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Ofcom: calling for a cultural change in the telecoms industry

Fixing broadband

Does the telecoms market work for you, or should providers be upping their game? Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, joins us to outline a view of the current telecoms market and a vision for change.

I joined Ofcom two years ago, and Which? was generous enough to host my first speech. My aim then, as now, was to explain how consumers lie at the heart of everything Ofcom does.

Essential services

Two years ago we said that broadband and mobile had become essential services. As much a necessity as gas, water or electricity.

We even found that young people would happily do without hot water than be without Facebook (!). Yet around 5% of homes and offices can’t get decent broadband of 10Mbps.

And while mobile broadband is being rolled out, 28% of UK homes and offices can’t get a good indoor 4G signal from every operator.

The government has set out a clear policy objective to widen broadband and mobile coverage across the UK. The Digital Economy Bill includes a new ‘universal service obligation’ (USO) for broadband. The USO complements the government’s pre-existing commitments to make superfast broadband available to 95% of homes and offices by the end of 2017, and to ensure that 90% of the UK has a mobile signal over the same timeframe.

These sit alongside Ofcom rules to ensure that 98% of homes and offices get a good indoor 4G signal from at least one mobile operator, also by the end of this year.

The government has said it will go further, setting out its policy objectives for the whole of the telecoms sector; which I very much welcome.

Regulation in telecoms

Ofcom also has a supporting role through regulation to ensure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services.

Competition brings greater choice, innovation and lower bills. And some in the industry argue that in furthering the interests of consumers, we should limit our activity to promoting competition.

But promoting competition can’t be the sum of our activity, and that’s because competition has its limits.

Firstly, competition is generally lower in rural areas, simply because fewer customers make it hard for operators to turn a profit.

Secondly, while people tend to shop around on price, or for a particular product they like, they don’t tend to make choices based on customer service – allowing operators to get away with poor service.

Thirdly, millions of consumers, particularly vulnerable and elderly people, don’t shop around at all.

This has created a widening gulf between expectations and what the industry is actually delivering.

Which? has found that certain telecoms providers dominate the list of worst-rated companies for customer service – behind even some banks. This should be a concern for us all.

Which?’s new campaign, Fix Bad Broadband, rightly highlights one particular failure – the mismatch between the speeds people think they are buying, and what they actually end up getting.

Moving forward

Ofcom has three important roles beyond competition:

  • empowering people so they can make informed decisions;
  • protecting consumers, especially those who are vulnerable;
  • and taking firm action when providers fail their customers.

We will empower consumers with better information, protect those who are failed by the market and take action against companies who fail their customers.

But ultimately, we want to see a cultural change in the telecoms industry. We want all operators consistently to put customers at the heart of their businesses.

A successful telecoms market should mean Openreach, not Ofcom, setting its own stretching service standards. Automatic compensation should rarely be necessary, because there are few failures in the first place. And fewer fines issued, because companies routinely put their customers first.

I appreciate that there’s a long way to go. But with commitment from the industry – and appropriate action from the government and the regulator – things can get better.

This guest contribution is from Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom, and taken from her speech at an event with Which? on 12 April 2017. All views expressed here are Sharon’s own and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
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About a year ago I moved home and my main reservations were the very poor broadband and mobile services. It would be no great problem to switch mobile network to one that might work, albeit poorly, but from speaking to the locals, the broadband was a greater problem. Fibre was coming at some stage in the future, which surprised me because this was a small hamlet on the outskirts of a village that did not enjoy decent broadband or mobile services.

Even before I moved in I found that I had a 4G service on my existing mobile, thanks to a newly commissioned mast and a card was pushed through the door inviting me to put myself on the waiting list for fibre broadband. I did this and while I was waiting I used tethering to get online. I was delighted to find out that the new service was FTTP broadband and did not make use of copper phone lines from a cabinet.

If this can be done for a small residential development two or three miles from a town, I wonder if more could be done for others with poor services. I wonder if the cost quoted for rolling out fibre broadband is as expensive as quoted or if large profits are being made.

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paul rawlinson says:
26 April 2017

IF your fibre broadband is anything like we get here in South Wales, I would rather spend the excessive service charge on raising carrier pigeons, at least they are reliable !! our service “WAS” twice as fast & a hell of a lot more reliable 10 years ago than it is now !!

Profile photo of John Ward
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A lot more people have started using the internet over the last ten years, Paul. and the content has also become a lot more complex in line with the higher speeds notionally available, so network congestion is the problem. The initial installation of fibre broadband had to compromise between (a) covering most urban areas with adequate capacity and (b) providing high capacity in selected areas but reduced coverage elsewhere. With hindsight I think we can say that was shortsighted, but it was probably the only realistic option at the time.

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One very big problem with Broadband is the contention ratio. That refers to how many users are sharing the data capacity on a provider’s line. To put it even simpler, it’s a count of how many households are using the same main broadband line as you.

If your contention ratio is 20:1, for instance, that means twenty households are using one line.

Standard contention ratios used to be around 50:1 for home broadband, and 20:1 for business broadband – but BT says these figures are no longer completely accurate, but they don’t say why they’re not. One guess might be that with a lot of new housing being built your CR might well be far greater than 50:1.

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Wavechange the cost of rolling out FTTP has already been available on websites and I have quoted FoD -ie- the real cost for somebody paying for fibre-exchange to premises , it isnt cheap. Having worked for BT I know exactly whats involved and it isnt a “5 minute job ” just because somebody gets it vin easily doesn’t mean others will get it as easily . I have been asking on the many convo,s relating to this who is going to pay -obviously not HMG , so I asked without anybody giving me a practical-down to earth- honest- re;liable costed detailed listing of how this will be provided .I have put many ways of doing so-ALL rejected except -make BT pay – which is impossible as I know it could cost up to £50billion for 100 % coverage of the British islands for FTTP . As I said it seems all to be aimed at BT while Virgin Media et-al- say live in the country in a remote location ?-tough -not our problem and ALL the others agree -our shareholders will not pay for it . So , will somebody who is an honest accountant with no political ties/ no shares in USA conglomerates , no connection with HMG etc supply me with how this is going to be achieved otherwise , to me its a – lets –remove BT and put in the Americans , who will not run FTTP but supply microwave , as I know happens in the States to remote locations , OR — like Scotland PAY BT through taxes which the Scottish government is doing along with the EDF . You voted to privatise BT , you jumped for joy when it was sold off _NOW you are complaining ? Not one of you envisaged what would happen , I and other forward thinking employees (at the time ) knew this was going to happen . instead of sniping at BT tell me anybody with a overall plan in England and there must be many wise people -HOW are we going to do this financially ? I was hoping as Which is bringing this subject up constantly they would have enough moral fibre to ask for a BT spokesperson to lay the costs on the line for Which posters , did you at any time ask BT for comments on this ?, as it seems you can get other commercial organisation spokespersons to introduce a convo and make comments all the way through the convo related to their organisations. I am left fighting alone for a British company that this country want to demolish -one way or another , even though it is a good provider of jobs and takes in many apprentices , have none of you seen how hard-nosed US firms operate ? you must do as you complain constantly to Which about US owned companies.

