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A Few More Details on BT’s Ultrafast Bradford FTTP Broadband Trial

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 (1:50 am) - Score 2,407

BT Wholesale has given a small, but useful, update on the progress of the native Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology trial in Bradford, which among other things confirms that the full network build should now be practically complete (subject to landlord permissions and further testing).

The Bradford trial, which aims “to explore if the technology can be installed faster and more efficiently in business parks and high streets” (e.g. it will look at reducing the need for several engineers to cut and melt fibres together), is currently (Phase One) focused on the areas of Kirkgate High Street and Listerhills Science Park.

Initially the trial will offer the standard 330Mbps (30Mbps upload) FTTP product and we now know that this will be followed in July 2016 (TBC) by a new special offer and product trial that will introduce the expected 500Mbps (100Mbps) and 1000Mbps (150Mbps) variants; the latter is considered more of a “premium” solution.

Andy Hurley, BT Wholesale, said:

“At Kirkgate (a ‘High Street’ location) the pre-build is to the Connectorised DP and with an early survey to prove the lead-in path to the building where this exists already. At Listerhills (a ‘Business Park’ location) the pre-build will extend to the premises itself.

This is in the early stages, and full network build is not yet complete (BTW has been advised that this will be complete by late April, which is subject to landlord permissions and further network testing).

The trial product being offered now is based on the current 330/30Mb variant and the standard GEA-FTTP process. BTW is currently undergoing systems testing to ensure a smooth path for trial orders and a product briefing and other communications will follow when BTW is able to progress orders.

The new higher bandwidth Business FTTP options would be the focus of a special offer and product trial phase (provisionally starting from July – TBC) introducing 330/50, 500/100 and 1000/150Mb variants.”

Apparently the trial is expected to be expanded to more locations in the area as part of a future Phase Two deployment, although no date or details have been set.. yet. Crucially Hurley also indicated that the product launch could then be ready by Q3 16/17 at the earliest (BT Wholesale’s calendar – likely to mean late autumn or early winter 2016).

Hopefully the trials will enable Openreach to speed up and simplify their FTTP installation procedures just enough to make the technology more viable for wider deployments. This is all in keeping with Gavin Patterson‘s (BT Group CEO) commitment to “accelerate the deployment of fibre-to-the-premises significantly” (here), although we’re still waiting to see some solid goals (like Virgin Media have just done).

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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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12 Responses
  1. Steve Jones says:

    This (and the Swindon trial) would fit with the idea that OR will not want to be seen as falling behind other operators on the number of premises which can be served by FTTP. If a cheaper method of installation in suitable areas can be sustained using this method it will surely change the balance between g.fast and FTTP in some locations. Of course what the long term maintenance issues might be of connector-based optics is another thing given our rather inclement weather.

    1. Ignition says:

      We can get some idea at very least of the medium term issues from the experiences of Verizon and others. They’ve been using connectorised optics since 2005 in some areas whose changes in climate make us look positively temperate.

    2. Steve Jones says:

      I’m sure that those making engineering decisions have been whatsoever conservative on this. It’s probably built into their DNA. But if you get these things wrong, it can bite back. I was talking to an OR jointer in the local pub in the town I’ve just moved to in Oxfordshire, and it seems it’s a source of a lot of trouble (and expensive to replace as it’s all about labour).

      In any event, I rather suspect that we’ll see more FTTP where it makes sense, partly driven through political as well as economic considerations.

      I also think there are quite a lot of FTTP connections in the tail end of the BDUK programme.

    3. NGA for all says:

      @Steve, some tail-end, there is a £1bn of funding if it can be held in place. Phase 1 looks like 22k cabinets at £26k a piece, so there is much than can be achieved. The Minister at CMS inquiry was now positioning phase 1 funding as a loan.
      The biggest issue I think is resource. The staff to install 200 cabs a week does not provide a huge amount to progress FTTP if translated into – cable on poles and manifold attachments.

    4. Ignition says:

      Alternatively another option is to not spend all the money. Applying value for money tests likely precludes spending all of it on hyper-rural FTTP.

