Superfast broadband upgrade: ‘Exchange only’ subscribers must wait longer

BT Openreach: Fibre broadband is here.

A “considerable number” of Bradley Stoke homes that are due to be connected to superfast fibre broadband through a state-aided investment programme will have to wait longer to receive the new service because they are on ‘exchange only’ (EO) lines, The Journal has learned.

The majority of phone lines are connected to a telephone exchange (in this case, Almondsbury) via a street cabinet, but EO lines are wired straight to the exchange without passing through a cabinet.

Because the upgrade work is being carried out using Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology, in which a new fibre cable is installed between the exchange and new ‘fibre-enabled’ cabinets sited alongside existing ‘copper’ cabinets, subscribers on EO lines will not benefit from the current phase of the project.

South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), which is overseeing and partly funding the work, says EO lines will be addressed in a later phase of the project that will see the existing copper network rearranged, making it possible to install completely new copper cabinets and new fibre-enabled cabinets at various locations in Bradley Stoke.

It is expected that the first households on cabinet-connected lines will be able to order new superfast broadband services from June 2014, but those on EO lines are unlikely to be able to upgrade until “autumn 2014” at the earliest, according to an SGC spokesperson.

The council is guaranteeing that all households within a defined state aid ‘intervention area’ will be able to receive the new service by May 2015.

For instructions on how to find out if you are on an EO line, visit our Superfast Broadband Upgrade Status page.

In a statement provided to The Journal on 21st February, an SGC spokesperson wrote:

The Superfast Broadband Deployment is progressing well. Surveying work started at the beginning of the year in Bradley Stoke and the locations for the first cabinets have now been planned. The fibre spine work in Bradley Stoke has also been completed and two cabinets in Almondsbury have been ‘stood’.

More cabinets are being stood in Almondsbury and Bradley Stoke over the next few weeks, which cover areas of Bradley Stoke including Brook Way, Bradley Stoke Way, The Common, Marjoram Place/ Webbs Wood Road, Woodlands Lane/ Ash Ridge Road and Florence Park. Once the cabinets are stood on their new concrete plinths, a number of other installation activities need to be completed before the cabinets are live and ready for service. A trench needs to be dug between both cabinets and the nearest suitable power supply, and a new fibre connection is then installed. These are stages in the ‘big build’ process. These new fibre cabinets will be ready to accept orders from Summer 2014.

Because Bradley Stoke is such a large and complex deployment, the new fibre network will be installed in phases. The Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) phase mentioned above will be completed first. This is where new fibre-enabled cabinets are installed (stood) close to the existing copper cabinets. The installation activities then need to be completed before the cabinet is live and ready for service.

As you know, ‘exchange only’ (EO) lines are more complicated and, in order to install the new fibre in the most cost-effective way, as part of the council’s project we need to re-arrange the existing copper network in those areas, to make it possible to install new copper cabinets and new fibre-enabled cabinets. Installing two new structures requires more planning, surveying and civil work. The EO lines will then be connected to the exchange via these new street cabinets, which will hugely improve speeds. This is a significant engineering task which will take time to plan and deploy. We are the first project in the south of the country to use this solution which, once completed, will provide a long-term solution to the historically problematic EO lines situation in Bradley Stoke.

All cabinets installed as part of the Superfast Broadband Project will be live and ready for service by March 2015. Surveying of the EO lines is ongoing. The surveying includes planning the network, surveying underground ducts and deciding where the new copper and fibre-enabled street cabinets will go. As part of this surveying we are assessing the number of EO lines in Bradley Stoke, of which we believe there to be a considerable number.

A Bradley Stoke resident received more details from an SGC spokesperson in an email sent on 24th February:

Currently it is anticipated that the first EO line cabinets will be installed in Bradley Stoke in Autumn 2014, but this is subject to the results of the planning and surveying work that still needs to be carried out.

Please be assured that the solution for the EO lines in Bradley Stoke is a priority for the project, and work is ongoing to ensure the deployment is as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

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  1. I have had it finally confirmed today that I will not be getting Superfast Broadband. I live in a postcode (Pursey Drive) which is seen as commercially viable (Virgin Cabled Postcode) but my address is non serviceable. Although I am on an exchange only line there will be no way that the BDUK project can help me. Is anybody else in the same situation? I would like to hear from you, perhaps we can from an action group?

  2. What do you mean your address is non-serviceable?

    Pursey Drive is one of the oldest streets in Bradley Stoke and there should be a United Artists cable along the whole length.

  3. @ Simon – my property is in one of the caldis it’s one of the two beds with a driveway and private parking. The nearest ducting is on the other side of the drive way VM have said that the construction work required to lay a cable is not cost effective. Very disappointed and I am wondering how many others are in a similar situation.

  4. Thanks for the update.

    Still surprised that UA did not connect you up in the 90s.

    All I can suggest is that you contact SGC and ask what is being done for people EO lines within who have no access to cable.

    BT will be rolling out mini-cabinets to enable FTTC for people with EO lines. You will need to get SGC to confirm if you will be covered by this.

  5. Matt. We were in a similar position -in Arden Close. We were on an EO line with BT and dismal internet service. Our shared driveway left us too far from the VM cable. They surveyed years ago and turned us down. But, more recently we had our part of the drive relaid and in keeping with current regs, it has a drainage gully/grid at the edge joining with our neighbour. In December, it occurred to is that we now had a shorter route to the VM cable. The VM postcode checker still said no, but we rang them to discuss. We had VM installed a week later. Up to 60 Mbps. Happy days!

  6. Personally, I’d keep at Virgin. I know several people who have managed to get them to do complex installs if you push the right buttons. Perhaps try the old trick of emailing the CEO?

  7. Thanks all, @Sandra, That is good news, I shall certainly keep pushing them and try the CEO trick suggested by Toxteth. @Simon, Council has confirmed that no work for FTTC will be carried out on my postcode.

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