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I’m simply wondering if the actual costs need to be as high as quoted, Duncan. I’m always wary of published figures. With the interest in film and TV services via broadband it seems that there is plenty of opportunity to seek funding from the companies involved.

One of the reasons I’m keen on the roll out of fibre broadband is that the telephone service was not built with data transmission in mind. I’ve helped friends diagnose problems with internal extension wiring and I’m surprised that we don’t have more faults.

I do not understand the economics of providing the isolated housing development with FTTP broadband. It was built within the last 20 years so the phone wiring is not ancient and overdue for replacement. I appreciate that other solutions are needed for very rural locations, and you have mentioned possibilities in other Conversations. Patrick Taylor drew our attention to Broadband for the Rural North Ltd.

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Wavechange did you click on the URL that I posted on BT,s announcement (2014) of the cost of installing FoD ?, it is published by a well respected British internet information website. I will repeat it , even if you dont believe them , it certainly gives you some idea of the cost involved . : http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/04/breaking-costs-330mbps-fttp-demand-broadband.html I have watched teams of men laying cable/poles /cabinets etc in all sorts of weather , needing to wait for access permission from the land owners (Wayleave ) without it they are snookered in many cases especially on land owned by overseas investors which has held up installation in Wales where large areas are owned by all sorts of foreigners who want money or refuse access , just ask the Welsh government. Scotland , although in the same situation is a bit more forceful in the Scottish government actions.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I did look at the website, Duncan. The wayleave issue is relevant to a charity I’m a member of because we need to bring some heavy equipment across a farmer’s field. It’s time to put an end to these unreasonable payments when installing and maintaining public services is involved.

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It is all very well defending BT as you seem to be doing, although it does appear that you go around in circles while doing it!! My experience with BT is, I suspect, like many; a greedy, grab all conglomerate who care little for the general public. I made a complaint to BT a few years ago about my Broadband, while complaining about something else, but I wrote to the CEO; Customer Services (so called) are a waste of time! Basically, the reply I got was that there was no intention of installing Fast Broadband in the village where I live, because there were insufficient clients – a large village, 3 miles from a town – so I contacted Virgin, who installed their Broadband very quickly and I have not looked back since – current download speed 163mbps – in the last month, BT have installed a grotesque box, which stand about 4′ tall to supply Super Fast Broadband, whilst doing so the contractor dug up the entrance to the cul de sac I live on – with no notice – when I complained the contractor said “BT don’t have to warn you!” What arrogance and if BT think I will ever use their “services” in the future, they can think on!!

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I take it you are referring to me David Marks ? I never go round in circles I tread a straight path , that speaking the truth upsets many people shows what British society has come to . Its a media driven circus just like you get in a real circus or even a Punch+Judy show . I can see right through it and the motives behind it ,as well as the people behind it (know who I am talking about ? ) . Its contrived to serve one purpose get rid of BT which is still basically a British company -one of the few left employing 10,s of 1000,s of British employees and apprentices and turn it into a big sweat-shop of contracted out personnel paid third world wages while the bankers + off-shore City types move more money out of this country . Wasn’t the Yuppie era bad enough ? now we have the neo-con generation and “con ” being the operative word . I make no bones about it I am for Britain and although I voted for “the Donald ” I put this country first and want what he wants -re-investment in the UK not shipped out 1000,s of miles to countries where the workers are paid a pittance and then the products including fish etc shipped back in again . This country is becoming a satrap of the USA more and more as time goes on and if I have to stand up in defence of one of the last British companies to the ire of those who have shares/ money invested abroad or in the NYSE then so be it . Tell me David what US company would you like to take over the UK telephone network ? and I will tell you how they treat remote/ rural customers . Many countries would never sell their telephone network to a foreign country , so is it one law others and a different one for Britain?, what we need is more loyalty or this country will become just like a third world country , but maybe thats the long term aim -is it ?

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Tina Adams says:
26 April 2017

I agree with every sentiment you have expressed about BT. Every quarter when my bill is due my connection starts to play up worse than any other time. My contract run out about 2 years ago (new estate so BT have the monopoly more or less). The blighters tried telling me last quarter that my router must be broken therefore a new one can be sent to me for the price of £10.00 + VAT and postage & packaging costs, other than than would I consider a new contract whereby I could then have their fast broadband… My IT specialist friend was listening to the conversation and put the operator right, hey ho 24 hours later my broadband was up & running and I received a text (still have) stating they found the problem at their end. If it hadn’t been for my friend I could have ended up being in a contract that would not be fit for purpose or out of pocket for purchasing another router. Oh & before I finish, BT did offer to come out and inspect equipment and if they felt I had tampered or no problem detected I would be charge around £100!

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I would like to see a ban on monthly allowances and bundles that have both a time limit and usage limit, i.e. most monthly plans.

Imagine if we had to buy electricity and gas in this way – either guess how much you will consume in a month which wastes any units that you don’t use by the end of the month, or otherwise be stung with a unit price that is many times the usual price. For example, let’s assume that electricity costs around 10p to 25p per kWh, depending on supplier. Instead of charging you 12p/kWh, your supplier lets you buy a monthly bundle of 500kWh for £60 or otherwise you pay an inflated price of £1/kWh for incremental usage. If you don’t use up the full 500kWh, you lose the unused units and if you use more than 500kWh, then you pay £1/kWh. Neither Ofgem nor consumers would tolerate this with energy, so why do Ofcom and consumers tolerate it with mobile phone services?

The only purpose of monthly allowances and bundles is to charge the consumer in full for usage that isn’t fully consumed and to charge prohibitively high rates for any usage over or outside the monthly allowance or bundle. This practice favours the mobile networks without giving any advantages to consumers. I’m not suggesting that consumers shouldn’t be able to bulk-buy their future consumption, but it is unreasonable to impose a monthly expiry on that purchased consumption. The consumer has paid for the consumption in full and should be able to use it in full or otherwise receive a refund of any unused consumption. It would be much simpler and fairer to charge for mobile phone service in the same incremental way as energy – just simple incremental usage prices at competitive prices, similar to Three’s 3-2-1 prices. Of course, mobile networks could offer volume discounts as well as period-based usage (e.g. a fixed fee for unlimited usage in a particular period), but it is an unfair commercial practice to charge consumers for usage that isn’t actually used. It is worth mentioning that the mobile networks offer simple usage-based postpaid tariffs to large corporate customers. That’s because large corporate customers don’t tolerate the ridiculous system of having to guess in advance how much each user will consume. Why can’t all consumers benefit from simple and fair incremental tariffs?

Profile photo of DerekP
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I think many users like to control their costs by means of monthly bundles and data allowances, so the move towards them becoming the norm has been driven by consumer demand.

A lot of us attempt to do the same for energy costs too – by paying a fixed amount every month and then having an annual adjustment of that amount.

Profile photo of NFH
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Derek, monthly bundles and allowances don’t allow you to control costs. They sting you with a much higher rate if you go over the allowance. Only a minority of networks stop the service when you use up your allowance.

Profile photo of DerekP
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NFH you are correct, but only in some cases.

In my case, I almost never exceed any of my monthly allowances – and if I do it is only when I have to make short but very important calls to “out of bundle numbers”, so I don’t mind that.

