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North Yorkshire’s UK BT Fibre Broadband and FTTrN Rollout Suffers Delay

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 (2:53 pm) - Score 2,554

The Superfast North Yorkshire project in England, which was supposed to be rolling out BT’s “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) services to 90% of local premises by the end of October 2014 and possibly reaching 100% by the end of 2017, is apparently running “13 weeks behind schedule” and BT’s plan to deploy its new Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology in the county may also have to wait another year.

According to the latest council meeting, under Phase One BT were contracted to enable, by the end of October 2014, the availability of “improved broadband” to at least 171,000 premises of which 149,944 must have access to superfast speeds (25Mbps+). But to date the total premises passed is actually 151,499 and only 130,199 of those can receive speeds of 25Mbps+.

Council Update – 18th Nov 2014

BT therefore submitted a formal Notice of Change request that will see 98% (146,292) of premises now completed by the end of 2014 with the remaining 2% (3,652) to be completed by 31 March 2015. The final 2% are represented by Exchange Only (EO) cabinets that present BT with considerable operational and technical difficulties.

The difficulties faced by BT in North Yorkshire are not unique – BT are experiencing similar issues across the UK. The principal reasons are difficulty in finding civils contractor resource and lack of retained expertise in copper rearrangement required for EO cabinet builds. This is a particular issue for North Yorkshire as SFNY is an early adopter of EO cabinets that require considerable expertise to do the ‘in life copper rearrangement’.

Contractually, this failure to achieve Milestone 9 by the defined date constitutes a default by BT. However, at this stage of the Phase 1 contract (and with Phase 2 already contracted), the SFNY Advisory Board (and NYnet 100 Board) do not consider it to be in the best interests of SFNY to pursue this matter through legal channels therefore leverage has been brought to bear. As a result of applying leverage BT has reversed a decision to withdraw three cabinets (serving approximately 750 premises) from their commercial programme and these will now be ‘ready for service’ by March 2015.

The meeting notes also give us an update on BT’s much publicised plan to trial their new Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) technology in the county (one of several across the United Kingdom), which will work in a similar way to the operators ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) solution. We’ve detailed this more HERE and HERE.

Except that instead of taking the fibre optic cable to your local street cabinet, FTTrN will run the fibre all the way up to smaller and lower power remote nodes (e.g. similar to the ECI Hi-Focus MiniCAB 64V perhaps), which can be positioned on nearby telegraph poles, inside manholes / NGA aggregation nodes or at a variety of other locations.

fttrn network diagram v1 ispreview edited

At the latest update in August 2014 we reported that local planning for the trial showed how there would be circa 20 premises served somewhere in the district of Richmondshire (Leyburn). The new meeting notes reveal that the community of Ulshaw has been selected for this and the related telegraph pole based node will serve up to 16 premises.

Apparently the first customers will go live by December 2014, although BTOpenreach are said to face a “challenge … in terms of training engineers and ensuring continuity of power supply“. Under the Phase Two contract, BT were also obliged to submit a revised Phase 2 proposal on 30th September 2014 that demonstrated the uplift from 10,500 premises that FTTRN could offer, within the approved £8m funding envelope. But there’s been a big delay.

Council FTTrN Update – 18th Nov 2014

BT have now informed SFNY that the wide scale deployment of FTTRN will be delayed by up to a year. The key issue is the cost of power. The trial at Ulshaw uses a 1:1 power supply to a node that serves 16 premises. This is the same power supply that would serve a cabinet with 200 premises or more. Therefore the cost per premise of FTTRN carries a significant ‘levy’ for power compared to a Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) solution. The solution for BT is to find a way of aggregating multiple FTTRN nodes to a single power supply. Until this technical problem is solved, BT are not able to offer an ‘uplift’ to the Phase 2 premises number using FTTRN.

The county council states “there is still every possibility that BT will be able to get FTTRN operational at a cost/premise that sits between FTTC and FTTP. If so there could still be time to ‘swap’ FTTRN into Phase 2 (to replace more expensive FTTP) as well as any subsequent phases“.

Otherwise BT are said to be “progressing well” with their planning work for the physical rollout of Phase 2, which is scheduled to start in January 2015 and be completed by December 2016. At the end of Phase 2, there will still be an estimated 41,500 premises that can’t get superfast (25Mbps+) speeds (12,000 of those will be premises attached to cabinets that have already been fibred but the premises concerned are beyond the critical distance of 1.2kms [hard to get a useful FTTC performance]). Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting the update.

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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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