Why can’t Exchange Only (EO) lines get superfast speeds?

Most properties are fed by copper wiring that runs from the exchange to a green cabinet, where it then splits out and smaller copper cables lead to every property that is fed from that cabinet. Because broadband signals degrade over relatively short distances of copper this is not a very efficient way of getting broadband to consumers and businesses.

Our project is bringing faster broadband by installing a new cabinet near to the original one. This is fed by fibre from the exchange, which brings faster broadband right into the communities, and considerably reduces the length of copper that is required, meaning that higher speeds can be achieved.

The problem with Exchange Only (EO) properties is that they are connected directly to the exchange – there is no green cabinet between the property and the exchange to upgrade with fibre cabling. This is unfortunately why superfast speeds cannot be reached by these properties.

We have already upgraded some EO lines. This is more complicated (and more expensive) as there are greater engineering challenges. For instance, because EO lines don’t have the copper lines routed through a copper cabinet (PCP) there is no aggregation point to which we can connect the fibre cabinet (DSLAM).

Therefore we have to install two cabinets and this creates additional challenges in terms of location in addition to the ones that we face for all DSLAMs with regard to the availability of power, avoiding existing services, road safety issues etc. Contract 2 includes a considerably higher percentage of exchange only lines, and a lot of the more challenging locations that could not be brought into Contract 1.

It should be noted that because of the nature of the installation, it is not until the exchange only lines have actually been connected up to the new cabinets that we will know which properties will be able to benefit from the superfast broadband service. This creates challenges for us in terms of letting people know that the service is available!

It is entirely possible for a community to decide to raise funds and employ their own solution.

Before considering a community-funded scheme you should bear in mind that these take time to organise, and require local activists to lead the project. Having said that, it is entirely possible for a community to decide to raise funds and employ their own solution.

You should bear in mind that smaller suppliers do not always have the resilience of the larger companies. If you were to go with your own solution and employed a small company, then you could be facing sustainability issues further down the line.

You should also be aware that once an area has superfast broadband then our project may consider it to have turned grey on the map and may no longer consider it for inclusion under our funding.

On the other hand, if it is not considered to be a grey area we may later come along and upgrade the network, which could cut across the business case for any community-led solution.

One final consideration is whether your chosen solution will offer a wholesale network. This means that any Internet Service Provider can use the network to provide services to its customers. By offering a range of providers the idea is that there will be competition which will lead to a choice of packages and a range of price-points. You will not have that with a single-supplier network.

You could, of course, choose to pay Openreach, or another major provider, to upgrade the infrastructure in your area, but the costs are likely to be significant. Should you choose to follow this route then you may want to take a look at the Community Fibre Partnerships website.

Of course, any community solution will need to be paid for! A good place to start is the Government’s Gigabit Voucher Scheme. Gigabit vouchers can be used by small and medium-sized businesses and the local communities surrounding them, to contribute to the installation cost of a gigabit capable connection.

One gigabit is the same as 1,000 megabits – so it’s a big leap forward in connection speeds that could benefit you and your business into the future.

Businesses can claim up to £3,000 against the cost of connection either individually or as part of a group project. Residents can benefit from the scheme as part of a group project, which also includes businesses, and can claim for a voucher of up to a value of £500 per residential premise.

Vouchers can be aggregated so that if, for example, a village or wanted to upgrade its connectivity then as long as there are businesses involved the vouchers can be pooled together to form one project covering the entire area. This would ensure best value for all concerned and would reduce costs overall.

To set up a local project it would be necessary to go through a supplier (as with single user vouchers). It is expected that the combined value of vouchers claimed by businesses in a scheme will be greater than the combined value of the residential vouchers. For the purpose of the scheme, a business could be someone operating from home or, potentially, working from home.

We have been getting some good reports from people who have moved to mobile broadband. Some are achieving speeds of around 70 Mbps! This technology relies on a good mobile broadband connection so it is important to use the mobile coverage checkers available on mobile broadband supplier websites before committing.

You can access a mobile broadband connection by subscribing to a data plan with your chosen mobile operator; this can usually be done using a mobile device, a dongle, or a 4G router.

When considering this option, it is important to take into consideration your data usage. Searching around for an unlimited data package can pay off, especially if you do a lot of streaming or playing videos on YouTube.

Posted in: Questions About the Contracts