Also, for anyone using PAYG, costs are controlled by the amount of credit bought. In this case, bundles tend to offer much better value than the standard incremental rates.

Finally, as you acknowledge, a few contract providers, notably Tesco, allow both bundles and expenditure caps to be used, so even with a contract, costs can be tightly controlled.

Hence, from my own experiences, I argue that many (but not all) users do actually prefer the system of bundles to the alternative of varying unpredictable and uncontrolled bills.

The system you are advocating seems to me to be effectively how landlines and mobiles were charged out in the 1990s. I think the industry has moved away from that as a result of consumers voting with their wallets,

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Laraine Ward says:
26 April 2017

I never exceed my monthly quota allowed but I would like to carry my unused portion forward as I have paid for it. Why they stopped doing this is obvious because at certain times of the year…. I do need more i.e. New Year and my Birthday but it’s a question of their greed as I did carry any unused portion onwards for a long time…. not in today’s money grabbing climate though.

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Patricia Marchand says:
13 April 2017

I am fed up in fighting with large companies such as broadband and the like. The problem is the lack of help we get when faced with problems. Thanks to BT open reach (they still part of BT) my landline stop working last year and again this year (probably because I do not use it so often) and it was then slam yes slam! how this possible in 2017? well because openreach plugs anything anywhere, they have no competition so they do as they please and, like Barclays, dare you moaning they will punishing you as they did me, still no landline though my broadband is working…. and paying landline charges!

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Patricia , if copper is any part of your landline then you have a cable fault – 1 wire disconnected , or if all fibre -FTTP then its a different fault . Your landline is used for broadband so you pay for its upkeep unless you use broadband via your smart phone (tethering ) .Have you not been told what the fault is ? and what is “slam ?? do you mean DSLAM fibre cabinet ? if so its your street cabinet thats faulty.

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Susan says:
13 April 2017

“And while mobile broadband is being rolled out, 28% of UK homes and offices can’t get a good indoor 4G signal from every operator.”

Plenty of homes, including mine, can’t get any mobile signal at all. I accept that bringing a signal to where I live might not be commercially viable, but I also think that this should have some government support. Lack of a signal is causing people and businesses to leave rural areas. I also think that it’s a safety issue for residents and tourists, for example if somebody is taken ill or has an accident outside. We are far enough from other services for this perhaps to be the difference between life and death.

Organizations such as banks that we deal with just expect us to have a mobile signal for texts etc. And I could go on for hours about delivery men just assuming they can get a signal near the house.

We were in the Australian outback last year. The coverage was better there.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Susan the government admit that this country is not up to speed with cell-net 4G but what is not said is that many companies with cell-net masts REFUSE to share them with others so many companies have to install their own . This is why you should test the area you are going to move to to see what provider provides a signal or not . In the cell-net business BT are a minority player the big boys are companies like Vodaphone.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Err . . . Isn’t EE [the biggest mobile phone operator in the UK] part of BT Group?

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Susan says:
16 April 2017

Thank you. This is helpful. But I think it only partly answers my point. I do think it’s an area where the government could step in. Also plenty of people have been living in areas that don’t have a signal for many years and have their livelihoods there. We knew there was no mobile signal when we moved here 5 years ago. Perhaps we were naive in thinking it might be upgraded, but the broadband wasn’t wonderful then either. It’s much better now as it’s beamed wirelessly from the nearest fibre.

I’m also thinking of people who are out and about. Not only delivery men, but tourists and visitors. There are plenty of hikers and cyclists around here.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Susan you are a living example of what I have been trying to say to many posters with zero luck , if your broadband line is so far from the cabinet that you only get 1Mbps then instead of complaining of lack of FTTP then microwave broadband is the answer in many South American countries that is how broadband is achieved . Downloaded by satellite to main stations -fibre to smaller ones and microwave to outlying areas . I blame the government for building up the hopes of the British population to a high expectation and then using the lack of a finished product to beat BT over the head with . As I keep repeating , if the US took over our network , do you honestly think they will supply -FTTP for 100 % of Brits when the certainly dont do that for American citizens ???? . I agree with you the government should pressurise ALL the cell-net companies to allow their masts to be used by all , they arent scared of BT so its must be the other cell-net giants that are against it.

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Alan G says:
16 April 2017

EE are owned by BT so, from a corporate/legal point of view, they are “part of” the group. Technology wise, EE’s network is still separate and it will likely take several years before the technologies are merged. And that will not even be an option if Openreach are busy
separating themselves from BT since I suspect EE will be owned by BT Wholesale not Openreach. And OR will have all their investment tied down in building a whole new corporate infrastructure – payroll, HR, internal comms, etc, etc. – all shared with BT group currently. There isn’t likely to be much new in the way of service improvement from OR over the next year or two IMHO.

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Considering for a moment just the question raised by Susan of the lack of mobile telephone signals in remote areas, it seems to me that the policy has been framed by the fact that, for many decades now, almost everywhere in the UK has been able to have a landline service so the urgent need for better connectivity has not been given the weight it deserves. The landline is no longer capable of providing the speed and accessibility to services that are now regarded as essential. People want to be able to get into contact with the emergency services wherever they roam and also want to be able to pick up the internet wherever they are. The emergency services can still be reached by landline but this is not satisfactory for people on the move, and with rural telephone boxes being removed urgent communication facilities are required. I consider that providing a basic infrastructure should be a publicly-funded investment. There will come a point when maintenance of the obsolete landline infrastructure can cease.

It is interesting to learn from Sharon White’s article that Ofcom intends that 98% of homes and offices will get a good indoor 4G signal from at least one mobile operator by the end of 2017. An ambitious target and I am a bit sceptical that it can be achieved on time so it will be good to have a progress report..

On the question of access to superfast broadband, it would seem that 5% of the population will not be getting this by 2017 at the expense of the taxpayer, but who they are and where they live remains a mystery. We don’t even know how the 95% superfast broadband accessibility target is being calculated, nor whether it is just a question of timing [by 2020 perhaps?] or whether there will ever be an advanced service level to that 5% at all. It is urgently necessary that these notspots are identified so that the residents can make their own plans for a privately funded superfast service if they want one or consider other options. I have a feeling that the real implications of this policy are being concealed because it will be highly controversial to isolate a substantial number of users while leaving in place an extensive and costly-to-maintain landline infrastructure when it is technically possible to provide even the remotest outpost with a fast broadband and combined telecom service.

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I think that is right, Alan, and casts further doubt on the ability of Openreach to complete the delivery of superfast broadband to 95% of UK homes and offices by the end of 2017, and on the ability of EE and the others to achieve 98% 4G mobile coverage by the same date.

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Laraine Ward says:
26 April 2017

Vodaphone has the worst customer service ever….. they promise the earth but are incapable of delivering I would go without a mobile phone at all rather than dealing with those idiots again…. they must pay peanuts so what we get is monkeys with a script which they can’t deviate from. Even BT try harder to please (even if they don’t succeed) than Vodaphone…. google the worst service provider if you don’t believe this. I know as I was with them for over 20 years on monthly contract until they got too big to deliver on their promises. If you value your sanity stay clear.

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I wish Ofcom would do something about Exchange Only lines how long must we wait for fibre broadband when our neighbours have it?

