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

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 (8:20 am) - Score 4,260

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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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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