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BT Set Trial of Standalone Naked FTTC Superfast Broadband Without Phone

Monday, March 30th, 2015 (9:14 am) - Score 8,913

BTOpenreach has set a trial date for the ability to order a naked superfast “fibre broadband” (FTTC / VDSL) service, which means you could take the broadband without also having to pay a separate fee for the phone line rental (aka – Naked VDSL, Single Order GEA-FTTC or SoGEA). There’s also a small update on VDSL Amplifiers and Vectoring.

The existence of such a product, which could deliver an attractive option for consumers who no longer make much use of their home phone line for anything except Internet connectivity (most of us prefer to use our mobiles now), was first mooted last July 2014 before finally being confirmed a few months later (here).

In theory one of the benefits of this approach is that it might be cheaper, but in reality the cost difference probably won’t deliver a big saving over broadband + line rental because you’d still have to pay something for the physical copper / aluminium line that runs into your property (i.e. culling the voice service alone won’t save that much off the total cost). Plus some organisations still refuse to accept a mobile phone number for validation purposes, which can be annoying.

Unfortunately our attempts to extract an update from Openreach concerning the status of SoGEA, as it’s officially called, have so far fallen on deaf ears. But thankfully some official BTWholesale documents have given us a few additional titbits of information. As usual we’ll copy this in below for your viewing pleasure.

sogea

What is SoGEA
• Single order Generic Ethernet Access.
• Copper bearer to the cabinet and IP FTTC service delivered in a single order.
• No voice service services provided on copper bearer.

What will it mean?
• No need to have ordered WLR3 or MPF.
• No voice service provided as part of service move towards VoIP services.
• Change to diagnostics.
• Additional product option to existing suite from BTW.

The documentation reveals that BTWholesale are expecting Openreach to release the product anytime between the Autumn 2015 and Summer 2016 window, although they also expect that the first trials won’t take place until around Spring 2016. However we are not sure whether these dates are operating off BT’s financial calendar or an ordinary calendar.

Sadly the all-important question about price remains unanswered, with BTWholesale saying that Openreach have yet to share any details with them. Price will be crucial as if the difference between an FTTC SoGEA connection and FTTC + Phone Line Rental is too small then its attractiveness as a service option may be lost, which probably wouldn’t bother BT too much.

Much may also depend upon how ISPs choose to price the service, since such providers are notorious for jacking up the retail phone rental in order to make the broadband side look cheaper in advertising. On SoGEA they can’t do that, but they’ll still need to make a similar profit.

Incidentally the same documentation also hints at VDSL Amplifier Technical Trials taking place around Q3 2015/16 and readers might recall that we touched on these last month (here). Related devices are designed to amplify, alongside Vectoring (removal of crosstalk interference), the existing VDSL2 signal so that FTTC services could push their performance to even more remote communities (speeds of 25Mbps have been suggested for premises that are as far away as 2.5km from their local street cabinet).

On top of that there’s also talk of Openreach deploying (commercially) Vectoring technology within the same timeframe as SoGEA and Amplifier trials. At present Vectoring is still in trial and those have been hampered by a few technical challenges, although it was expanded to 100 DSLAMS during January 2015 and will ultimately focus on areas with a lot of FTTC lines (here).

The documentation confirms that Vectoring has delivered an average downstream uplift from 54Mbps to 60Mbps (80Mbps FTTC profile) and long lines also generally trained upwards on a higher profile, although this is largely just correcting what the line should have been able to achieve anyway (assuming no interference). Apparently Vectoring also increased retrain times from an average of 45 secs to 2 mins 10 secs and the trial found no discernible difference in Retain Frequency.

Suffice to say that the next 12 months will be quite a busy period for Openreach, not least with this summer’s G.fast trials set to get underway and related speeds of 500-1000Mbps being investigated. Plus FTTP will also be trialled to speeds of 1Gbps (currently 330Mbps).

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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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