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UPD BT Begin Rollout of Vectoring to Fix FTTC “Fibre Broadband” Speeds

Posted Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 (1:18 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 8,514)
bt openreach fttc cabinet and engineer

BTOpenreach has confirmed that VDSL2 Vectoring (ITU-T G.993.5), which reduces crosstalk interference on ‘up to’ 40-80Mbps FTTCfibre broadband” lines and thus improves service speeds, is now being deployed beyond trial areas; specifically focusing on “areas where it delivers the most benefit to customers“.

The technology, which is also known as Self-FEXT Cancellation, was originally created several years ago in order to tackle an irritating problem where lots of active copper VDSL2 (FTTC) lines would effectively create interference for one another.

The result of this crosstalk interference is that FTTC connections can suffer a significant fall in download and upload speed (experiences vary but -10% to -30% performance loss isn’t unknown). As such Vectoring works a bit like noise cancelling headphones and coordinates the copper VDSL2 line signals in order to remove most of that interference.

The Trials (2013 – 2015)

Openreach has been running trials of this technology since 2013, initially starting in Barnet (London) and Braintree (Essex) before expanding out to many more FTTC street cabinets (100 DSLAMS) at the start of this year (here). Related technologies, such as Seamless-Rate-Adaptation (SRA) and Physical Retransmission (G.INP), have also been tested alongside; although G.INP’s roll-out was a bit.. bumpy (here).

The early Vectoring trials were not exactly plain sailing either and Openreach had to overcome a few technical problems in order to find the best approach, although we have observed some example lines where ISP customers saw most of their original service performance return to normal. It’s also important to reflect that Vectoring works best when the end-users hardware (e.g. home routers and VDSL modems) supports it, which in some cases may require a firmware update or hardware replacement.

Last year Openreach clarified to ISPreview.co.uk that vectoring would have the “most impact” on copper lines between 50m and 500m (metres) from the street cabinet (note: most of these should already be getting “superfast” speeds), but beyond 500m the vectoring impact reduces and “very little gain” was seen past 1.5km. It’s also understandably more of a problem in areas with lot of active FTTC lines.

At this point it should be increasingly clear that Vectoring is more about fixing a problem that exists in the environment rather than pushing VDSL2 lines faster than they were theoretically already capable. As BT’s Head of Access Platform Innovation, Kevin Foster, said in 2013: “Vectoring is seen as a speed enabler rather than a speed booster.”

Casting Some Doubts Aside

Recently there has been some speculation about the future of Vectoring on FTTC lines, not least because BT’s forthcoming (2016/17) commercial roll-out of ultrafast 500Mbps+ capable G.fast broadband technology (here) would appear to make spending money on Vectoring upgrades less attractive. On top of that Vectoring is no longer listed on BTWholesale’s latest Broadband Roadmap for the near-term future.

Similarly it has also been suggested by some that the technology may only end up appearing in areas upgraded through the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme with BT, although an Openreach spokesperson indicated to us that this was not correct.

Openreach has now informed ISPreview.co.uk that Vectoring on FTTC lines is still a “key part” of their toolkit and they are continuing to “test and develop its capabilities“. Crucially they’ve also started deploying Vectoring outside of the trial areas, focusing specifically on FTTC street cabinets / areas where the benefit of its deployment would be most keenly felt. Sadly Openreach was not able to offer any further details.

As it stands BT’s focus going forwards is likely to be increasingly directed towards their future G.fast upgrades. As a technology G.fast has been a lot less hassle to test and implement than FTTC Vectoring, although the outcome of BT’s real-world trials may yet impact their plans (these are about to begin).

UPDATE 19th June 2015

We have been pressing Openreach to hopefully clarify more about their plans, not least in regards to ECI support and initial deployment locations, but sadly we’ve been told that there is nothing further they wish to add.

At this time we’re informed that their original remarks still stand, which is that Vectoring is deploying outside of trial areas but only in certain places where it will benefit customers most. We still choose to view this as being a reference to a very limited deployment and should not be confused with a full scale commercial roll-out.

As we said above, G.fast appears to be BT’s primary forward direction and it makes little sense to spend big on FTTC Vectoring when they occupy a similar timeframe.