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As Which has so many convo,s on broadband I will have to answer this question many times Anthony . The problem with EO lines is that they are direct connections to the exchange, as such no cabinet exists .Upgrading EO lines is a lot more work and money than upgrading a cabinet to FTTC , there being no cabinet there is no brake point /interconnection point to connect a DSLAM (fibre cabinet) to , therefore two new cabinets have to be installed with all the attendant land/council permission (Wayleave ) having to be granted /paid for and then they have to be powered as those cabinets aren’t passive but active cabinets so power sources have to be obtained as well as digging up roads and avoiding other utilities (plus permissions ) , then road safety issues come into it. Even then because of no existing cabinets it is only when the new cabinets are connected up will ANY company know which properties will actually benefit , this raises issues about letting people know if they can get fast fibre . Short answer- very big job with no idea if all customers will benefit . I hope I dont have to post this too many times as I see it has been brought up elsewhere.

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I would like to see the mobile operators required to share networks, which would mean fewer blackspots. Network sharing has been in place for emergency calls for years.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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This as been raised a number of times before. It is surely a topic that Which? could investigate properly, discuss with the network operators and Ofcom, and find out what the possibilities might be. Perhaps they could ask Sharon to give Ofcom’s views initially on her Convo here.

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I am glad this topic has come up again and I should like to ask Sharon White to respond on a couple of points.

I was, mistakenly it appears, under the impression that the government’s policy to improve broadband services was for 95% of the UK to have access to 20 Mbps by the end of 2020. I am grateful for Ms White’s clarification of “the government’s pre-existing commitments to make superfast broadband available to 95% of homes and offices by the end of 2017“. This will be secured through a new Universal Service Obligation. But given the number of people who are reporting here and elsewhere that they are currently not even getting a ‘decent’ broadband speed of 10 Mbps [or a tenth of that in many cases], I am wondering how realistic this obligation is. I just cannot see how we can get from where we are to where the government says we should be at the end of this year for anything like 95% of homes and offices – and don’t forget schools and other establishments – without a massive engineering operation that has barely started. As the population and workplaces are generally urbanised perhaps we have achieved 60-75% coverage already, but the next tranche will be the tough part of the challenge. I should be pleased to have more explanation on progress and a realistic forecast of fulfilment. It would be helpful also to have a definition of ‘superfast’ – the meaning of the term seems to depend on who is using it; what is the official line?

My other point is really to deal with the questions that Duncan Lucas has asked in various Which? Conversation topics on broadband and to which there has never been a satisfactory explanation. How much is this going to cost, who is paying for it, why does BT seem to end up carrying the can for it when there are several other telecom service providers who appear to be making little or no contribution to the nationwide roll-out, how is the 95% calculated, and how will the capacity/contention issues that impact on data loading be resolved ? That might be a simplification of Duncan’s points but it would make a good starter.

I think we all would also like to know who and where will fall into the 5% left without even ‘decent’ broadband, and what can be done to help them.

Sharon’s comments on this would be much appreciated.

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If you want it “straight from the horses mouth” John you can click on a reliable UK broadband info website with -2016 figures and has a direct comment from Clive Selley-CEO Openreach and can you tell me -as far as you know, how itsmany times Which has asked BT or Openreach to provide a spokesperson to answer posters questions (if ever ) its : http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/04/bt-openreachs-fttc-dominated-broadband-covers-25-million-premises.html , and your quite right ,of coarse we are talking “optimism “here and HMG arent being honest those left will be told- MIcrowave radio broadband ,as providing fast fibre to miles of overhead wiring to that remote cottage/farm etc is only achievable with FTTP and I have already posted (to Wavechange ) the cost of FoD

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OK, Duncan, but since we’ve got Ofcom on the line, as it were, and since they dictate the policy and set the terms which the service providers must comply with, I think it would be best to hear from their Chief Executive first and then we could pursue the operating companies if they are not doing what they are told. I think there’s some confusion over that at the moment – and indeed I was under a false impression of the true requirements and timescales – so let’s see if we can get that clarified in the first place.

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Dr David says:
15 April 2017

Duncan, I find it difficult to understand your message of 120 words in one sentence! I am sure you don’t really mean “and your quite right ,of coarse we are talking……”.

As owner of a high technology research and development company in Hampshire, having 238 staff, mostly highly skilled scientists and engineers, I wanted to expand the company into a second new unit in Cornwall, taking advantage of scientific and engineering graduates from Plymouth University and colleges in Cornwall. Apart from other local authority issues, the lack of dependable mobile communications, and fast broadband swiftly brought the plan to a halt. That is very sad. Not everyone wants to live and work in the cities and other larger communities. I certainly didn’t when I graduated from Plymouth University. If investments in communications in rural areas are not made, they will remain unattractive to new and expanding technology companies. I’m sure that will remain the status quo for a long time. Not all investment and running costs have to generate profit, provided that the organisation as a whole is profitable; witness the supermarkets, all of whom sell “loss leaders” to attract shoppers into the store. Once there they will, of course, buy many non loss leaders, thus generating overall profit.

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I understand your point but are there not parts of the South West where broadband is good? There is a programme to improve this area already in hand.

If business wants to profit from their location then perhaps some of those profits need to be used to support their choice?

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I am sorry DR that my written English doesn’t always conform to my higher English I got at school , but I do get “carried away ” with enthusiasm . I put more thought to what I am thinking rather than setting it out correctly in English grammar. I realise some people, especially in America cant intake long posts unless separated up in paragraphs but I am more concerned with action rather than the ability of some minds having trouble “deciphering” what I post, an obvious social fault in my self . I know exactly where you are coming from in your point about infrastructure in reference to investing in an area but to point the blame at BT bis not on. HMG knew full well they didn’t invest enough in the British Telephone Network while bringing in £ billions from NSO (North Sea Oil ) and spent it on “projects ” supporting the South East particularly -London while countries like Norway with a more left-wing social view banked their vast profits as a means of improving Norway,s infrastructure .Dont get me wrong I am all for enterprise and capitalism as long its with a small “c” . Therefore shifting blame to others is just shifting the goal posts to deflect criticism . VM are in action in the South-West several posts to Which complain that now that VM has taken over their area they cannot change their ISP because VM has got exclusive legal control of it , which is a “newish” law allowing companies including BT to take over new areas when new estates etc are built , they provide ALL the infrastructure therefore they have invested their money so why should another private company “piggy -back” for a concessional fee ? But– BT is the conly one to be obliged to offer ANY other telephone company the right to that area IF they invest some cash on infrastructure —they DONT ! so BT has exclusive rights to that area . In London ,for example , if a cable feed is put into a new building that private company putting it in has exclusive use of providing service to it . AS an owner of a high tech. company I take it you dont trade at a loss giving altruistically your services for free or do you provide “loss leaders ” which are specially advertised to the hilt bto attract customers , then two weeks later prices rise as I have watched what happens in supermarkets . Vital infrastructure cant be categorized in relation to supermarkets , thats belittling our economy thats why I and a few others “voted ” for “the Donald “- quote I will build up the USA,s crumpling infrastructure -I will pull back jobs from overseas , build factories etc instead of banks/ capital investors/etc putting their money in overseas cheap human resources . I would love TM to open her mouth and say-I am investing in Britain -sadly thats not the case , the CITY tells her what to do. Who famously said -“engineering ?? ” I dont understand it .

