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BT Openreach Start Inviting ISPs to 500Mb NGA2 G.fast Broadband Trial

Friday, Jul 17th, 2015 (2:16 pm) - Score 5,145

BTOpenreach has told ISPreview.co.uk that the first large-scale residential trial of their future G.fast broadband technology (details), which the telecoms operator expects to sell via the Next Generation Access 2 (NGA2) tag, will begin next month in Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire) and ISPs are now being invited.

As a quick recap, Openreach hopes to begin the decade long commercial deployment of G.fast (ITU G.9701) technology in 2016/17 and its eventual aim is to make broadband download speeds of ‘up to’ 500Mbps available to “most homes” across the United Kingdom (initially the top speed may be capped at a lower level, such as 300Mbps like FTTP).

G.fast itself works in a roughly similar way to the operators current 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service, except that it requires significantly more radio spectrum (FTTC = 17MHz vs G.fast 106MHz+) and must thus operate over a much shorter run of copper cable (ideally less than 350 metres).

The service can reach many homes by simply being installed inside / alongside an existing street cabinet, although in other situations (i.e. where the property resides further away) then BT’s high capacity fibre optic lines will need to be moved even closer. At this point the fibre may be taken to a smaller remote node or distribution point (FTTdp), which can also be built on top of a telegraph pole or possibly even put underground.

g.fast broadband bt network diagram

The initial trial locations are no secret and we’ve covered them before (here), with the first one in Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire) expected to involve around 2,000 premises. A similar trial will also take place in Gosforth (Newcastle) and Openreach plans a third / smaller “technical trial” for Swansea (Wales); some FTTP and FTTP on Demand (FoD) upgrades may also be tested.

Openreach has now started inviting ISPs to the first “free trial” in Huntingdon and we’re told that a number of different providers have already confirmed their participation. The related ISPs should begin inviting some of their customers in the relevant area(s) over the next few weeks.

As you’d expect the purpose of the first trial is simply to test the deployment processes and the technology itself, as well as the speeds and experiences it delivers for customers. We’re unlikely to see any preliminary pricing details or results until well after the summer, but we will of course aim to keep our readers in the loop as soon as anything leaks out.

Mind you G.fast isn’t without its pitfalls. The technology suffers a big performance hit when forced to work alongside existing FTTC (VDSL2) services and the upgrade itself could still carry a fairly big cost. On top of that nobody has clarified whether “most homes” means UK coverage of a little over 50% or significantly more (we suspect it may reflect something akin to FTTC’s second 66%UK deployment target, but that’s a guess).

The little bit of copper in G.fast’s diet is of course still the biggest hindrance to performance (i.e. the signal degrades rapidly over distance) and reliability, but even so it looks likely to deliver a big boost over current FTTC services. BT’s prior closed trials have reportedly been pleasantly smooth, which hopefully bodes well for future deployments.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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