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UPDATE BT Boast of 1000Mbps G.fast and FTTdp Broadband Technology

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 (1:24 pm) - Score 4,407

Earlier this month ISPreview.co.uk became the first to reveal some of the results from BT’s first field trial of hybrid-fibre G.fast (ITU G.9701) and FTTdp broadband technology (here) and today the operator, perhaps seizing on recent calls from UK Labour Party activists, delivered its own take describing the service as “very promising … with significant potential” for the future.

At present BT predominantly uses FTTC to deliver broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps (20Mbps upload), which works by taking a fibre optic cable to your local street cabinet and then utilising VDSL2 and your existing copper telecoms cable (i.e. between the street cabinet and home/office) to deliver the service. This can work over copper runs of up to around 2000 metres, although sub-400m is best (most homes exist within 400m).

By comparison G.fast is similar to FTTC/VDSL2, except it’s designed to deliver top speeds of up to 1000Mbps. The problem is that you can only get even close to that performance by using very short copper lines and thus in order to get the most out of G.fast the technology must be combined with another solution – Fibre to the Distribution Point (FTTdp).

In simple terms, FTTdp shortens the copper line by bringing the fibre optic cable even closer to your home than the local street cabinet, such as by installing small remote nodes (mini cabinets) on nearby telegraph poles or in other locations etc. We revealed in our exclusive report on the operators first field trial that speeds of approaching 1000Mbps were possible, as an aggregate, but only if the node is positioned practically right outside your home. Today’s press release from BT expresses this as follows; although it’s worth remembering that the trial only involved 3 houses (see our original piece for the results at 47 metres).

gfast trial bt results

Joe Garner, CEO of Openreach, said:

Our fibre rollout is making a huge positive difference to this country, already helping 82% of people have access to superfast broadband. Businesses obviously demand even greater bandwidth and can already access speeds of up to 10Gbps via dedicated business lines that we provide across the country. But customer needs will continue to change, and that’s why we’re deploying a mix of current technologies as well as testing new ones. We will continue to innovate so that we meet our customers’ needs today, and in the future.”

Dr Tim Whitley, BT’s MD of Research and Innovation, said:

We see G.FAST as a very promising technology with significant potential – that’s why we’re putting some of our best minds on the case to assess it fully in a purpose-built facility.

BT has a long history of pushing the boundaries in telecommunications, from the earliest days of the electric telegraph to today’s global fibre networks, and it’s crucial that we stay ahead of the curve for the benefit of our customers and shareholders.”

BT’s press release notes that commercial G.FAST equipment is still “immature“, although approval of the related G.9701 recommendation is expected in December 2014 and the first viable hardware should start to surface at around the same time. No doubt the news might please some Labour Party activists, which earlier this week called for the party to adopt a 1Gbps for all by 2020 policy.

But it’s questionable whether even G.fast could achieve such a feat in that timeframe, the FTTdp rollout alone would take a lot of time and further trials will still need to take place first. Not to mention the problem with distance, there’s simply no way you’re going to give everybody 1000Mbps by using G.fast unless it’s an incredibly uneconomic deployment and at that point you might as well just do full fibre (FTTP/H).

Instead it may be more realistic to expect real-world download speeds of 200-400Mbps from G.fast, not least because the technology runs into problems when forced to coexist with FTTC/VDSL2 as it would in BT’s network. This is admittedly still a massive improvement over FTTC, but nothing like 1000Mbps.

On top of that G.fast + FTTdp will still be a fairly long / expensive upgrade, with the smart money suggesting we won’t be seeing a commercial product for a few more years; unless BT suddenly decided to skip their FTTC Vectoring upgrade and go right for the big G (this is a possibility). But for the time being BT has yet to make any firm commitments, except for opening a new ultrafast broadband lab at its Adastral Park R&D centre in Ipswich.

UPDATE 1:37pm

Outside of the official PR we note a small message from BT’s newsroom in which the operator suggests that G.fast could potentially be rolled out in the future “IF” there’s demand or pressure for such speeds (aside from the businesses that can already access those speeds).

