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The Top Broadband ISP Technology and Internet Policy Changes for 2014-15

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 (1:34 am) - Score 7,479

The past year has been all about technology and deployment, with the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK scheme dominating via its efforts to push BT’s 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service out to even more areas, but a lot more than that has happened. ISPreview.co.uk highlights some the key Internet technology, policy and anti-piracy developments of 2014 and predicts what might occur in 2015.

The past 12 months may be remembered for many things, yet for us one of the biggest and most consistent news stories has been the rise of alternative high-capacity fibre optic providers. So far we’ve seen a massive ramping up of Gigabit (1000Mbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTP/H/B) based broadband deployments and investment from altnet ISPs like Hyperoptic (here), Gigaclear (here) and Cityfibre among others.

CityFibre in particular has also teamed up with Sky Broadband and TalkTalk to make related services available in the city of York and next year two further cities will join their project (here), which if successful would put pressure on BT and Virgin Media’s slower hybrid fibre approach.

fibre optic yellow cable connector spool

Sky also has a number of its own separate FTTP trials (here) and meanwhile BT have even been rolling out more of their native FTTP into rural areas as part of the BDUK programme, although in the grander scheme of things the pure fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) approach is still only involved in a minority of new deployments; accounting for a tiny slice of UK coverage (250,000+ premises).

The progress and investment is clearly there for all to see, but it hasn’t all been good news and there have been casualties. In particular BTOpenreach’s own FTTP-on-Demand (FoD) solution, which held the promise of being able to make their 330Mbps FTTP service available to those within reach of slower FTTC lines, appears to have lost its mass market appeal after BT hiked the price and put it well beyond the reach of most homes and even home workers (here); there have been no new FoD roll-out updates since earlier this year.

Never the less the overall coverage of fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable services, which aside from BT’s FTTC/P platform also includes Virgin Media’s cable network and various efforts by alternative fibre optic providers (like those mentioned above), now reaches around the 80% mark and indeed it appears to be well on the way towards delivering on BDUK’s aim for 95% UK coverage by 2017 as planned.

But reaching the next 95% coverage goal could see slower progress as the BDUK scheme enters increasingly rural areas and thus we wouldn’t be surprised if the 2017 date slipped, as some Phase 2 contracts have already shown (here).

Future Technology (Fixed Line Broadband)

At the same time 2014 has also given us a glimpse of the future. For example, Virgin Media are preparing to conduct their first proper trials of DOCSIS3.1 technology, which by 2016 could potentially deliver Gigabit speeds to homes around the country using their hybrid fibre and cable coax/copper network (here).

In reality we suspect that Virgin will continue to take a more cautious approach and ramp the performance up gradually via more speed boosts, with the next boost predicted to bring a 300Mbps (15Mbps upload) speed service to subscribers sometime in 2015 (albeit by using their existing technology and not DOCSIS3.1). Officially Virgin Media won’t confirm this but there’s plenty of information around to support the plan.

But Virgin Media are also testing true FTTP services in some areas (here), which recognises that DOCSIS3.1 might not be the best solution for everybody and it’s good to have alternatives. Virgin have also been expanding the coverage of their existing cable platform, albeit only to 100,000 premises in parts of East London (here) and a few thousand others in different locations.

Naturally BT has been busy testing a variety of new technologies too and indeed one of the highest on their list must be Vectoring, which is designed to stop FTTC (VDSL2) lines from slowing down as adoption grows due to the rising levels of crosstalk interference (here). Sadly we still don’t know when to expect a commercial deployment, but something will need to be done because crosstalk is causing more and more lines to suffer post-install slowness.

A new service called Fibre-to-the-Remote-Node (FTTrN) is also being trialled by BT in several rural and urban areas, which is seen as a cost-effective alternative to their traditional FTTC deployments (here) and is almost identical to the FTTdp solution mentioned next. FTTrN could also deliver better speeds than traditional FTTC, although the trials will make use of BT’s existing VDSL2 tech and thus the top speeds remain capped at 80Mbps.

