Guernsey Connectivity Review – some thoughts

Last week the States of Guernsey released the ‘Guernsey Connectivity Review’ report, undertaken by Analysys Mason. You can see the full PDF document by going to the States website here.

My thoughts on this report are mixed. Firstly, I do wonder how much money the States spent on ‘consultancy fees’ to produce this document. I guess though the important thing is that internet access is on the governments agenda, even if no actual action has been taken yet.

An interesting thing about the document though, is that it provides some data from Sure that wouldn’t otherwise be publicly available. For example, they claim that only 10% of subscribers have taken up the ‘Superfast Broadband’ (VDSL) product, which did actually surprise me a bit (I thought it would’ve been higher than that).

As I read through it, I highlighted a few things that stood out that I will list here, in no real order:

1.) “Broadband services to JT’s subscribers are supplied on a wholesale basis via the Sure network.” [p.19] – This has obviously been the case all along – JT offers exactly the same broadband as Sure does, with only a very minor price difference. I fail to see how true broadband competition can exist when there is a single monopoly wholesale provider, that doesn’t seem to be regulated very harshly. In the UK ADSL market, LLU allows for providers to have their own physical equipment in the exchange, with the ability to offer different speeds and service levels that they choose.

2.) The VDSL rollout has stalled at only 60% penetration [p.20]. According to the February 2016 statistics (provided by Sure themselves, mind you), VDSL is only available to 60% of households on the island.  We need to remember that VDSL has been available on the island since September 2012, that’s approaching 4 years ago. If we look at the UK figures, BT had already reached a 66% population coverage of VDSL at the same time as Sure launching the product. Today, the coverage of superfast broadband in the UK is now over 90% of the population (admittedly, with state aid above the 65% mark, approximately). However, it’s really important to remember that Guernsey is an island of just 30 square miles, and the world’s 14th most densely populated jurisdiction. One of the reasons for state aid being necessary in the UK is that the remaining 30% of the population lived in relatively rural areas. The same cannot be said anywhere in Guernsey really. It’s also a fact that, in terms of raw population coverage, we are 4 years behind the UK.

3.) VDSL take-up on the island seems to be very low – only 15% of total subscribers have taken up the VDSL service (weirdly, this 15% figure contradicts the 10% figure used earlier in the report – perhaps older data?). Again, if we compare this take-up figure with the UK data of around 33% (Ofcom 2014, extrapolated by a year), it does appear to be fairly poor. The data is slightly confusing, since it’s not entirely clear if that is a % of households who are already covered by the VDSL footprint, or % of total households. If we had 100% VDSL coverage, the actual take-up number would obviously be higher, but it’s unclear if the % would go up. I think a focus should be made on asking WHY people in Guernsey aren’t opting for superfast broadband. The first obvious answer to me would be price. Comparing with a UK operator, e.g. Sky, they charge £37.40 per month for line rental and 40/10 VDSL. In Guernsey Sure charge £44.98 for line rental and 40/5 VDSL. However that doesn’t tell the whole picture – at any given point in time there is often a deal available with at least one of the UK operators, offering much cheaper VDSL. This means if you regularly switch you can end up saving a ton of money. For example, right now BT are offering 55/10 VDSL for just £28.98 per month. That’s over £5 cheaper than Sure’s standard ADSL! I realise fully that comparing Guernsey to the UK is not necessarily accurate or ‘correct’, but I feel it’s an important area to look at.