One might consider the pressure from Virgin Media’s ever faster services or rival FTTH/P providers to be worthy of a mention. Demand will of course always be strongest amongst the most isolated communities (both urban and rural alike) where broadband is at its slowest.

UPDATE 26th September 2014

Never one to miss an opportunity to comment, fibre optic ISP Hyperoptic has chimed in with a small slice of criticism.

Dana Tobak, Managing Director of Hyperoptic, told ISPreview.co.uk:

While G.fast technology is impressive in a test environment, bringing it to reality will require significant investment in street cabinets and will be limited to high density areas. No need to wait for G.fast – these areas are being upgraded today by Gigabit providers like ourselves.

The future of broadband is FTTP, extending the life of copper is a costly exercise that is just delaying the inevitable.”

Leave a Comment
49 Responses
  1. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

    Some people are so close to there telegraph poles in some cases it might just be better give them FTTP anyway friend of mine has a mini road just barely big enough for 2 cars to get by and on opposite side of that mini road from him is the telegraph pole with the copper cable coming directly to his house from there. It’s probably not even 15 metres.

  2. Avatar robert scriven says:

    it costs a lot more for fttp though! the final few metres would involve digging on your drive etc, g fast uses your drop wire. Hence much cheaper.

    G fast is a lot better solution cost wise.

    1. Avatar Matthew Williams says:

      Why can’t the fibre just be done by telegraph poles ? If they are already in area don’t see why you would need dig underground.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      You can, already been done, but you still have to visit the premise drill install UPS etc etc, very big trials have already been done the costs are known

    3. Avatar MrWhite says:

      And for those that don’t have telegraph poles … there’s a lot of digging.

      Maybe BT could crowd-source some of this? Everyone digs their own drive? 🙂

    4. Avatar Ben Haines says:

      That is exactly what Gigaclear to. You can do a self-install or pay Boxcom £100-£150 for the installation. Complex/longer installs will cost more obviously.

    5. Avatar Ben Haines says:

      Scratch that, standard install is £95 inc VAT up to 15meter. Its all here http://www.boxcom.co.uk/gigaclear

  3. Avatar Tim says:

    Why would the last few meter’s mean BT’s got to dig up drive ways. It is this bit that is usually overhead.

    Newer properties with underground cables shouldn’t need digging up either as the cable should be in a duct so a fibre micro-duct can be pushed through.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      I think there is more lead-in cable done underground than overhead.
      Lots of information can be found in here:

      A fair proportion of the underground stuff is not ducted.

      And even when it is ducted, it isn’t one duct per house. Many houses are fed off the duct using swept tees … so there is no way to get a BFT through without a draw-rope of some description. I’m not sure you’d want to use the existing copper pair as a draw-rope for the fibre; get it wrong, and the house is cut off.

      The last 50m-100m always sounds short to an individual, so they can’t see why FTTdp is actually cheaper. The reason is that you have to repeat that last few metres 28 million times.

    2. Avatar No Clue says:

      What utter dribble.

      To do FTTC they are running fibre cable to cabinets that is hundreds if not thousands of metres from the exchange. If you have the technical ability and finances to do that you have the ability where there is ducting to carry it on to at least the pole and then from the pole a splice of some description to carry the fibre to a persons home.

      Furthermore the digging argument and costs to dig lets say 50M making FTTP uneconomical is also nonsense. To install some FTTC cabinets the often have to dig up road/path before you can install the new cabinet and depending on location the can also have to dig several metres between it and the old cabinet to connect things up. My area being a prime example and where a road had to be closed for 2 days while they dug it up to situate the FTTC box on the opposite side of the road to the old box, which resulted in a several foot deep trench of about 40M in length being dug to bring the genreral vicinity around me FTTC.

      I somehow think closing a road and 2 days of work digging several feet deep costs more than having to micro-trench a pavement with equipment which can do 100M an hour of trench.

      FTTdp is nothing more than a scam to continue the enabling of line rental for years to come.

      Its not an alternative, its not future proof, its not cheap (or can be argued even cheaper) Its just another waste of time and money for another half ass product.

      Obviously this wont stop the BT workers and share holders coming here speaking nonsense and praising another half baked BT product though.

