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BT Confirm UK Trial Areas for SoGEA Standalone FTTC “Fibre Broadband”

Thursday, Dec 3rd, 2015 (10:56 am) - Score 18,384

BT has published the first concrete trial locations and technical details for their forthcoming Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) product, which is a naked VDSL style service that allows you to order a standalone superfast “fibre broadband” (FTTC) line without needing a phone (voice) service.

At present anybody taking a standard copper ADSL or VDSL (Fibre-to-the-Cabinet) based “fibre broadband” connection on BTOpenreach’s national UK telecoms network, which is used by most of the markets major ISPs, knows that you first have to have a working copper phone line (costs anything from £10 to £18 per month on top of the broadband fee).

However a growing number of consumers no longer use their fixed phone lines for anything except Internet connectivity (most of us prefer to use our Mobile and or VoIP) and as such some ISPs, such as Sky Broadband and AAISP, have been calling for a new broadband-only service.

The SOGEA product is BT’s solution (more details here and here), although it’s critical to note that removing the phone (voice) side of the service doesn’t completely remove the full impact of line rental because you still have to pay for the physical copper line that enters your property. As such the cost vs benefit of SoGEA over a traditional broadband + phone combo isn’t expected to be huge.

BT’s Latest SOGEA Description

Single Order GEA (SOGEA) is a data-only GEA-FTTC product that will be self-contained, hide complexity by including the copper bearer, and could be conveniently purchased through a single order.

• is an addition to the Openreach product portfolio and not intended to replace any existing product choices;
• uses the same Ethernet characteristics as currently available from GEA-FTTC products;
• is supplied with its own copper bearer that would terminate in the exchange and not with MPF or WLR equipment;
• is available as a new provide or migration from/to existing products or product combinations;
• will accommodate the industry geographic number port process in the order and provision process;
• requires any voice service to be provided entirely by VoIP from a service provider.

Openreach are now pressing ahead with the service and the first technical trials are already expected to begin during early 2016 (several ISP / CP trials will also be conducted during 2016), which will be followed by a major pilot. Assuming all goes well then SoGEA might finally become a commercial product for ISPs in 2017.

The good news is that BT has now published a technical document for SoGEA (SIN 517 v1), which reveals a number of interesting new details about the service and that includes its trial locations.

Technical Trial
• Swansea, Ipswich, Brentwood (TBC), Thurso, Newcastle, Leeds

CP Trial 1
• London
• North West (Manchester, Merseyside)
• Midlands (Birmingham)
• Yorkshire (Leeds, York)
• Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh)

CP Trial 2 and Pilot locations to be confirmed.

The document confirms that ISPs will also need to supply SoGEA customers with a broadband VDSL (FTTC) router that may also include support for analogue telephony (ATA), which would for example make it possible for you to connect your phone / handset into the router and use a VoIP / phone service for calling. Many routers already support this, but not all of those currently being supplied by ISPs do.

SOGEA is generally expected to be a self install (PCP-only) provision with CPE Enablement (ie CP provided modem/router with integrated ATA if required) with NTE5C faceplate where a SOGEA isolation faceplate is required for voice reinjection. The service will not be supported if an Openreach modem is connected in the customer premise. Appointed install options will also be available, including installation of NTE5c and faceplate where required, but will require a CP modem,” says BT.

It’s clearly noted that the SoGEA service will be available as either a managed install or customer self-install, much like current FTTC packages. However if the ISP finds that “voice reinjection around a customer’s existing homewiring is required” then Openreach will need to provide a special SOGEA faceplate that will only fit the new style NTE5C backplate (this relates to your BT Master Socket).

Customer premises that do not have a NTE5C will require that their existing NTE is replaced with a NTE5C. You can get an idea of how BT envisages this setup working below, which appears to be much the same as using a normal VoIP equipped router. Otherwise we should get more details next year.

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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