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BT Set Trial of Standalone Naked FTTC Superfast Broadband Without Phone

Monday, March 30th, 2015 (9:14 am) - Score 8,758

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.


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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53 Responses
  1. The MPF defined by NICC includes a fully functioning sub-loop MPF, where the line testing is done from the VDSL cabinet. Interesting to see how this evolves. Suggests more than VULA is needed if some copper costs are to be removed.

    • I suspect it is very unlikely that the cost to the end user would come down. For two reasons: (1) there is no real correlation between LLU and retail line rental prices these days, and (2) the cost difference between LLU and SLU is naff all – indeed at times SLU has actually cost more than LLU!

    • @wirelesspacman – of the c£87 pa for MPF – I have seen Ofcom data in FLAM R appendices showing c£30 of the £87 being attributed to e-side copper and testing. Why not seek to remove it?

    • Avatar Steve Jones


      That may be the case, but that “e-side” cost is not just the copper. It’s also the ducts, poles, exchange building, rates and so on. If that cost isn’t being recovered from the e-side copper rental, then the VULA product is going to have to make a contribution as the fibre for that goes down the same infrastructure. So it could be that there will be two VULA products, or some re-balancing. The alternative would be that the cost of MPF/WLR would have to go up as essentially the same cost base wll be borne by wholesale costs for fewer lines.

    • @Steve, you remove the unused copper and put in more fibre and gain a return from that. You can also remove exchange frame costs and broadband testing, plan to sell exchanges which have been dis-intermediated by handover points.
      There is an upside to state paying most of the upgrade costs for FTTC in rural and we are only discussing the value of assets which are alreasy fully depreciated.

    • Avatar Steve Jones


      Just how do you propose to remove unused copper? Those aren’t individual pairs, they are bundles of up to several dozen. Just freeing up a proportion of those doesn’t help at all. I suppose if enough E-side pairs were freed up, then it would be theoretically be possible to re-arrange all the used pairs and remove one multi-pair cable, but that’s a very expensive operation, and would only be justified if the space could be re-used. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money as they cable itself is worth relatively little for scrap copper.

      There’s a myth around that the majority of the network assets are in the copper cable. It’s not. A higher proportion is in the passive infrastructure with the actual value of the cable being a fraction of the whole network.

      The same issue holds with the frame. It’s already there, you can’t remove part of it, or at least without spending a great deal of money on re-arangement.

      There simply aren’t significant costs to reduce through removing a proportion of E-side pairs from service. There will be fewer vaults of course, but the D-side network is where most of those are anyway.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGA – ‘you remove the unused copper and put in more fibre’. Statements like that show a lack of engineering knowledge which is needed to correctly evaluate the rollout of broadband.

    • Avatar New_Londoner


      Quote “you remove the unused copper and put in more fibre and gain a return from that. You can also remove exchange frame costs and broadband testing, plan to sell exchanges which have been dis-intermediated by handover points.”

      And what happens if the customer later decides to cease the service and revert to what they had before? Or wants an alarm line? Or moves and the new occupant wants something different?

      With current USO provisions you’d be mad to remove things as you have suggested, unless of course regulations are put in place to make it a one way process.

    • @THe Facts @Steve The issue of 100 pair cables for instance is understood, but at least an s-MPF gives you the opportunity to create space at some point in the future.
      I am not sure what is does to the notion of effciently incurred costs where such costs are now redundant, but it highlights the challenge.

      The alternative of LA’s investing in their own passive infrastructure or using alt-nets to do it is no more appetising.

    • Avatar Steve Jones


      It’s going to make very little difference to incurred costs, and any opportunity to recover unused duct space in the future is a very long way in the future. As Ofcom regulate MPF/WLR on a cost basis, then that all has to be plugged into the future.

      Of course, there might be the argument that the VULA products will have to pick up more of the E-side infrastructure costs, but that’s going to be a rather tricky calculation to make.

    • @Steve You appear to recommending to LA’s with ambition for FTTP to build more duct or get City Fibre to do so.
      @NewLondoner – USO is out of date and needs re-writing, so your correct to sit back and wait.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Statements like that show a lack of engineering knowledge which is needed to correctly evaluate the rollout of broadband.”

      So you do have engineering skills? Then how come you don’t use how to use Google? Or what became of your fantastic proposal posted some months ago to do a nationwide government-funded fibre rollout?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      GNewton, I think you are taking over as the new troll with your constant “Google” and “Why do you care” quotes. You must repeat/bait thefacts with these comments every week. 😐

    • Avatar MikeW

      100 pairs? You’ve been reading about the D-side too much.

      Cabinets tend to have 1,000 E-side pairs. Could be 1×1,000 pair cable, 2×500 pair cable, or 2×400 + 200 cable.

      Bigger cables exist, but not at cabinets.