    3. Avatar FibreFred says:

      I can’t decide if you are being intentionally dense or that’s just how you are, you are comparing the cost of installing a cab serving 100-200+ properties vs a single ftth install.

      Either way it’s up there with your usual top quality thought out arguments

    4. Avatar No Clue says:

      Since when would digging a trench to a pole and laying fibre cabling in it equate to the cost of supplying a single premise it would supply as many as the poles in a street can carry.

      Unless im really being dense and round your way each house has its own pole.

    5. Avatar MikeW says:

      No Clue continues to be argumentative just for the sake of it.

      You and I both know we could tear holes in his arguments, and have done plenty of times, but the sad fact is that he wouldn’t bother responding to a single issue we raised. Instead he’d just complain about us being BT workers, rant about how much we submit stories to Mark (as if), and send us on trails of sub-CSE electronics pages.

      I would have said that debating with No Clue is as productive as a chocolate teapot, but some chocolatiers in York have ruined that analogy by making one that works for 2 minutes.

    6. Avatar No Clue says:

      Go ahead and make a plausible argument anytime you wish. It certainly will not be “parallel” to anything you normally do.

  4. Avatar DTMark says:

    Copper line length: long 66m

    long? By that point you’re surely down to one of these boxes for every other property.

    If you’re going to claim that this is an alternative to FTTP, that must be what you’re proposing, right?

    Rather than, say, make noises about what is theoretically achievable and then go on to install just one box on a housing estate of hundreds of homes, boasting about the headline speeds that nobody gets, when all you’re really doing is still trying to keep up with VM.

    1. Avatar Sunil Sood says:

      In London (and I imagine other cities) 66m from a single telegraph pole might cover 50/60 Victorian terraced properties or more so still a lot cheaper than installing FTTH in such areas

  5. Avatar gerarda says:

    I hope there is more truth in this PR puff than the openreach CEOs claim of 82% of people having access to Superfast broadband.

    1. Avatar No Clue says:

      Theres plenty of PR puff from BT, not only by the BT worker bees submitting endless pointless BT daydreams but when they continue to comment about it on here.

  6. Avatar FibreFred says:

    Let the haters hate, they’ve little else to do

    Hopefully this will turn into a real product with decent pricing

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      That seems to be the bit where BT come unstuck

      Lets say you only want 150Mbps and have the option of cable or indeed some other alt-net.

      Virgin Media installation – £nil

      BT installation – £? < would need to be nil or close-as

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “Lets say you only want 150Mbps and have the option of cable or indeed some other alt-net.”

      That is the unsticky part for a lot of the UK, a choice of either of those

      But that aside I would hope the installation charge is very little indeed.

      I mean.. using your argument why isn’t everyone on Virgin in Virgin covered areas?

    3. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Presumably because not everyone wants or needs 50Mb+, ignoring the obvious that some people want to pay as little as possible for their broadband, ideally free. Though £60/month for Sky TV is fine, naturally.

      He has a perfectly reasonable point as far as install costs go; a lot of people balk at paying anything upfront, and for those who want 100Mb or 150Mb they are S-O-O-L bar from Virgin if not in the 250,000-ish FTTP/B covered premises.

      Those who want 100Mb and aren’t in 45%-ish covered by VM / FTTP/B are, of course, S-O-O-L full stop 🙂

    4. Avatar FibreFred says:

      “a lot of people balk at paying anything upfront”

      You could probably drop the “upfront” 🙂

    5. Avatar No Clue says:

      Well said Ignitionnet FTTdp just due to install cost alone is not a viable commercial consumer product. I don’t even know why the site covers the fantasy stories about it anymore apart from the BT mob obviously continually submitting the so called news.

    6. Avatar MikeW says:

      That’s being slightly uncharitable… you yourself have had 2 FTTC lines installed to benefit from the combined speed – so it is certainly possible to get 100Mbps without falling back on VM. Even ‘max’ has done it.

      You’re right that the majority of people won’t be seeking speeds much beyond the 40-50Mbps mark for a while – certainly not if they have to pay more for it. The people in charge of the monthly £ certainly don’t care about future-proof.