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16 Responses
  1. Al

    Still waiting for my area to be upgraded by BDUK, still only two weeks left to go to when Superfast lancashire claimed they will have completed the main phase. (and yes I saw the signs around by existing cabinet in Nov 14 and a nice new concrete slab a couple of days later) I have no faith a new cabinet will be installed and enabled within in two weeks.(Though I did see some NGA vans down my road a few weeks ago and my street is not on the route from the exchange to the cabinet with BT written on the road near the telephone post. so It might be FTTP for my area) And whilst improving speeds is good, would it not be better to use those resources to speed up the BDUK rollout then go back and improve speeds where vectoring is needed. As even with a 30% reduction in speed due to crosstalk on a fibre connection in many cases is still way faster than ADSLMax.

    • GNewton

      @Al: “As even with a 30% reduction in speed due to crosstalk on a fibre connection in many cases is still way faster than ADSLMax.”

      Yo8 don’t get crosstalk issues on a fibre connection, only on VDSL lines.

  2. Ben

    beyond 500m the vectoring impact reduces and “very little gain” was seen past 1.5km

    Shame, our cabinet should go live end of next week if all goes well but even the closest house in the village is about 1.3km away. I’m really not sure why they’ve bothered to be honest, would have rather waited another year or two and got FTTP/dP.

    • Here we have a mix-n-match of long FTTC lines and bit of native FTTP in the 10-15mbps FTTC area, but none for the people on slowest FTTC.

    • PeterM

      @Ben
      Don’t expect anything other than FTTC from BDUK. The FTTP element of BDUK seems to be falling by the wayside and will be replaced with satellite.
      Your best hope of superfast broadband may be fixed wireless depending on your location.

  3. TheManStan

    Mark is it worth poking BTOR over the ECI/Huawei hardware divide?

    Will they be rolling this vectoring out in a relatively equitable fashion and not ignore their ECI problem child?

    • MikeW

      Not that inequity is ever a reason to hold things up.

      Surely BT kept running Strowger exchanges while TXE exchanges were being installed? And kept Strowger exchanges going while System X exchanges were installed. Each made with different capabilities – though they were relatively hidden from the man in the street – with the differences in place for over 30 years

      Even now, with both System X and AXE exchanges, the network has different capabilities.

  4. JP

    Is there a way to tell if a cabinet has been enabled for Vectoring with the exception of speeds improving?

    • Anon

      `xdslcmd info –show`
      in telnet on the HG612 might show it, it shows G.INP is enabled so I’d expect it would show that as well

      I’ll have to check when mine gets enabled
      after 2 months I went from 80Mb to 54Mb (I was most likely the first install), then cabinet is out of capacity 2 months later
      supposedly started with capacity for 200

  5. Chris C

    As usual you guys dont comment if this is also for ECI cabs.

    Dont you ever question openreach’s PR team to find this stuff out?

    • Yes all the time, but as the article clearly says “Sadly Openreach was not able to offer any further details.” It took an age just to get the above update and if the other side doesn’t want to fill in the blanks..

      We are still trying to get some more specifics about the deployment and I’ll update if they answer on the ECI one, but so far nothing.

    • AndyH

      Is this coming from their press office?

      Because only last week Ian Boothman at OR told ISPs, “at this time Openreach are still considering the next steps for Vectoring in its network.”

    • Yes their PR folk. But as the article hints, the future is more with G.fast so I’m not expecting a massive Vectoring deployment.. it seems very selective.

    • AndyH

      I think the PR folk need to double check internally what they’ve told you as the left and right hands don’t seem to be talking to one another.

  6. PeterM

    I am assuming that vectoring simply eliminates crosstalk and nothing else.
    I have a two bonded FTTC lines that were upgraded to FTTC last July on a brand new cabinet. I was the first to be installed. I am located 2km from the cabinet.
    My first line has maintained a fairly constant 4.5-5Mpbs – No crosstalk.
    My second line has varied a lot. Starting near 5Mbps, sometimes dropping below 1Mbps, bur generally around 3.5Mbps. – Crosstalk.
    It would seem that BT are correct that it would make a marginal difference to speed on long lines but the benefits to line stability cannot be underestimated.

  7. Ignition

    I have verified with 2 separate sources within Openreach that this story is not the case. They both categorically denied that vectoring has been deployed outside of the 100 node pilot.

    There has clearly been a big breakdown in communication somewhere.

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