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Sure there are parts of the SW where broadband is relatively “good”, but in the cities, such as Plymouth, Exeter and Truro; but in Truro it is way behind Plymouth, as every other location is in Cornwall! Ah yes, the program to improve! When will it happen? Cornwall is a first choice for the holidaying masses who, for fear of overseas terrorism holiday in Cornwall. The county is good enough for that, but not for infrastructure investment. Let’s face it, London is the centre of the universe and has first call on any cash available for improvements to public services. Second of course are the other large cities in the UK. To a point I understand and accept that, but I feel that a parallel approach to investment would be welcomed by the fringe population, if only on a relatively minor scale; say 80% of funding to the greater populated areas and 20% to the rest, funded in parallel. But the policy appears to be “Sort out the large cities first and then, if funds are still available, help the rest of the UK, by which time a new government has been elected and it all starts again from the same “start line”! For the rural areas the saying “Always a bridesmaid but never the bride” seems to be an apt expression!

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Duncan, you are right; you are driven by enthusiasm, but that is fine and I have great respect for you. My comment was that I found it difficult to understand your meaning, though I worked it out.

I am not at all a protagonist as far as BT is concerned. I simply want whatever mechanism has the ability and speed to equalise the communications capability in rural areas with that of the metropolis and other largely populated areas; after all, the residents of rural areas also pay taxes!

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Dr David , I understand what you are seeking and I actually agree with you as regards the rural areas . I am not unsympathetic , I live in a rural area now, But the public mind-set is still in the public ownership state of mind as regards BT even though they voted for it to become a private company , they dont understand other private companies wont take over their lines because of lack of profit . In the US this thought process doesn’t exist and I know that both individual States + the Federal Government help new enterprises -through grants to establish their businesses and yet this country is trying to do it “on the cheap ” by shifting the blame even though America is the “Home of Capitalism ” .The UK copies a lot of US legislation but they wont copy this type and it is holding back small businesses from developing , many going into bankruptcy without adequate grants and yet travel over the border and Holyrood is helping small businesses by slashing or abolishing business rates for 100,0000 premises -saving small businesses £1.2 billion , so I am left scratching my head that a Westminster government that is pretty far right-wing is giving less help for those businesses than -a supposed left-wing Scottish government . They are actually working in co-ordination with BT Scotland to extent both FTTC and FTTP in outlying areas through direct taxation -ie-grants from the Scottish publics purse ,something very unacceptable here in England. I know the vision is that the UK should be seen as a cutting edge/ leading technology country but it will never be achieved if political factors come into it and I think TM should be a bit more “open-minded” and have a higher field of vision of this countries prosperity in the long run instead of listening to the City.

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If we are to believe what Ofcom are saying, there will be 95% superfast broadband access availability for homes and offices by the end of 2017. I have my doubts but am prepared to give Ofcom the benefit of the doubt at this stage because I am not in possession of the facts. I am hoping the Chief Executive will take the opportunity of her Conversation here to confirm the realistic position, until then everything else is speculation. I also wish to have it confirmed that it is the government that is paying for the roll-out into commercially unviable areas and not Openreach [which is merely the delivery organisation].

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John the latest info- November-2016 is that BT have provided £2.5 billion of its own money and various Broadband Delivery for the UK funds provided over £500 million for FTTC roll-out to 26 million UK addresses . A new government initiative will allow $400 million for small firms to roll-out FTTP , you can guess they will mostly be in urban areas . Gigaclear provides rural areas unlike the rest . Anybody saying -quote -FTTP can be installed for £500 better prove it to me in remote rural areas ,otherwise I will not believe it .

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For those who might wish to know more about the history of the UK’s telephone network there is an interesting factual TV programme coming up on BBC4 later this week.

In the ‘Timeshift’ strand, Dial “B” for Britain – the Story of the Landline will be broadcast at 21:00 on Thursday, 20 April.

It will probably have lots of archive footage to rekindle memories of when making a phone call was a serious matter.

For those who can’t take the excitement there are The Real Housewives of Cheshire on ITVBe at the same time.

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David says:
17 April 2017

Ofcom seems to me to be toothless and complacent. This article does nothing to dispel this impression.

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The endless BT/Openreach bashing has become a catch all for all broadband and phone complaints. I have lived in several different areas over the years and initially have always been seduced by the offers from the likes of Sky, Virgin, Orange etc, but in the end always wind up with BT, why? because if you have a problem with the other providers their standard response is to blame BT and then you wait and wait and wait.

I tried Virgin when I lived in Plymouth, their own fibre to the house, foolishly I believed that if they controlled the whole process it would be better, when it worked it was very fast indeed, but reliable? No chance and their customer support was appalling.

I have lived in Crete for the winter, high speed broadband and good mobile coverage everywhere, why? My guess would be either Government or EU funding.

But of course the UK is all about using competition to drive down prices, and yes we have some of the cheapest broadband in the EU area judging by my experiences in France, Greece & Spain but they have the edge on coverage because either their Governments or the EU fund it. In a typical British way we want something for nothing and no surprises there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

I wonder if the separating of Open Reach from BT will improve things or will the law of unintended consequences throw up some other problem.

I’m a staunch Which? supporter but when it comes to their BT bashing I think they are way off beam.

In the days of ISDN I lived at the end of some 11 miles of copper wire from the exchange, my BT engineer with whom I was on first name terms tested every pair of wires to our village to find the best pair for us. He had a tester identifying how many joins there were, all he could say was that there were over a thousand! The point being BT really went the extra mile for us, that none of the other suppliers were even prepared to look at supplying us with a service and that remained the case when we swapped to broadband and until the installation of a Wide Area Network remained the only real stable broadband.

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Very well put Peter and exactly in line with my thinking and outpourings on Which . This has built up to a crescendo of near hysteria instead of down to earth logical thinking and it doesn’t take much thinking of the “policies ” behind it . It never changes in this country , “wind up” the population ” – hang ,em – get rid ,and so on and yet they criticise other countries for doing the same. This “strategy ” is well known in American politics and Big Advertising -USA . Yes Crete is well covered for broadband -approx 6 million users-fixed broadband – 2.5 million subscribers -wireless/microwave -4.8 million (nearly double the fixed broadband ) and yes Peter extensive use of fibre – due to —yes again Peter – EDF help+government help , and even better NO big Brother restricting your access to websites like here . As our thinking will never change it will always be -sell-off etc and then complain when its not the rosy eventuality they all thought , but Reality. IF I could have given you 2 thumbs up I would , at least I am not a lone voice in Britain-thanks !

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Notice how Ms. White talks about household coverage? Fine for fixed line broadband but mobile coverage should onlly talk about geographical coverage. We are constantly told that we will inhabit a wireless society soon.

I don’t know about anyone else’s experience but whilst I may soon have a good 4g signal in my home, that is hardly the point, the clue is in the name of the device attached to it: MOBILE phone. Without good geographical coverage the modern smart phone is little more than a gimmick, because you can’t rely on it.

