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BT Openreach Reveals G.fast Broadband Cabinet Extension Pod

Posted Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 (2:24 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 14,776)
gfast_cabinet_extension_pod

We already know a lot about BT’s forthcoming roll-out of “ultrafast” 300-500Mbps G.fast technology and last month’s new technical document (here) similarly appeared to confirm that the operator had opted to deploy the service from street cabinet extensions. This week we finally got a look at one.

Openreach’s (BT) original plan for G.fast appeared to revolve around a Fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) approach, which would have run a high capacity fibre optic cable all the way from your local telephone exchange and taken it to a smaller node that could be installed inside a big building, underground or on top of a telegraph pole. The remaining line would then have gone over a much shorter run of existing copper cable to reach your home.

The advantage of the FTTdp approach is that you can often reduce the amount of remaining copper cable and thus improve speeds (copper lines suffer signal degradation over distance, even more so with G.fast’s use of 106-212MHz vs FTTC / VDSL at 17-30MHz), but it’s also expensive and time consumer to deploy.

However some positive results from BT’s early trials and recent improvements in the technology eventually made it much more viable for the operator to simply deploy G.fast from directly alongside an existing PCP street cabinet, which is cheaper and faster. For example, last year BT showed it was able to deliver 300Mbps over a 350 metre copper line (here) and more enhancements are coming.

We’d still expect to see some FTTdp further along the line to fill gaps, but the cabinet based approach now appears to be the forming the main thrust of their roll-out. In this setup the G.fast extension (pod) is actually attached to the side of a normal green PCP cabinet, while the power and fibre optic cable are run in from the usually nearby FTTC / VDSL2 cabinet.

gfast_cabinet_extension_pod
(Green PCP on Left / G.Fast Pod on Far Right)

According to a related report on Thinkbroadband, each G.fast pod will only support 96 ports / lines via 4 cards (each with 24 ports). But initially early G.fast extension cabinets may only deal with half the number of ports until the required Vectoring (anti-crosstalk interference) technology has evolved to cope with busier areas.

Admittedly 96 ports might not seem like much, especially as some of Openreach’s biggest FTTC cabinets could handle 288 lines. On the other hand much of the operator’s initial roll-out will be in their core commercial market and many of those premises may already be able to receive good speeds from FTTC, which could hinder demand for G.fast.

BT clearly has a challenge in deciding whether to price its G.fast service closer to FTTC or premium FTTP, but then again you can never underestimate the impact of an ISP’s marketing department and consumer demand for the biggest number. The entry-level G.fast option is a 160Mbps (30Mbps upload) product, so we’d expect that to come in above 80Mbps FTTC by several pounds extra per month and many people might pay for that provided the promised speeds can be delivered.

At this stage it’s also unclear how Openreach would handle high demand areas, particularly as building either a super long cabinet or rows of mini extension cabs could begin to look a touch.. unusual. Perhaps FTTdp will play a role here. We have asked the question and will report back.

BT currently intends to make its GEA-NGA2 G.fast (ITU G.9700/9701) service available to 10 million premises by 2020, with “most of the UK” likely to be done by 2025 (we predict around 60% UK coverage). Initially G.fast will only offer top download speeds of ‘up to’ 300Mbps (50Mbps upload), before later increasing to 500Mbps. On top of that 2 million FTTP lines will also be added by 2020, with around half coming from businesses and many being upgrades for urban Exchange Only Line (EOL) areas or new builds.

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34 Responses
  1. MikeW

    Pricing: Surely BT have already set monthly prices for 160 and 300Mbps services, delivered over FTTP, as Infinity 3 and 4. Why would G.Fast be priced differently?

    • Perhaps because there’s usually a significant cost difference between how much it costs to deploy G.fast to a property and how much it costs to deliver FTTP, which is traditionally something that gets reflected in the product price. Certainly Openreach could align the two (I can see the 300Mbps options matching on price), but we’ll have to see.

      NOTE: We are talking Openreach / Wholesale here as it’s an infrastructure story, not BT retail. There’s also no 160Mbps FTTP option (that BT retail service is based off the FTTP 220Mbps product from OR).

    • Infinity 3 is 220/20, Infinity 4 is 300/20. The 330/30 FTTP product is considerably more expensive than Infinity 4, while G.fast is 330/50.

