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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 6,310

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.

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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