There are still areas of no coverage on our major motorways and A roads. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that the Government has banned the use of mobiles whilst driving? :-). (Joke OK?)

I’ve been living in Crete for the winter, even at the bottom of the Irini Gorge yesterday I had a mobile signal almost all of the time, in the UK you can’t get a signal on some parts of the M25, which in hour will see more people than that gorge has since it was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago!

Even in towns often the most reliable internet connection is the local hotspot provided by the, cafe, shop or restaraunt that you are in or near.

A long time ago there was talk of the paperless office and most of us don’t get anywhere near that 40 years later, so what chance of a reliable, universal, wireless society? About the same as faster than light travel or a StarTrek Teleporter 🙂

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“Two years ago we said that broadband and mobile had become essential services. As much a necessity as gas…”

I agree entirely 😉

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Like bus services. But they aren’t always as good as we would like. Gas is not universal, nor is mains drainage and to some even electricity. I’d place NHS, education, social services, housing above broadband in the “essential” priority. Are mobiles essential? Only for emergency I would suggest, the rest of the time they are a great convenience. Is broadband essential – there are ways we can manage without it if we must and certainly we can get by on slow broadband if that is all there is. I think “essential” needs to be thought about in the bigger picture.

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As I see it:

Water is regarded as so essential that, even if you are in “water poverty” and cannot pay your water bill, your supplier cannot disconnect you. (But they can, and probably will, sell your debts to debt collection agencies.)

Electricity is less essential than water – if you are in “fuel poverty” your supplier is allowed to put you on a pre-payment meter, with punitive charges for what you already owe, and your supply is disconnected each time you run out of both normal (and emergency) credit.

Gas is not essential – many homes are “all electric”. In the future, gas may even be phased out, to reduce CO2 emissions.

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Sharon White says:
around 5% of homes and offices can’t get decent broadband of 10Mbps.
and
The USO complements the government’s pre-existing commitments to make superfast broadband available to 95% of homes and offices by the end of 2017

Does this mean the same 5% will be missing out again?

Someone recently reported they would never be able to switch provider after having fast broadband installed by BT. Is this really true? I would hope not.

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Ah, more newspeak:

Universal availability = 95% availability

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I have posted ad infinitum on 2 points in Which .One is that under new regulations , if a new area /estate/ land /etc wants telecommunications via underground cables that ANY ISP/Telephone company can apply to the owners of the works going on to build new houses etc . That application is to install services including telephone lines , usually its the estates company who approach the telephone company . It can be BT/Virgin Media or a host of small companies round London for new building entry. IN a large majority of the cases ALL the companies say NO ! .Why because their is all new works involved to get permission to dig up new land/roads install ducting/manholes / and then a cabinet if required .If it is remote them multiple telephone poles have to be installed . Cable and ducting into most houses on new estates have to be dug , not only is this time consuming but it is a massive job employing teams of different sections of the telephone company working for months and why hasn,t it sunk into those with degrees in Engineering accountancy that massive amounts of money are laid out ? All the same BT is legally oblidged to ask every ISP /etc IF they want to contribute financially to it —NONE of them do- too dear-no profit- shareholders wont allow -etc -etc -etc . IN that case BT (quite rightly IMHO has the full legal/exclusive rights to that particular area , and before you all start screaming -sell-off BT to the USA – gues what -Virgin Media not only have the same rights but they dont need to ask others to join them AND there are many areas in England where VM has exclusive rights to that area . Why hasn’t this sunk in ?? I am talking to intelligent people here , Everyone of you know BT is a private company , every one of you know you voted for it to be privatised – then after years – you start screaming about BT NOT acting like a publicly owned company -come on -get real ! I agree with Derek on Government propaganda/fake news /etc and again I have asked continually/unceasingly / without end—WHO pays for that “5 % ” , which as I have said continually are mostly those living miles from a cabinet with upteen telephone poles which will cost very large sums of money NOT the Fake-News/ propaganda -saying -it will only cost £500 , if any body says-yes it will, PROVE it to me on a commercial economic engineering basis .

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My estate was build 6 years ago, with both Virgin and BT / Openreach providing connections to all the houses.

So, if I took out a Virgin subscription, I would be able to get “superfast broadband” . Until I do this, Virgin are kind enough to mailshot me twice a month as “the householder”, just so I won’t forget them. Perhaps one day I’ll take up their offer…

It seems to be that, if our government really wanted to provide broadband everywhere, they could easily split off Openreach from the retail side of BT and then operate Openreach in the manner of the National Grid or Network Rail, i.e. as an infrastructure business, free of any retail interests.

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And the 10,000,s of BT pensioners in Britain Derek ? Are you saying that a private company can be completely cut in half by the government and sold of to the Americans ? If you nave the choice of two providers in your area on your estate it must be before the new regulations , and do you think its okay for VM to take over BT lines when BT CANT do the same to Virgin Media lines?

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Derek – That is just about what is happening to Openreach following its detachment from BT Group [except at the very highest level]. It is still wholly owned by BT Group but must operate separately and serve all telecom service providers equally without favour. It will have its own independent Board and corporate structure including financial control, human resources, technical operations, and overall management. I notice that its vans are already starting to reflect this.

This development was brought about at the behest of Ofcom. The Regulator found that there was substance in the complaints of other telecom service providers that Openreach – while it remained closely connected to BT – was not being even-handed in dealing with installations and repairs required by other companies and was causing delays and extra costs. Under the threat of a compulsory break-up, BT Group decided to make alterations to the corporate structures that would satisfy the Regulator.

Only BT Group can sell itself or any of its subsidiaries to other interests – the government no longer has any control as it is an entirely privately-owned company.

On the question of line transfers, the Regulator has consistently considered that BT Group still has overwhelming economic power within the telecoms industry and is well over the technical definition of a monopoly in terms of its network and resources. It has therefore maintained a state of capacity moderation between BT [now Openreach] and other operators to prevent any increase of that dominance and enable a more balanced industry to prevail. I consider that to be in the overall interests of consumers. It explains why BT is seeking revenues in other directions like subscription TV channels in which it is investing heavily.

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To answer Duncan’s questions:

“And the 10,000,s of BT pensioners in Britain Derek ? ”

I would expect any government led demergers to make appropriate and fair pension provisions. For example, this was done during the privatisation of parts of UKAEA.

“Are you saying that a private company can be completely cut in half by the government and sold of to the Americans ? ”

First part: Yes, if it is held to be in our national interest by legislation passed through parliament.

Second part: As vital UK infrastructure, some form of Government control would be needed, much as is exercised over key defence industry companies. This can take many forms, ranging from full nationalised ownership, golden shares or even strong and effective regulation.

Subsidiary question: I never mentioned the Americans, why do you think our government want to sell anything specifically to them, as opposed to the highest bidder?

“If you nave the choice of two providers in your area on your estate it must be before the new regulations , and do you think its okay for VM to take over BT lines when BT CANT do the same to Virgin Media lines?”

No – that doesn’t sound fair to me. Perhaps we should be splitting VM as well…

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Well put, Derek.

