BT Rant - FTTC for CMSPR / Hall Green and Springfield in Birmingham


When I heard that BT was going to roll out Fibre to my local telephone exchange the CMSPR "Springfield" exchange, I was absolutely delighted.

I don't like Virgin cable, and quite frankly being the second city, the fibre rollout by BT has been appalling. Other more rural locations were getting it before us. 

But first the Exchange became marked as a Future Exchange and I remained patient. It then rolled over to a "Coming Soon" exchange and would be enabled by the end of September 2013. Brilliant News. I can finally move away from ADSL2+ and with BeThere being sold off to Sky, it's a good change to migrate to a new service.

Far be it from me to be ignorant of how they install fibre, I've read up on how other people get their cabinets installed. Sometimes a contractor plonks a cabinet on the ground then come back weeks later to dig up and install power, trunking to BT man holes for routing cable then weeks and months later, possibly fibre.

In our area, things seemed to be moving a little free-er. The cabinet installers were doing an amazing job and were installing the new FTTC cabinets with break neck speed. They dug the ground, the trenches, laid the foundations, connected the power, put trunking to the BT manholes and filled in the ground. They did this really qucikly and very impressibly. Even a cabinet that seemingly had blocked trunking was dug up a week later and relaid. I spotted cables installing fibre a few days later and suddenly the first few cabinets came live.

Within two weeks, we had 10 cabinets go live. It seemed there was a real push to get everything installed and connected. Cabinets 26, 8, 9 and 10 which run east to west on Cole Bank Road, School Road and Lakey Lane were enabled, then Cabinet 1 on College Road in Springfield was enabled and that was a mile north of the Exchange on Stratford Road. 

I was seeing cable installers in the area and it was always amazing to see the next new cabinet go live on the BT DSL Checker. But then it all went quiet. I stopped seeing the engineers and there was very little progress being made anywhere else. The rollout schedule stopped making any sense. They had enabled Cabinet 3 and 6 on Stratford Road between Cabinet 1 and the Exchange, 15 on Hamlet Road and 16 on Highfield Road near Stratford Road. The last one I saw go live was 23 on Fox Hollies Road opposite York Road, and that was after waiting a week on the DSL Checker.

We now have 11 Cabinets live after around four weeks (the first ten done in two weeks) and it looks like to me there's very little progress being made now. After cabinet 15, the fibre run goes past Cabinet 21 on Stratford Road and round the corner to Cabinet 16 on Highfield Road. It was after this that Cabinet 23 went live. This is when the roll out coverage started to confuse me because remaining cabinets on Stratford Road (30 and 21), Lakey Lane (24 and 25), Highfield Road and Robin Hood Lane (14, 22) were being overlooked despite being the most logical geographically.

Ten live cabinets in two weeks with a Cabinet 1 mile away being enabled, my Cabinet half a mile from the Exchange would be a cinch! The cabinet is in, power connected, shorter distance, easy.

After the two weeks, I noted a distinct lack of activity and to all intents and purposes, the fibre roll out had all but stopped apart from the odd cabinet here and there.

Other users say that there can be blockages, problems with ducting, power, problems with all sorts of stuff.

Given how quick the engineers were to install the cabinets in the first place and then enable those first ten, something smells distinctly fishy. The power is in, the cabinets are in, fibre cabinets are being bypassed so the next one can be enabled, so there's hardly a problem with trunking to the FTTC box. The cabinets don't stray near private property so no need for wayleaves. There's no conservation areas near by. Where is the original speed I saw?

Checking the DSL Checker, six cabinets have been pushed back another month, my cabinet with two others have been pushed by by three months! They've decided to install a cabinet opposite Cabinet 12 now, that's Cabinet 11. Cabinet 12 is scheduled for 31st December, but Cabinet 11 is scheduled for 31st May!

I'll probably get some spiel from BT about procedures and plans, but to be frank, the way the cabinets are being enabled, doesn't seem to follow any pattern except for density and potential revenue. I do not understand what will take upto three months to install my cabinet, let alone a month to install the other six given the close physical proximity of some of the other cabinets to existing infrastructure. They can install a cabinet a mile from the exchange and four cabinets east to west without problems, so what is causing so many problems with my cabinet (and indeed the others?). Unless there are major trunking problems, I actually suspect a massive planning failure and the only thing that's really important is to install around 10 cabinets, move on to the next exchange and move everything else back a few months. I suspect that when it comes to enabling my cabinet, they'll probably do it in a day with a short 0.4m fibre run to the main road.

Of course, BT might be justified and they will neeed to dig up the entire road and replace all the trunking.... but somehow I doubt it. The problem doesn't seem to me how long it takes as this can happen very quickly in my area, but there just doesn't seem to be any interest in BT to actually do this!

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