      Even the bloke at BT responsible for modelling future demand thinks we’ll hit a bandwidth plateau: http://broadbandworldforum.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/do-we-really-need-superfast-hyperfast-ultrafast-broadband/

      It certainly doesn’t look like there is the same impetus behind deploying G.fast as, say, vectoring. Not yet, anyway.

    7. Avatar No Clue says:

      He wouldn’t need 2 lines if they had gone FTTH/P rather than half baked FTTC. Oh and by all accounts it sounds like ignitionnet from his prior posts had to fight for neigh on 2 years just to get what he has.

  7. Avatar Darren says:

    Seems like it’s still a very much needs must approach.

    “G.fast could potentially be rolled out in the future “IF” there’s demand or pressure for such speeds”
    That sounds like we won’t see G.fast untill we are all maxing out an FTTC conection for prolonged periods.

    Products and services that take advantage of decent speeds will take a hell of a lot longer to emerge if those speeds aren’t currently available on a large scale. This “demand or pressure” BT talk about isn’t going to come about anywhere neer as soon as if the speeds were available now.

    On a positive note 200Mbps upload is more like it, albeit on the lower side of what I’d deem acceptable.

    Hopefully they go ahead with vectoring and roll it out to every cabinet nationwide because I feel that’s the best we are going to get for a long time.

  8. Avatar adslmax says:

    I thought BT should consider vectoring first. Not G.fast?

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      Clearly (as, among other things, it’s cheap to do), but vectoring only gives a (relatively) modest improvement, not the potential for an order-of-magnitude.

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Yep as I’ve said previously I don’t think vectoring will be widespread the gains are too low to get a real difference you need to bring fibre to the home or dp

  9. Avatar john says:

    Seems a good idea from BT, hopefully if/when deployed maybe they could offer the end customer fttp if they are willing to pay the last length dropwire from pole to home ? .

    1. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      Very likely. It would presumably be like FoD, but at a lot lower cost.

  10. Avatar adslmax says:

    Yes but………the current openreach modem will not work for over 100Mbps broadband because the lan ports on openreach modem is 100Mbps limit!

    1. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Why would you expect a vdsl modem to be gfast compatible a new yet to be standardised protocol

    2. Avatar No Clue says:

      He did not say he expected it to work with G.Fast, The current BT modems will not work with profile 30 only profile 17 and the huawei ones wont work with vectoring either. They are basically scrap for any future upgrade.

    3. Avatar themanstan says:

      And why is that a problem?
      G.Fast wasn´t even a twinkling in someones eye when OR selected it´s modems for rollout.
      If a business solution is to reach as many people as possible for the least amount of money, then costing in a modem that has lots of additional capability adds unnecessary costs.
      If a predicted life span of a unit is short then no need for additional capability it is better to have a more current unit shipped which can take advantage of known plans as opposed to unknown technology directions.
      If a customer needs something more then point them in the direction of a 3rd party producer.

    4. Avatar No Clue says:

      Its a problem because before G.Fast becomes main stream/wide other things like profile 30 and vectoring are likely to be introduced way before. SO you will need new equipment for those interations and then more equipment for g.fast. Its an utter waste.

      As for costing in the modems/routers, that does not seem to have stopped BT who until recently supplied you both a modem and a router rather than a single box, if “cost” of the box was important they would not had gone with a TWO box solution in the beginning.

      Finally to also put on my green hat, the way BT and many others go about things (IE bottom end non-SERIOUS upgradable equipment) just leads to more e-waste. Which if you care about the planet or not is funny in itself considering the big deal they make out of using “brown” box “this packaging is recycled” packing for their modems and routers.

    5. Avatar themanstan says:

      But it´s clear that BT OR doesn´t and never has had any hard technology plan going forwards, so it´s been better not waste money on hardware with extra functionality if there are a variety of technologies in the wings.
      Betting on one or more that simply don´t end as part of the equation would be costly.
      Your assumption here is that the technology is predictable (or apparently predictable to OR) and to date it really has not been. The technology life cycles are currently very short. Copper has had an obituary written several times, until some clever clogs has tweaked some physics to wring some more life out of it. Until a real hard wall of an issue crops up, OR being as slow and cautious as it is will take the path of least resistance and least risk (both tech and cost wise).

