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UPDATE2 Sky Broadband is the First UK ISP to Begin Trialling Self Install FTTC

Thursday, September 5th, 2013 (8:23 am) - Score 5,677

BTOpenreach, which among other things works to maintain and upgrade BT’s national UK telecoms network, has confirmed Sky Broadband as the country’s first ISP to begin trialling a new and possibly cheaper wires only (self-install) variant of its up to 80Mbps capable FTTC superfast broadband technology (i.e. no home engineer visit required).

Sky Broadband advised ISPreview.co.uk that they have already completed extensive trials of the self-install product with their own staff and received “positive results“. The ISP confirms that it has since chosen a select few customers to help it test the solution and this is also being supported by their Sky Hub that would replace the current Openreach VDSL modem (i.e. the hub can switch between fibre/FTTC and ADSL).

A Sky Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

Sky has become the first ISP to begin trialling wires-only fibre (self-install) with Openreach. Self-install on fibre has the potential to provide a better customer experience by removing the need to stay home for an engineer which is why we are supporting this initiative with a Sky Hub that replaces the Openreach VDSL modem as well as being a wireless router.”

The self-install solution has a number of potential advantages and disadvantages. Firstly it means that a home engineer visit would no longer be required (although they usually still need to do some work at your local street cabinet), which could result in a cheaper set-up fee and shorter contract terms (the standard FTTC install currently costs £92 +vat and that includes a separate VDSL modem).

But even Openreach acknowledges that there’s one potentially significant downside to this approach, which occurs because consumers now have to replace all of the hopefully good re-wire / faceplate work that an engineer would do by plugging in a simple Microfilter (much like most people already do for a standard ADSL broadband connection).

In Openreach’s own words, “the use of microfilters may result in reduced speeds when compared to an engineer-based installation” and some people fear that the performance detriment could be quite significant. Unfortunately it’s very hard to be sure but we’d certainly rather pay for the work to be done by an engineer than risk a big loss of speed, especially on longer lines.

ISPreview.co.uk also queried with Sky Broadband whether or not their chosen customers had been made aware that they were taking part in a trial which could result in worse performance than the engineer alternative. So far Sky would only say that the initial feedback had been “positive” and in line with their own internal results.

Readers might recall that we published a preliminary timetable for the self-install trial in April 2013 (here) and the latest news suggests that Openreach appears to be more or less on target, which would mean that the expected commercial launch is still likely to occur during Q4 2013 or early 2014 (depending upon the outcome of their customer trials).

UPDATE 8:39am

Added a statement from Sky above.

Sky also confirmed that they explain the process to customers and said that users then consent as they go through. Apparently new customers can expect to be added to the trial as it ramps up over time.

UPDATE 12:52pm

Some additional information has emerged from a trial user on ThinkBroadband’s forum and Openreach has also put out a general statement, which seems to confirm that “Several [ISPs] are participating in the pilot which will run for approximately two more months” (though Sky seem to be the first out of the gates) and this all appears to be in keeping with the aforementioned timescale.

We know somebody on the trial and hope to have more feedback on this next month, not least in terms of the expected performance detriment.

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

    Appreciate the reticence to go with this new approach though of course the question has to be asked of people whether their ADSL was installed by an engineer or not.

    Same exact thing, likely same exact problems, and while a say 10Mb loss of speed out of 80Mb seems dramatic it’s the same proportionately as a 1Mb loss from 8Mb.

    It’s the future either way, purely engineer installed mass-market FTTC is painful.

  2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

    I hope to get a better idea of performance vs expectations as we have a home that’s on the trial and will be able to take a closer look in October.

  3. Avatar sam says:

    Can’t they give us instructions to do a professional install using the faceplate instead of a microfilter? As long as i don’t need extra equipment then i’d rather do that.

    1. Avatar Kyle says:

      Take a screwdriver and save £96! You don’t even have to buy longer screws as they’re provided.

  4. Avatar Phil says:

    We need a video of how self install and see the result of speedtest for proof.

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      What would that prove? They could be next to the cabinet or a mile away.

  5. Avatar cyclope says:

    Whilst a self install solution is wellcome to many,I’m not sure sky’s plans for this are in the best interests of the customer, they will be suplying their own branded modem/router,I would bet that it won’t be a quality product or future proof, as well as it more than likely being locked down, Like the BT openreach modems,
    As for supplying a VDSL filter and data extension kit what are sky’s intentions here ? a couple of cheap plug in adsl trype filters and no supply of the data extension kit

    A self instal using the same filtered faceplate as BT openreach supplies and fits, would be no different than if done by a BTOR engineer,(if done properly)

    As even BTOR engineers have been installing FTTC without doing any testing the line from the NTE following the install, or fixing the modem to the wall
    Which is part of their job that BT openreach are charging £80.00 + vat for ,As well as them not having the data exension kit that was ordered , So as long as the supplied router/modem that sky are supplying works at least as well as the BTOR modems with both ECI and huawei Dslams and they supply the BT openreach VDSL filtered faceplate, then there won’t be much of a difference, as for internal extension wiring that could be a very different story , as would a self install where no modern NTE is present,or there is more than 1, or star wiring lots of possible reasons for an engineers visit following activation day, and you can guess who will be paying openreach, thats right not sky

  6. Avatar Roberto says:

    IMO self install FTTC from every provider can not happen quick enough. It is no different to ADSL really.

    Agree with concerns over external filters, that combined with poor extension wiring in some homes is likely to be the biggest thing that leads to reduced speeds, again though that as Ignitionnet points out in the opening post is no different to a self ADSL install. If you are not confident with wiring in your home being correct or affecting things than just like any other wires in your home pay the professional to do the job.

    If they supply external plugin in filters and you do not have any extension wiring though you are not likely to see much difference between a setup like that and a filtered face plate Open reach fit.

    Im on FTTC and my openreach installed face plate late last year developed a fault internet would die every time phone rang and on occasions if you just lifted the reciever(just like a dodgy ADSL filter).

    I had to wait 5 days for BT to come and replace it. All i did while waiting was remove it and plugged an old ADSL filter i had laying around into the test socket plugged in the modem and phone to that which cured the problem until BT came out.

    I only saw something like a 1.5Mb throughput drop on the downstream and no change at all to the upstream and that was with a 99p ADSL filter, one of the cheapest of the cheap direct plug in horrid jobs with no pigtail wire to it.

    Freely admit mileage may vary i suspect if i had a decent filter laying around i would not had lost even that 1.5Mb, also some ADSL filters do not work well with VDSL so i was also partly lucky in that instance. I would think though providers will supply tested equipment which mine also obviously was not.

    Faceplate or external filter it will not make much difference the biggest problem for most is wiring in the home.

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