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UPDATE Entanet Laments Loss of Openreach Approved VDSL Modems

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 (2:54 pm) - Score 5,040
openreach bt fttc broadband modem

Shropshire-based communications provider Entanet has today warned of the “potential for confusion and misunderstandings” when BTOpenreach finally withdraws its VDSL Modem from their own FTTCfibre broadband” installation service at the end of March 2016.

The change, which is perhaps a reflection of the fact that most FTTC installations are now of the self-install variety (wires-only where the ISP supplies their own router / modem), is nothing new and those with Openreach’s own-brand VDSL Modem will at least continue to be supported for another year.

Never the less ISPs aren’t especially pleased with the development, not least because being able to use Openreach’s own VDSL modem made support easier (i.e. a familiar / shared platform, quick to update firmware and easy to replace faulty kit).

Similarly some ISPs don’t relish having to put their own choice of kit through Openreach’s Modem Conformance Test (MCT), which is necessary because Openreach may refuse to support consumers who use third-party (unapproved) routers.

Neil Watson, Entanets Head of Service, said:

“A further point of concern for us comes with the key phrase “BT approved and Openreach compatible modem/routing device”. What this actually means is that any device supplied needs to support VDSL2+ technology and have passed Openreach’s Modem Conformance Test (MCT). While Entanet partners are able to identify approved devices through our partner portal (synergi), consumers are largely clueless about this requirement and indeed what constitutes an approved device.

And here once again, the onus falls on the reseller to educate consumers on what could happen if they choose to use a device that supports VDSL2+ but that hasn’t passed the MCT. Should a problem occur that requires BTs involvement to achieve a resolution, they will easily identify unapproved equipment through loopback testing. If unauthorised equipment is detected, BT can:

* Request that the device is disconnected
* Limit or disconnect the FTTC service
* Refuse to fix problems
* Levy charges for either an abortive visit as well as any special faults investigation charge.”

The issue will thus be most keenly felt by smaller ISPs that have tended to stick with the old engineer installations (i.e. those that included Openreach’s own VDSL modem) and some fear that it may eventually result in more calls to the customer support desk.

On the other hand Openreach will still offer an engineer installation, albeit at a greater cost and using the ISPs own MCT approved CPE (router/modem) equipment. Entanet draws the following Pros and Cons from the new approach.

Pros Cons
Wires only installation
  • Lower cost FTTC installation.
  • No requirement for an engineer visit at end-user premises, so no issues arranging appointments.
  • An engineer will not be able to diagnose problems at the end-user premises on connection.
  • Using microfilters rather than a service specific faceplate could impact achievable upstream and downstream speeds.
  • End users will have to connect a modem/router themselves.
Installation with engineer visit to uplift wiring and fit faceplate
  • Connecting to master socket via engineer fitted service specific faceplate ensures speeds are the best they can be for that connection.
  • Microfilters are not required.
  • Engineer can diagnose problems on-site.
  • Engineer can connect modem/routing device if supplied in advance.
  • Requirement to arrange engineer visit to end-user premises.
  • Higher cost of installation than previously (where passed onto consumer).
  • If modem/router not available on site on the day of the engineer visit, the engineer could walk away.

Entanet does make a fair point about the MCT, particularly in regards to the lack of information about which routers have been approved. We have prodded Openreach to supply this a few times over the past few months, although for some reason they’ve always been reluctant to answer.

Thankfully we do have a partial list of approved or under evaluation VDSL routers / modems, which stems from a couple of last year’s BT Wholesale ISP Forum events. Sadly this list is far from complete, but at least it’s better than nothing and Openreach should really be doing more to make the full information available as consumers need to know about it too.

Approved

Cisco C887VA-K9 (Firmware: 39m_B_38h3_24h)
Cisco C897VA-K9 (Firmware: 39m_B_38h3_24h)
Zyxel VMG8324-B10A (Firmware: A2pv6F039q)
Zyxel VMG8924 (Z-400UK) (Firmware: 1.00(AAKL.10)C0_0703)
Huawei HG633 (Firmware: 3_01.32.10)

Under Evaluation (these might have been approved by now)

Zxcel1312 Zxcel
c897VA-M Annex-M Cisco
Technicolor TG598VAC Thomson
Cisco 897 VAB Cisco
Huawei V2R2 Huawei
Cisco 897 NIM Module Cisco
Billion 2.32d.dm2 Billion
Juniper SRX210 Juniper
FritzboxGMBH AVM
Vigor 2860 Dratek
Technicolor 589v3 (Firmware: A2pv6F037g.d24c1)
Technicolor TG598VAC (Firmware: A2pv6F039o1.d26b)
Zyxel 1312 (Firmware: V1.00(AAJZ.5)b2_0331)

It’s worth pointing out that if a device fails Openreach’s MCT test then the wait time for another try is, according to what ISPs tell us, currently 11 months. Not exactly the fastest process in the world.

