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Standalone Naked FTTC “Fibre Broadband” Unlikely to Launch Until 2017

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 (8:20 am) - Score 3,756
young openreach bt fibre optic engineer

A recent update from BTWholesale suggests that the newly proposed SoGEA (Naked VDSL) product, which would give you the ability to order a standalone superfast “fibre broadband” (FTTC) line without also having to pay a separate fee for the phone service, might not see a commercial launch until late 2017.

The last detailed update we posted on the Single Order GEA product earlier this year indicated that Openreach could release it anytime between the Autumn 2015 and Summer 2016 window, with the first trials being pegged for Spring 2016 (here).

The product itself could deliver an attractive option for consumers who no longer use their phone lines for anything except Internet connectivity (today most of us prefer to use our Mobile and or VoIP), although the cost benefit over a traditional broadband + phone combo wouldn’t be huge as the product must still factor in the cost of maintaining the underlying copper pairs (physical line, minus the voice / telephone component).

Suffice to say that BTOpenreach are currently still in the design stages for this service (lab development and closed technical trials etc.), which means that the launch plan remains subject to change. Unfortunately the latest official update suggests that the first customer focused ISP pilots won’t start until January 2017 and those could run into July, meaning we’re unlikely to see SoGEA as a commercial product until late 2017.

sogea roadmap h2 2015

In the meantime we know from AAISP and Sky Broadband that there is a strong appetite for SoGEA among some of the markets ISPs (here), although the product’s success will perhaps largely depend upon whether or not all sides get the pricing right. If there isn’t enough difference then consumers may end up sticking with a broadband and phone combo.

On top of that some organisations still refuse to accept any other type of phone number than a fixed line phone, which is often used to help confirm your identity. In fairness this is backwards thinking and needs to change, but for the time being it can still present the odd annoyance. Ultimately such organisations will have little choice but to adapt.

Not having a fixed line phone number will also make testing for broadband availability a little bit harder as you’d need to use a full address test, which is not always provided and can be a bit more fiddly.

G.fast and a 5-10Mbps USO

Separately it’s perhaps worth pointing out that the same BT update also confirmed how early 2016 would see Openreach launch a major pilot of their 500Mbps capable G.fast (NGA2) broadband technology, which is usually what comes before the main commercial roll-out / launch (i.e. after the current large-scale trials).

The G.fast update also said that the commercial roll-out wouldn’t see a “scale launch” until 2017, which is more or less what we’ve been expecting since the plans were first announced earlier this year (here).

Finally, there was a tiny update that may be linked to BT’s proposal for a new Universal Service Obligation (USO) of 5-10Mbps by 2020 or later (here), which is also likely to benefit from the deployment of Long Reach VDSL technology (details). The update notes that 2 million UK lines currently get broadband speeds of less than 3Mbps and 900,000 of those are within the current “fibre” (FTTC / VDSL2) footprint.

The update states that a new service will be trialled for 6 months as a 15Mbps capable product and this is expected to provide a boost for around 400,000 of those sub-3Mbps FTTC lines. We still don’t know precisely what technology Openreach will deploy for this (there are several options).

The G.fast and USO updates aren’t particularly new, but they do add a little bit of extra context to BT’s previous announcements and so we opted to include them.

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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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16 Responses
  1. Can’t imagine there would be any reduction in the total fee payable, unless Ofcom gets involved. Just checked the current pricing and it is:

    £89.50 pa for WLR
    £87.48 pa for LLU
    £93.96 pa for SLU (never been able to get my head around why a shorter sub-loop should cost more than a full loop!)

    Disclaimer: above prices assume I was not having a blonde moment whilst looking at the Openwretch site!

  2. Avatar adslmax Real

    WLR is £89.50 per year that work out £7.45 per month as the ISP made a profit from any WLR subcharge of £215.88 (a profit of £126.38 a year) UK are rip off

    • Oh dear…

      I think I will allow others to point out the glaring errors in your post! 🙂

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      You might wish to net out the VAT from that profit margin (£35.65) as the WLR price is net of VAT (and VAT isn’t part of a company’s turnover).

      Still an annual markup of around £91 (less where annual payment discounts apply). However, it’s all pretty pointless to talk about line rental as a separate item. It is all, in reality, just part of the overall price packaging. Now that fixed line voice revenue is fast disappearing as a source of revenue, it’s pretty well inevitable that the fixed part of the pricing will go up to compensate. As it is, people don’t seem to want usage based BB charging (and voice is often package based).

      SPs have to bear the cost of upgrades to cope with ever higher bandwidth demands, so it’s not surprising that there’s some rebalancing, especially given that it;s often just the so-called BB element that gets the headline in pricing.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Feel free to emigrate.