It is impossible to forecast what would happen to the 300,000 BT Group pensioners in any future corporate scenario; this is a controversial matter affecting lots of companies that have pension fund deficits, and the BT deficit is colossal. So far as I am aware, BT Group has always been honourable in meeting its obligations and is in the process of restoring the actuarial capacity of its funds. But that does not mean there won’t be changes to the schemes over time in line with economic circumstances. One would hope that, in the event of a sale or break-up, the shareholders would insist on fair treatment of retired employees already in receipt of benefits. It’s a pity that so many employees and other shareholders sold their stakes for quick profits as they can no longer influence affairs. I don’t believe there is any real likelihood of major change on the current horizon.

BT Group is not the government’s to sell; it belongs to its millions of shareholders, many of which are foreign. I don’t think the government even has its ‘golden share’ any more, but, as Derek rightly says, there are protections in place concerning the UK’s strategic interests and any critical infrastructure would presumably be isolated and excluded from a sale [I would expect the identification of this and the mechanism for doing so are already well developed]. The only real government threat to BT Group would be if it abused its monopoly position and an enforced break-up was dictated. This could follow action by Ofcom and/or the Competition & Markets Authority but BT Group has so far staved off any such action. I suggested previously why BT [Openreach] was barred from taking over other operators’ infrastructure while they were free to access or acquire Openreach facilities; it is to improve the balance of power between the different companies.

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“around 5% of homes and offices can’t get decent broadband of 10Mbps”.
For many years I did OK on <4 Mbps without noticeable harm. What was I missing out on that was "essential"?

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Perhaps little, as long as your patience was legendary. But the simple fact is the world is adapting to faster broadband and the assumptions that underlie that adaptation are making faster speeds not a useful option but more of a necessity. We’ve just lost our only ‘local’ bank – and that was three miles away. Banking online is now the only realistic option and, as security features become more entrenched, servers have to be faster to respond and line speed faster to convey the responses. Bit of a vicious circle, but that’s life in the fast – or slow – lane.

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For many people, telephone banking is now the only option and I hope that continues to be available as not everyone will be able to use internet banking or be able to afford to do so.

It will be interesting to see when my generation, who were eager early adopters of new technology, will start to retreat as the cost of running even the simplest system – ISP charges, electricity, paper ink and electricity – keeps rising, and the cost and complexity of any replacement kit and its associated software become prohibitive.

There is a prevailing assumption that we will keep going until the end of our lives. Many will, and there are plenty of examples of us septuagenarians furiously pounding our keyboards every day for pleasure and for personal administration purposes. The 80+ age group came too early to be swept along by the computer revolution that took place in workplaces but many have become very adept and their lives have been enriched. But there is another group in their sixties, who were largely employed in manual trades and outdoor occupations, who are not interested in going beyond simple applications on the smart phone. How will the business world adapt to the changing scenario? Does it even recognise that there will be a change in activity characteristics? Effective internet use also depends heavily on literacy and numeracy, and the UK has been struggling with these for two generations or more; that might have an influence in due course.

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The maps of the distribution of cell-net masts in the UK has been the subject of a Freedom of Information attempt . While any cell-net provider can volunteer to provide info OFCOM have stated that releasing the co-ordinates would adversely affect public safety and provide assistance to criminals .Each mobile operator owns the intellectual rights to the source data and disclosure would affect those rights . OFCOM cannot +will not disclose the National data base . I have the full statement if anybody wants it , bottom line —what you get on the mobile operators maps is not all that is really present. A vast dis-service is being done by trying to put all the mobile problems on BT,s back , obviously none of you have heard of Vodaphone and all the rest.

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Presumably the mobile operators’ maps show their own transmitters [or those that they are willing to disclose]. It would not surprise me if there were many more used for bespoke purposes or under contract to other communication organisations. I doubt if Ofcom has the right to reveal the locations of the masts and towers for commercial confidentiality reasons but, as you say, there is no reason why the owners or users could not do so if they wished to – the location of masts carrying customers’ cell-phone traffic is not a state secret.

Some masts or installations are operated by other service companies on behalf of mobile phone companies; until a few years ago we lived near a water tower that accumulated more and more transmitters and microwave dishes, all anonymous to the passer-by but obviously all assigned to particular cell-phone operators. This array was managed and maintained by an independent company. There must have been some complicated equipment in the ground-level structure that unscrambled the bundles of signals coming in through a microwave link and relayed them to the appropriate transmitters for direction to cell-phones, and in reverse received the cell-phone signals and routed them to the receiving phones via other masts or towers. It is a highly complex and fascinating process that we take for granted, but is mainly used for fairly trivial communications.

I cannot believe there is not also a network of classified transmitters used for governmental, security and military communications. There are probably enthusiasts who try to identify and log these installations and work out who is using them.

Duncan – I was not aware that anyone was “trying to put all the mobile problems on BT’s back”, or is BT carrying cell-net traffic on behalf of other companies? After shedding O2 many years ago and until recently with the acquisition of EE, BT has had little to do with mobile services so your comment surprised me. I am also mystified by your comment “obviously none of you have heard of Vodafone and all the rest”: who are the “none of you”? You seem to have taken to addressing other contributors at large and berating them for their views on telecom services. In a previous post you said “Why hasn’t this sunk in ?? I am talking to intelligent people here , Everyone of you know BT is a private company , every one of you know you voted for it to be privatised – then after years – you start screaming about BT NOT acting like a publicly owned company -come on -get real! ” – What’s that all about? Get angry by all means, but please don’t take it out on other contributors who are entitled to write what they feel.

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Posters are perfectly entitled to write what they feel. no argument on that score John but I have noticed when its not BT that is the ISP/carrier/ telephone company many dont mention the company they are with so it looks skewed against BT , they seem reluctant to do see and the main target presented is BT , like a red flag to a bull. The only answer (with some small exceptions ) is get rid of BT/Openreach never thinking its a private company and they all voted for it to become one , and when it acts like one – its-evil BT/I hate BT /etc . All thats missing is the headlines- – gather together all ye people of this country while we bring those miscreants to justice at our guillotine is set up to behead them , seats are available for those older women to sit knitting at Tower Gate – a la- French Revolution who can shout -a bas le BT (down with BT ) as the heads roll , the usual vendors will be present providing victuals to help keep the public’s cries in full voice.

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I see what you’re saying, Duncan, and I have some sympathy with your objections to the one-sided comments. So far as BT [and from now on Openreach as the major infrastructure provider] is concerned, it goes with the territory; the organisation has a dominant position and manages a network far bigger than all the other telecom service providers put together so it will always get some flak. I would hope that following the ring-fencing of Openreach the service to other operators will get better, the relationship will improve, and the blame culture will abate. The fact remains, however, that the majority of households will receive their broadband and telecom services through fibre and copper owned and maintained by Openreach and that 99% [I’m guessing] of trunk distribution will be routed by Openreach. I agree with you that the other network operators should now grow up and accept their responsibilities. The sooner we get some updates from Ofcom on the broadband roll-out the sooner everyone can stop speculating about who’s doing what and why [or, more to the point, who’s NOT doing what and why not].

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I think OFCOM needs to do more to prevent a lack updating of technology and a lack of innovation. We need a fast, secure and up to date network. Not a shoestring network with routers at risk of hacking.

