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BT and Huawei in New UK Trial of 40Gbps Ultrafast FTTP Broadband

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 (12:41 pm) - Score 2,608
bt fibre optic cable bloom

Openreach (BT) and Huawei have today claimed to be the “first companies in Europe” to trial three new ultrafast fibre optic broadband technologies, including 40Gbps (Gigabits per second) capable NG-PON2, 10Gbps XGS-PON and 2.5Gbps GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) over a single fibre.

Readers of ISPreview.co.uk may be familiar with these as we covered the International Telecommunication Union‘s (ITU) consent for the new Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP/H) style NG-PON2 (ITU-T G.989.2 Amendment 1) and XGS-PON (ITU-T G.9807.1) broadband standards back in March 2016 (here).

At present a typical GPON style FTTP broadband connection on BTOpenreach’s network can only deliver Internet download speeds of up to 330Mbps (rising to 1Gbps in the very near future), with a single fibre transmitting 2.5Gbps of capacity, which is then shared between customers.

However the new trial, which involved a pure FTTP fibre optic line running between the University of Suffolk (Ipswich Exchange) and BT’s R&D centre at Adastral Park (we aren’t told the exact distance of the line itself), managed to push 40Gbps (40,000Mbps if you prefer), 10Gbps and 2.5Gbps speeds “delivered simultaneously over a single fibre optic cable“.

Crucially the technologies each use separate wavelengths, “meaning that all three can operate seamlessly on the same fibre network” (co-existence). “This demonstrates not only how operators can flex to meet ultrafast speeds in the future, but also the latent capability of network that Openreach has already deployed“, said the network operator.

Clive Selley, Openreach CEO, said:

“Superfast speeds are now available to 9 out of 10 homes and businesses and we’re taking fibre further. We’re also excited to be bringing the country ultrafast speeds.

We’ll be taking ultrafast to up to 12 million UK premises by the end of 2020, and to the majority by 2025. But it’s also vital that we continue to look even further into the future, and prepare for increasing data consumption over our network. That’s what this trial is all about.

The trial proves that not only is our FTTP network fit for the future, but with the right equipment in the customer’s home and at the exchange, we can tailor speeds to suit their individual requirements. So whether you’re a small business specialising in graphic design or a keen gamer using UHD and virtual reality, we’ll make sure your communications provider can offer you the speeds and value for money services that you need.

I’m looking forward to discussing this technology breakthrough further with our communications providers to see how it could help shape their future plans.”

Jeff Wang, President of Huawei Access Network, said:

“Huawei has been running an Innovation program with Openreach for many years and we are looking forward to continuing the partner relationship for the future. Huawei’s investment and innovation in both fibre and copper based technologies will help Openreach to deploy the ultrafast broadband to serve the UK public for many years to come and help achieve Openreach ambitions of passing 10 million homes with G.fast and up to a further 2 million homes with FTTP by 2020.”

Apparently the University of Suffolk has been using the service for the past two weeks and during the next phase of testing they’ll harness the high bandwidth for streaming lectures, designing games, and delivering online courses etc.

As nice as this all is, it should be remembered that at present Openreach only plans to roll-out their FTTP network to 2 million UK homes and businesses by 2020, while Virgin Media intend to do around 1 million by 2019 and altnets could also achieve something similar if they really press forward with their respective plans.

However most of the UK market will still be stuck on significantly slower hybrid-fibre (FTTC, G.fast etc.) style solutions for many years to come. In any case many ISPs today would struggle to afford the capacity needed to feed this new generation of fibre optic technology and give it to consumer connections, but then affordable home 10Gbps and 40Gbps lines are still a long way off.

Similarly it’s one thing to build an ultra-mega-super-duper-fast broadband network and another to ensure that all of the Internet servers and services or online content are able to take full advantage of it. Right now it’s hard enough to take full advantage of 300Mbps connection and many people would be more than happy if they could even get remotely close to that.

