Wednesday 3 August 2016

BT DSL, FTTC and a rant about BTO engineers

Here we go again, another blog comment about the copper-wires service BT provides and the DSL services on top of them. As most of you know I work for an independent ISP, who are BT wholesale customers. That means we buy in bulk off the carrier (BT Wholesale). BT still maintain the copper pair (wires to your premises), the street cabinet that these copper pairs terminate into and then get patched back to the exchange (Also BT). Once at the exchange they are fed over BT's core network back to their central hubs where we then take a bulk feed off them and service our DSL customers from our own network, IP space, etc.

So, in this case my DSL drops regularly. I'm in a new housing development (2yrs old) which is part of a larger older estate (+10yrs). The rest of the estate cabinets were upgraded to FTTC and were really good quality (I lived in one of the other houses/roads in the same estate and got 80Mb down on FTTC, really good!). But BT and the builders Bellway in their infinite wisdom decided NOT to upgrade the cabinet that's serving a large number of the new houses that were built.

Now this to me isn't an oversight. These buildings were planned for some time as part of the overall estate development. The plans had been in at the council, residents associations, etc, so it was clear this development would take place and would provide a large number of additional houses. In our street there are around 40-50 houses. There are then additional streets, probably 5-10 in number so that makes quite a considerable number of houses.
These are fed from an old, standard BT cabinet. No FTTC. And broadband is VERY poor to this cabinet due to it's copper wiring distance back to the exchange. 1-2Mb is the stated maximum potential speed. It's also not very reliable and drops regularly.

This gets me onto part one of my rant. Why didn't BT and Bellway agree and upgrade this cabinet during the upgrade rollout for the area? It seems there is joint blame here as the building company have a say/input into services from the telcos. (Before anyone asks, no it's not Virgin Media cabled area either as they're not doing any new rollouts at present). BT's continual statement when I press them about it is that the cabinet only services two business premises in their planning, and so wasn't fit for FTTC upgrades. OK, I can see what they're on about, there are two businesses along the same road that have been there for 20+years. So it appears their plans weren't updated, or provided by the builders, or were ignored. Either way these homes are without high speed internet, which to be honest is shocking considering the push for digital futures, etc.

We're probably a more than typical family. We're quite high-tech, all our kids use electronics and the internet. My wife and I use the internet for pretty much everything in our personal and professional lives. I also work from home at times and doing so on a slow connection is tricky, especially with VOIP calls which for the most part work, providing nothing else is happening on the line at the time.

Then there is the terrible stability problems. The line drops quite regularly. At least once per week, and when it drops the speed drops (both the download and upload sync) and quite often becomes more unstable. It seems when the line is at a good sync speed and stable for a long period of time it's fine and usable. As soon as it drops and re-syncs it becomes unstable.
This is my biggest complaint. The fact that when it drops it comes back and has high packet loss (20-30% usually) and then I have to run a BTW KBD to get the thing sync'd back at anything sensible and to stop the packet loss.

I have made a correlation though with when it drops. There is one period on a Sunday morning early hours (between 2am-5am I've noted) that it seems common to do this action. But the other time, is whenever a BT van/engineer is in the cabinet! EVERY TIME they are in the cab our broadband drops momentarily and resyncs with this poor/unusable connection.

This leads me to think that the jumpering in the cabinet is poor, as whenever an engineer is in there it must take the lightest of touch and the cables must move and cause a resync.
I've had numerous engineer callouts that we've arranged through BTW at work, to get this investigated, checked. They've remade the connections, swapped pairs and ultimately give up and just say it's as good as it'll get due to the long distance from the exchange and that it'll always be unstable.

I've also submitted to BT many times the request for FTTC and investigation into feasibility, polled my MP and tried every path I can into trying to get an idea on if/when that cabinet can be upgraded, or if not, why not! And so far I've got nothing. I've got various email communications from BT who repeatedly say it's not on their rollout plan, etc, and so won't go any further.

So come on BT. You're trying to give rural communities FTTC and better broadband. What about a large housing development, in an already converted exchange. Look at where you've deployed and check, did the deployment reach all the locations? Does it do what you want?

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