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

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 (1:34 am) - Score 7,503

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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