  3. Avatar MikeW

    Mark,

    On that “15Mbps for under 3Mbps” trial…

    I *think* this is an attempt by Openreach/BTW to come up with a new 15Mbps package that is based on existing fibre (FTTC) technology (ie as installed today).

    By offering a 15mbps package cheaper than the 40/2 FTTC packages, I think the intention is to persuade some of those on sub-3Mbps ADSL lines to choose to upgrade to an FTTC product … when clearly they could do so currently, but aren’t choosing to.

    I don’t think it (yet) has anything to do with either the support for a 5-10Mbps USO, or long-range VDSL.

    • Avatar JamesM

      But does not 15mbps and the USO go hand i nhand?

    • Avatar gerarda

      The 900,000 sub 3mbps lines in the FTTC footprint seems a higher percentage (about 4%) than the standard wisdom had previously suggested (2% sub 4Mbps according to http://www.thinkbroadband.com/guide/fibre-broadband.html and this is before the footprint gets to cover some of the trickier areas

    • Avatar MikeW

      @JamesM
      I think BT’s talk of a USO service was that they were willing to stand as part of supplying a minimum of 5-10Mbps … with no mention of a 15Mbps speed as part of it. There was no commitment to *doing* anything yet, just a commitment to being part of the solution.

      I suspect BT chose the range because politicians had mentioned a 5Mbps USO, while Ofcom has mentioned a 10Mbps “useful” threshold.

      As far as I can make out, the long-range VDSL technology would benefit everyone with sub-30Mbps speeds, but needs (at least) standardisation work doing. So again, not a thing that BT Wholesale would be offering in their near-term roadmap, and certainly nowhere near a 6 month trial.

      Meanwhile, the BT PRathon definitely had a separate item for 15Mbps speeds … and it seemed to be focussed on being able to market a cheaper package to people who have proven to stubbornly want to stick to their slow ADSL packages. I guess they think that some of the stubbornness is centred on the price.

      @gerarda
      I think the target market is those on sub-3Mbps of ADSL, not sub-X of FTTC.

    • Avatar gerarda

      @mikew

      The penultimate paragraph refers to them as FTTC lines

    • Avatar MikeW

      @gerarda
      The penultimate paragraph is Mark’s interpretation. The update from BTW actually words it slightly differently, in 2 separate points:

      1) “Around 2m lines get below 3Mb/s of which ~900k can get FTTC today”
      2) “Trial, end customers getting under 3Mb/s in FTTC footprint, selected trial geographies expected to cover 400k lines, 6 month trial to understand demand.”

      I read the quotes to mean that the trial will cover 400,000 premises that get under 3Mbps, and are within the FTTC footprint; I think this part is indisputable.

      Beyond that, Mark’s interpretation is that the “get under 3Mbps” is that they get this speed with FTTC. My interpretation is that they “get under 3Mbps” with ADSL (and would get more with FTTC). I agree that the quotes leave it open to either interpretation, so take your pick…

      If Mark is right, then the trial is about new technical solutions to boost speeds. If I am right, it is about a change in marketing/pricing to attract people who haven’t yet been enticed.

  4. Avatar GNewton

    AAISP has been offering naked VDSL for quite a while. However, you won’t save money, they are quite expensive though their customer service is one of the best available in the UK.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      Quite, MPF is surely MPF and not a voice service (although I don’t know if OR insist 50V DC is put on the line as I believe that is sometimes used for diagnostic purposes by OR engineers in the field (and a cross-check for whether a pair is really spare or not).

      I suspect that the marginal cost for LLU operators to offer voice is virtually zero as that’s a function built into MSANs. The addition of a bit of voice revenue to offset other costs was probably welcome and removing it from a package might even make the BB only element more expensive.

      nb. there always used to be a retail product for property-to-property copper loops, but I’ve no idea if that still exists.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I think A&A discovered that some engineers check whether a pair is in use by looking for dial-tone, rather than 50V. If they don’t hear dial-tone … the pair is free to use.

      I remember reading RevK point out that their customers had encountered a loss of service due to lines being stolen in this way… so they adjusted their orders so that naked services weren’t completely naked.

  5. Avatar Paul Roddick

    Naked or dry loops are available in most G20 countries today. In Canada, I pay $9 per month (less than £5) to Bell Canada to ‘rent’ my local loop… and a separate amount to my DSL ISP. This has been a regulatory requirement and available in Canada for many years. BT delays – and associating dry loop availability with FTTC or FTTH – are obstructionist and diversionary… but profitable. £17 per month for a phone service that is rarely or never used is a great scam.

  6. In 2017 hopefully Openreach will be a separate company and the UK will have a future of fast, reliable broadband to look forward to.

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