Cardiff to get fibre broadband on demand…if there is any

July 3, 2012 17 Comments »

Julia Kukiewicz is editor of Choose, a consumer led publication that covers industry debate of the broadband market. Here she talks about the latest developments in broadband in Cardiff. Find out more on the Choose site and on Twitter @choosenet.

Last week BT announced that Cardiff will be one of a number of locations to be offered a new fibre on demand service.

From early next year, internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to offer fibre to the home (FTTH) broadband capable of speeds up to 330Mbps at first installation.

FTTH connections are so fast because the data travels only through a fibre optic line, from the street straight into households.

With a bit of tweaking down the line these ‘all fibre’ connections could deliver up to 1Gbps, about 140 times faster than the UK’s average broadband speed at the moment, in a few years.

In contrast, fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) only runs a fibre line to those green BT cabinets on the street and the ‘last mile’ is carried through the copper phone line. BT Infinity uses FTTC.

So FTTH on demand sounds very impressive but, then, I write about broadband.

Whether Cardiff will be much impressed is another matter.

Last year, BT Openreach complained that take up of their FTTC service in Cardiff was woeful.

“Cardiff has been given a head start by Openreach but some fibre-enabled parts of the city are proving to be a bit slow out of the blocks to take up the opportunities fibre presents,” Richard Hall, Openreach NGA Deployment Director for Wales said.

The Whitchurch exchange was an exception, he noted, with a fairly high 7% take up rate after a widely publicised early trial of the service.

Those served by the Llanrumney, Llanishen and Cardiff Empire exchanges, he said, must try harder.

But, when I got in touch with Mr Hall’s office to ask what Openreach had actually done to promote their service, I was told: well, nothing.

Part of the problem of low demand in Cardiff might just be low expectations.

Despite the promise of much more Government money and strong support from within Cardiff Council it feels like the city is fighting an uphill battle with many areas still stuck with old infrastructure that can’t help but deliver sub-par speeds.

“I think people in the Cardiff have found the roll out of fibre a frustrating process so far,” Giles Phelps, managing director of Spectrum Internet told me.

“There are still some areas, not far from the city centre, who still suffer from very poor broadband. These areas have yet to be upgraded even though this would probably be the areas of greater take up!”

Elsewhere in Wales just 23% of households can get a Virgin Media cable connection, compared with 48% of households in England and Scotland.

Just 14% of Welsh households can get a FTTC service.

The other problem, however, seems to be cost.

“Many people who get 4-18Mbps at the moment don’t really feel the cost justifies the change,” Mr Phelps said.

“If you only occasionally shop on line, why do you need 40Mbps? However, if you live in an area with less than 2Mbps you realise how reliant you are on the Internet and how much quicker you could work if you had faster speeds.”

Until ISPs, including those that in a year or so will be tasked with persuading the owners of large buildings to install FTTP, take these Wales specific factors into account BT will have to carry on complaining that Cardiff take up has missed the mark.

See Julia’s map guide to Cardiff’s broadband hot-spots and not-spots below, and let us know what broadband coverage is like in your part of Cardiff in the comments section.

View Broadband hot spots and not-spots in a larger map

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  1. @markheseltine July 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    The BT Infinity advertisements you see around the place are advertising an FTTC service. Openreach doesn't promote services to consumers, they are basically a wholesaler.

  2. James July 4, 2012 at 10:28 am - Reply

    I don't think people care that much. Broadband from dial-up is a huge advantage, and very positive, but do people really want or need the internet to be super-fast? Do you really need to download a movie in seconds instead of minutes? It takes a couple of hours to watch the thing, so it doesn't matter.

    The internet is very important to me, but as long as it's broadband and fast enough, then it drops to about number 100 in my list of priorities, somewhere inbetween that oik that dropped litter last night and the seagull that kept me awake at 5am.

  3. Lucas Howell July 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    BT are selling Cardiff short already. We are the so called first BT Infinity city. But without converting the Roath exchange to Infinity (due to the already dominant Virging media service in that area), an area that contains a substantial part of the Cardiff housing stock, just how are we an 'Infinity' city!?
    My view, get the services to the areas that aren't an easy win and then you might see people taking it up.

  4. Peter Cronin July 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Carisbrooke Way has no fibre at all! Best BT connection speed of 0.7mbps. Really on the cutting edge. What are you doing about that Mr BT?

  5. Ian July 5, 2012 at 11:10 am - Reply

    I live in Canton/Pontcanna and signed up to FTTC with BT in September – I've recently been bumped up to 80MBps. Whilst I have no complaints about BT at all, I have no idea why I'd pay to upgrade further when my speed already more than suits my needs.

    Then again, all I ever hear is complaints from friends in other parts of Cardiff where BT haven't rolled out FTTC yet… the old adage of trying to run before one is walking springs to mind.

  6. @hintofsarcasm July 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Cardiff has good coverage from Virgin Media, which provides a far superior service, and is also FTTC. The main difference being that it is DOCSIS 3.0 (Co-Axial to the Home), rather than copper, which gives Virgin the advantage.

