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UPD BT Demo 10Gbps Fibre Optic FTTP Broadband ISP Speeds in Cornwall

Friday, November 9th, 2012 (8:18 am) - Score 2,517

BT has used the latest XG-PON (i.e. 10G-PON or ITU-T G.987) hardware from ZTE to demonstrate its “hyper-fastFibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband service delivering speeds of up to 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) to a business in Cornwall (Arcol – based outside Truro), which equates to around 10,000Mbps (Megabits).

Cornwall is a logical test bed for BT as it’s the home of their joint public and privately funded £132 MillionBig Build” scheme, which aims to make superfast internet access available to “at least” 80% (ideally 90%) of premises in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly by the end of 2014.

At present the best that BT’s commercial FTTP solution can offer is 330Mbps, although they’ve planned to push this up to 1Gbps ever since the service was first soft launched three years ago (many expect this speed or something similar to surface in 2013). Unfortunately the latest Proof of Concept demo at 10Gbps isn’t likely to become a commercial product for a few more years and indeed the test itself wasn’t even connected to the internet, although it does show what will one day become possible.

Ranulf Scarbrough, BT’s Director of Superfast Cornwall, told V3:

At present the demo at Arcol doesn’t connect to the actual internet as there’s nothing on the internet that you need a 10Gbit/s link for, but it proves it can be done.”

At present BT’s specific FTTP solution has three problems – affordability, coverage (it’s only available to a comparatively tiny number of UK premises) and capacity costs. The issue of coverage is likely to be solved next spring 2013 when FTTP-On-Demand allows the service to be installed anywhere that the operators FTTC lines can already reach (i.e. 66% of the UK by spring 2014 or possibly 90% by 2016/16 with public funding).

Unfortunately affordability could be a problem for FTTP-On-Demand, with the installation costs likely to run into four figures (i.e. the cost of replacing an old copper line with fibre optic), although monthly rental should remain the same as a standard FTTP service (unless ISPs choose to push some of the setup cost into higher rental prices).

But the cost of capacity over BT’s fibre optic links will need to come down before ISPs can offer truly affordable service speeds of 330Mbps or even 1Gbps to home users. As the director of AAISP, Adrian Kennard, told us in August 2012, “the latest services from BT such as 330Mb/s FTTP are actually a major issue for any small or startup ISP as 330Mb/s back-haul in to BT is seriously expensive, only to be filled by one customer” (here).

Indeed so far only a handful of ISPs have pushed 330Mbps out to end-users and usually only to those with very deep pockets, although BT Retail did recently boost its 100Mbps package to 160Mbps by using 330Mbps products and, given enough time, competitive pressures should improve the situation. Meanwhile most people would struggle to get the most out of a 100Mbps service, let alone 330Mbps, 1Gbps or even the dizzy heights of 10Gbps. But times, they are a changing.

UPDATE 22nd November 2012

BT has now made an official announcement about the trial, although it doesn’t say anything new.

Ranulf Scarbrough, Director of Cornwall’s SuperFast Broadband Programme, said:

What is exciting about this trial is that these hyper-fast speeds have been obtained over the exactly the same fibre that carries BT’s fibre broadband services today. All we are doing is changing the electronics at either end.

This trial shows we are thinking and ready for the future even though there are no current plans to deploy this technology. A lot of this project is about future proofing – making sure that it’s not just the fastest speeds today but that we can continue to be at the cutting edge for five, ten, twenty years.”

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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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