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Sarah Gregory says:
25 April 2017

I cant get fibre optic in my area of harwich im behind asda supermarket and everytime i look to see if i can get fibre optic i get told no sorry was promised my area would get it last summer but nothing happened and still waiting. My broadband is rubbish and ive rung up so many times asking it to be sorted had two engineers booked only for bt to cancel them and suffering from a slow connection for weeks on end with endless calls and nothing was done

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lynne short says:
25 April 2017

Yes our broadband speed is slower than what we were told it would be, also the customer service staff are all foreign and don’t speak very good English and struggle to understand what we say to them. also they charged us double for the first month bill.

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Although the Government said that they were upgrading the internet to help rural areas, we are at the “end of the line”, so although we are connected to a box, we won’t be activated for fibre until 2020. Our download speed 1.19 Mbps and our upload speed is587.44 kbps (which is quite good today). We pay the same as everyone else, but can’t get good deals without having fibre. Id like to see poor speeds get a lower charge, but sure that will never happen.

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Stephen says:
25 April 2017

After switching to Virgin from BT LESS than a year ago my household has “enjoyed” no less than 6 broadband and telephone No Service issues,some taking as much as 2 weeks to resolve – one occasion we waited for an engineer to arrive but nobody came (10 day wait for engineer appointment) so we called to see why nobody had attended – the reply was,staggeringly,that the appointment had been cancelled because “nobody had answered the telephone to confirm the engineers visit” – when idiots such as this are employed by the firms there really is NOT a chance in a million of a successful outcome – the ONLY resolution is to leave,yet again,and find another provider.

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Graham Townsend says:
25 April 2017

I have changed internet suppliers several times, I live in BN2 area of Brighton, I am informed the sub station is too far away, I oftern get a notice up, NO INTERNET, it is not always that there isn’t any, often it is so little there as not to register & takes an age just to get the e mails up, as for down loading a video clip, it can take over 3 minutes to down load 5.0 m clip, I have complained to Plus net they were the worst & never replied, the best were Sky & have sent BT & their own people but it is better for a couple of weeks then back again to the rubbish downloading

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Giuseppe (Joe) Turi says:
25 April 2017

‘sometimes’, ‘at least from one’. Anything less than 100% is poor performance and unacceptable. Why 100% of 100% cannot be achieved ? We have been promised it and we are paying for it through our noses (at least I am).

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Tony says:
25 April 2017

You don’t go to the supermarket to but a car any more than you go to a train station to buy a car ! BT are primarily a landline phone system and EE a mobile phone company …… so why choose them or those like them to provide your internet connectivity ? If you want good internet, use an Internet Service Provider (the clue is in their name) who only specialise in Internet — if you use a “jack of all trades” supplier who provide everything but none of it very well then expect a mediocre service & don’t complain about what you get. If you want ‘cheap’ connectivity then be happy with a cheap service with issues.

10+ years with Zen Internet. £35 a month, 9/76 (upload/download) speeds at all times of the day, unscripted support who KNOW what they are talking about & fix issues fast (not that they happen much – twice in 10 years) — Conclusion : You get what you pay for after you’ve chosen a supplier with a good solid reputation

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Lara Croft says:
25 April 2017

We’re customers of Talktalk and apparently do have fibre, though you wouldn’t know it. I’ve complained about the so-called service a number of times – we’re now on our third router (all have been exactly the same model) – each time, the call centre operative tells me they will send us a “new, SUPER router” which is never super, never better than the previous one supplied. I have an on-going complaint which is going to the ombudsman as the next step. At one point, when I complained to Talktalk customer service about the Wifi signal dropping constantly and not being consistent as a decent provision of service, the operative told me that “wifi is not a guaranteed service that we provide, it is just a ‘nice-to-have’ part of the Talktalk broadband offering”. To be sure of a connection, I should only be using a wired connection for all my devices. I asked them to put that in writing to me but that has never arrived.

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Mo White says:
25 April 2017

I’m with BT and I think they are deliberately slowing things down in order to get you to upgrade. My BT mail is so so slow, the only things that move are the numerous ads on the page. The ads work quicly but nothing else does.

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Drayton Bird says:
25 April 2017

What is Ofcom? What is its point? What has it achieved? What would be lost if it were not there? Another body that costs money, has no power and provides jobs for people who know people who know the right people.

Member
Brian Gerrard says:
25 April 2017

I have recently moved from TalkTalk as there backup service is so bad. I reported a line fault, they insisted that they send one of their engineers out to check it there was anything in the house was at fault. Told them that I was an electronic design engineer throughout my working career and I had been with the Pc since its innovation by IBM. This fell on deaf ears, engineer came out, the problem was TalkTalk in their infinite wisdom had changed their address protocol for the router. I could not use my ones that I have used for years. Still had problems with the line as it was intermittent, Open Reach came out and could find nothing wrong (as the faut was not there at the time). The line went totally dead with no phone or internet. I contacted them and told them I had no phone or internet and that I now had a permanent line fault. Every time I phoned they told me it was being investigated by there team, this went on for weeks. I then contacted another ISP and told them the problem, they said no problem we can get an engineer out and install a 2nd line. Pointing out that if there was no problem with my line it would cost me £43. This was on the Wednesday, the OpenReach engineer came on the FRiday installed the second line and informed me that my original line had 2 faults, one being in the underground cable. Now have excellent internet, I feel that both OFCOM and Advertising Standards do not have the power or will not use it. There are companies out there that cannot support their claims and as such should be banned from advertising until such times as they are sorted out. Complaints are growing exponentially because they cannot keep up with existing clients.

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This Conversation is entering its third week and there has still been no feedback from Ofcom to the scores of questions and complaints that have been raised by contributors. This is not fair to the many people who expect Which? to provide answers to questions either directly or through the guest writers who have been invited to present a Conversation piece. It must create a poor impression for new entrants to the community who are probably wondering why they bothered. The experience of residents in all corners of the UK seems to be completely at variance to what we are being told by Ofcom and the operators on both broadband and mobile services so some explanations are long overdue.

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I would like to see the Convo editors require that an author replies, or gets someone to reply, to all legitimate questions that are asked – whether the authors are guest or staff. It is very frustrating to be ignored, and to have a conversation hindered. Perhaps @patrick would like to give a view?

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I second that malcolm , I post answers to many questions but get very little feedback or replies , its a good job I have plenty of determination.

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I am continuing the discussion in this thread in the Conversation “Welcome to the new Which? Conversation” as it would probably not be appropriate to air my views as a digression in this Conversation. See : https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/#comment-1484068

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Patrick says:
25 April 2017

Whilst you have a corrupt Tory government whos’ mantra is ‘Greed is Good’ you will always get ripped -off. The Tories are not going to upset their paymasters.

Member
Francoise WELCH says:
25 April 2017

Our Broadband service is provided by Virgin and we think we are having a fast and reliable broadband service. But then there might be better providers in this industry, but we are not aware.

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If you are experiencing fast and reliable service with your present supplier I would not look elsewhere, Francoise.

Member
Goman says:
25 April 2017

Just stop messing about and get our telecoms renationalised. If our politicians spent only a fraction of the time and money they are wasting on the Brexit fiasco and applied their minds to sorting out this mess, we would all be a lot better off!