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BT Preps New UK Superfast Broadband Cabinets for Exchange Only Lines

Friday, June 29th, 2012 (9:13 am) - Score 7,924

BTOpenreach has informed UK ISPs of a small, but potentially quite important, development that will allow it to deploy superfast broadband (FTTC) services on Exchange Only (EO) lines. This is where the phone line for a home is connected directly to a telephone exchange and does not go through a street cabinet.

At present BT’s dominant Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solution only runs a fibre optic cable to your local street cabinet, while the “last mile” connectivity into homes simply runs over the existing copper line. As you might expect this doesn’t work for EO lines because they’re not “cross-connected” through a street cabinet.

To solve this problem BTOpenreach have been trialling a new Network Rearrangement service that will allow the operator to install new street cabinets or Primary Cross-connection Points (PCPs) on EO lines.

BTOpenreachs Statement

Early indications from the trials are positive although they do require additional network investment.

Any proposals for new PCPs or re-arrangements would need to be evaluated and costed on an individual case by case basis (including feasibility, survey, plan and build). These would then be charged back to the bidding [ED: BDUK contract] CP on a per project basis.

Openreach envisages that the above solution could be used as part of the government funded (Broadband Delivery UK) roll-out of superfast broadband (24-30Mbps+) services to 90% of the UK population by 2015, with ISPs (e.g. BT) potentially using this as part of their bids for public subsidy. The solution itself would ordinarily be quite costly to deploy without public subsidy.

The proportion of EO lines in the UK varies according to each exchange area and it’s not clear how many are currently in use.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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18 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Good news, people have been crying out for this 🙂

  2. Avatar Kyle says:

    I would have thought that this would be a fairly easy task with the only issue actually being the task of getting the fibre to a cabinet plonked between the customer and the exchange?

  3. Avatar DTMark says:

    Seems like a huge co-incidence that after I try to assess the likely superfast broadband penetration capabilities of FTTC, with exchange only lines putting a rather big and obvious dent in that, that this development occurs.

    Why this is being “trialled” when the company is asking for public money is a mystery. Shouldn’t this have been trialled years ago?

    But good news, though, and well done Openreach.

    Plugging the numbers back into my forumla and other assumptions then:

    Target: 90% to get superfast broadband (25Mbps+)

    100% of the cabs are enabled in a given area

    86% fed from cabinet
    14% fed from exchange

    = theoretical 100% superfast broadband penetration

    Circa 75% of lines short enough = 75% penetration
    15% of lines sub-optimal (aliminium, old circuitry) = 60% penetration

    That’s a good improvement from the 54.8% I’d calculated before.

    Just the D-sides and cabinet locations to sort out then to nudge that up.

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “Shouldn’t this have been trialled years ago?”

      Pecking order I guess, trial and start to deliver the service that will serve the majority and then look at the minority

  4. Avatar Phil says:

    I cannot see the point of FTTC (Exchange Only) because it will result slower speed and the exchange to the property might be too far away.

  5. Avatar nicknick says:

    There are two types of EO lines. Those within conurbations and those in rural areas. Those in conurbations are usually short as they did not need a cabinet in the past as connections back to the exchange were short. As you cannot (with current regulations) run VDSL from the exchange you do need a separate cabinet to be allowed to then use VDSL on those lines (other wise you get the madness of someone 400m from the exchange getting a worse service than someone 1km out who is 100m from a cabinet). The alternative is FTTP, but that gets expensive after a few customers. For rural areas (particularly v rural) the line lengths can get quite long as the v small rural exchanges have little or no cabinets, and these will still be a challenge

  6. Avatar Michael says:

    You are correct that in UK we currently do not use VDSL2 direct from the exchange – although the ITU VDSL2 standards do allow for this configuration.

    But what is important from a rural perspective is that most cabinets were sited really close to the exchange, with long lines from them – so mostly useless in an FTTC world unless you resite the cab or use FTTP.

    Business model is tricky as if you need to run new fibre for a long distance, then build a new powered cabinet it may still be better to go for full FTTP.

    Also remember Openreach also has a “pole mounted” FTTC cabinet structure, that is designed with 24/48 port of VDSL2 delivery with power pick-up locally. Its not just the green cabs we know and love !

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      That’s the issue for our rural area, though it’s far from just being rurals.

      From what I read VDSL2 really struggles to deliver much or anything once the line is 2km or greater (when copper); there are urban areas which have exchange only lines longer than that. A new cabinet is needed, but then, there’s the chance to locate it near to the end premises. Works for a densely populated end-user area.

      Round here (rural) the average D-side length is over 700m (the two cabs are in perhaps the worst locations they could be) which coupled with poor quality lines and circuitry pretty well rules out FTTC as a solution which could achieve much more than just current generation speeds and for some there would most likely be no service at all.

      The village would need two more cabinets. One of which would only serve a tiny number of homes. It would also need home visits to remove all the GPO circuitry, splitter boxes and star configurations, and finally, the aliminium D-sides swapping for copper ones where needed.

