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Openreach Unveil New UK Locations for Long Reach VDSL Broadband Trial

Friday, February 17th, 2017 (1:53 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 3,487)
isle_of_lewis_openreach_engineer

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.

lr_vdsl_ispreview_performance_trial

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.

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7 Responses
  1. Matthew Hanson

    Why not use wisp technologies like kijoma which I use bt have put fibre in to our area which when we started with kijoma bt could only get 0.5mb kijoma gave us 40mb from day one and bt still after fibre can only get upto 27mb

    • GNewton

      Is this a case of mismanaged BDUK funds, doing areas already served by a commercial superfast operators like Kijoma?

    • MikeW

      Wireless can be a good option for wide areas, but it needs to be used carefully. There isn’t much spectrum for high capacities … so it can’t be used for dense populations. Can’t be used successfully, anyway … satellite is the ultimate umbrella technology, and we all know the capacity limitations there.

      Far better, for now, for fixed-line fibre-based solutions to take denser areas, and for the wireless operators to take the sparser areas.

      In addition, wireless can be great as an umbrella/macro solution, which means it deliberately overlaps the fixed-line areas as a side effect of making sure that it can reach all uncovered areas.

      The combination of these two effects (capacity & umbrella design) means that it is inevitable that overbuild would happen, and should be allowed to happen. Its a feature of good engineering design, and has been part of multi-layered mobile/cellular planning for years.

      Unfortunately, the politicians who write state aid rules aren’t so hot at including engineering principles when they write the rules.

      Incidentally, state aid rules have evolved, and do allow overbuild. The rules usually use VM as the example, but they allow BT to overbuild an area, provided that there are 10% of properties that weren’t covered by VM. If you are a lazy competitor, who doesn’t cover everyone, then you can’t hide behind the overbuild rules.

  2. Fastman

    I assume that based on distance from the cab but that classifies you as superfast > 24 m/bps

  3. I have been using wireless for the last 9 months in my rural location some 2.2 km from the nearest cabinet. It is very usable and at 44 mb compared to my old BT connection of 1.9 it has made my life much easier. Could be great if the authorities expanded this sytem

  4. Adam

    Explains why the prices keep on going up – giving it away free all the time.

    @Howard Walker – Wireless ISP’s were around back in the late 90’s when all we had was 56K and they failed then..

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