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BT Update on FTTPoD Stop Sell Removal, 3db Trial and Long Range VDSL

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 (12:26 pm) - Score 6,168
fibre optic cables bt engineer hands

BT has published some important updates on their broadband products and future UK technology trials, which reveals a plan to test 3db Signal/Noise margins, the first location for their Long Range VDSL (FTTC) trial and removal of BTWholesale’s “stop sell” for Fibre-on-Demand (FoD) lines.

As usual most of this information has found its way to us via BTWholesale’s most recent ISP Forum event and attendees, which is often used to brief Internet Service Providers (ISP) on the operator’s plans for the forthcoming year. In order to save time we’ll cut right to the chase and link in past articles for those who seek some deeper context.

April 2016 ISP Forum Highlights

Fibre on Demand (FoD / FTTPoD)

As many of you may recall BTWholesale’s FoD service, which offers the potential for people within reach of an FTTC capable line to order a full ultrafast fibre optic (FTTP) broadband connection (provided you don’t mind paying for most of the often hugely expensive civil works), has been stalled on a “stop sell” for over a year because the service was too time consuming and expensive to install (here).

Since then Openreach has conducted a number of FoD2 trials, which have attempted to make the process of deploying the service faster and thus more cost effective. At this stage the service is still very expensive and not really intended for residential homes, but the improvements have been enough to get the “stop sell” lifted. According to BTWholesale, “Stop Sell lifted March 2016 following improvements in order handling and installation process.”

However the expected lead times for delivery have been extended. Otherwise it’s now down to ISPs with regards to whether or not they begin offering the service again.

Long Range VDSL (LR-VDSL) Trial

The existing Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service works by running a fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange to your local street cabinet and then they use VDSL2 over the remaining copper wire, which runs from the cabinet and into your home. Ideally you need to live less than 300-400 metres (copper line length) from your street cabinet to get the best VDSL speeds (up to 40-80Mbps), with speeds falling away to around just 10-15Mbps at the extremes of 2000 metres (2km).

By comparison LR-VDSL is viewed by BT as one possible solution for delivering the Government’s proposed 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO). The service works in a narrower frequency band and at higher power than existing VDSL connections, with lab tests showing that a 2km long copper line delivering 9Mbps could be pushed to 24Mbps or faster (here).

Last month we confirmed that Openreach were planning to conduct an early technical trial of the Long Reach LR-VDSL (officially they’re now using the word “Range” instead of “Reach“) technology, which was due to begin this month with a maximum of 200 lines. We now know that this 3 month long trial will take place in the small-ish rural village of Isfield (East Sussex), with no exchange based ADSL in order to ensure no crossover network interference.

3dB Trial

Openreach has announced that they intend to run a trial with up to 40,000 broadband lines that reduces the dB Signal/Noise margin from 6dB to 3dB, which they claim could “lead to better speeds for the majority of customers.” Apparently the earlier Proof of Concept test with 150 lines indicated that 84% saw an improvement, while none experienced a worse service.

The SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) of a standard ADSL based broadband line, like the one that most consumers still have at home, reflects the balance (measured in decibels) between the useful information coming down a line (good signal) and unwanted interference (bad signal / noise). A very short and stable copper line could deliver better performance with a 3dB SNR, but longer / less stable lines may have more trouble.

The 3dB profile appears to already be supported on Sky Broadband’s unbundled network and AAISP recently tested something similar on the TalkTalk platform (here). Strictly speaking BT’s own 21CN network can already support 3dB, but so far as we can tell it seems as if 6dB is still the current default.

BT doesn’t tell us much more, except to say that they expect 100% of those in the trial to experience an average rate gain benefit of +10%, while 90% may see a rate gain of +15% and 50% could see a rate gain of +17% (i.e. the median increase expected).

Physical Retransmission ReTX (G.INP) on ECI Kit

G.INP technology is designed to resolve spikes / bursts of Electromagnetic Interference (impulse noise) that can make broadband lines slower / more unstable and this works well for most customers on BT’s Huawei based platform, but their ECI kit has been a different matter.

Last month we reported that Openreach had partly suspended their roll-out of G.INP technology to BT’s ECI based platform (here) because of a high fault rate and soon after that they had to roll-back the upgrade from their entire ECI network. Apparently this impacts 260,000 lines which do not include Multicast. Openreach is still working to find a fix.

