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UPDATE BT Prep Trial of Long Reach VDSL Broadband to Hit 10Mbps USO

Saturday, April 16th, 2016 (1:28 am) - Score 5,553

In a predictable development Openreach (BT) has confirmed that their “very exciting” Long Reach VDSL (FTTC) broadband technology, which could be used to help deliver the future 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO), will soon be leaving the labs and becoming a targeted network-based trial.

At present BTOpenreach’s dominant ‘up to’ 40-80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology works by running a fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange to your local street cabinet and then they using VDSL2 technology over the remaining copper wire (this runs from the cabinet and into your home).

The length of that final copper line is crucial because signal attenuation and other environment factors, such as external electrical interference or water damage, will cause the performance to drop away sharply over distance (i.e. the shorter the copper cable, the faster your broadband).

Generally speaking you need to live less than 300-400 metres (copper line length) from your street cabinet to get the best VDSL performance on Openreach’s existing 17MHz spectrum profile, while some people who reside just over 2000 metres (2km) away have reported speeds of 10-15Mbps and it dies away quickly after that (experiences will vary).

Openreach first started talking about the potential for Long Reach VDSL (LR-VDSL) last year (example) and CEO Clive Selley later confirmed that their lab simulations “could take a 2km long copper line currently achieving 9Mb/s on standard VDSL, and increase this to 24Mb/s, and longer term, through standards changes, we could achieve even higher speeds.

long reach vdsl2 fttc performance prediction

However we still know very little about the technology and until now it has remained little more than a lab test and some simulations, although Openreach now seem to be progressing it towards a practical trial and this week we’ve also learnt a little more about how the service will work.

An Openreach Spokesperson said:

“Long Reach VDSL operates at higher power levels and utilises additional frequencies in order to increase broadband speeds and the distance over which they can be delivered. As a result, Long Reach VDSL has the potential to increase broadband speeds significantly over long copper lines, typically found in remote parts of the UK.

Long-reach VDSL could potentially double the length of copper line over which 10Mbps broadband speeds are available; it could be key to delivering a 10Mbps universal service.

However, such new technology options are not without challenges. The innovations involved may well require discussion with industry and the regulator on coexistence with legacy products (given the need to manage potential interference issues).

Nevertheless, to be clear: the laboratory work proves that we can deliver technology to increase speeds significantly for many customers on very long copper lines.”

At present existing VDSL services are very low power and only use a small amount of spectrum, although there are higher profiles (30MHz) available but not all hardware in the network supports that and elsewhere you can also run into other challenges when trying to increase the power. The issue of cost may also become a factor.

One of the reasons for VDSL to have its own street cabinet and run at a low power is to avoid causing problems for other broadband technologies, such as ADSL that is delivered from the telephone exchange. We also wonder if VDSL Vectoring (reduces cross-talk interference) will end up playing a greater role in the Long Reach service (so far Vectoring has only been deployed in a very limited number of busy areas).

In either case we should learn more as soon as Openreach has established a firm plan and time-scale for the trial, which they’ll want to progress quite quickly because the Government now plan to introduce the USO by “the end of 2017 or 2018” (here). We expect Long Reach VDSL, if it is deployed, will be tightly focused on helping only the most remote areas to get a faster connection (i.e. just those bits in the final 5% of UK premises that need help to achieve the USO via fixed lines).

UPDATE 3rd May 2016

We got a tiny bit of new information to add on top of the above. Apparently Openreach’s small-scale Proof of Concept (PoC) trial, which is set to last for 3 months, will involve a maximum of 200 lines and should begin early this very month.

The PoC is open to ISPs with existing FTTC lines in the PoC area with qualifying target lines (likely to mean sub-24Mbps lines and those at a certain distance from their street cabinet) and Openreach are currently working with impacted providers. We are still trying to find out precisely where the trial will take place.

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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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13 Responses
  1. craski says:

    Our village is >5km from its cabinet so still looks like no increase in speed for us but it does sound like VDSL2 Long Reach 2 has the potential to enable BTOR to provide a coverage footprint roughly equivalent to ADSL products. If they can do that and then eventually phase out ADSL products, perhaps VDSL products will see yet more increases in speeds if they dont have to run them at lower power and limited frequencies.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the VDSL2 long reach achieves something close to the same as ADSL2 at long distances as it’s surely just VDSL2 extended to use ADSL frequecies. It will, as many of us have speculated on, require a change to the ANFP (and somebody has already spotted that provision has been made in the latest version).

