Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the rollout of superfast broadband?
Work to repair and maintain telecoms networks across Cambridgeshire & Peterborough – including rolling out fibre networks for broadband – has been continuing during the Covid-19 pandemic as digital connectivity was deemed to be critical by the Government.
The Connecting Cambridgeshire superfast broadband rollout is being delivered by Openreach and its contractors, within Public Health England guidelines, to reach homes and businesses in hard-to-reach areas that would not get coverage otherwise.
You may see Openreach engineers working in the street, digging trenches and installing new cables, however they have been advised to avoid entering customer premises if restrictions don’t allow it, unless it would leave a vulnerable person without a connection.
This may mean delays in connections for Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) services. However, there are a few exceptions for those classed as vulnerable. Find out more here: www.openreach.com/covid-19-coronavirus
Street works guidance published by the Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee has confirmed that the that works involving network maintenance and fault repairs, customer repairs, network build, and increasing network capacity are allowed to continue in the current circumstances.
Landowners and occupiers of land who have entered into agreements with providers of telecommunications networks should continue to meet their obligations to provide access to sites for emergency repairs, as well as to routine maintenance and critical upgrades.
What is meant by the term ‘superfast’ broadband?
Superfast broadband was defined as a download access speed of 24Mbps when the Connecting Cambridgeshire intervention programme was launched, however, it is now defined as 30Mbps.
Connecting Cambridgeshire has already brought access to superfast broadband to over 97.5% of premises in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and is aiming to reach over 99% across the county within the next year.
- Standard – 10 megabits per second (mbps): Broadband basics: news, keeping in touch with family and friends, some online shopping.
- Superfast – from 30mbps: Broadband basics + watching tv and films, and listening to music.
- Ultrafast – in excess of 100mbps and up to 300mbps: Multiple devices at the same time – working, streaming, gaming, video-calling or uploading
- Hyperfast – offers download speeds in excess of 500mbps: Multiple devices at the same time – working, streaming, gaming, video-calling or uploading
- Gigabit broadband – 1000mbps: An internet connection that offers a speed of 1 gigabit per second (1gbps)
Why do some premises not get ‘superfast’ speeds?
We are aiming to deliver superfast broadband of 30Mbps to as many areas as possible. However, some premises connected to the fibre network may be too far from the cabinet/exchange to receive superfast broadband, but will still be able to subscribe to ‘faster fibre’ services.
Why can’t you provide a more accurate timescale for when my area will get fibre broadband?
We’re working closely with BT and Openreach to plan the follow on phases of the Connecting Cambridgeshire fibre broadband rollout to reach as many premises as possible. Finding the best solutions involves taking into account many factors including local demographics and geography, planning requirements, the existing engineering infrastructure and the availability of suitable technologies to provide a service.
We fully understand people’s frustration and the high demand for superfast broadband and we’ll update our information regularly as plans evolve.
Why can’t I order fibre broadband even though it appears to be live in my area?
There are a number of reasons you may not be able to upgrade to fibre broadband. Some premises may be too far away from the fibre cabinet they are served by to receive superfast speeds, or may be directly connected to the Exchange on copper lines, so cannot upgrade to fibre broadband at present. High demand for fibre broadband also means some fibre cabinets get full up and need extra capacity adding before more people can place orders. If this is the case, you will see on the Openreach checker that there is a “waiting list” for the cabinet you are connected to. See our FAQs (below) on Fibre Cabinet Capacity and Exchange Only lines.
Our ‘Getting Superfast’ page explains what you can do if you’ve done all the checks and believe you should be able to get fibre broadband, but are unable to upgrade.
Why can’t I order FTTC even though it appears to be available in my area? What is 'Stop Sell'?
In some areas, Openreach will stop FTTC from being sold/offered as an option once an exchange area has a certain level of FTTP coverage. This will only apply to a new order or an upgrade for those premises on the exchange who are able to order FTTP. If FTTP is not available at a premises, then the ‘stop sell’ will not be applied. More details about stop sells can be found on the Openreach website.
I cannot upgrade to superfast fibre broadband because the fibre cabinet has reached capacity – what does this mean?
High demand for fibre broadband means some fibre cabinets get full up and need extra capacity adding before more people can place orders. If this happens, Openreach will need to add a new connections ‘card’ or even a new cabinet, which may take several months. If this is the case, you will see on the Openreach checker, that there is a “waiting list” for the cabinet you are connected to, which means you won’t be able to order until the additional capacity has been installed.