I suspect that another reason VDSL take up is low is due to consumers not realising it is even available, or just not really considering it. For many, ‘broadband is broadband’, and the speed they receive is the speed that they get. If their connection struggles when multiple people use iPlayer, I get a feeling many would just blame Sure regardless, and not realise they can get a much faster service. Sure have been pushing Superfast on the radio and in the press over the past year, as well as offering a discount if you sign-up, but this leads me onto my 3rd point. The name ‘superfast broadband’ may confuse some people, especially when in the UK the same product is labelled as ‘fibre’ (even though it obviously isn’t). Maybe a rebrand to make the VDSL service a lot more distinctive in name would help here? See the screenshot from Sure’s website:

sure-broadbandThere are 4 products all called ‘broadband’. Personally I see little point in the ‘Pro’ products since they are practically the same as their non-pro counterparts, except for a static IP and lower contention ratio (and what difference that actually makes is questionable). My point here: is having 4 ‘broadband’ products confusing people, when the UK advertising that we see on the TV is constantly pushing ‘fibre’? I suspect this may be playing a small part.

My final ‘possible minor reason for the low take up’ is the engineer install. For people that have busy lives, having to book an engineer in to fit the filtered faceplate could be a negative reason not to get VDSL. Again, in the UK, more providers are offering self-install options for FTTC that simply involve using a microfilter rather than a faceplate. I do agree that a faceplate is superior, but as long as your internal wiring isn’t dodgy, a micro filter can still work.

4.) The report blatantly confuses DSL sync speed with throughput speed. It compares the average sync speed of Guernsey connections against international metrics of average download speed. The effect of this is obvious: it makes Guernsey’s internet appear faster than it actually is, when compared to other countries. The other concerning aspect is that the Guernsey data is provided by Sure – and not an independent authority.

5.) The term ‘FTTC’ is often used to describe Sure’s VDSL product when, in fact, this is not really the case. As far as I know, they use a mixture of roadside and exchange-based MSAN’s. This means that all telephone and data services terminate at the same place – unlike FTTC where POTS continues back to the exchange.

6.) “We understand through our discussions with Sure, that a number of improvements to its existing copper access network are planned, including (a) expansion plans to install additional MSAN cabinets around the island, with the aim of making VDSL accessible to all properties; and (b) the introduction of vectoring, FTTdp and in 2017. We also understand the company intends to increase FTTH penetration in Guernsey in the period 2018–2020.” [p.44].

This statement is probably the most revealing, since we get a small glimpse into Sure’s future plans. The first point is essentially that they plan to increase VDSL coverage to the entire island. Clearly this is good news, though they don’t give a timeframe for this, nor does Sure reveal whether they will be funding this privately or asking for States money.  The second point reveals they probably intend to trial some future technologies, such as, which could offer 500Mbps+ speeds, assuming short enough line lengths. FTTdp is probably a planned intermediary for lines that are a bit too long and exist in the more ‘rural’ areas of Guernsey to receive a fast VDSL service. Vectoring is something which wouldn’t actually increase speeds, but just prevent speeds from going down due to crosstalk, when more people sign-up to the VDSL service. They list 2017 as the introduction date, which is fine, but by then Jersey will probably be near or at completion of their FTTH rollout. The final point is probably the most interesting – Sure intends to offer some sort of FTTH by 2018-2020. Could these be due to potential pressure from JT’s own FTTH network on Guernsey? (even though no real residential customers are actually able to get it yet, apart from the trial locations).

The rest of the report is mostly generic ‘how to offer NGA broadband’ that could’ve been cut and paste from any other report from any other country. There are also some odd numbers relating to FTTH rollout costs on Guernsey, implying it would be more expensive here than on Jersey? Regardless, the report doesn’t really conclude anything that anyone with common sense hadn’t already concluded. I do get the feeling that Guernsey will go down the ‘superfast copper’ route, whereby gradually the fibre is brought closer to our homes but never actually into them. will bring fibre within 100’s of metres, and is also the preferred approach of BT. But ultimately it is still a copper wire that does the final stretch, and will still be susceptible to interference and dodgy joints.

My wish-list for this year is only 2 things, however: Native IPv6 and a faster VDSL tier option. 12% of the world’s internet connections are now on IPv6, and it’s time that Guernsey actually led in this area rather than follow. In terms of VDSL, the least I would like to see is another upload speed bump. The report actually highlighted the upload speed requirements for small business and content creators, and that it was lacking on the island. Perhaps make it so that the ‘Superfast Pro’ product was 80/20 – at least the absurd price for this product could then begin to be justifiable.

