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