDUK fibre rollouts so chances are that it will be BT.)