Please email Connecting Cambridgeshire if you are unable to order fibre broadband because the cabinet has reached capacity, so that we can report this to Openreach and check progress on the rolling programme to install extra capacity.
Why does it take so long to increase the capacity of a fibre cabinet?
When a cabinet is installed BT know how many properties will be connected to it and estimate how many of the available connections will be taken up. Therefore, cabinets are installed with around a third of their total capacity initially so there is room to increase it where demand is high. The majority of the cabinets have enough room to connect 288 lines. There are also smaller cabinets which can connect 96 lines.
BT aims to provide extra capacity as soon as possible for those parts of the network where they are experiencing high levels of demand. Catering for additional demand in an area can take time to plan and may involve expanding the existing infrastructure to accommodate the extra equipment needed. In some cases, BT may even need to supply an additional fibre cabinet to increase capacity (Incremental Cabinets) as this has to progress through planning it can take a while.
Cabinets at capacity are reported to Openreach, who have a rolling programme to install extra capacity, but it may take a while before you can order fibre broadband through your chosen internet service provider.
Why can’t you simply reconnect me to a nearer cabinet?
Due to the historic complexity of the cabling connecting premises to a cabinet, which does not always follow the shortest routes, it is not as straight forward as simply connecting you to closest cabinet.
The network over which fibre broadband is provided is bespoke, and all premises are served from dedicated fixed distribution points.
Why don’t all premises in an area get improved broadband at the same time?
The delivery of fibre broadband is a complex engineering task which is why there are different solutions for different areas. Some areas are served by more than one fibre cabinet and/or exchange which may be upgraded at different times.
Each area may have different types of fibre or other technology deployed and some will take longer than others to plan and deliver. These will include Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and alternative technologies such as satellite or wireless. Read more about these technologies here.
Take a look at our postcode checker for more details on solution and timescales for the roll out in your area.
Why does the Openreach checker appear to contradict the information on your website?
Why wasn’t my ‘Exchange Only’ (EO) line connected to fibre broadband at the same time as the rest of my area?
It is more complex bringing fibre to premises on EO lines as they are connected directly to the exchange, so there is no green cabinet between the property and the exchange to upgrade with fibre cabling. Connecting these areas requires rearrangement of the network as there is no aggregation point to connect to the fibre cabinet (DSLAM). Therefore two cabinets have to be installed creating additional challenges.
How can residents help to bring fibre broadband to their community sooner?
Residents interested in helping their communities to get better broadband speeds sooner may wish to look into community funding a solution via BT’s Fibre Community Partnership (FCP) programme
Any community interested in helping themselves to get better broadband speeds can register with FCP to see what the possible solutions and costs are. Although the offer does have an element of additional funding available for schools, it is not dependent on there being a school.
Registering for a Fibre Community Partnership does not represent any commitment from the community at this stage, however it enables you and us to find out more about potential solutions and costs to deliver better broadband to your area.
If the Fibre Community Partnership team can give cost estimates for a solution, there may be opportunities for match funding from Connecting Cambridgeshire or from the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme. If delivery and funding of a solution is then agreed upon, Connecting Cambridgeshire will work together with residents to manage the delivery to reduce the time demands on their community.
If your community is interested in exploring this option and has registered with the Fibre Community Programme, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Connecting Cambridgeshire team for extra support.
What criteria have been used to plan the rollout phases?
The superfast broadband roll-out is being carefully planned to make the best use of public money so that it reaches as many homes and businesses as possible, that would not be able to access it otherwise.
Having delivered fibre broadband access to over 100,000 premises in the first phase of the rollout, we are now working on follow on phases to reach smaller communities and groups of premises in harder to reach areas.
The nationally agreed criteria being used to plan the rollout includes factors such as the geographic location and proximity of premises, configuration of the existing copper network and proximity of fibre spine, together with the cost and availability of power.
What is the 'copper switch off'?
Analogue phone lines that rely on copper wire networks have been around for decades, but the plan is that by the end of this decade the service will be fully decommissioned.
The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which is the copper telecommunications network used primarily for landlines, will be phased out from 2026 and replaced with digital systems delivered over broadband connections.
Openreach will stop selling products that rely on the PSTN, and in the lead-up to the switch off will upgrade some 14 million analogue lines.
The Openreach ‘stop sell‘ programme is intended to result in homes and businesses not being able to buy copper broadband if they are upgrading, regrading or switching telecoms provider, and instead will only be able to order Fibre to the Premises (FTTP or full-fibre) broadband networks.
