18000 new fibre broadband connections for Southwark

Update 03/02/2016
Cllr Fiona Colley at the Southwark cabinet meeting stated that all the fibre cabinets promised by BT, along with the installations at three council blocks will be completed by the end of March 2016.

Update 01/02/2016
Site surveys have been carried out at Courthope House, Pine House and Ritchie House.
A new 288 line fiber cabinet has been installed on Surrey Quays Road. This will serve the non-exchange line customers connected to the adjacent BT copper cabinet.
First Published: 10/10/2015

BT have announced 18000 new fibre broadband connections for Southwark. This is part of the £50m BT Cities project that will see 360000 new fibre connections shared across all London Boroughs over the next two years.

The project primarily focuses on upgrading existing cabinets that weren't part of the original upgrades and rolling out fibre broadband services that serve multi-dwelling units, such as apartment blocks.

Plans for Rotherhithe

BT are proposing to use FTTRN (Fibre-to-the-remote-note) technology to connect the following council owned blocks in Rotherhithe: Courthope House, Pine House and Ritchie House, conditional on the buildings being suitable. The installation will be similar to the trial for the 16 flats in Gwent Court, Rotherhithe Street.

BT will be adding a fibre cabinet next to the existing telephone cabinet at Needleman Street (on the corner of Surrey Quays Road). This cabinet will serve those properties already connected to the telephone cabinet. A new rack will be added to the fibre cabinet on Salter Road (by Lagardo Mews). This cabinet currently serves the Globe Pond Road and Russia Dock Road areas. BT may use this opportunity to provide services to the adjacent development.

Rotherhithe has very few cabinets as the majority of properties are connected directly to the exchange (known as Exchange Only lines) so BT are proposing to install five new roadside telephone and fibre cabinets. They have identified the following locations:

Timberpond Road (opposite Bacon’s and on the corner of Lagardo Mews)
Redriff Road (near the new Quebec Quarter development)
Surrey Quays Road (by the Library)
Plough Way (near Lighter Close)
Onega Gate (near Finland Street)

There is no details of which properties will be served by these new cabinets. BT has informed Southwark that these new installations will be 450 line cabinets. Our contact at BT Openreach has confirmed that these cabinets are currently outlined to be the combined telephone and fibre cabinets designed specifically for exchange only line upgrades. These cabinets can handle around 450 telephone lines and 128 fibre lines. (ie. they can serve up to 450 telephone lines of which 128 can have fibre broadband).

BT planning is still in the survey stage and we probably won't know exactly what BT decides to install until they do it. Currently the plans shared with Southwark Council show the actual amount of new fibre connections will be around 1000.

In July Andrew Campling from BT, after a meeting with Southwark Council, claimed that fibre coverage in Rotherhithe would increase to around 70% of properties over the next two years. It is hard to see how BT will get anywhere close to this figure based on the proposed upgrades. We have already raised concerns about the homes in Rotherhithe that still have no planned upgrade. In July this looked to be around 30% of homes, now it appears it will be closer to 65% of homes which will have no access to better broadband (either BT, Virgin or Hyperoptic).

It's worth noting that BT's connection figures are about how many premises that have telephone lines that can access a fibre connection not how many lines that can actually be connected. BT class telephone lines that can potentially have fibre as being fibre-enabled even though only 25% of these lines can be connected to fibre when the capacity of the fibre cabinet is reached. This is usually fine as the average uptake of BT fibre services is around 25% but as broadband is so poor in Rotherhithe and there are few if any alternatives the demand is likely to be far higher than what BT is planning to install. This has been an issue with the fibre cabinet on Salter Rd and a couple of cabinets in the Hawkestone Estate area where there are not enough fibre connections to meet demand. These residents are told that their lines are fibre-enabled but unfortunately they cannot access fibre services.

Superfast Southwark?

Even with the planned upgrades Southwark will remain at the bottom of the London Boroughs for overall access to superfast broadband. Based on connection figures from BT, Virgin, Hyperoptic, OFCOM and thinkbroadband, the majority of London Boroughs will have superfast connections in excess of 95% by 2017 with over half of these reaching 98% or above. Southwark as a whole will have around 88% access, the Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency ward will have 77% and the council wards of Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks will be languishing at around 35%.