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BT Broadband Regenerators Could Boost ADSL ISP Service Speeds

Saturday, November 10th, 2012 (8:04 am) - Score 1,976

The network director for BT’s Superfast Cornwall project, Jeremy Stevenson-Barnes, has suggested that the operators trial of new Broadband Regenerator equipment could in the future be used to boost some of the slowest copper ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband speeds from hundreds of kilobits per second (Kbps) to 3-4Mbps (Megabits).

Customers whom suffer slow speeds over traditional ADSL based broadband lines often do so because they reside at or near to the services maximum physical reach (i.e. furthest from their local telephone exchange), which weakens the DSL signal and dramatically reduces your performance.

According to PC Pro, Stevenson-Barnes believes that the technology, which requires Regenerators to be “placed in or near a [street cabinet]” (some new kit is also require at the exchange), could be used to improve speeds for 10% to 20% of residents in Cornwall that reside outside of the operators superfast broadband roll-out (note: it could soon be made available nationwide).

But such enhancement would incur some cost for the ISP and BTOpenreach has previously suggested that it might only be available to areas that are expected to benefit from public funding through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project. Further details were revealed in Openreach’s original July 2012 trial announcement.

Openreach’s Trial Announcement

As part of Openreach’s Network programme and our ongoing operations we have been trialling some network rearrangements, including the installation of Broadband Regenerators on copper lines providing ADSL. These Regenerators can be placed in or near a cabinet and are powered by new equipment in the Exchange. The ADSL signal is ‘cleaned’ and ‘amplified’. Early indications from the technical trials are positive with some increases in ADSL speeds – although they do require additional network investment.

As part of its portfolio Openreach already offers a range of Network Rearrangements services which can be requested by CPs. Following commencement of the initial technical trials we wish to advise interested CPs that we would like to hear from any CPs who might wish to participate in a CP trial. The Broadband Regenerator may be an option in the future (subject to trial) available to all those who are involved in proposals connected with areas for intervention under BDUK County led rural broadband programme. Any proposals for Broadband Regenerators 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 CP on a per project basis.”

In reality we’re not convinced that everybody could expect to receive the kind of performance boost that Stevenson-Barnes has suggested, not least because other factors can affect ADSL performance (e.g. poor home wiring) and BT has an understandable tendency to be overly optimistic about what their kit can actually achieve.

On the other hand similar solutions have been used in other countries and are known to return positive results. The viability of Broadband Regenerators as a practical solution will also rest upon whether or not BT can find a space for it in their existing Access Network Frequency Plan (ANFP), ideally without causing problems for other services.

It’s also important not to confuse this new upgrade with similar solutions, such as the controversial Broadband Enabling Technology (BET) that could extend the reach of a 1-2Mbps ADSL line up to around 10km from the local telephone exchange. BET was broadly rejected by most ISPs for being far too expensive to install for far too small a gain.

Ultimately Broadband Regenerators might sound like something new but it’s actually been around for awhile and is another solution that merely extends the life of an otherwise old technology, which could still be beneficial if they can make it economically and practically viable. But it’s not going to help the UK meet Europe’s Digital Agenda goal, which expects 100% of households to be within reach of 30Mbps+ speeds by 2020.

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