Guernsey 4G switched on, much faster than the fastest home broadband

4G in Guernsey has finally arrived, with Sure activating 4G around the island dependent on location.

This is of course great news for Guernsey, finally catching up to the UK when it comes to mobile technologies. What surprised me more, was that the initial speediest’s coming in seem to be faster than the ‘average’ UK 4G connection:


I’m not totally up to speed with the LTE ‘categories’ [The different speeds achievable], but it seems that Sure might be using either twice the radio spectrum/bandwidth than many UK carriers, or that their equipment can use more spatial streams (MIMO) than the ‘standard’ amount. They are offering seemingly the ‘up to’ 100Mbps 150Mbps variant rather than the more standard ‘up to’ 50Mbps (resulting in more usual average’s of 30-40 Mbps). Of course as more user’s download on the 4G network, that headline figure will begin to come down, but it’s a very promising start.

Something which is immediately noticeable though, and definitely ‘on theme’ with this blog, is that 4G in guernsey is now at least twice as fast than the fastest fixed line broadband connection that Sure offers on the island. Also, the upload speeds are at least 4x faster than the fastest VDSL connection.

4G data is also priced pretty reasonably: I assume that 4G will be available on the PAYG mobile broadband SIM’s, for which you can buy 50GB of data for £40. I think this is good value compared to the UK, where for example Three offers 1GB for £10. (Meaning 50GB would cost you the equivalent of £500!)

If you compare this cost to fixed line access, which costs £35pm for the 40Mbps service, you might wonder why even bother with having a broadband connection at all! The only reason you might choose VDSL over 4G is if you want truly unlimited data, which I admit is a pretty big deal for some of us (me included!). However for a lot of people, 50GB per month is probably enough, and if you pay just £25 you get 25GB.

So what am I really saying here? Well, there is a disconnect between Sure’s products. If you want the fastest speeds possible, you need to go the 4G route. Not only that, but if you want 4x the upload speeds, you also need to go the 4G route. Uploading a large video to Youtube? Get the 4G dongle out. Backing up your PC files? Yep, 4G dongle again…

It is really time that Sure re-focused on their fixed line product. You might argue that people don’t really need faster than 40Mbps, but then equally do people really need 80+Mbps on their phones? If anything, faster speeds are going to be more beneficial in the home than when you are mobile. Streaming 4K video, more than 1 user at a time, uploading files, cloud access, etc.

At the very least, Sure could split their current VDSL product: 40/10 for home and 80/20 for ‘Pro’, a bit like BT does in the UK. Whilst line length is still of course an issue (and some homes still don’t even have access to VDSL!), it would at least close some of the gap between the blisteringly fast 4G and somewhat slower ‘Superfast broadband’.

Late night Speedtest (part 2)


Another late night Speedtest. Upload speeds are very consistent, approaching the advertised 5 Mbps. However download speeds still appear to be lower than the full 40 Mbps, the maximum actual throughput is more like 34 Mbps on a fully synced line.

Interestingly, and this could be a bug, says this connection is “Slower than 57% of GG”. How this is possible, I don’t know? I can only assume that the reason is leased line customers with much faster connections doing a lot of testing recently.

On another note, this September we are approaching the 2nd anniversary of Sure’s VDSL service launch. Fingers crossed for some sort of upgrade announcement! After all, when LTE launches next year, it wouldn’t ‘seem’ right for their VDSL to offer the same speeds as the 4G mobile network.

JT Fibre coming to Guernsey?

Over the past year, many Guernsey residents may have noticed the roadworks caused by JT (Jersey Telecom) on the island, for example around the Rohais area and now currently into the Castel area. On the States roadworks website (, JT have been regularly appearing with the reason listed as “Improving the JT network”. One can only assume that this is for the process of laying Fibre optic cabling underneath the road.