G.fast Summer Pilot

We recently ran an update on the technical side of Openreach’s forthcoming 300Mbps G.fast pilot, which is being rolled out to cover 25,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and Kent (here). BT has previously indicated that this would be deployed during summer 2016, although the latest ISP Forum says: “Current target start for pilot Jan 2017” and a few pages later a date of September 2016 is given for the launch. We assume that the Sept date is for the deployment phase and the 2017 one for customer availability.

Otherwise that’s it, those are the main bits of new consumer centric information about future trials and broadband technology.

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Mark Jackson
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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33 Responses
  1. When I was with Bethere who allowed you to edit your SNR profile either via modem or customer support I used to run a SNR of 2DB most of time and had 22 mbit from adsl 2+, this is even though my line was apparently 1.5km long. It’s always annoyed me openreach don’t allow anything below 6db I’m sure Id get full 80/20 with VDSL with lower SNR at the moment I get 72/20, welcome change no idea why they need to trial it for so long though. Not the biggest fan of BT 🙁 Wish I could have stayed with BEthere.

  2. Avatar alusufferer

    I read on a forum (kitz) that it was decided g.fast would almost certainly be added to cabinets only and would not be FTTdp as previously tested. I havent seen that confirmed on here, so wondering if you had heard anything to confirm or deny this? Apologies if it’s something i’ve missed

    • We did actually cover some aspect of that last week:

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/05/bt-release-tech-details-uk-summer-pilot-300mbps-g-fast-broadband.html

      It’s always been expected that Openreach would try to deploy G.fast from either inside existing FTTC cabinets or as an extension to them alongside, since that will reach millions of premises and would be the most cost effective way to deploy. But it doesn’t mean that BT have completely given up on FTTdp and they may yet find it viable for some areas due to G.fast’s limited copper reach.

    • Avatar DTMark

      G.Fast was always going to be an almost entirely cabinet based approach, this much was obvious from the outset.

      BT actually say this themselves in the piece about “On Demand”. Basically, going beyond the cabinets is “too expensive”. To quote: “too time consuming and expensive to install”.

      Ah, but you might say: that’s in the context of just one customer.

      If BT had a long-term vision, then what you might imagine is that as soon as BT finds a customer prepared to pay them “anything” for “On Demand”, they’d jump on it and get the fibre to that DP straight away, taking the hit/loss if need be, because eventually, listening to the noises BT makes about G.Fast being well suited technically to serving distant properties, “everywhere” is going to have to have a G.Fast node.

      The tech doesn’t work over distance which is why the articles about a squillion meg being possible with five feet of wire are irrelevant.

      I suspect we can look forward to a patchwork of variable speeds with much crowing about the “up to” figures. Much like now.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I’m not sure that BT actually say that going beyond the cabinet is too expensive, but they certainly do say that deploying at the DP is too expensive. There’s a significant gap between the two.

      Looking back, the initial aim during G.Fast research was for DP-based deployment, so it targeted distances of circa 100m.

      It turns out G.Fast is rather better than they expected, and can give the kind of speeds they want to aim at (300-500Mbps) at a range of circa 300m, with a couple of amendments to the standards. These amendments are going through, and are being implemented by chipset manufacturers.

      So BT have re-calculated their plans. We just don’t know what they’ve recalculated to, so everything else is speculation by informed or uninformed spectators, so you have to figure who you choose to believe.

      With a range of 300m available to them, my opinion is that it is a no-brainer, cost-wise, to place a node alongside (or inside) the FTTC cabinet. That is likely to cover 1/3 of the lines covered by the PCP, or perhaps half of lines in denser urban areas.

      Beyond that, they’d need to start placing extra nodes at, say, 300m from the PCP.

      If they do only deploy GFast at the FTTC cabinets, it will be the cheapest possible deployment for them, but they’ll be faced with marketing 160/30 and 300/50 speeds to people who can already achieve 80/20. They might not get the biggest take-up from that, so there might indeed be an incentive to deploy closer to homes – 300m, or 600m perhaps.

      What we’ve been told is that the target is 10 million properties by 2020, and ongoing deployment until 2025 – I’m not sure we can predict what things will look like in 9 years time.

      Longer term research for G.Fast suggests it has a life of maybe 3 separate deployments. There’s plenty of room for things to change.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Ten million properties…. to get what?

      “somewhere between nothing and 300 Mbps”

      or

      “300Mbps”

      The other elephant in the room being that the BT network is not an all-copper network, some is aluminium, some (one wonders how much) is in a terribly shoddy state and even if copper isn’t going to perform to anything like the standards the labs might suggest.