      They’re also pressurised, to keep water out. And critical (you’ve heard of the need for 999 calls to be able to be made, right?). Don’t expect BT to want to disturb these things lightly. Don’t expect for them to be removed until there are zero copper customers – after all, future spare capacity will be useful in the wind-down of copper, when maintenance gets reduced.

      As for the notion of “efficient costs” in a changed network: Ofcom already consulted on the idea of whether BT should recover costs on the basis of their network as-is, or as it would be if built efficiently now. BT argued, successfully, that the network is built out over many decades, and what may have been efficient once can turn inefficient – yet be costly to alter. Ofcom agreed that recovery should happen on what the network has become, not on what you would do if starting again.

    • @MikeW Thanks if a case is to be made for more FTTP, then your point suggests if not makes clear, that using the VDSL cabinets for supporting PSTN, line testing is needed so some opportunity to clear space in existing duct.

  2. I would certainly like to see this product out there – if it is also taken up by the ISPs. At the start of the year I ordered a TalkTalk “fibre” service for use at a small business centre. As it was a totally new line I also had to order a telephone line with it. The telephone line went in no problem, not that it will ever have a telephone connected to it, and I am now being billed for it. The broadband however is still not working due to some sort of Openreach issue at the cabinet. The single-order version would at least ensure I was not being billed for something that is of no use to me whilst the “fibre” service is getting sorted.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      As you ordered the two together, then there’s surely an extremely good case for you not having to pay anything until the full service is delivered. It would be up to TT to sort out the wholesale billing issues as it’s nothing to do with you. You contracted with TT.

    • Avatar DTMark

      ^ What Steve said. I wouldn’t pay anything more until the contract was fulfilled, which is to say, what I ordered has been supplied.

    • Your lack of opportunity to order a direct fibre access line where Fibre is already deep in the access network and where copper was not available looks sub-optimal.

    • @wirelesspacman – FTTC means there is a handover point and a fibre bearing AGN in the vicinity. There are also blown fibre components to the cabinet with spare capacity.
      Given the copper had to be provisioned from some point in the access network, fibre could also have been provisioned.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @NGA – Please explain more.

    • @wirelesspacman Facts

      In theory at least he could have ordered Fibre on Demand and challenged for the affordable version. If he was with a vicinity of a connection voucher he could have used that.

      Note analsysis mason report rural Cornall at eu500. http://www.analysysmason.com/Research/Content/Comments/FTTH-rural-areas-Apr2014-RDTW0/

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Please explain more.” What’s so hard to understand? The issue is BTs “One Size fits All” approach which doesn’t work in small towns, villages or rural areas. A naked Fibre-on-demand product would actually make sense, too.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – FTTC works well in those areas apart from on long lines, and gives high speeds now rather than waiting years for an alternative.

    • Avatar fastman2

      Wirelss spacemen — mmmm it its FTTP its notrhing to do with the cab — if its FTTC it may be that your you service prvodier thinks your more value to them as an LLU customer and may be dragging their feet or may need to spend more equiment in the exchange — easy to say “sone opentreach issue with the cabinet)

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “FTTC works well in those areas apart from on long lines”

      Wrong! It doesn’t, nor is it futureproof. A nationwide Fibre-on-Demand now, including a naked fibre, would have made more sense. All exchanges are already on fibre-backbones anyway. Or even your own proposal from some months ago of a government-funded nationwide fibre would make sense, though you never explained to us were the money for this would come. There should be no burden to the taxpayers in the long term.

    • Avatar themanstan


      Why doesn´t it work, please explain…
      Everyone knows that FTTC is a interim technology solution, so harping on about not future proof is flogging a dead horse.

      We could only get 1.5-3 Mbps depending where you were in our village… now pretty much everyone is getting more than 30 Mbps with the majority far better… god knows how long we´d have to wait for a full fat fibre solution and certainly would rather have something usable now rather than 10 years down the line. Unless some killer app comes along the 54 Mbps i´m getting now will keep me and the family happy for a good few years for HD TV, skyping and home working… all at the same time!

    • Avatar GNewton

      @themanstan: It can only ever provide a patchy uneven coverage, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. I see these issues with quite a few people almost every week in Suffolk or Essex. Many villages are stretched along single long roads. As NGA for All has pointed out, in many cases fibre makes more sense, and the Cornwall experience has shown that BT’s cost estimates for fibre deployments elsewhere were quite inflated. Also, an immediate nationwide Fibre-on-Demand is needed, including a naked fibre version.

      And giving taxpayer’s money away to a private company like BT must be stopped.

      Also, a better telecom regulator is needed to enforce more transparency, e.g. of what areas telecom companies plan to cover during e.g. the next 5 years, and hold them to account for this. Some kind of telecom licensing similar to what is done for mobile frequencies, or a more realistic USO, would be useful.