Now it seems on JT’s Guernsey website that they have announced they plan to connect “Schools and Government buildings” in 2014, and then in the future to connect “one third of residential customers to a Fibre service”. I assume this 1/3 only applies to those premises that the Fibre has been laid next to, and not 1/3 of the entire island.

The prospect of JT further expanding their FTTH network on Guernsey is an exciting one. Currently there is a near-monopoly on fixed broadband access in Guernsey, since all DSL lines are effectively run by Sure. Whilst JT appear to offer their own DSL on Guernsey, it is in fact just a re-sell of the existing Sure service.

By having an entirely separate JT fibre network on island, it will hopefully force Sure into action to provide their own FTTH services or at least an improved FTTC service. Any form of competition in this area is definitely welcome to consumers.

A while back I posted on the blog that Sure planned to increase their VDSL speeds in 2014 to “up to 100Mbps”. However whilst ‘Superfast’ customers received an upload speed bump to 5Mbps, there were no download speed upgrades. I can only assume that Sure are focusing on expanding their FTTC (or MSAN) reach before increasing headline speeds. After all, speeds greater than 40Mbps will only be reached if customers live within 100’s of meters of an exchange or cabinet.

Whilst it may appear that Sure have ‘caught up’ with the UK, the fact is that many customers in UK city areas can get 150Mbps cable with Virgin Media and 80Mbps FTTC with BT. Additionally wireless broadband in the form of 4G LTE is now widely available in many cities, which is still not at all available in Guernsey.

It now leaves the question as to how quickly JT will start to connect residential customers to their FTTH service, and what Sure will do to combat JT’s advance.

Sure promises “100Mbits” by end of year in Guernsey

So I was reading through some of the new sections on Sure’s website today, since the sale of Sure to Batelco from Cable and Wireless.

I noticed that in their news section, there was an interview from Sure’s CEO Eddie Saints, and in one part he said that:

[we] aim of making Superfast Broadband accessible to all Bailiwick properties at speeds up to 100Mb/s by the end of this year at greater coverage and lower pricing compared with our competing jurisdictions.

So this looks like some sort of confirmation (or at least plans ) of 100Mbps internet by the end of 2013.

Now I am not certain if Sure will be rolling out a FTTH network like in Jersey, or if they will simply continue to roll out their VDSL2 network over copper as they have been doing currently.

Copper cable, using VDSL2, is not particularly future proof for the next 20 years  and beyond. Whereas JT have already taken the plunge and created an island wide FTTH network which will be able to cope with speeds in excess of 1Gbps, Guernsey’s VDSL2 and copper network is simply incapable of speeds this fast. In fact, the current technical maximum (assuming you are next to the street cabinet) is about 200Mbps for VDSL2. These speeds drop significantly the further you are from a street cabinet. Additionally, the connection will be more susceptible to noise and interference on a copper cable, compared to a fibre optic cable.

Whilst I applaud Sure’s continued work in delivering high speed internet to Guernsey (and who can forget the dark days of 1Mbps ADSL), I think that if Sure isn’t planning to go down the FTTH route then they are being a bit short sighted. In the distant future when internet bandwidth is abundant and Jersey are offering 10Gbps fibre to every home, with almost just a flick of the switch required, Sure will look back and wish they had deployed fibre to every home rather than just the street cabinet.

[Of course, deploying FTTC does mean that the fibre connection is closer to homes, and they could use this in the future to deploy FTTH from the cabinet connections, but arguably the most difficult bit is the last xx metres into peoples individual properties]

VDSL 40Mbps: Some Thoughts

So, my router is now synced up at the full 40Mbps download, 2Mbps upload. Although an engineer visit was supposedly required, it seems Sure transitioned the line a day early, and the supplied router re-synced onto the VDSL service without much input at all. The engineer is still coming tomorrow though, but for what? If the service works I don’t understand the need for it. Anyway, I thought I would therefore commence my mini-review of the new VDSL broadband service.

