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ISP Zen Internet Joins UK Ultrafast G.fast and 1Gbps FoD2 Broadband Trial

Friday, Aug 14th, 2015 (1:51 pm) - Score 4,138

Last month BTOpenreach began inviting ISPs to join the first large-scale customer trial of next generation 500Mbps capable G.fast and 1Gbps FTTP-on-Demand broadband technology, which is starting this month in Huntingdon (Cambridgeshire). Zen Internet has now become the first to confirm their participation (8 ISPs are involved).

At present Openreach hopes to begin its 10-year commercial deployment of G.fast (ITU G.9701) technology in 2016/17, which should eventually make broadband download speeds of up to 500Mbps available to “most homes” across the United Kingdom.

However the top speed may initially be capped at 300Mbps or lower, at least during the trial period, which will match Openreach’s existing Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) service. Another major trial is also planned to take place in Gosforth (Newcastle), while a smaller “technical trial” will follow for part of Swansea (Wales).

On top of that the trials will also see Openreach testing some improvements for their long-stalled Fibre-on-Demand (FoD) service, which allows small businesses and rich home owners with deep pockets to cover the cost of having a pure fibre optic (FTTP) line built directly to their property (this is only available in certain FTTC areas that have been enabled for FoD).

It’s worth reminding readers that the FoD2 trial will also increase the services top speed to 1000Mbps. Existing Zen customers in Huntingdon and Gosforth will all be offered the opportunity to benefit, provided they can afford it.

Apparently the FOD2 trial will officially begin during the last week of this month and then run for six months. We should remind readers that FoD is also separately being made available to the majority of Wales (here).

Andrew Sayle, Zen’s Broadband Product Manager, said:

This is the future of broadband. As the technology we use in our personal and professional lives progresses, customers are demanding more bandwidth to power more complex devices. There are only two ways of doing that; you can build new fibre connections into the ground – which is costly and can mean a lot of upheaval – or you can utilise newer technologies, which is where G.Fast and FOD2 come in.

We want to see how these new broadband services perform in real-world scenarios, so have already made contact with customers in Huntingdon and Gosforth to get them prepared for the start of the trial later this month.

We hope that, shortly after the trial, these technologies can be made available to our wider customer base, as it really will herald a new level of broadband experience. We’re excited to be one of just a handful of providers able to offer this trial to customers.”

As a quick recap. G.fast works in a roughly similar way to BTOR’s 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 several million premises by 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

At this stage we still don’t know much about Openreach’s deployment plan or the likely service costs (it will probably sit somewhere between FTTP and FTTC), although the whole purpose of such trials is to establish the real-world costs, spot bugs and identify the most economically viable deployment methodology or hardware choice.

Mind you BTOR isn’t likely to win the performance crown quite so easily. G.fast will take a good ten years to roll-out, most likely to around 60-70% of the country at first (commercial footprint). By comparison Virgin’s planned DOCSIS3.1 upgrade, which will initially deliver similar top speeds in many of the same areas, may only take a couple of years (add two years on top if you include their current network expansion footprint).

At present we don’t have a full list of trial ISPs, although we know that Merula is involved and you can bet that BT and or PlusNet are there. We’d also be quite surprised if Sky Broadband and TalkTalk hadn’t put in an application.

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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