Corrosion drastically impacts BT FTTN speed



blog If BT’s rollout in the UK is any indication, fibre to the node may not be the perfect broadband solution it has been hyped up to be. UK site ISPreview has published the sad tale of a situation where the copper part of the telco’s FTTN rollout severely hampered the overall speed which one very high-profile broadband consumer was able to attract:

“The CTO and Co-Founder of business ISP Timico UK, Trefor Davies, has called for a “total network rollout” of true fibre optic broadband (FTTP) services after highlighting how corrosion on his copper BT telecoms line had caused a recently installed FTTC service to drop from an average speed of 53Mbps to just 6Mbps (Megabits).”

This situation has particular relevance to your humble writer, whose ADSL connection has recently been very up and down following the large amount of rain which Sydney has been privy to. Reliably, our copper-based traditional PSTN line currently kills our ADSL2+ broadband connection when it receives a phone call — but only when it’s raining. Stellar performance, right? One wonders whether it would be a similar situation if we had Fibre to the Node. Wonderful.


  1. But don’t you know Renai, Australia’s copper is FAR from having these problems. In fact, nearly 50% of it is under 30 years old! Positively young and there’s therefore no way this could be in disrepair being less than 30 years old.


    No doubt Turnbull will rollout his “Well, of course this would warrant a FTTH replacement, but I think you’ll find these will be few and far between”…yes, because even though Telstra has admitted it doesn’t keep brilliant records of its’ own copper, Mr Turnbull KNOWS it’s ok….

    • If my connection is dodgy but the others in the street are OK (for the time being), do I get fibre under Turnbull’s 3 year plan? Or is the whole street upgraded? Neither alternative makes sense as an alternative to do it once, do it right.

      Since Turnbull’s solution is going to be delivered within three years and construction folk then go home, what happens if my connection dies in the fourth year? The 14th year? The 24th year? Surely all discussions about the integrity of the copper in the ground have to be looked at in the context of the projected lifespan of the fibre alternative.

      Since the BT roll out is happening so quickly, any shortcomings such as those identified here would be coming manifest from other reporting sources.

    • (yes I know, sarcasm, but a valid point is raised).

      But the age problem of the copper, is independent of the flooding issues.
      I believe Malcolm Turnbull did say recently regarding the flooding of towns in Queensland, that they would target areas that regularly get flooded.

      That’s nice Malcolm, but what are you going to do with the thousands of pits that regularly get flooded, in towns that don’t?

      I remember reading of a Telstra employee, stating equivocally that the pits aren’t sealed against water, because they are supposed to be accessible. He even went as far as to note, “it has a hole in the top of the concrete cover for lifting off”, which of course lets water in.

      And then I regularly see the same Telstra road side cabinets (the low ones) on my drive home, knocked over, with all its wiring exposed to the elements.

      The design of the cabinets/pits continually fails to in providing less maintenance, and reducing ongoing costs.

        • Because there are very few of them compared to FTTN which requires one, much much larger, cabinet on pretty much every street corner!! (aprox 70,000 of them)

          • @djos

            Ah….no, there will be likely more FDHs than nodes. There will be approx. 55 000 FDHs. Thetes unlikely to be that many nodes because we already know the footprint won’t be as big.

            However, the FDHs are protected by crash bars. The RIMs currently are not and so I don’t believe the nodes will be. They’re too big already without crash bars.

        • The FTTH ‘cabinets’ are not nodes like with FTTN. You only need passive splitters with fibre – no electronics. They work perfectly fine even when packed full of mud, and the lines don’t corrode like copper does.

      • I remember in the early 80’s in Melbourne. I worked in the CBD. We had thigh high water flowing down Elizabeth Street, in many suburbs in lower lying areas water was up to car roofs and window sills, even in higher suburbs there were torrents of water flowing down that would wash against the cabinets and splash up into the electrics and electronics and batteries. Yes rare, but we are experiencing more and more rare weather events.
        What stock of cards and aircon units will need to be carried at what cost and what service level of maintenance and fault staffing will need to be retained and who will pay for them, their facilities and equipment

  2. Perhaps there wont be any division 1 winners in Node Lotto after all… my connection which has had two separate issues since 2010 is not in the best shape either, I used to get about ~13mbps and it’s now down to ~7mbps, upload speed is also suffering. At this stage I’m not sure if it will return to normal but I dont expect these issues to resolve themselves with a FttN patchwork at all.