    2. Craski says:

      Sounds a bit like clever strategy/marketing from BTOR in order to get more funding under the guise of helping them to meet the upcoming USO for something that ultimately they would need to do anyway (decommission ADSL based services).

    3. FibreFred says:

      Is Long reach government funded?

  2. fastman says:

    crask — not sure you understand that in excess of 350 of the 530 service provider s that openreach support only offer ADSL based Services

  3. Bob says:

    Keep propping up the copper, that’s what allows altnets to thrive. Then soon enough BT won’t be a monopoly. Hmm that might be a bad thing with less regulation but hopefully competition will ensure customers get a fair deal.

  4. Walter G M Willcox says:

    The fundamental problem is the poor state of the PSTN with no published plan for the replacement of even the rotting age-hardened aluminium alloy pairs – let alone an increase in copper wire diameter. It is easy to observe significant differences on lines of similar length but different diameters and line conditions. E.g. at around 2 km off the same FTTCabinet one achieved a VDSL speed around 25.13 Mbps and another only achieves around 3.90 Mbps

  5. Peter J Taylor says:

    Telecommunications companies will always compete where the profit is to be made, i.e. faster and faster broadband for the cities and large towns, whilst ignoring outlying communities where the Return On Capital Invested (ROCE) will be low.

  6. Lionel Budd says:

    Will I get proper broadband before I die? I have had a card from BT saying I would have BB by last Xmas. We are still waiting. We are 10km from the nearest box here in rural Lincs.

  7. Brian J.Clancy says:

    Lincs is full of holes where 2Mb ADSL is what we will be stuck with, satellite and Radio broadband is not competitively priced and of course the govt are offering nowt to those of us lucky enough to have 2Mb. In my part of West Lindsey we have been shafted because the roll out went through our village leaving us out although enabling our cabinet two villages and 3km away. Shafted again by West Lindsey DC investing in radio broadband rather than BT landline and now shafted by the govt too because of its rules on subsidies of alternative high speed broadband. Let’s face it the whole thing is a joke, I’ve had 2Mb ADSL for years but it used to be faster before the high speed roll out. The government should cancel HS2 which will benefit few and spend the money on a decent national high speed broadband rollout which would benefit millions and have the knock on effect of allowing many more people to work from home relieving road congestion, wear & tear, cutting pollution, freeing up public transport etc etc.

    1. Ewan says:

      Forget those getting 2Mb what about those of us on 0.5Mb. We had government sponsored satellite which on some days could not compete with my 48K dial-up!

      All that needs to happen is that we are charged for what is provided. That will motivate BT to look at what it can do to increase their revenue. My son cannot use XBox live because of our speed!

      Why should I pay the same as somebody on 20Mb – it is unfair, unjust, unnecessary and an obstacle to progress – the result of crony capitalism!

      10Mb – full cost

      5Mb – half price

      1Mb and below 10% of full cost

  8. Adrian H says:

    Here at Potterhanworth Booths, we still have to suffer a megre 1mb ADSL speed which in 2016 is a disgrace. We qualify for subsidised Satellite broadband but even with the subsidy the cost of this service makes it totally prohibitive for us and most of the residents here at Potterhanworth Booths. Nearby, considerably large villages of Branston and Washingborough have high speed broadband, and even the village of Potterhanworth itself only half a mile away has Fibre enabled cabinet but we still suffer the pain that is un-fit for purpose low speed broadband.
    So tell me please, when will we receive a decent VDSL2 service here?

  9. David says:

    Maybe you should keep an eye on 4G roll out. I was getting 3.2mbits from BT landline, but now on EE I’m getting between 30-50mbits depending on the time of day (with around 20mbit upload) using a category 6 4G router (the cat6 element nearly double my 4G through put). According to the postcode checker I’m right on the limit of getting a signal, so it is surprising what can be achieved.

    On thing to note I’m using an external Ariel on the roof which was key to getting anything reliable above 10mbits. Hard part is data caps, but I recently renewed with them and they add double data on 32GB package for free, so now I have 64GB, on top of that if you exceed the limit you can buy more on the web page that pops when you hit the cap.

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