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

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 (1:34 am) - Score 7,232
router modem network cable snakes

BT has also very recently announced a “new form” of the more familiar Fibre-to-the-Basement / Building (FTTB) service, which takes a fibre optic cable to the building and then uses the existing internal infrastructure (could be copper, coax or fibre) to distribute the service over an Ethernet style link (here). But the new form uses VDSL2 (like FTTC) over copper lines for the internal connectivity, which helps from a cost and compatibility point of view and the short cable run means you’re more likely to get the top speed of 80Mbps. This is seen as a good solution for urban areas like central London, which has lots of offices / apartments that are stuck on slow Exchange Only Lines (EOL).

The national incumbent also has one eye trained firmly on the future and as such they’ve been busy conducting early trials of a combined Fibre-to-the-Distribution-Point (FTTdp) and G.fast (aka – FTTC2) solution (here and here).

The idea is to take fibre optic cables even closer to homes, thus reducing the length of the remaining copper wire and being able to deliver theoretical speeds of up to 1000Mbps (1Gbps). In essence you’d get the service from a distribution point (dp) nearer to your home (these can be placed on top of telegraph poles or underground), as opposed to the often more distant local street cabinet.

But the G.fast approach is an expensive upgrade and we’re unlikely to see it deployed for a few more years, especially with the first commercial grade hardware only just coming onto the market now. The real-world performance will almost certainly also come in well below the dizzy Gigabit claims (i.e. 200-500Mbps might be a more realistic expectation), albeit still looking very fast next to present hybrid fibre solutions like FTTC’s 80Mbps peak.

bt fttdp gfast deployment diagram

Interestingly Alcatel-Lucent separately chose 2014 to announce an early prototype of its XG-FAST technology (here), which is designed to replace G.fast and promises top speeds of up to 10,000Mbps. But the trade-off with XG-FAST is its need for even shorter copper lines than G.fast, which could be difficult to achieve and past a certain point BT may simply prefer to deploy a full fibre optic (FTTH/P) solution.

xg-fast broadband copper line performance table

Another future development that BTOpenreach has recently revealed looks to be the long sought after Naked FTTC (Single Order GEA-FTTC) service, which would allow consumers to order a standalone “fibre broadband” connection without taking the phone service (here). But some payment to cover the underlying line rental would still be required, so we’re not expecting this to offer a huge benefit over existing phone and broadband bundles.

BT has also pioneered a couple of less significant, but still important, improvements to their existing services. In particular BT has deployed a new Microwave backhaul link to several rural areas, which can deliver superfast broadband capacity directly to one of the operators VDSL2 (FTTC) street cabinets (here), which for some areas is cheaper and more practical than digging a new fibre optic cable.

But it’s perhaps more accurate to describe the resultant end-user service as Microwave-to-the-Cabinet (MTTC) or Wireless-to-the-Cabinet (WTTC), as opposed to FTTC, since no fibre optic cable is used for the cabinet link (note: with this method the service you order from an ISP would still be the same as FTTC).

microwave wireless to the cabinet

Finally, BT has also found a way to extend the reach of traditional ADSL2+ based copper broadband services by running the technology from inside of their FTTC street cabinets instead of through the nearest telephone exchange (here). In theory this could deliver a small but noticeable improvement in speeds for lines that connect to an FTTC cabinet, but which would otherwise be too far away to benefit from their “fibre” service (i.e. ADSL2+ may be slower but it can reach much further than the VDSL2 used on an FTTC line).

Future Technology (Mobile Broadband)

It’s also important to mention the contribution of Mobile Network Operators (MNO), such as O2, Vodafone, Three UK and EE, which have all been busy rolling out the latest 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband technologies across the United Kingdom. This work is expected to continue for another couple of years until almost total coverage has been achieve.

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Mark Jackson
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. Avatar MikeW

    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.

    • 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.

    • Sounds expensive – new line cards.

    • Avatar MikeW

      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…

    • Avatar No Clue

      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. Avatar Paul

    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.

    • Avatar adslmax

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

    • Avatar MikeW

      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…

    • 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.

    • Avatar No Clue

      I pretty sure they have been promising that since before 2013

  3. Avatar cyclope

    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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