BT Wholesale Remove Some ADSL Results from UK Broadband Checker

The BT Wholesale Broadband Availability Checker, which is really intended for network operators and ISPs but has always been used by savvy consumers to check the status of BTW and Openreach based services, appears to have recently made a change that seems to stop displaying ADSL results in areas where VDSL or FTTP (or both) are present.

Just to recap. Pure copper line based ADSL (SOADSL / SOTAP) broadband services offered highly variable speeds of up to c.20Mbps and were fed directly from the exchange (these are very old). By comparison, FTTC / VDSL2 (SOGEA) lines are considered hybrid-fibre services and offered speeds of up to c.75-80Mbps (i.e. the fibre went from the exchange to a street cabinet / DSLAM, which then fed the service to homes via existing copper lines).

As it stands today, both FTTC and ADSL lines have a similar level of coverage (i.e. c.98-99%). But there are still some remote rural and a few very disadvantaged urban areas where ADSL remains the only fixed line broadband option available.

Equally, there are some locations where FTTC is available, but the local street cabinet may be full to capacity and this can force new customers back on to ADSL lines until capacity improves. Furthermore, there are situations where the nature and distance of local copper lines means that FTTC may actually end up delivering slower speeds than local ADSL lines.

Situations like those above make it helpful to know what’s actually available at a specific address and, until recently, you could generally see ADSL, FTTC and FTTP (Openreach) availability for every address via the BTW Checker. But some of our readers recently spotted that (here) BTW have stopped showing ADSL speed results in areas where VDSL/FTTC or FTTP are present. We also found the same when testing a number of addresses.

Forum Member ‘Some Edinburgh Guy’ said:

“It now appears that if you are able to receive a VDSL (SOGEA) service, no matter what speed it is (even if it’s just 10mbps), you can no longer request an ADSL service. The availability checker now ONLY reports the VDSL speeds if that technology can be provisioned at a location, and you can no longer see ADSL speeds, even if you could theoretically receive that service.

Properties which are too far to receive VDSL service and don’t have FTTP will still display the ADSL speeds, but that only seems to be relevant to very rural areas that are too far from the DSLAM they are connected to. I have to assume BT Wholesale are now in the process of a phased withdrawal of ADSL in some form?”

ISPreview are currently attempting to clarify BTW’s position on this change and will report back shortly, although it should be said that most Openreach-based ISPs have long since stopped advertising ADSL based broadband packages or have already completely removed them as an option for new customers.

The reality is ADSL remains a very old service and one that’s due for withdrawal, particularly after 2030 when Openreach starts shutting down around 4,500 of their oldest exchanges under the Exchange Exit Programme (here and here). BTW’s change could thus probably be seen as part of that process, even if it does seem a little early (quite a few people still use ADSL) and we’re uncertain about how it might impact some of the edge cases mentioned earlier.

In addition, it also makes it much harder for people to know what services and performance actually exists in such disadvantaged locations.

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