The Sad State of British Broadband

I suppose I should change the title; it’s unfair to blame the broadband provider[0] and exclude the misdeeds of 3G/4G providers.

I have been at odds with the only true ADSL provider in the UK for some time. In fact, for as long as I’ve lived in the Capital.
I’ve lived in Lewisham (SE13), Aldgate (E1), and I’ve been living in Bow (E3) since July of last year and during this time I have achieved the average speed of 0.21Mb/s (yes, bits).

4G Rollout #

During this time 4G was rolled out across London, and despite not having signal in my home, I can in fact, use this new technology.

However this rollout has been delayed by almost 2 years, there was an auction for the 4g spectrum from ofcom[1], however, “EE” (formerly T-mobile and Orange) seem to have deployed nearly a year before anyone else. Whether that was ability or willingness I’ll never know. (my initial guess was that the company formed a new name to avoid the auction and use the spectrum anyway, however this was tinfoil hat-guy thinking: they got special permission).

EE started by charging heinous premiums for anyone wanting to use the full power of their new smartphones and only offering 24 month contracts at inflated rates. The short-sighted suffered, and others were basically told to wait an indefinite period of time.

More recently, however, other providers have started deploying 4G LTE across the city; This is fantastic news for those using “3UK”. The Hong Kong owned company has offered free 4G upgrades to all, and no data caps.. ever.
This seems to come at a sacrifice to the previous generations 3G speed, disabling 4G on my phone yields absolutely awful results for throughput: 0.20Mb/s down. (I should note I only tested this from EC2 and E1/E3)

I should also note that I get on average 6Mb/s down on 4G with 3, which is not the peak of the spectrum by any means. In fact in Sweden you’ll get that same speed on 3G, and I would speculate that the speed will decrease further once more people have access to handsets with 4G.

3G speeds aren’t the end of the world, but for an internet denizen such as myself, landline broadband is.

Openreach; BT by another name #

This, despite the title, it’s not a secret at all. Proudly posted on the engineers white vans is the slogan “Openreach; a BT group business”. I suppose my gripes really start and end with that fact.

Many years ago it became apparent that the previously state owned telecoms company BT, owned a disproportionate amount of copper (phone lines), so they forced the company to play nice with others… BT in response decided to give all its copper to their new child company Openreach (which now sells infrastructure) to bypass fulfil this decree.

However, the reach of fibre isn’t very wide, so ADSL+ (all of which owned by openreach) is the only option available… and it seems in area’s that the competitor (Virgin) deploy FTTC; BT follows.. which means BT aren’t cornering any markets.. and those with fibre have a choice of providers, while those without fibre are left with the oversubscribed ADSL+, which, leaves people (me) with pre-dial-up speeds in all but the most late of hours.

In fact, this very minute my girlfriend is trying desperately to facetime her mother (who lives in the relatively better connected Estonia).

This isn’t just me, however, I’ve met only a handful of people who are able to receive decent broadband in zone 1-3.. My neighbours have resorted to using a USB 3G device rather than pay the hefty sums for broadband; and to avoid the obligatory 18 month contract - and bandwidth and latency are superior if you can get a decent signal.

It actually pains me to think that an economic multiplier such as the internet is so horrendously poor in the Capital of what is considered to be a very rich country, in fact, my building, which is new (built: 2010) has such poor connectivity that I’m unable to stream music and browse the internet at the same time, youtube is a no-go, in fact depending on the internet at all is a fools errand.

I’m a Systems Admin, my job requires me to both be in London to work, and be on call 24/7, if I cannot respond to outages because BT dropped the route for my connection to the datacenter (this happens… often); or my network is completely down (also happened, three times), with no communication and for days on end.. I’m forced to leave the city because I cannot fulfil my end of the bargain - if there is literally no alternative within reasonable allowances* that allow me to access the internet.

If Britain wants to capitalise on its tech segment (think: silicone roundabout) then why are they not investing in its infrastructure?

* Reasonable Allowances are up to and including 30% of my take home salary, such as a leased line which would cost £2,000 a month. (80% of my take-home)


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