Now, it is being marketed as ‘Superfast Broadband’. And so the first thing I did, of course, was to run a speedtest.

The results were pretty much as expected. On average, the download speeds are around 30Mbps and the upload speeds around 1.5Mbps (this is on a fully synced line, and with a computer connected via ethernet to the router, and with no other internet use occurring at the same time). I tested it with quite a lot of different servers around the UK, as well as the Guernsey speedtest server, and they all delivered fairly similar results to the above. When I first did the speedtest, this was around lunchtime on a weekday.

However, things got a little worse later on in the day. When I did a speedtest at around 6pm, unsurprisingly the speeds decreased quite a lot. I was looking at around 20-24 Mbps on various speedtest servers, with the upload speed remaining fairly constant as before. Now I understand that Sure marketing a service as 40Mbps does not mean you are ever going to get that speed, but when the majority of users will be using this service in the evening (i.e. when they are home from work), I would’ve rather hoped for speeds a bit higher than 20-24Mbps, considering that you are expecting 40Mbps. Effectively at peak times the actual throughput to the internet decreases by 50%, from the theoretical 40Mbps down to nearer 20Mbps. I personally don’t consider 20Mbps to be ‘Superfast’ Broadband. It is fast of course, but 20Mbps is quite attainable on a synced up ADSL2+ line for example. And so in a way, the whole fuss over VDSL2 is a bit mute. You only get the benefit of the new technology really during the middle of the day, or probably in the middle of the night. But in the evening peak period you might as well be using an ADSL modem (since if the line is synced at 24, you can still get about 20 down it theoretically).

It’s certainly a very good thing that Guernsey has got faster internet. I am not complaining as such, but merely pointing out that the service shouldn’t be marketed as a 40Mbps service, when at peak times you only get 20+ Mbps. And during the middle of the day, I was only getting (and only just scraping it too) 30Mbps on various speedtest servers. What is the point in having a line synced up at 40Mbps when only 75% of it is actually able to be used for internet, or 50% of it during peak periods. Why not just sell the service as ‘Up to 30’ if that is all Sure are able to provide, and then if the end user gets more than that, they can count themselves lucky and be pleasantly surprised that they are receiving more than what they paid for.

I think perhaps one of the issues here is that Sure provide unlimited internet. There are no monthly limits or caps, and so you can download as much as you like. Also, I wonder if any kind of traffic management is used to curb the use of P2P traffic, which takes up a lot of bandwidth but often isn’t time critical. BT use traffic shaping during peak periods to try and maintain the bandwidth for other users that are trying to stream ‘time critical’ data like Youtube or iPlayer.

I also hope that Sure will continue to work on upload speeds. In the UK comparable VDSL services offer much greater upload speeds than currently available on Guernsey. I think to be fair, my download speed is fast enough for almost anything. But uploading large attachments or backing up to the cloud still takes too long and this is something that should be worked on before thinking of increasing download speeds. I think a good target would be 10Mbps upload such as that available with BT Infinity.

So my final thoughts? The new service is fast. It’s the fastest that Guernsey has seen. And the price isn’t that bad either. But it isn’t 40Mbps, and as such I won’t be declaring this ‘Superfast’ yet. After all, in Jersey you can get 1Gbps fibre. We can’t let our competitor get ahead of the internet race!


Guernsey gets VDSL. 40Mbit speeds

I genuinely didn’t think Guernsey would ever get ‘high speed’ broadband. When the 20mb upgrade came along over a year ago, I was actually quite surprised.
And yet again, Sure have surprised me again.

Completely out of the blue, all of a sudden they were advertising their new ‘Superfast Broaband’ service. I thought, I wonder what this could be? And sure enough, it’s basically what BT in the UK call ‘BT Infinity’.