      By the time you’ve done that, and run the fibre to the cabs assuming that you got planning permission for those cabinets, and that’s a massive ask since there’s no real case for having them when there’s no need for them to deliver a broadband network (Chelsea springs to mind) – I can’t imagine there’s much to tell between the cost of that and FTTP.

  7. The ever changing description of 90 percent of the UK Population versus the UK Government promise of 90 percent in each 1st Tier Council area. These percentages mean little to areas left out, they are left out full stop. Under 3 years to go to deliver this promise. On target to fail…

  8. Avatar Deduction says:

    Good and bad (I can not even fully bash BT over this).

    Good… Its about time many directly connected to an exchange have wondered for some time what the future is for them with no chance of FTTC previously.

    Bad… I see they want to use BDUK funds again along with the fact i doubt this solution would be much if any cheaper than just running fibre straight from the exchange to the few that are connected direct to the exchange (IE give them proper FTTP). MOST of the time people connected direct to the exchange are pretty close to it, so in a way it seems silly to go this route.

    BT Maths fails again though, however this time for the better… How can they include these new connections in the 90% deployment figure??? Surely if these people were not going to get any new services before thats an increase to that figure??? Really do wish BT would think before they issue press statements more, if they did half the time things would be 100% positive, rather than contradictory.

    OVERALL THOUGH… Its good news for those that previously had no chance at all of next gen services. So i wont bash them too much this time hehe.

    1. Avatar Kyle says:

      It obviously means that this enablement of FTTC on EO lines will detract from the 90% national target. I can’t see BT exceeding the bare necessities so EO FTTC is going to prevent another conurbation from acquiring this technology.

      Only after moving over to FTTC have I grown cold to rolling this out as a realistic and feasible solution based on the fact that my 1.49Km line achieves worse speeds than ADSL2+… the Openreach engineer was surprised that not only had I been quoted double that, but also how he expects this to become a much more frequently seen situation.

    2. Avatar Deduction says:

      Thats one of my concerns in upgrading to FTTC currently i can push my ADSL2+ line to 20Mb and over, ive heard and seen many only get around 20Mb. Person just up the road from me (actually nearer to a cabinet than im likely to be and nearer the exchange than i am) got 22Mb on his ADSL2+ line and now only gets 21.5Mb TOPS on his FTTC connection. He is currently pushing the ISP concerned to get out of contract and go back to his ADSL2+ provider.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      According to ofcom many get 30 – 35 Mbps prior to the profile change , according to you it’s 20. I’ll go with the ofcom stats 🙂

    4. Avatar Tom says:

      “He is currently pushing the ISP concerned to get out of contract and go back to his ADSL2+ provider.”

      I hate to back you up here ;D but this migration reversal is not as uncommon as you might think! There have been quite a few “Beings” who have returned to BE earlier than expected after FTTC experiences with BT Retail, Sky and other providers.

    5. Avatar Deduction says:

      It doesnt shock me at all Tom. BE are far from perfect but if a user is getting a non-throttled service from them up anywhere near the MAX of what ADSL2+ can do then in many cases FTTC is an utter waste of time (all the services from all the providers have throttles or caps and that combined with no or small increases in download speed make it pointless, oh and in many cases it costs more).

      Obviously some (trolls can argue all they want its most) will get 40+Mb from FTTC but it seems just from reading around and experience of at least one person not far from me it is not always the case. Ironically another individual i know who is further from the cabinet (though only a little) than the previously mentioned individual gets 29Mb from FTTC which is a massive improvement over the 12Mb they previously had with ADSL2+.

      Like ADSL2+ from what i have seen FTTC is varying in its nature, which is no shock really cos just like ADSL2+ it uses copper. The length, quality and so much more of that bit of copper can do all types of weird and not so wonderful things to speeds. Its not just distance either you could live right next to the FTTC cabinet, if the copper between you and it has been broken and re-joined (especially with Ali) millions of times speeds suffer. Sometimes worse than they may on ADSL2+ as obviously the faster the speeds you try to push down the line the more dependant it becomes on the last copper stretch being in good nick.

      It doesnt meet the hype for everyone which some would like to peddle.

  9. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    Thinking about the ways to get fiber to rural locations…

    I believe that we have another potential infrastructure provider who would be ideally placed to run fiber cables.


    This would be a boon for National grid due to smart metering and we should class broadband as a utility which it truly is.

    Why not bypass the exchange entirely and place the comms room in a public building like the village hall, church, pub, farmer Giles barn…

    I am sure that there are regulations but which one’s?

    Seems like a logical solution if THEY run fiber which suffers no electrical interference next to HT power cables.

    Just a thought.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      You might want to do a search on Energis.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yeah this was touted in the 90’s both running broadband over the actual power lines ( like power line adaptors on a big scale ) and also twisting fibre around pylon cables etc. neither went anywhere

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