BT originally anticipated pushing its FTTC speeds up to a maximum of 60Mbps, with upload performance jumping to 15Mbps. Happily the operator has just recently upped the ante by confirming plans to push FTTC downloads up to 80Mbps in 2012 (starting in Q4-2011) and 100Mbps later on by boosting its spectrum allocation from 7MHz to 17MHz (i.e. no costly work or new kit will be required). Maximum upload speeds of 20Mbps are also being targeted.Article Index:
Going further still, newer technologies, such as DSL Rings (here and here), might conceivably be able to deliver affordable symmetric FTTC speeds of up to 150Mbps and could even push the coverage beyond its present limits. BT has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that it is looking at solutions that use related methods like line bonding and vectoring for future FTTC enhancements, although these do carry extra costs and would take time to upgrade.
Another dilemma that ISPs would like to see the back of is the need for a mandatory Engineer Installation on new FTTC orders, which adds to the cost and customer hassle. ADSL started out the same but these days it's usually just a matter of waiting for your phone line to be activated and then plugging in the router (better known as a 'Wires Only' install).
Several providers, including AAISP, claim to have "heard mention" of plans by BTOpenreach to trial a wires-only FTTC installation, although to date nothing has happened. Both IDNet and Entanet also expect to see something similar in the future. However, Zen Internet claims to have seen "no indication to suggest that this is a possibility in the foreseeable future".
A Wires-Only solution would save customers money and allow for the scrapping of those mandatory 12 month FTTC contracts, which could help to make the service more accessible. However, FTTC is more complicated to install than ADSL and finding a practical home-user solution would be very difficult to achieve. At the time of writing BT would only tell us that it had "no plans for a wires-only FTTC installation solution at the current time", which still leaves the door open for a future fix.
Overall the early rollout of FTTC appears to have been relatively trouble free and the technology is proving to be quite reliable, suffering from far fewer of the pitfalls that befell its ADSL based predecessors. Affordability is also improving, although FTTC still tends to command an unattractive consumer price premium of approximately +£10 extra per month over existing broadband solutions. However the biggest issue is, as ever, in making sure that everybody can receive it in the first place.
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