As an aside, and to clear things up, VDSL is not fibre optic broadband. It is still delivered over your telephone line’s copper cable. However to achieve speeds as fast as 40mb, it requires the line distance to be very short indeed. And that’s were the ‘fibre optic’ bit often comes from. The telcos have to deploy street side cabinets everywhere, in order to reduce the length of the telephone lines. Think of these street cabinets (or MSans, as Sure are calling them) as mini telephone exchanges, if you will. The closer you are to one, the faster your new 40mb service will be.

But here is the rather good thing. Unlike BT in the UK, I believe, who will only connect you to their VDSL service if you are need a cabinet, Sure appear to be connecting up anyone so long as their line is short enough. (Read: if you are connected straight to the telephone exchange).

So, with the aside over, what is this service actually about? Well firstly, it’s all about speed. 40mb is a lot of bandwith. There really isn’t much that you can’t do over that kind of connection. Multiple HD video streams, super fast file downloads and plenty of bandwidth for the entire house to enjoy, without someone screaming if the internet is being used by someone else.

What about the upload speeds? Well, the advertised ‘up to’ speed here is a rather measly 2Mbps. I was actually expecting a bit more, since in my opinion upload speeds are now becoming more and more important. With the shift to services ‘in the cloud’, users need to be able to upload their data just as quickly as they download it. In the UK, upload speeds on similar VDSL services can approach up to 10Mbps. Maybe Sure will bump it up in the future.

The pricing for the service, in my opinion, is very good. For their home product, it’s just £35 per month. Much less than my current £50 per month for just 20mb. So for pro users, it’ll be a no-brainer to switch, unless you really need a fixed IP address or a sightly lower contention ratio. But in any case, I highly doubt the 40:1 ratio on the new service will slow down speeds on the 40mb service down to ADSL levels.

Another ‘issue’, is that the installation requires a visit by an ‘engineer’ (No, they aren’t engineers, they are Technicians. Try going to University for 4 years first). This visit seems rather pointless. It appears that the sole purpose for the visit is to fit a new master socket on the line, that will split the telephone and VDSL signal at source, before it enters the home’s internal wiring. For most people this probably won’t be a problem. But for some with master sockets in unreachable locations, it’s going to be a bit of a pain. As far as I am aware, you can get VDSL micro filters just as you can for ADSL (in fact, they’re probably the same). So why they can’t just do that is beyond me? If someone’s internal home wiring is really that bad then they shouldn’t be getting this service anyway.

Update: C&W have contacted us and will be sending the engineer to visits on the 12th September! So a few weeks waiting time. I’m hoping that they have already enabled the line for the service, and if the VDSL modem arrives in the post before the visit then I will plug it in and see if it works!

Guernsey – 16Mb Upgrade

So Sure have yet again provided their home broadband customers with another free upgrade, this time to 16 Mbps. I must admit, that this is rather impressive with less than a year since the last upgrade. And all of this for the same price as previously.

16Mb is pretty quick, though not really considered ‘super-fast’, it certainly is fast enough for pretty much any application, such as HD streaming and multiple downloading.

However, for those users on the Broadband Pro product, I’d imagine that we’d be feeling a bit hard done by. Why? Because we are paying twice the price (£49.99) for only 4 Mbps more speed and a lower contention ratio. I think that now the ‘home’ product is 16, that the Pro product should be bumped to the full 24 Mbps and upload speeds increased substantially to 2 or 2.5 Mbps. This way people could justify spending double.

Another thing that interests me, is that two 16Mb lines, giving a total theoretical throughput of 32 Mbps (if bonded or ‘merged’ by a local router) is practically the same price as the Pro product that delivers only 20 Mbps.

So come on Sure, lower the prices on the Pro product, or increase the speeds. It’s not really a very good deal considering it’s twice the cost but not twice the experience.