  3. This obvious to anyone whom worked an Internet support helpdesk

    When copper gets moist or wet it eventually degrades the quality of the signal. Which lead to both poor speed and dropouts, As more water gets into the copper line it eventually degrades and eventually needs to be replaced

    I suspect there would be a certain increase of ongoing faults post flood in Brisbane because everywhere was flooded and would of damaged the copper., An Annoymous ISP source may want to confirm this

  4. My node is toast, with recent rains during February my phone and broadband was off the Air for 3 weeks due to rain. I had to contact both Louise Marcus’s (and was told of her enthusiasm in trying to get NBN services in our area) and Stephen Conroy’s office as Telstra would not rectify my services after repeated calls to the Philippines (Telstra needs to ditch the overseas call centres which are largely use to discourage people from ringing).
    This is a regular occurrence every couple of years, also at times for no explanation speeds drop from 9.2Mbs to 5Mbs for no apparent reasons from time to time, uploads are so painfully slow its barely worthwhile easier to mail DVD’s, good speeds for me mean working from 11.30pm to 4am, daytime is not so good. Rain always slows my speeds.
    Is Turnbull going to fix the nodes?

      • Telstra service standards only require it to provide a workable voice service – broadband is a luxury. The TIO can’t help with that.

        I found out the hard way that I had to wait until my line was so corroded the crackle made conversations impossible before they would replace it. Then hey presto! I went from <0.2Mbps to 14Mbps instantly.

    • I hope you requested compensation.
      You are in your right to do so, and Telstra regualry does pay out, or debit the account for the period of time you were without service.

      • He’s talking about Malcolms preferred network and asking if it is built, will be fixed if the same conditions he’s getting today affect it. Fair question too, though I doubt there will be an answer anytime soon.

        • Hmm on rereading I mistook the meaning tho I would still ask that que of Malcolm. If there’s a problem now, will it be fixed under his policy?

          From the context of Kevins post the ‘node’ sounds like it is a Telstra pillar – not the proposed fttn. My bad. I wouldn’t use the term that way, though pillars and exchanges are ‘nodes’ of a kind….

  5. If only we weren’t building a FTTN network! We could avoid such problems and could lay some sort of more reliable medium like fibre..


  6. Must say, on ADSL2+, yesterday my internet was up and down for at least 20times throughout the day, would be barely up for a couple of minutes before going down again.

    We had some lovely weather here in the Bunbury (WA) region which i can attribute to that. Heaven forbid i end up on FTTN.

  7. How well are Telstra’s competitors going to be if Turnbull hands the wholesale network back to Telstra?.
    I guess I’ll be saying good by to iinet and bending over and taking it royally from my new monopolistic overlords?????

      • Not disbanded – merely defanged.

        That way Telstra get NBNCo’s assets for a song and a regulatory holiday to boot.

  8. Not much I can say here other than “told you so”. Not sure how many blog posts I’ve put up about this & had them dismissed with churlish tweets from Malcolm Turnbull, but there’s quite a few.

    Mal knows he’s lost the fight, & will push through FTTN no matter what the evidence says if he becomes Communications Minister. He’s set on hobbling Australia’s communications.

    • Industry tried it in 2007, and the ACCC rejected it.
      The government tried again in 2009, and Industry couldn’t come up with the goods.

      Malcolm Turnbull is just wasting time, and Tax payers money with all these schemes.

      If it (FTTP) ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  9. Trefor Davies writes: “Tim could have walked away early on in the process with the throwaway observation that the line was in spec and there was nothing he could do.”

    Is that the sort of response Malcolm’s Broadband Service (MBNCo) will give when his “up to 80 meg” service fails to deliver anything like that?

  10. I can see the headline now:

    ‘Corrosion problem on one line in the UK halts world wide rollout of FTTN.’

    • Yes sounds like one from the Australian for sure…

      Because of course, there’s only “one”… *sigh*

  11. I paid over $700,000 to build the house of my dreams, only to find out that my estate was in a broadband blackspot.

    The coalition’s policy is full of fail. They had 12 years to get it right and their new plan is still uncosted. Lame MT, lame!