  2. Pretty ugly looking solution. FTTC is still being deployed in many areas, why not fit cabs in those areas that have the spare space internally for this next upgrade?

  3. S.Stephenson

    Seems ideal I was worried about them rolling the G.Fast Cabs next to the FTTC ones as it could have knocked anywhere from 10-50m off the range.

  4. Matt

    So sadly it also means that we aren’t even getting any more Fibre closer to many people’s premises. Always one of big things G.Fast was going bring was at first it looked like FTTDP was going be dominant but now sadly it doesn’t.

    • Sunil Sood

      Installing the pods next to FTTC cabinets is just the first stage of the rollout – later states will be deeper into the network..

    • NGA for all

      @Sunil – relative to the 51k commercial VDSL cabs and the c22,000 BDUK VDSL cabs where are these going and how do you get to 10m by 2020? Is that 1m installations by 2020? 4 years equals 30k a quarter, you never got above 20k VDSL cabs in a year.

    • MikeW

      The commercial FTTC rollout amounted to 1 million premises per quarter for a good long period, and looks to have averaged around 300 lines per cab. I make that only 3k3 cabs per quarter.

      Nevertheless, that rollout was more about the civils: getting fibre to the cab, power to the cab, and copper tie pairs to the cab.

      This rollout – at least at first – does not have to replicate the lengthiest/costliest portion of the civils work. It just needs to attach a pod to the PCP, and add a few more tie pairs.

      Right now, the target looks like adding a pod to the 75k PCPs that already have an FTTC cab alongside. Over 4 years, that’s just under 5k per quarter. Given a marked reduction in fibre and power work, that is probably feasible.

    • Sunil Sood

      @NGA as I understand it, the average loop length is 350m.

      With the solution Openreach have opted for this – it basically means very little new fibre and power work is needed – which is what took up most of the time with the FTTC rollout.

      As the commercial cabs tend to be in the most population dense areas = more properties passed.

    • Sunil Sood

      @NGA I should have added that Openreach said some time ago that they plan to cover about 3m premises/year

      http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/7416-have-accountants-put-paid-to-g-fast-from-distribution-points.html shows that there are about 15million premises within 300 metres of a PCP and I understand the range if g.fast is longer than this – so it only needs a subset of these cabinets to be enabled to reach their 10million in 2020 target.

    • NGA for all

      @Sunil, MikeW sorry 75k additions to existing cabs which can re-use the existing NGA fibre and power and I had missed but had predicted that G.Fast would not be feasible in rural, so back to FTTdp then.

      Gosh I would imagine much more FTTP will be needed if the VULA prices are is be maintained.

      The Ofcom NGA cost modelling will show BT FTTC investment to be significantly lower than portrayed, so more FTTP is needed to justify the exising pricing arrangements.

    • NGA for all

      @Sunil, without the need for power and electronics, it appears the most cost effective fixed line solution with customers picking up the connection cost.

      ‘Panacea’ came from how the press release was presented.

  5. Balb0wa

    So the people who are further away from the green cab who get 10-30mb suffer yet again.

    You would think they would fill in the gaps first, they are more likely to pay for higher speeds than those who can get 40-80mb.

    It sucks being far away from the cab, im far away, 1100 metres and get 15mb on fttc !! Please stick a gfast pod on a pole on our street !!!

    The gfast next to a cab just doesnt make sense.

    • FibreFred

      “The gfast next to a cab just doesnt make sense.”

      It must to them… otherwise they wouldn’t do it, this is what the trials were about

    • DTMark

      “The gfast next to a cab just doesnt make sense.”

      It does when you’re chasing “up to” speeds for attention-grabbing headlines.

      Were the advertising rules to change, disallowing ‘up to’ and instead requiring ‘at least’, then the strategy would be very different.

      It has been amusing watching people on here suggest that any BT-financed roll-out is going to go beyond the cabinets and a few business parks.

    • Sunil Sood

      ‘The gfast next to a cab just doesnt make’

      It does, if you consider this means that Openreach don’t have to install fibre and power as the FTTC cabinets already have them – means it’s much quicker and cheaper to rollout.