    5. NGA for all says:

      @ignition – I think it has utility, in so far as the whole project is proving cheaper then originally portrayed. It is about the quickest means of making rural areas viable places to live.

      It can act as accelerator to a USO based on fibre and help kick start on setting a sunset date for telephony.

      It would help remove the excuses for failing to do business parks and town centres.

  2. Ignition says:

    With these trials, Swindon, Huntingdon, etc, the speed at which deployments seem able to be done and the costs involved anyone would think that originally running with splicing throughout and being concerned with very little beyond delivering to a splitter initially wasn’t such a hot idea after all.

    Maybe much of the rest of the FTTP world had a point using connectorisation with splicing as a fall-back and Openreach got it wrong.

    Stranger things have happened, albeit not many.

    1. NGA for all says:

      @Ignition For a Rural FTTC cab at crossroads, is the adjacent cof 205 cable in a chamber extendable by adding a slitting function or not? Will they need to bring additional new cable from the aggregation node chamber to feed the poles and attachment on the poles? I cannot see how a mini-dslam can be deployed in rural.

    2. Ignition says:

      The COF 205 cable is the input to an AN. Zero guarantee it would be adjacent to a particular cabinet.

      The simplest way that comes to mind to feed DSLAMs deeper in the network is to install a WDM module into the FTTC node and spread fibre out from there.

    3. NGA for all says:

      @Ignition, Cof 208 feeds AN, I thought cof205 connected AN to TiJ and then blown fibre to Cabinet.

    4. MikeW says:

      Without seeing a specific definition (I assume these are all internal BT codes, rather than vendor product codes), I think the original intention was …

      COF 200 = Spine Fibre, up to 288 fibres.
      COF 201 = Internal spine fibre (eg inside exchange building), up to 144 fibres
      COF 205 = “mini cable”, from AN to Splitter and Splitter to Fibre DP

      There are also
      COF 26 = ???, up to 16 fibres
      COF 27 = ???, up to 240 fibres
      The implication is that these carry fewer fibre for the same diameter as COF 200, suggesting they have extra protective layers – perhaps armoured?

      Many newer variants of fibre are being given roles in the network nowadays, but don’t seem to get COF codes. For example
      – Lightweight aerial cable, up to 96 fibres
      – Ultra lightweight aerial cable, up to 36 fibres
      – Connectorised drop cable, from new Corning Splitter/DP boxes
      – Pre-terminated SST fibre, from AN to the new Corning Splitter/DP boxes

      But note the following …
      BFT = Blown Fibre Tubing, from Fibre DP to Home … or from AN to FTTC cabinet. 1, 2, 4, 7 or 12 tubes.
      TIJ = Tube Intercept Joint = Box to spit out one BFT from a cable of 7 or 12 tubes.

      COF-200, -201 and -205 cables always terminate in an enclosure with splice trays. It doesn’t run through a TIJ.

      The TIJ’s are used to split out one BFT from a multi-tube cable.

      Nothing in the “old” architecture for FTTC and FTTP seems particularly oriented to having fibres feed back out of the FTTC cabinet for distribution. Nor even in the newer “primary+secondary splitter” FTTP architectures.

      Every document I have seen points to BFT being the outbound “final drop”, with no possibility of it being an “inbound feed”.

      The next question is obvious: where would the fibre go from the FTTC cabinet? Wouldn’t it go back into a BFT? Which runs back to the AN?

      Obviously it *could* happen; but it mixes up the separation of “feed” and “distribution” sides of an AN enclosure. Messy.

      I still think that the simplest way to feed deeper fibre is to push it out from the AN, and splice directly to spine fibre. Especially if deployment of deeper DPU’s is co-ordinated with preparation for FoD2. It is, after all, the entire point of putting a fibre spine in place.

      WDM equipment in the FTTC cabinet seems like a fudge for use where there isn’t enough spine fibre in the area – kinda like using DACS in copper.

  3. Matt says:

    Wonder if the house prices of north Swindon have raised since BT started to put in FTTP I know I would pay more for a house with that.

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