Another day, another unsurprising piece of information on the sorry state of UK broadband. Which today reports that only 4% of customers on TalkTalk’s 17Mbps package, and just 1% of people on BT and Plusnet’s 76Mbps deals, were getting the top advertised speeds.
This isn’t altogether surprising and there are a number of factors at play. The biggest of these, and the one that affects all customers of broadband that uses the BT telephone line (regardless of your actual ISP) is your physical distance from the exchange or street cabinet.
The length of copper wire between your home or business and the exchange (for ADSL) or the street cabinet (for FTTC – Fibre To The Cabinet) directly impacts your speed. The further you are away, the higher the signal loss, the lower your speed. Of course, if you’re on an old circuit with poor connections (bad kroning by engineers, dry joints etc), then things get even worse.
The problem is confounded by the fact that BT don’t cable cabinets in an obvious manner. As an example, here at MultiTask Computing, we have just had FTTC installed to a brand new cabinet. We are so close to the exchange that previously we were directly cabled to it, not using a cabinet at all. The new cabinet is less than 100 meters from our door so you might expect we would attain the maximum 80Mb sync speed available from the service. So did we. However, as is often the case with BT, things aren’t that simple. Rather than wire properties directly to the shiny new cabinet as you might think, the new cabinet is tied it to another cabinet (the PCP) in the opposite direction, then to a DP (Distribution Point) and then finally all the way back to here. Thanks to this hugely increased run of copper wires, the sync speed is just 40Mb – *half* of what it should be.
In our case, ESCC have paid a staggering £34m to BT for the rural parts of the county to be upgraded to FTTC, and yet due to the distances involved, many properties will still get far less than they imagine they might. If BT had installed a combined PCP/FTTC cabinet for properties so close to the exchange, then speeds could be greatly improved. But I guess that costs money…
This is an article from 2010, which gives a good indication of where we are http://www.computerweekly.com/opinion/Why-FTTC-isnt-enough-and-how-the-UK-might-do-more
It’s a shame that when BT were privatised, this key part of the nation’s infrastructure was left in the hands of a single company with no effective competition. Fundamentally, that is the problem.