Openreach (BT) has announced a list of locations that will benefit from the next phase of their new “Long Reach VDSL” (FTTC) broadband technology trial, which is one of the potential options for helping to deliver on the Government’s future 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).
At present the Broadband Delivery UK programme expects to make fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speeds available to about 97% of homes and businesses across the United Kingdom by 2020, but tackling that final 3% will be very challenging. The LR-VDSL technology is seen as one way in which the performance gap could be shrunk, although it’s not without a few caveats.
Essentially LR-VDSL is a modified version of the same VDSL2 technology that already exists in Openreach’s current ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) network. However LR-VDSL harnesses higher signal power and wider frequency ranges (tech details) in order to deliver faster speeds over longer copper lines from your local street cabinet, which makes it useful for tackling some tricky rural communities.
A Proof of Concept trial has already taken place in Isfield (East Sussex) and North Tolsta (Isle of Lewis), which we’re told was able to deliver an average increase in local download speeds of 13Mbps. Put another way, a 2km copper line might deliver around 9Mbps via normal VDSL2, while LR-VDSL could potentially do 24Mbps+ over the same distance. However real-world experiences were quite variable.
Last autumn we were told that LR-VDSL would be progressing to a proper trial during early 2017, with around 1,500 homes in Ashcott (Somerset) and Peatling Magna (Leicestershire) being among the first to benefit (here). However Openreach has now informed ISPreview.co.uk that, following some data analysis of the earlier tests and feedback from customers, the roll-out plan for their trial has changed.
The New LR-VDSL Trial Locations
Clachan, Mull of Kintyre, Scotland: Cabinet 1
Eriskay, Outer Hebrides, Scotland: Cabinet 1
Kesh, Northern Ireland: Cabinet 12
Plaistow, West Sussex: Cabinets 1 and 2
Pomeroy, Northern Ireland: Cabinet 3
Whitehouse, Mull of Kintyre, Scotland: Cabinet 1
We understand that the new trial, which is open ended (i.e. no specific time-scale), will commence from Monday 20th March 2017. More locations may follow at a later date, but for now these are the only ones that have been confirmed. Customers should also benefit from free rental and connection (here).
However LR-VDSL, which requires both G.INP and Vectoring to be enabled, isn’t a perfect solution. In particular it works best when older ADSL connections are disabled, which complicates the roll-out; especially if unbundled (LLU) ISPs are present in the area or customers object to losing their cheaper ADSL service (Openreach’s 18Mbps FTTC profile may help to bridge that gap).
Otherwise the trial locations seem to be a mix of large rural villages (Plaistow is home to around 2,000 people) and some much smaller communities (Eriskay is home to about 150 people). A good diversity of locations is necessary in order to understand how the technology will work in different environments.