You can find more information and a video on the Openreach website where they explain why they are retiring their copper network.
Fibre to the Premise (FTTP)
What is Fibre to the Premise (FTTP)?
Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) is a pure fibre connection from your home to the exchange which can deliver broadband download speeds of up to 330Mbps.
FTTP, which is sometimes referred to as Fibre to the Home (FTTH), is a newer technology, which is being used increasingly to deliver high speed fibre broadband.
The fibre optic cables can be installed underground in ducts, or as overhead lines using new and existing telegraph poles.
FTTP installation requires a broadband engineer to bring the fibre cables all the way into the home or business, which may take a few days to install.
How do I check if FTTP is available in my area?
Our Postcode Checker shows if superfast broadband is available in your area. You can check if the technology is Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) using the Openreach fibre availability checker at www.openreach.com or ask your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if they can offer an FTTP broadband package.
How do I upgrade to FTTP?
To upgrade to superfast broadband you need to contact an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to find out if they are offering Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) fibre broadband packages in your area. You can do this by using a broadband comparison website such as Thinkbroadband.
Because this is a newer technology, not all Internet Service Providers offer FTTP services, although more will become available as the fibre network expands. BT, Zen, and Andrews & Arnold, are currently the main ISPs offering FTTP services, although we expect other providers such as Sky and TalkTalk to be coming on stream soon.
You can see a list of ISPs currently offering FTTP in your area using the Openreach postcode checker on www.openreach.com.
Once you have placed an order, your chosen provider will arrange appointments for an engineer to install fibre to your property, which usually takes around 4 weeks to complete.
Will I get speeds of up to 300Mbps?
The fibre cable direct to your home is capable of running at the headline speed of up to 330Mbps. However, the speeds you will get will depend on the fibre services package you order from your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP).
The speed you actually experience may be lower depending on how you choose to connect your computer and other devices. A wired connection offers you the maximum speed, whereas if you use wireless, it may limit the speed.
Will FTTP cost more?
You pay for the speed package that you order, regardless of the technology. Higher speeds via FTTP may cost more, or you can order superfast speeds at the same prices as Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) customers.
How is FTTP installed?
Installing FTTP is more complex as it involves an engineer bringing the fibre connection into your property in several stages:
- Survey or tests to assess the best way to bring fibre to your property from the nearest drop point and if additional work is needed. You need to attend this appointment.
- External work to bring the fibre cable to the outside of your property underground or overhead, and fit a small connection box to the outside wall (if needed). You do not need to be present, but be aware that your phone line and alarm systems could go down briefly.
- Internal work to complete the fibre installation inside your property by fitting a fibre connection point in the most convenient place, close to a power source. You need to attend this appointment – allowing 2-4 hours for the engineer to complete the work.
- Connect the router supplied by your provider using ethernet cable or wifi.
Why do some areas get FTTP and others get FTTC?
In most areas, superfast broadband is being delivered via Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), using the existing copper-based network. Newer Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) technology is being used increasingly in later phases of the rollout in areas.
Openreach investigates solutions using the technology which provides the best fit for each area and make a value for money assessment based on nationally agreed criteria including factors such as the geographic location and proximity of premises, configuration of the existing copper network and proximity of fibre spine, together with the cost and availability of power.
My area has already been covered by the superfast broadband rollout via Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), so how can we get faster Fibre to the Premise (FTTP)?
Connecting Cambridgeshire is focusing on delivering superfast broadband access to the remaining premises that have not got it yet. However, we are also aware that the digital landscape is changing rapidly and there is growing demand for full fibre providing gigabit-capable speeds that are future-proof.
Phase 4 of the rollout is in planning and may deliver FTTP to some communities that have already been covered by the superfast broadband rollout. Communities where there is demand for higher speeds via full fibre can also help themselves through the Government’s Gigabit Voucher Scheme or as part of a Fibre Community Partnership.
What is my current speed?
There are many websites that allow you to check the actual download and upload speeds you are getting. Here are some you can use:
- Think Broadband – www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest
- Broadband Speed Test – www.broadbandspeedtest.org.uk/
- FasterBroadband – www.fasterbroadband.co.uk/tools/broadband-speed-test
- Speed test – http://www.speedtest.net/
- Broadband Finder – www.broadband-finder.co.uk/tools/broadband-speed-test
- Amvia – www.amvia.co.uk/speedtest
You do not need to download any software or sign up to special offers to run the broadband speed tests – just click on the option to start the test.
You can also check what services are available to you using the BT Wholesale checker For the best results use your landline telephone number.