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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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12 Responses
  1. MikeW says:

    Don’t forget the two extensions to VDSL2+Vectoring that we have seen come out this year too: VPlus (touted by Alcatel-Lucent) and SuperVector (touted by Huawei). Both would appear to be enhancements for the existing FTTC cabinets, rather than requiring new FTTRN or FTTdp nodes.

    SuperVector aims to increase the frequency spectrum to 35MHz (for short lines) and to improve the coding gains (for long lines). Their tests say 400Mb at 300m, and 100Mb at 800m (I’d guess those figures were aggregate for up- and down-stream).

    VPlus also increases spectrum to 30MHz, but aims for better compatibility with 17a vectoring. It seems to have benefits to within 500m (aggregate 200Mb at 400m).

    It’ll be interesting to see whether “industry” bothers to follow either proposal through to standardisation – which might gives us a clue as to whether they see an extended lifecycle in the current cabinets.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I’m aware of both those two, although Openreach has yet to confirm if they’re planning to test either outside of the lab. But of course more trials would also mean more delays to the introduction of Vectoring on FTTC, assuming they decide to do that.

    2. Ignitionnet says:

      Sounds expensive – new line cards.

    3. MikeW says:

      I vaguely recall seeing that the expected life of the electronics in an FTTC cab was 8 years, even though the cab itself is expected to last longer.

      I could see an in-life upgrade happen, if it turns out that we don’t need a G.fast rollout quite as fast as some people around here think.

      Could we have one in-life upgrade for vectoring, and a further one for a VDSL3+? Who knows…

    4. No Clue says:

      Ah yes vectoring and profile 30. Two more things BT have been promising for years but are yet to be seen in any real life deployment.

  2. Paul says:

    I strongly suspect a rollout will be happening soon. I’m sure some people wonder why I say that?

    – There has been some work recently done at my local cabinet, although I don’t know what it was, I did notice some changes to connection parameters (thanks to the ASUS’s TC tool, and no it wasn’t DLM) and as a result there was a random re-sync for no apparent reason during the day. Vectoring an G.INP both remain disabled still, but I suspect vectoring capable hardware was installed in preparation.
    – A forum member over at OcUK confirmed a BT engineer said to him that they were in the process installing vectoring capable hardware in the cabinets at the moment.
    – Another BT engineer over at Kitz forum speculated based on the limited internal information he could see that a rollout may begin to happen in February 2015.

    As this crosstalk problem gets worse, there will likely be more complaints causing an additional drain on support (e.g. some of which might result in calling out BTOR engineers and finding no actual fault other than crosstalk impact). So, Openreach can’t ideally drag this out much longer unless they are happy with that. That’s the way I see it anyway, I’m sure someone will have a different point of view and I respect that.

    I haven’t posted any references (links) to the above final two bullet points as I’m not sure if it’s against the rules to do so, but if it’s not and people would like me to point them out then I’ll happily do so in a reply to this comment.

    1. adslmax says:

      Vectoring roll out this year (I don’t so!) Probably late 2016!

    2. MikeW says:

      I agree with Paul – the rise in support issues that relate to crosstalk is now being felt across many forums; having to educate users that – yes – speeds can validly drop, and – no – there is nothing that can be done to reset DLM – is time-consuming … and that is likely to be the tip of the iceberg compared to ISP’s telephone support.

      This ultimately causes an overhead on Openreach staff.

      It all has to lead to some pressure internally to start a rollout of vectoring. Perhaps only in cabinets that have reached a certain takeup level, or perhaps a widespread rollout. But the pressure is only going to increase…

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Except they said essentially the exact same thing in 2013 and then nothing happened. I think we’ll wait to see what actually occurs as I’m hesitant to predict a big IPv6 shift from the major players due to so many past claims turning into missed opportunities.

    2. No Clue says:

      I pretty sure they have been promising that since before 2013

  3. cyclope says:

    What BT should of done by now is given the ISP control over DLM even disable it where it’s obviously over reacting and restricting the circuit in an adverse way as far as the customer is concerned DLM is not management its mis management BT suck as a result imo

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