      At 1100 metres you might benefit from long range VDSL which Openreach are currently trialling

    • NGA for all

      @Sunil – Jan 15 Gavin was presenting G.Fast as a panacea including hard to reach in rural. It is now another interim solution to boost performance in a proportion of the existing VDSL commercial footprint. LR VDSL is another partial solution. Why not crack on with FTTdp and resource it and give the rural economy the connectivity it needs. Substantial BDUK/LA funds remain in place to fix this problem.

      The proposal at present is to hand most of the money back and not finish the job.

    • Sunil Sood

      I don’t know anyone who has said g.fast is a panacea for anyone – rural or not. It’s always been an interim solution as is xg.fast and FTTP.dp

      You only appear interested in rural areas – as I don’t live in a BDUK area – I might be tempted to say that the focus on BDUK areas has actually held up deployment of broadband in other regions. Are not the clack backs with BDUK being used to increase reach above 95%.

      I don’t know why you think FTTP.dp is the answer in rural areas – it’s not – the population density won’t be high enough.

  6. Karl

    Hooray another BT solution where the fast get faster and those that need decent internet and have suffered for years can still suffer.

    • Balb0wa

      Nail on the head , while they will be able to stream 7 4k vides on demand, we can stream 0 , great work openreach.

    • MARKOFTHEPEAK

      I feel your suffering, stuck with 1.2mb ADSL while a 4G tower sits on the hill behind us mocking me 🙁

    • FibreFred

      I’ve got to ask, why aren’t you switching to 4G?

    • craski

      “Hooray another BT solution where the fast get faster”

      I’ve got to agree. I can understand the logic/economics for a cabinet based roll out but sadly for many on long lines, the “digital divide” is never going to close up when distance dependent solutions are deployed. We hear lots of talk about it only being the final few percent that are missing out but it seems to get lost in translation that the final few percent still means millions of people.

    • Paper Boy

      @FibreFred

      I imagine because speed isn’t everything – 4G is prohibitively expensive for large data volumes (which of course is only possible when you have a high speed) – in this house we shift between 0.5 & 0.7 TB per month (bloody teenagers streaming video seemingly 24×7)

      I’m waiting for FTTP or FTTdp because my line is 1375m long (OpenReach reflectometer reading) for an actual premises-exchange distance of 280m “as the duct (mostly) lays” (there is ductwork all the way apart from a 5m gap (4.5m of which is in a soft grass verge) that they decided not to bridge and send my line the other way by a highly circuitous route – if my line was 300m long, I’d have had FTTPoD installed by now, the upfront costs for the 1375m line are in the “sell-a-kidney” ballpark)

      When I first had it installed I was promised 50-68Mbps – I got 38. By careful equipment choice, I managed to get that up to 45, where it remained stable for over a year. Now the effing DLM has decided to take the hump and is crashing me down to 30 🙁

      Openreach need to stop living in 1916 and try looking at 2016 – copper lines are a stranded asset – they need to be dumped and replaced with actual fibreoptic as far as possible and not just the first 75m out of a 1375m line (as mine is)

    • MikeW

      Paperboy,
      Did you get a quote for FTTP on demand?

      The Openreach price list says the distance charge is based on the radial distance to the aggregation node, which sure sounds like the 300m distance, not 1300m.

  7. New_Londoner

    Andrew Ferguson at Think Broadband has done some analysis, suggests the number of cabinets with pods to deliver 10 million premises passed for G.Fast (with 100Mbps+ download capability) could be between approx. 28,000 and 38,000, depending on selection criteria. The total number of premises passed would be higher, but the rest wouldn’t get 100Mbps+.

  8. TomD

    Is there anything stopping G.fast being available from a cabinet that’s fed by wireless-to-the-cabinet?

  9. DavidM

    So how many PCPs does Openreach have altogether?

  10. Dean Wade

    BTs fibre evolution is becoming a “Heath Robinson” design.

    Surely linking all DPs to a FTTC by a couple of fibre pairs and metering at the router/DP DSLAM would be more practical?

  11. Jacob Kelly

    I am currently stuck on EOL when everyone around my neighbourhood is on Virgn Media or VDSL.
    So hopefully i will be able to get g.fast or FTTP.

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