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!

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.

Under Contract 1 BDUK has committed to make available over 2Mbps to all properties by 2016. This is through the Better Broadband Subsidy Scheme that will cover the installation costs of broadband using alternative technologies such as wireless or satellite.

If a community get together they could even pool their vouchers to get a new fibre cabinet installed. Rental and ongoing costs will fall to the user. Mobile connections are not eligible for the scheme.

Posted in: Questions About the Contracts