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Diagram of How BT’s New FTTrN Superfast Broadband Technology Works

Monday, September 1st, 2014 (2:32 pm) - Score 20,151

After several weeks of pestering BTOpenreach’s poor communications team, we’ve finally managed to extract a simple diagram to help illustrate how their new Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology will work.

As first reported back in March 2014 (here) and then again in an update last week (here), FTTrN is similar to BT’s existing ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology. But where FTTC takes a fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange to your local street cabinet (your existing copper line is used between the cabinet and homes), FTTrN sees the fibre optic cable being taken to a significantly smaller ‘Remote Node’.

The nodes effectively act like tiny street cabinets, except they can be positioned on nearby telegraph poles or inside manholes etc. Several advantages can exist with this approach, such as the ability to avoid the need for building a new street cabinet in areas where this may prove difficult or expensive to achieve.

In some areas it may also bring the fibre optic cable much closer to homes, which can result in faster and more stable service speeds. Furthermore some nodes can be powered by the home itself (reverse power), although so far as we can tell BT are likely to stick with their existing remote power setup (i.e. they supply the power for your copper line to work). The network diagram is shown below.

fttrn network diagram v1 ispreview edited

BT’s trials are designed to help the operator understand a variety of difficult factors, such as the costs of deployment and maintenance, as well as the impact on performance and time to install. As a result the trials aren’t just taking place in rural locations like North Yorkshire, but also London’s Shoreditch area and a small part of Bedford town.

Ultimately FTTrN won’t work everywhere and if you can already get a decent FTTC or even FTTP service then the chances of getting FTTrN installed are pretty remote. Instead BT currently sees this service as being one with the potential to fill those awkward urban and rural gaps, where their existing approaches might be less cost effective.

This stance may or may not change in the future, especially since to get the most out of next-gen technologies like G.fast (aka – FTTC) you really need to bring the fibre optic cable even closer to homes. But it’s difficult to see a cost conscious company like BT going back to existing FTTC areas in order to achieve that. Time will tell and finding the answers to such questions is one of the reasons why you run such trials.

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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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