BT FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) 900

I have lived in a new build house for nearly 6 years. I have had an interesting broadband journey during this time and being a techie, the prospect of having full fibre excited me when it became available.

When I first moved into the property we were graced with 6Mbps download and this cause a lot of issues for me, being heavy on home automation, an early adopter of Sky Q etc, watching a UHD movie was an event that required planning and an overnight download session.

About three years ago, Openreach announced that it was planning to install “Superfast” into our housing estate and a new cabinet was installed on the entrance to our hosing estate. I embarked on a daily check of the Openreach website and on the day it showed available called NowTV (who I was with at the time) and promptly upgraded to FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) Superfast broadband.

Having switched to Vodafone a little over a year ago, Superfast has felt a little lacklustre to me, and we have only seen speeds of around 55Mbps. Following letters to MP’s, Assembly Members (I live in North Wales) and to Openreach itself, we were advised that we would be an Ultrafast FTTP area and this would be rolled out in 2021.

Two weeks ago (May 2021) I checked the Openreach website and found that FTTP had become available. After trying to upgrade with Vodafone, and finding that they cannot provide the fastest speeds, decided that I would buy my way out of my contract and placed an order with BT, for full fibre 900. This is 900 Mbps down and 110 Mbps up.

I placed the order early on a Thursday morning. Openreach attended my house to install the fibre cable thru the undergrounding ducting to my front door, the very next day! I then had to wait 2 weeks for Openreach to attend my home and install the cable and ONT (Optical Network Termination) box into my home.

On install day to my disappointment a contractor (Quinn Communications) working on behalf of BT attended to install. However I think retrospectively this disappointment was unfounded as the engineer was very helpful and did the job to a high standard.

The install took around 3 hours as there are a number of steps that need to be done:

  • The fibre / copper hybrid cable needs to be stripped down
  • A new CSP box had to be installed on the outside of the house
  • A ONT needed to be installed inside my home
  • An “inner” fibre cable needed to be ran from the CSP to the ONT and this required the a hole being drilled and the cable cleating along the skirting board and around the living room door
  • The inner fibre cable and the outer fibre cable need splicing and covering and installed into the CSP (this was absolutely fascinating to watch, given the layers of protection that need to be stripped back to get to the fibre cable and the fact that the cable is only the width of a human hair!)

This is where the fun has began. There is no doubt that the speed is so much faster than the “Superfast” 55Mbps speed I had previously. I just don’t know how fast. Some users of the service has posted on BT forums issues where online speed tests are showing only 450Mbps, and this is happening to me.

Most people seem to believe that this is due to limitations with the BT Superhub 2, and to be honest I would agree with this. Some of the issues I have are around the limitations with the setup you can make, for example you cannot separate the 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz bands, you can have one or the other or a combined SSID, but cannot split them out. Likewise you cannot change the DNS server on the router to use Cloudflare or Google.

I am yet to tackle the speed issue with BT but plan on doing so next week, the main source of frustration is that I cannot see the sync speed of the ONT, as the router plugs into this and just shows 1Gbps as it is a Gigabit port. When you try to run a diagnostic via the router interface, the BT system tells you that the speed that I am getting is about the speed guarantee, however it refuses point blank to tell me what it is.

The service costs £60 per month, plus £15 for unlimited calls, so this sits firmly in the primum service category in my book, so I expect primum service when I contact them. It is a shame at BT try to sell you lots of optional extras, that by-in-large are not required, such as 4G backup (BT Halo) or charge you an extra fee each month for mesh WiFi disks (£10 for this), maybe useful if you live in a Manson or an old Victorian house with thick walls, but defiantly not required for me in my 3 bed semi that has powerline adaptors and Cat 5e cabling anyway.

I will update this as I have more information to see if I can get close to the advertised speeds. I am considering using my own router, given that most people seem to point to this as being the issue, however BT do need to be more transparent and show the sync speeds front he ONT as they would if the router was connected directly to the phone line (as is the case for FTTC and ADSL).

On the plus note, whatever the speed I am getting, it is noticeably quick. Downloading an iOS update on my iPhone took 5 seconds instead of the half hour it did previously. UHD playback is available immediately instead of the 10 minutes it used to take with FTTC or 12 hours with ADSL. Windows updates and app updates for iPad take seconds and so far I have managed to have every device I own streaming something with non of them being impacted. iPlayer and other steaming sites start playback with zero buffering, and this is how the internet should be!

Update (01/06/21): I have since spoke to the BT Full Fibre team and they forced a reboot of the router remotely and checked some profiling settings. Since this, I have been getting speed test results in excess of 1Gbit!