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A Look at the Future Fibre to the Distribution Point FTTdp Broadband Tech

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 (1:42 am) - Score 22,860

For example, Lantiq’s FTTdp diagram above shows a performance of 250Mbps but this is largely based off a standard FTTC/VDSL line without G.Fast. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) notes that the final standard would work on total copper wire lengths to the customers’ transceiver of up to 250 meters.

The ITU states that aggregate data rates of up to at least 500Mbps should be supported on a single pair but only via loops of about 30 metres. It is expected that the bulk of the loop lengths may be in the order 30 to 50m but it’s easy to envisage operators using longer lines in some areas. Some info. hints that speeds of 150Mbps might thus be expected on straight loops of 250m.

Meanwhile G.Fast often talks about peak speeds of 1Gbps (1000Mbps), which it claims would also be applicable within 250 meters of a street cabinet or fibre distribution point. Indeed one recent test of G.fast on a “good quality [copper] cable” (see the earlier Alcatel-Lucent trial link) achieved aggregate speeds of 1.1Gbps over a single pair of 70 metre lines and 800Mbps over a single pair of 100m lines.

In reality there are far too many factors to consider and it’s simply too early to be talking about what G.Fast and FTTdp may or may not achieve on BT’s network in the UK. Never the less we don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect something around 200Mbps as a potential headline speed because this would be closer to what a fair proportion of users might expect.

Trials and Standardisation

The ITU currently expects its new G.Fast standard to be approved by “early 2014” (here) and unofficially BT already claims to have witnessed connections speeds of around 1Gbps in its closed lab tests. But long before that BT will want to focus on their deployment of FTTC Vectoring technology (assuming the trials are a success), which is a necessary precursor to G.Fast.

It’s just possible that BT could then begin a national deployment of Vectoring sometime in 2014 (don’t bank on it just yet though) and thus we’d be unlikely to see G.Fast before 2015 and even then it would probably be a trial. Similarly the introduction of G.Fast may end up being dependent upon FTTdp. The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, is certainly interested in BTOpenreach conducting an FTTdp trial before the G.Fast standard becomes available.

Ofcoms Statement

We understand that a number of [UK ISPs] are interested in FTTDP trials, perhaps initially using VDSL so that the physical engineering aspects can be trialled prior to the G.fast standard being available.

It is likely to be a number of years before G.fast is technically mature enough for commercial deployment. As such we do not consider that it would currently be appropriate or proportionate to require BT to provide access for FTTDP unbundling. We do however, consistent with the proposed general remedies, continue to propose to require that BT provide network access on reasonable request and note that a trial or pilot of FTTDP within the period of this market review may be appropriate.”

Openreach doesn’t currently have any formal plans for a trial of FTTdp technology and a spokesperson noted to ISPreview.co.uk that Ofcom’s statement wasn’t being taken as a “firm request for a pilot“. The spokesperson also noted that Ofcom’s reference to its market review period would most likely mean “within the next three years“.

It’s clearly too early to be talking about dates with any certainty but, aside from Vectoring, it’s hard to envisage G.Fast and or FTTdp appearing as a commercial product before 2016/17. Both would then take quite a bit of time to deploy.

In conclusion, G.Fast and FTTdp do increasingly appear to represent the future direction for BT’s network. Both are capable of squeezing significantly more out of an ever shrinking run of copper cable and this in turn would stave off the need for BT to invest in a full FTTH network, at least for now.

UPDATE 24th March 2014

BT has announced that a trial of its so-called Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTRN) technology could soon take place in North Yorkshire, the description of this service is very similar to that of FTTdp (here).

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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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21 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Can Ofcom actually do this sort of thing? Force BT to trial it and offer it as a product? I thought they just regulated what was out there?

    What if (quite rightly) BT said they weren’t interested because as usual they’d be stumping up the development and rollout costs with other ISP’s expecting to use it at a very low price.

    If a number of ISP’s have expressed interest they can trial it themselves can’t they? PIA would cover this I would have thought or if not would only require a small adjustment.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Ofcom has not submitted a formal request for the trial so it’s just a soft recommendation and in fairness BT will probably get around to it eventually anyway. At least that’s the impression we got.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Oh yeah I got that impression from your article, but I just wondered whether a request is all they can do or can they actually force BT to trial/productize this or any other tech

    3. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Hmm good question. Technically Ofcom could force something if they felt it necessary for BT’s “Undertakings” (I doubt that would stretch to FTTdp though) but generally speaking a SoR request would normally come from a rival ISP and if rejected by BT then Ofcom might have to consider it on competitive grounds (not really relevant here). But most of the time BT seems to develop these things itself so there’s no issue.

  2. Avatar Bob says:

    If BT are not rely interested their rivals may be. They are no handicapped by a legacy copper network neither. It needs to be done as well only on the medium to long lines as the advantage will not be that great on short lines

    Another reason is we may see the performance of FTTC degrade as the take up increases.