    BT can currently deliver up to 40Mbps, while Virgin offer 100Mbps (soon to be 120Mbps).
    For BT to provide FTTH (like Verizon FiOS in the US), they would have to make significant investment in digging up streets – and it seems they want the Welsh Government or councils to make some contribution to that. And why should they? British Telecom is a private, profitable enterprise. They seem to think they're still publicly owned.

  7. EdwinTheElf July 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    Roath and Penylan get some of the worst speeds in Cardiff, which are even lower than some rural areas – surf this problem and you will see that speeds of 0.5-1Mbps as about as good as it gets (a 3G dongle is faster!!). This is fundamentally because the area is fed from an exchange in Westgate Street that is just too far away for ADSL to work properly.

    Yet, as commented above, the population of students and younger couples/families is high and this is a reasonably affluent area that would be likely to purchase higher speed services. In the last few days the date for FTTC to be made available in this area was shifted back from 1/9/12 to 31/12/12 for no apparent reason.

    The local Liberal Democrats made a big point in the local elections that they had single handedly persuaded BT to bring FTTC to Roath and Penylan….clearly their persuasive powers were not that strong or they were easily fooled, you decide which!

    I'm in the unfortunate position of not having the Virgin option because I live in a street with four houses that doesn't warrant the investment of laying cables, more's the pity.

    The Capital city of Wales should have a better service.

    • EdwinTheElf September 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      After some time I eventually got a response from the Lib Dem AM's (Eluned Parrott) office: Apparently she requested a meeting with BT and was again told that the cabinets in the area will be upgraded in December but there wasn’t anything further they could add and, although they would be happy to meet, they were not sure if there would be any value, other than to reiterate that the cabinets are due to be upgraded in December and customers served by these cabinets will be able to buy fibre based services from a variety of Internet Service Providers.

      They then asked for the postcodes served by the cabinets that will be upgraded but BT were not able to provide these and directed them to one of the broadband availability websites.
      So, BT being as helpful as ever and responding to customer demand then!! I'm not convinced that the lack of take up is a genuine problem or whether it's a consequence of BT policy/attitude.

      • EdwinTheElf October 30, 2012 at 9:51 am - Reply

        Whilst 'Samknows' is still reporting 31/12/12 for the RFS date, a check at… reveals that it may now be as late as 31/3/13 before we get fibre in Roath and Penylan -"".

        But clearly no one and nothing is going to alter the course of the leviathan BT, to whom it's all about profit and not about service. I'm not a fan of reverting to the lethargic nationalised industries of the 1970's but this kind of behaviour that stifles economic growth should merit some form of national intervention. The Welsh government has a website to complain about 'not spots' ( it used to allow you to register speeds of <2Mbps but is now only concerned with no connection or speeds of <512kbps. It's reminiscent of the joke annual appraisal entry "…sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them…", except this isn't funny!

        • EdwinTheElf March 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm - Reply

          At long, long last! After years of waiting FTTC is finally here – I now have 40Mbps broadband with the option to shift to 80Mbps (if I pay the extra). Happy days!

    • Mike February 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      I run a business from Penylan. It's crazy we have Internet communication worse than a third world country. Politicians need to make communication a priority if the rest of the world are to take Cardiff seriously. Government should not award contracts to Internet providers until they secure 100% decent broadband coverage for our city.

  8. drpaulmorgan July 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    No coverage from Virgin Media, current broadband speed struggles to get to 1 Mbps on Roath exchange. Sovereign Chase. Major residential area effectively a not-spot. Original date for FTTC now put to December! I would drop BT if Virgin could actually be bothered to put in cables, surprised they don't seem to have bothered! Yet 150 yards away, neighbours connect to Llanishen exchange & get much faster speeds. Thoroughly disappointed with both BT and Virgin. Don't talk to me about FTTC demand – give it to me now!

  9. Sudhir July 12, 2012 at 12:47 am - Reply

    I live in Penylan & i dont get more than 0.4MB. Only those who surf at this speed know the suffering. And Bt is not bothered about it because it is too expensive to them.

  10. @VSIthinking July 24, 2012 at 11:27 am - Reply

    As a Cardiff web development company we're very eager to hear what comes of this. A faster broadband connection is one of those things we're always looking for.

  11. Meng September 3, 2012 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    I live in the middle of Cardiff City above St. David's Shopping centre and neither BT Infinity or Sky Fibre Optic which I assume uses the same BT OpenReach network is available. So the question is why is it not available????

  12. Matt November 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    It baffles me that BT are rolling out FTTC in areas that already have Virgin. For example, why not rollout FTTC in Radyr. Virgin fibre isnt avilable in Radyr, so I'd imagine there would be a big uptake in Infinity orders if it was rolled out here. BT wont say when they plan on rolling it out in Radyr, so we just have to sit tight and wait!

  13. Stephen Davies February 21, 2013 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Living in Creigiau is really in the slow lane. No plans to upgrade and left out of the Cardiff plans so waiting for the Wales roll out. speeds vary between 2 Mbs and 5Mbs on a good day at a quiet time

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