Speed test tips
To get an accurate check of speed:
- Make sure that only the computer you are testing is accessing the internet
- Do not touch the keyboard or mouse while the test is running.
Speeds will vary depending on the time of day, or day of the week, so try repeating the test to see the range of speeds you can get.
One of our Broadband Champions has also produced a guide on how you could potentially increase your current broadband speed – www.increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk/guide
A common reason why people run a speed test is if they are experiencing a slow internet connection. This guide tells you how to find the best Wifi channel for your router – pixelprivacy.com/resources/best-wi-fi-channel/.
Where do I start if I want to improve my broadband?
One of our Broadband Champions has also produced a guide on how you could potentially increase your current broadband speed: www.increasebroadbandspeed.co.uk.
A common reason why people run a speed test is if they are experiencing a slow internet connection. This guide tells you how to find the best Wifi channel for your router – pixelprivacy.com/resources/best-wi-fi-channel/.
What provision is there in the contract for other technologies to bring better broadband to more remote premises?
We are working with BT to extend the fibre broadband network as far as possible. However, residents in harder to reach areas may consider other technologies, such as satellite or wireless, that deliver a better broadband service to their premises. Find out more on our ‘Other Technologies’ page.
Where can I find out more about broadband and how to improve my speeds?
A useful and frequently updated guide to superfast broadband (and broadband services in general) has been developed by telecoms expert Mark Heath, a Broadband Champion for Connecting Cambridgeshire and is available here Increase Broadband Speed.
What is ‘State Aid’?
Broadband providers will deploy into areas where there is sufficient return on investment (ROI) for them to build a profitable business. This creates a digital divide which disadvantages the population in areas where no provider considers it worth investing. These areas are eligible for State Aid funding to build a sustainable wholesale network which any Internet Service Provider (ISP) can use to deliver a service.
State Aid regulations approves the use of public funds to intervene with funding where there is demonstrable market failure of provision. The Government body BDUK (Building Digital UK) have been cleared to give State Aid approval on behalf of the EU for broadband projects in rural areas.
Mapping to show future levels of superfast and basic broadband coverage in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has been carried out to support the Connecting Cambridgeshire project and define the Intervention area, where State Aid funding can be used. You can find these maps here.
Will our broadband speeds automatically increase when our cabinet is upgraded to fibre?
No, fibre broadband will not just automatically switch on’. To get fibre broadband you’ll need to first check it is live in your area and available to you and then place an order with your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP).
The new fibre network is universal so any ISP can choose to offer a service. However, we are aware that not all ISPs offer FTTP (Fibre to the Premise) packages yet.
You don’t need to do anything if you do not want to upgrade to fibre broadband and want to keep your existing service.
For more information about upgrading to Superfast Broadband visit our ‘Getting Superfast’ page
How much will a fibre service cost?
Prices for fibre broadband packages vary according to the download/upload speeds you require. It is best to shop around and find the best deal for you. Things to look out for include:
Price – Use a price comparison website to find the best deal for you. On average a fibre service is £5-£10 a month more than a standard copper service, but people on old contracts may find they can save money by switching.
Speed – check this carefully as some broadband packages cap download/upload speeds in return for a cheaper tariff.
Usage – some packages are unlimited while others only allow a limited amount of download/upload each month, so check what you need.
Contract – check the contract length which could be 12/18/24 months depending on the package.
Calls – you could save money by combining broadband with telephone services in one package
Offers – broadband companies may offer incentives to sign up to their products such as discounted introductory periods or vouchers for high street stores.
Why was the contract to rollout fibre broadband on behalf of Connecting Cambridgeshire awarded to BT?
During 2012, a complex procurement process involving several bidders was carried out to find a commercial partner to provide broadband infrastructure in areas that would not be able to get it otherwise.
In March 2013, Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet signed the contract with BT to roll-out fibre broadband across the county within the next three years. Bidders were asked to demonstrate the greatest broadband coverage and the highest speeds they could offer for a total public investment of up to £23 million.
BT submitted the highest scoring bid with a competitive broadband deal which means we exceeded our original target of more than 90% of homes and businesses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough being able to receive superfast broadband (of at least 24 Mbps) by the end of 2015.
The roll-out has subsequently been extended with additional Government funding and BT investment to reach even more premises during follow-on phases from 2016 – 2017 and beyond.
Will I need new equipment for fibre broadband?
It is possible you may need new equipment. Information on this should be made available by your Internet Service Provider when superfast broadband becomes available to you.