UPDATE:

One ISP has been kind enough to supply us with the latest list of approved VDSL routers / modems and they also raised another question with regards to the seeming absence of BT’s Home Hub (apparently it’s not available to buy and so that’s why they don’t appear below, except you can buy a HH5 here).

Cisco (chipset firmware all 39m_B_38h3_24h):

C887VA-K9
C897VA-K9
CISCO887VA-K9
CISCO887VA-M-K9
CISCO887VA-SEC-K9
C887VAM-K9
C887VA-W-E-K9
C887VAM-W-E-K9
C887VA-V-K9
C887VA-V-W-E-K9
C887VA-CUBE-K9
C887VAG+7-K9
C887VAMG+7-K9
C887VAGW+7-E-K9
C887VA-WD-E-K9
C887VAG-4G-GA-K9
C897VAW-E-K9
C897VAM-W-E-K9
C897VAG-LTE-GA-k9
C897VAMG-LTE-GA-K9
EHWIC-VA-DSL-A
EHWIC-VA-DSL-M

Zyxel:

VMG8324-B10A
VMG8924 (Z-400UK)
VMG1312-B10A

Huawei:

HG633

Technicolor:

TG589Vac
TG789Vac
TG588v2

Kenton Comtrend:

VR-3030

Draytek (all firmware 05.07.06.0D.01.07):

Vigor 2860
Vigor 2860vn Plus
Vigor 2860n
Vigor 2860n Plus
Vigor 2860L
Vigor 2860Ln
Vigor 2860ac
Vigor 2760
Vigor 2760vn
Vigor 2760n
Vigor 130

UPDATE2:

Just to clarify, this is a very mixed list of generally approved router / modems as extracted from BTWholesale’s approved table (includes VDSL devices, as well as other kit). As such it should not be taken as a complete list or purely VDSL related. Only Openreach can confirm the full list.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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15 Responses
  1. Steve Jones

    I’m puzzled. How is this any different with the position that applied with ADSL/ADSL2 services prior to the introduction of FTTC services? It might be that VDSL2 is a bit more demanding (as it is with internal wiring for that matter), but the principle is surely similar. Also, do these smaller ISPs not have some form of association that can interface with OR and come to common agreement on supported and compatible VDSL modems and modem/routers?

    • Steve Jones

      I should also add that I can’t see why it should be a burden for ISPs to communicate with their customers about what equipment their service provides. They do, after all, jealously guard the customer relationship when it suits them. Yes, they could point joint pressure on OR to provide technical support standards and information which the ISPs could produce (OR are lamentable at producing technical guides for internal wiring standards for instance), but that’s something that the ISPs could usefully demand from OR.

  2. Eccles

    Was that long ago that I got slated by some commenters regarding the use of BT approved VDSL equipment and the fact I was apparently incorrect: http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/01/2016-update-router-options-for-uk-fttc-fibre-broadband-isps.html
    The main issue is the most of the ‘approved’ devices are pretty expensive so small ISP’s can’t offer them for free as they don’t have the bulk buying power and they can’t risk using cheaper ‘unapproved’ equipment as they’d potentially have to swallow abortive visit or SFI charges.

  3. mike

    I fail to see how this can be a list of approved devices…

    NO ECI b-focus modem which BT supply on that list
    NO HH5 on that list (despite the justification as to why you can even buy one of them in PC world)
    NO Huawei HG612 which is the Huawei BT supplied on the list either

    Sounds like garbage to me and the news item appears to be a copy and paste job from an ISP who does not even quote prices for their FTTC products on their site, so no shock really.

    • Steve Jones

      Why should the HH5 appear if none of the other own-branded ISP provided modem/routers don’t? Not that an unattributed list is definitve, but it’s not inconsistent with this being a list of commonly available compatible modem/routers.

    • mike

      “Why should the HH5 appear if none of the other own-branded ISP provided modem/routers don’t?”

