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BT Confirm UK Superfast Broadband FTTC Vectoring Trial for Late July

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 (2:09 am) - Score 5,378

BTOpenreach has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that the first trial of its new VDSL Vectoring (ITU-T G.993.5) technology in the United Kingdom, which could help ISPs to deliver better FTTC broadband speeds over longer copper lines, is now set to begin at the end of July or early August 2013.

Vectoring technology effectively works to remove interference (crosstalk) from the “last mile” run of copper wire(s) between your local street cabinet and home or business. This is not unlike the noise cancellation method used by some modern headphones.

In theory Vectoring could help to push the top speed of Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology up to 200Mbps (currently 80Mbps) but BT has previously said that it sees this more as a “speed enabler” than a booster. In other words it’s intended to improve existing service speeds, especially for those on longer lines, rather than the top advertised rate.

Having said that there’s no shortage of people whom expect that Vectoring and other technologies will ultimately help BT to push its top headline FTTC speeds beyond 100Mbps (Megabits per second), although we’ve previously been told that there are no plans to do this in 2013.

Vectoring Trial Coverage

As first reported in April (here), the tightly-controlled trial will take place in Barnet (London) and Braintree (Essex) in England. It will be rolled out in phases and thus not all of the related street cabinets will go live at launch. The most recent information we have is that cabs 12, 39 and 74 in Braintree and 26, 41 and 42 in Barnet will be included.

ISPreview.co.uk also queried whether the trial would be compatible with Openreach’s existing Huawei or ECI (VDSL) modems, which can also reflect the use of different local street cabinets by the same companies.

Openreach confirmed that the majority of end customers would be able to use their existing modem (we suspect that some of these might also need a firmware update but that’s not confirmed). However a “small number” could need a replacement modem and BT has said that it would work with ISPs to organise this.

It’s our understanding that BT’s trial will add Vectoring to all FTTC lines that connect to the related street cabinets (i.e. the best way for BT to get enough meaningful data) and they will also all be upgraded to the operators top 80Mbps (20Mbps uploads) service. Street cabinets in Braintree should be the first to benefit and those in Barnet will follow a few weeks later.

The initial trial will run until at least September and affected ISPs are now likely to begin contacting the associated customers. At this stage it’s not known whether BT will officially choose to roll-out Vectoring but the smart money says they will.. eventually.

The main drawback is that the upgrade does come at a slight cost and it’s up to BT’s trial to reveal whether or not the benefits make this worthwhile. It’s far too early to say whether or not this is a cost that would ever be lumped onto consumers but we suspect that BT will treat it more as a direct investment (like Virgin Media’s double speed upgrade).

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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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