    • Avatar themanstan

      But, that´s a topography issue which only affects a very limited number of locations. So the reality is FTTC does work, but is not a suitable solution as is for villages with certain layouts. Even then it provides an improvement over existing situations where a fibre deployment would put availability in the next decade.

      Holding any of them to 5 years plans is not possible as business and market environments change.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @Gn – how do you install infrastructure without using a private company?

    • Avatar themanstan

      Intuitively, vectoring roll-out implied for later this year will have the biggest influence on villages you´ve described.
      The majority of lines will be running parallel to each other for long lengths, which is ideal for crosstalk.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “how do you install infrastructure without using a private company?”

      Why would you not want to use private companies or contractors for installing fibre infrastructures? As regards the cost side of fibre: You already proposed a nationwide government-funded fibre rollout. All I said was not to burden the taxpayers by giving most of the money without ROI to a private company who has no need for it,

    • Avatar TheFacts

      @GN – does clawback not give an ROI?

      BT uses contractors for much of FTTC cabinets, tie cables, ducts, fibre ducts and fibre installation.

      @NGA can explain if BT need the money. Without it many would have to have waited years for a speed increase.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      JN, Sorry, GN will never learn you are wasting your time.

      He doesn’t get the simple stuff like…. not understanding that BT were only going to do 2/3rds and that’s it for now. Sure over what.. another 10-15-20yrs maybe they might have made some inroads into the final 3rd, but that wasn’t quick enough for uk gov hence BDUK.

      It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

      Yet.. even after all of these months he still fails to grasp the basics.

      Thing is.. he can’t just “get it” now after all of this time he’d look ridiculous so he just has to keep going around in circles and copying and pasting from the same 10 paragraphs he has stored in a word .docx to paste into this site every day.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “does clawback not give an ROI?”

      This was explained to you by posters many times over in the past, including why it’s not a genuine ROI for the taxpayer’s money spent. Also stories like people having to wait for many more years for nextgen broadband in rural areas without the BDUK is just a poor fairytale, in fact, quite to the contrary in many areas is true!

    • Avatar TheFacts

      What other government projects give a genuine ROI? Without 100% coverage some people will be without.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Without 100% coverage some people will be without.”
      Agreed, this is one of the issues with the patchy and uneven distributition of VDSL services. Your proposal of a nationwide fibre rollout makes more sense.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      Ignore my ‘proposal’, I said I might support the funding. It won’t happen. Overbuilding VM and altnets are just the start of the issues.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “Ignore my ‘proposal’, I said I might support the funding”

      Changing your mind again?

      What is your latest proposal now on deploying fibre broadband everywhere?

  3. Avatar adslmax Real

    Sound great but …… More worrying if this will gonna to happen Standalone Naked FTTC Superfast Broadband Without Phone:

    FTTC with phone (cheaper on fibre if with phone)
    FTTC without line rental (expensive on fibre if without phone line)

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      That might well be close to it. The actual underlying costs are virtually identical given that the only real difference with MPF is a copper pair from the DP to the exchange. All the ducts, posts, exchange buildings and so on still exist and there is precisely zero chance of being able to recover any of that copper as it’s part of a much larger cable. Just about the only thing that might help is that it could avoid having to upgrade e-side capacity in a few cases if there is a need for more phone lines.

      Of course there’s no need to terminate on an actual voice switch, but as the marginal cost of that is very low, and the SP will be giving up revenue, then I don’t see how this is going to make any great difference.

  4. Avatar Kekle

    I made use of an MPF connection when I had a Digital Region connection, I was sad to see it go when Digital Region went away and I had to move to one of the standard ISPs!

    • Thanks, ~61,000 cabinets shows the commercial programme was c51,000 to hit 19m, and costs minus FTTP is less than £1.2bn capital.Have you seen a better estimate for the commercial roll out?

      Can we treat, the 1308 fibre access nodes the same as Handover Points?

    • Avatar themanstan

      I would not ignore the 95,000 or so properties that were part of the FTTP commercial… given how BT has made it expensive for itself on these I would not be surprised if these gobbled quite a chunk of change…


      It appears that rather than pass properties, they fibred up everything… including those who were not customers for BB.

  5. Avatar fastman2

    Deddington was a FOX exchange Fibre only so no copper

  6. Avatar SSUK

    I guess the only problem is like most BT trials it will either never happen fully or is several years off.

    • Avatar themanstan

      Have to agree, BT are very pedestrian when it comes to trials… other countries have technologies up and running well before BT does…e.g. EIRCOM with vectoring since early 2014

  7. Avatar PAUL RODDICK

    In Canada, local telephone companies are required to provide dry or naked loops. My dry loop (Ottawa) costs $8 per month, about £5… not £16, and not tied to any outside plant changes like FTTC. Ditto for most western countries. When it comes to competitive cost of access for ISPs, BT’s delay tactics have been very successful, and Ofcom has been negligent.

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