      Because they do the Huawei HG633 is talk talks own branded device.

      “with this being a list of commonly available compatible modem/routers”

      No other provider supplies the HG633 yet its on the list.

    • Eccles

      Entanet are a wholesale ISP who only provide broadband via resellers so why would they publish consumer pricing? I don’t see other wholesale ISP’s making their prices available to all, I wish they did!

    • mike

      I was not refering to Entanet as being the ISP with no pricing.

      Also confused as to what a “Zyxel VMG8924 (Z-400UK)” is supposed to be, no such thing from what i can see, the uk model to give its full name is a “VMG8924-B10A-GB01V1F” the EU model is a “VMG8924-B10A-EU01V1F”

      A Zyxel Z-400UK appears to be nothing more than a microfilter…
      https://www.dslsource.co.uk/View/VDSL
      https://twitter.com/runitdirect/status/604199441566945280

      SO no idea what that is spose to be

    • Eccles

      Sorry mike, I thought you were referring to Entanet as they feature prominently in the article. I agree with the Zyxel comment though but then they do seem to have the craziest model ID’s.

    • mike

      To be fair i should had been more clear its more the updates since the initial news item IE the bit from where it says “One ISP has been kind enough to supply us with the latest list of approved VDSL routers…” which seems to be a copy and paste job and utter nonsense.

      1 zyxel model as i pointed out does not exist
      2 they seem to think all those Draytek devices use the same firmwares
      3 As another example there is more than 1 model of the Vigor 2760vn and neither of them run that firmware revision one 2760 is a standard model/revision the newer 2760 runs something called drayos.

      In short it raise more question than its spose to answer.

  4. Steve Jones

    @mike

    The Talktalk router is a rengineered and rebranded version of the HG6333. At the very least it has tweaks to the firmware, even if they are superficial. I’ve no doubt that other ISP branded modem/routers are also not much more than reskinned commercial routers with customised firmware. But the point remains. None of the ISP branded routers are mentioned under their own names, even if the underlying mode/routers has been approved in its own right.

    You also raise a point that this didn’t include modems, but the list specifically says its forapproved routers.

    • mike

      “But the point remains. None of the ISP branded routers are mentioned under their own names, even if the underlying mode/routers has been approved in its own right.”

      I think you will find that the Huawei HG633 with (Firmware: 3_01.32.10) which is listed is a Talk Talk revision/branded version. Which further confuses as to why that but the Openreach HG612 in any state (with or without BT firmware) is not listed.

      “You also raise a point that this didn’t include modems, but the list specifically says its forapproved routers.”

      Nope that does not seem to explain it either the Vigor 130 as one example is a modem only device requiring a separate router.

      The list either seems to be flawed, incomplete or just complete nonsense, id say a bit of each.

    • Hi Mike,

      You seem a little angry. The list comes directly from BT Wholesale’s Issue 7 Approved Modems table (also includes routers.. but I’ll make this clearer above), so I suggest you take your questions about “chipset” firmware up with them as we’ve only reflected what the official document actually says.

      We generally also assumed that people don’t need to be told “router / modems” all the time and can use their own judgement about what the device type is from its name.

    • mike

      “Hi Mike,

      You seem a little angry. The list comes directly from BT Wholesale’s Issue 7 Approved Modems table (also includes routers.. but I’ll make this clearer above)”

      Not angry just pointing out the list is flawed. Do you have a direct link to BT wholesales or openreaches actual list as what has been supplied to yourself seems to be highly inaccurate. I assumed this (or the update list) was provided to you by cerberusnetworks who have had that list of devices (some non-existant) and devices which have no such firmware (much of the drayteks) for quite some time.

      “We generally also assumed that people don’t need to be told “router / modems” all the time and can use their own judgement about what the device type is from its name.”

      A fair assumption, though as i mentioned if people go and try and buy a
      Zyxel VMG8924 (Z-400UK) they will be out of luck because there is no such thing.

      I also thought it rather important to point out the firmware revision listed for MOST of the draytek devices is non-existent to prevent people wasting their time looking or worse trying to flash the wrong firmware on their device. I assumed you would not want people coming back on here or to yourself screaming about some wrong firmware breaking their device.

  5. dragoneast

    It looks to me, again, as the industry serving itself rather than the consumer.

    Supposedly the great benefit of all this is competition and consumer choice. Except it isn’t.

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