      Until we move from “up to” to “at least” or “better than” (maybe Vaizey could actually do something right after moaning about how misleading advertising is allowed to be, by changing the advertising rules to exactly that) this sort of nonsense will go on.

    • Avatar MikeW

      “Up to”, of course. Especially with shared backhaul.

      Because the internet is shared, “up to” will remain a mandatory descriptor.

      ASA has already proven that it cannot understand the details of QoS to distinguish a service guarantee from “traffic management”. That means you can’t even sell a service that is “minimum X, bursting to Y”.

    • Avatar MikeW

      BTW…

      I’m not sure they’d bother marketing a G.Fast service as “from 0 up to X”. There probably will be a bottom speed that they won’t bother below … which might be your VDSL2 speed, or it might be an 80Mb speed, or perhaps 50 or 100.

      Otherwise, arguing about what speed it might be “from” is as useful as trying to figure out whether they’ll deploy any nodes beyond the PCP. Or, if they choose to, /when/ they will choose to. It isn’t worth it.

    • Avatar MikeW

      After just going through the ISP Forum text again, I see an interesting bullet listed against the G.Fast pilot:

      “Revised deployment solution”

      Of course, you’d expect things to have moved on from the initial trials, but it gives no details…

  3. Avatar FibreFred

    Well JNeuhoff (now GNewton) said fttpod was dead never to return. 🙂

    So we can now look forward to no more complaints about it not being available. Sadly this will be replaced by complaints about how expensive it is.

  4. Avatar MikeW

    There’s also some strangeness with regard to SIN 498 for the CPE modems.

    The ISP Forum mentions that Openreach are suggesting changes to the SIN, whereby they’d have to support Vectoring at distances of 1800m and 2400m. Quite long range…

    However, if you look at the current version of the SIN, it appears that tests to confirm vectoring capability at these distances was added in v7.0, in January. And then removed again in v7.1 in February.

    I wonder if these were added in error, and perhaps relate to the long-range capability being trialled, so should never have gone in.

    Or perhaps a CP complained at the late addition, and Openreach is having to go through a formal process to “request” the addition of these tests.

    It is also quite strange as, once again, there is absolutely no word on vectoring in the rest of the presentation.

  5. Avatar Sunil Sood

    Does anyone have a link to the presentation for the latest ISP forum?

    I can’t see them listed on https://www.btwholesale.com/pages/static/sales-tools/previous-events.htm as I normally would..

    • Avatar MikeW

      The event is listed on that page, but the link to the PDF goes to the wrong document.

      However, if you copy the URL for the January document, then change it to get rid of the “_Final”, and change “26_January” into “12_May” it will work.

    • Avatar TheManStan

      Slide 42 is interesting, as logos for CPs that are supporting FTTP will have their logos on the OR website… we’ll see which logos appear and those which don’t…

  6. Avatar Sunil Sood

    @MikeW Thanks – it wasn’t showing at all when I last checked this morning but can see it now 🙂

  7. Avatar Keydogg

    Can anyone link me to an FTTP installation price list? If there is one of course.

  8. Avatar Sgt AMYNTAS

    Sooo after doing a base request with BT Business then no Longer want to Supply FTTPoD….. Hmmm, Ok why????? Supposedly there is a 2 year Waiting list “BS” because it has to be put in 2months after install “Openreach install times”

    • Avatar matt

      I just got in touch with bt local business and got a similarly bs response!

      “Fibre On Demand has actually been scrapped on BT’s system – the only other option for better internet is a leaseline”.

    • Avatar GNewton

      Yes indeed, it seems BT Business is not interested in selling a Fibre-on-Demand. Has anybody had a success in getting one from them in recent months?

    • Avatar TheManStan

      BT Business will be in the same boat as all the other CPs who were trying to sell FTTP on Demand.

      Openreach’s announcement means that everyone will need to devise a new product as all the costs have changed.

      So I would not expect them to be taking any orders or trying to sell anything until the bean counters have been through all the changes and revise pricing.

    • Avatar Sgt AMYNTAS

      @TheManStan BTBuisness Sold me the Product last year but never got around to installing it due to techical DIFFICULTIES “STOP SELL” I have the binding contract to show proof that it exists and if i am sure as a business point of view fauilier to supply a product that is listed and priced is a breach of contract and breach of companies regulation which is a criminal offence 😛

    • Avatar TheManStan

      If you have a order confirmation and if you’ve paid anything to them then you can take them to court for loss and potentially damages…

  9. Avatar Bill

    What changes have been made to the pricing?

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