  12. Well the “Seal the CAN” project that rolled out in the Nineties has fairly much ruled out FTTN.
    Oh! Mr Abbott!! What a mess!!!!!

  13. Does Turnbull reaaaaally want journalists looking overseas for FTTN examples? LOL
    Me thinks he needs to be careful what he wishes for!

  14. Here’s just a few of the things that have to take place before you can begin volume rollout of FTTN (ie to get to the stage NBN Co is at now with its FTTP rollout):

    – conduct a Cost Benefit Analysis (I’m sure)
    – renegotiate the entire deal with Telstra to get access to the copper tail
    – test the copper for suitability – not just one, but many different sites, old & new wiring
    – redesign the network for FTTN topology
    – sign orders for the FTTN components, cabinets, power systems, VDSL etc
    – develop new work orders for Syntheo et al
    – choose test sites for initial FTTN deployment
    – draft a rollout schedule
    – review test site data for development of volume prodedures
    – etc etc.

    Sure, a few of these can happen simultaneously. But mostly, not. Based on all of these (hardly an exhaustive list), I would say it would be difficult to reach volume rollout before 2015/16 – and that’s assuming the Telstra negotiations go smoothly and painlessly. (How could they, err, not?)

    • You missed have the ACCC send you back to redesign your network because one of the other big telcos objected.

  15. Renai, I thought the picture was actually related to the story, but alas It’s been reused from here.

    Speaking of corroding copper, I seem to remember how Telstra/Telecom developed a copper waterproofing compound which they used for years only later to discover that it actually corrodes the copper wire. But I can’t find any published article on it, not even from Stuart Fist.

    • Actually NOT a Telstra product, a commercial product developed in the U S by —3_, commonly used through the Telecoms etc industries for joints both field and for single.2 and 3 pair in building jointing (quick and dirty saving on mini terminal block), dry or gel filled. Neither watertight, the gel filled ones the gel become corrosive after exposure to water for extended periods, the dry ones just retained the moisture and corroded the joint anyhow ( even steam and high humidity creates issues over time). Understand it was compulsory for field techs to use gel filled even a year after problems had arisen and overseas Telco’s stopped using and started replacing. Now not to be used. Still a lot of mini time bombs corroding away or just waiting for some water ingress
      Little bulbs with a usually red tag on the side, insert wires in the tube or tubes and crush tag with pliers,

  16. Close Craig, They deployed a type of 3M scotchlock a little device used to make joins in individual wires. After a period of time it was found the waterproofing glue in them corroded the joins.

  17. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again – Only a monkey would connect the last mile of fiber to a ancient copper network. If you do something do properly the first time. Is it so hard to comprehend or did you sniff too much turps when growing up. Turnup.

  18. The number one issue with the copper is how you can maintain and fix it.
    With copper network you can do repair quick and cheaply or take a bit more time and money and do it properly. Both methods are perfectly fine for maintain POTS connection which is all Telstra have been required to provide. Things are a bit more problematic when you push the cabilities a bit with ADSL or a lot with VDSL and suddenly each repair degrades the performance how without a minimum requirement(or any requirement) set you don’t have a point at which you have to redo the line. At least with fiber if you dodgy the splice you have tor redo it because there is a good chance it just won’t work. None of this twisting the wires together and covering with a little bit elecy tape and covering the bundle with a plastic shopping bag.

  19. The other issue valid for Aus is heat.
    Note traffic light failures, problems with signalling with Railways, crossings as well etc during those 40 plus heat waves. Those field hotboxes are just that. There will be many more FTTN hotboxes out there.

    Airconditioned I hear the chorus, sure power failures happen in those heatwave spells also .

    Noticed the weather appears to be setting records for heat or is that just my imagination down here in chilly old Melbourne

  20. Malcolm keeps telling us FTTN is broadband heaven. But Tefor Davies has now had another problem which BT has not handled well. He says becasue maintaining the copper is such a stretch.

  21. Malcolm also keep telling us to check out overseas sources more often where we will find EVERYBODY does FTTN.

    If so, it does not app ear to be through preference

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