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      This uses legacy copper. Why will FTTC degrade?

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “as the advantage will not be that great on short lines”

      I’m not sure what you mean? Obviously it is still in its early stages but G.Fast is supposed to be able to deliver 1Gbps over copper at < 100m and I would suggest that most if not all properties are within 100m of their telephone pole?

      So even if these customers were on FTTC and getting 40, 50Mbps now and 100Mbps+ with vectoring/bonding etc later I would still say a jump from that to 1Gbps would be a big advantage?

  3. Avatar Bob says:

    Why would it need to dig up the roads? It should be possible in most cases to use the existing ducting

  4. Avatar Bob says:

    Quote “This uses legacy copper. Why will FTTC degrade?

    The twisted copper pairs were never designed for HS data. More uses on a cabinet results in more noise and crosstalk

  5. Avatar telecom engineer says:

    Not sold on this at all. Rivals cant be bothered to invest in cabinets. My exchange has 79 cabinets but around 5000 dps. No way are you going to cover these. Maybe a nice mdu solution or odd rural but thats it. Once the fibre is knocking on the curb you may as well go the whole hog, if you installed poles for buried ug sites you dont have to dig up peoples gardens.
    personallyline extenders / regenerators, advances in cabinet capability and maybe one day removing power mask restrictions on 2mhz are where its at, possibly even aggregators, but at these distances….. no. Try again at 500m at we may have something.

    1. Avatar Bob says:

      There are significant saving in not going to the door. The relative short lengths of copper also mean you would get speeds almost that of FTTP

      You also do not need to bother with the short lines so you are just looking at the medium to long lines.

      #With the kit more distributed you might be able to take out the cost of a main feed by using rechargeable batteries and a solar cell

    2. Avatar bluefoot says:

      this is surely something that is a very likely candidate for large areas of exchange only lines, clustered around exchanges in urban areas. since the areas are built up and frequently have difficult arrangements with multiple use / dwelling buildings, this would probably make much more sense to BT than FTTp/h.

  6. Avatar Neil McRae says:

    BT has had G.FAST for over a year now in the labs! No deployment plans as yet. There are a number of viable use cases.


  7. Avatar colin says:

    For all those poor people out there with long lines,including myself and who live over 1KM from their PCP with no FTTC I believe BT should go with DSL Rings.The DP would have small DSLAM fitted to the pole with a choice of bonding to increase the bandwidth or supplied by FTTDP where possible.

  8. the quote from Mathew Pitt-Bailey, Alcatel-Lucent’s Director of Comms “But you avoid entering the home,” is not completely correct. Power has to come from somewhere to the dP equipment, and this somewhere is from inside the home. See this PR http://www.lantiq.com/media-center/news/press/235/ and more precisely the bit about “reverse power feeding circuitry”.

    1. Avatar Bob says:

      It is a bit vague. For pole mounted equipment batteries trickle charged from a solar panel might be better

      By reverse feed I assume they are talking about using the 48V line power. It may be usfull for where the distribution is underground

  9. Avatar Bob says:

    Having read a bit more it looks to be quite a low cost solution compared to FTTP. It does not look as if there is any need to dig up roads. The Fibre is extended along the overhead lines or through the main street ducting. Presumably this fibre only needs to be run from the nearest aggregation point. Separate power feed is also not needed. The main issue is you would need a high take up as it feeds a small number of homes I think it talks about a dozen. So probably most viable for those with long lines from the cabinet

  10. Avatar Talaha says:

    Good site!

  11. Avatar Lester Marin says:

    I would like to know how the technology transfers from fiber to copper at the Dp. Is it active electronics, if so how is it powered?

  12. Avatar Craig Buckingham says:

    I believe this G.Fast is being considered for the Australian NBN as well. I don’t think it will come to much with the exception maybe of greenfield deployments because, well, if you need an active cabinet every 250m (probably going to be much further apart than that)rather than 1 per estate under FTTH, then the costs are going to be even larger for this than for a GPON brownfield deployment. Surely.
    It has a place, but it does not remove the need for full FTTH.

  13. Avatar Stefano Wosz says:

    FTTdp nodes powering is managed thanks to a power supply placed in the homes of the customers that send current over the same copper pair used for data connectivity, which means no need for local powering.

    FTTdp can be considered as a “complement” to FTTH, offering comparable speeds over copper in areas where full fibre deployment is impossible (for technical or costs reasons, like old buildings or rural areas): VDSL2-FTTdp is capable of reaching more than 200Mbps in downstream and more than 50Mbps upstream, so completely compaltible with many actual 200/20 FTTH commercial offers.

    Here are a couple of videos overviews of our FTTdp solutions:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9BPXuLhONA (Intro on FTTdp)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyFvM5BIMGs (Installation and Performance demo at BBWF2013)

    Stefano Wosz
    Aethra Telecommunications

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