    6. Avatar No Clue says:

      “But it´s clear that BT OR doesn´t and never has had any hard technology plan going forwards, so it´s been better not waste money on hardware with extra functionality if there are a variety of technologies in the wings.”

      That makes no sense at all, you would do the opposite where possible. If you know a new technology is coming you release hardware that supports it. You spend ONCE on the hardware not multiple times. What makes it even more stupid is profile 30 was known about before BT started their FTTC rollout so to ship modems that only support profile 17 was stupid. Further then having a second box (the home hub 3) equates to even more cost, also stupid considering all but 1 port is 100Mb on it.

      “Your assumption here is that the technology is predictable (or apparently predictable to OR) and to date it really has not been.”

      As stated they knew about profile 30 and vectoring well before they rolled out FTTC, neither of those two things are “new”.

    7. Avatar TheManStan says:

      Is it that difficult to comprehend?
      You don’t seem to understand that OR have no mid or long term evolution plan… that is why nothing makes sense to you.
      Look at what they have done, if OR had a proper plan to use particular technologies in the future why would they use 2 different suppliers with differing specs and hardware support, which complicate their supply chain?
      It’s based on covering as much area as quickly as possible as cheaply as possible, with no regards for future tech. As before tech cycles are so quick longevity of hardware is not important.
      Why incorporate hardware support if 3 years later there will be another product produced that will incorporate that hardware or support particular technologies more cheaply than before?
      example: hub3 BT had no significant products supporting that speed 1x 1gig port , now we’re on the Hub 5 all 1gig ports.
      Factor in that they expect customer churn, so giving customer hardware longevity simply does not make business sense.

    8. Avatar No Clue says:

      No i understand entirely, why would anyone have any plan when you can just go to government when you need more money. The homehub thing was just poor planning, homehub 3 only had a single Gb port, so did homehub 4, the only reason we now have a homehub 5 is not because BT finally woke up to what they should had supplied in the first place but their main competition (Virgin) started handing out improved equipment. Its pathetic to watch them at times. Some of their decisions are like having a big bonfire to burn money.

  11. Avatar FTTH says:

    G.farce is nuts.
    To populate telegraph poles with Active kit is going to be a nightmare.

    Just put a passive fibre out there, far more economical & can be fed from a FTTC cab (Swap a VDSL card for a GPON card).
    Fiber is cheaper, faster & future proof.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      “Swap a VDSL card for a GPON card”

      Are you sure this can actually be done? Source?

    2. Avatar FibreFred says:

      Why would you put a gpon card in the cab , you put it in the exchange so there’s no active kit on the street , you would just follow Bt’s existing FTTP deployment model

    3. Avatar Chris says:

      Umm… Bearing in mind the DSLAMs only have 1, 2 or 3Gbps backhauls, I think this would cause some kind of a problem.

  12. Avatar FTTH says:

    If the platform in the FTTC is not an all access platform designed to cater for GPON & even Business class P-2-P it is v.short sighted. I’m pretty confident that BT are not silly enough to dump active cabs out there with the sole intention of them being VDSL cabs forever.

    512 Gpon customers can be served from 1U of rack space quite happily.

    If there is a fibre feeding the cab just put an 10G XFP in there.

    As for feeding from the exchange, in most cases yes. But regional active nodes can make sense (utilize existing cables – no need to add more). You can also then build FibreHus & distribute from there. BT’s current FTTP model is not an access network, to high skilled and will not cost out.

    PS – the other bonus is BT can kick on with the exchange closure program 😉

  13. Avatar david says:

    BT the company that prefers to bodge wiring instead of replacing and just one greedy company what doesn’t like to spend but likes the money coming in from the mug of the customers .

  14. Avatar James Jones says:

    Love the way Hyperoptic make out they that they are a ‘Gigabit provider’ as if they are laying their own fibre cables. They don’t. They use BTOpenreach leased lines. While I respect that they have found a niche in the market for fibre leased-lines it hardly makes them pioneering.

    1. Avatar No Clue says:

      Errr NO half the places hyperoptic do are brand new builds which do not even have a normal phone line running to them initially let alone lease line BT fibre LMAO.

      I guess we will add “james” to your list of idioms.

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