It’s worth pointing out that the ITU are separately working on the possibility of delivering 25Gbps per wavelength over PON, with the aim of enhancing the capacity to beyond 100Gbps in the future. But that’s another story for the future. At least there’s plenty of room in those optical cables for more data, now we just have to get more of them into the ground.

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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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30 Responses
  1. John Miles

    They could stream lectures over a conventional 40/80 Mbit FTTC connection – where is the ‘killer app’ for FTTP ?

    • I’d assume it’s a ‘many users’ environment at the University rather than a singular use case. But at present the new technologies aren’t really designed for home comparability, it’s more a show of what might be possible when we need it in the future (assuming you’re covered by FTTP).

    • Ignitionnet

      They would be the ones sending the lectures, not streaming them for viewing within the institution I would imagine. Wouldn’t take many lectures being simulcast before FTTC were inadequate.

    • Bob

      I think the “killer app” is not in the consumer space. But pushing so much bandwidth down a single fibre means that fibre can be split much more than it is now, saving backhaul costs and electronics costs in the exchanges on an FTTP roll out. Ultimately means a lower cost to roll out FTTP and dark fibre in the ground already could cover more premises than current FTTP designs.

    • Max

      VR and AR can utilise a revolutionary video technology called lightfield video. It records all the light in a 360 degree view, but unlike a normal camera, it also records data on the angle of rays of light hitting sensors. This means when you view the footage back, you can lean left and right, translate your head across XYZ axis and the video footage changes, you can look around things and at things from different angles. Essentially, it is like viewing things in real life. The problem ? The first camera to record in this format is Lytro Immerge. It utilises 300 very high resolution special cameras. When recording the data, the camera requires an entire portable server rack hooked up with multiple PCI-E Fiber network adapters adding up to many gigabits per second. This is ofcourse raw format. But if you want to stream high quality, low compression lightfield video (like 4K netflix), you are going to need a connection well beyond anything BT or Virgin offer at the moment.

    • Bob2002


      Going off at a bit of a tangent …

      I’m interested to see how 360 video impacts the world. Most of the coverage of immersive video centres on video games but I think there may be something more interesting around the corner.

      Imagine a time when instead of just watching a news report you can literally put on a headset and have the same 360 view as the reporter on the ground. How would this change how we perceive news? What if the Tiananmen Square crackdown had taken place with a CNN crew there in the square providing immersive video to tens of millions of viewers around the world live, or an embedded reporter during the Iraq invasion, or many other events as they happen?

      Periscope can be strangely engrossing partly because it instantly connects you to a random individual on the face of the earth in a very personal manner, they might be in their garden looking at dragonflies or walking along the Great Wall of China – this effect is going to be significantly magnified once 360 video broadcasting becomes more common.

      My own tests of 360 video are a bit limited as I’m using a smartphone, downsides of resolution, also some queasiness which may or may not be solvable(?) – but the potential of immersion is there.

    • Max

      360 video is certainly of interest, the problem right now is capturing it at high quality levels is difficult. 4K is great if you are recording in a typical cinema format viewed across a TV. But 4K looks pretty bad stretched across 360 degrees, and then viewed life-size in VR even worse. Further to that. Spatial computing is almost certainly the future (Magic Leap, Microsoft HoloLens, Google Tango, Meta etc). So that leads to all video needing to be 3D. So if you want 360 video that’s high quality, you want 8K+ minimum, at 60fps. Then double that bandwidth requirement for 2x 8K viewports, one per eye.

      There are novel technologies like only streaming the video where you are looking rather than the entire 360 stream all at once, but they only go so far. Our requirements for streaming content on the next generation of spatial computing devices is going to be immense, people are underestimating it. We’re not going to be just sat infront of our 22″ monitors in 10 years watching 1080P Netflix. I can pretty confidently say (barring unpredictable huge advances in compression and streaming tech) that if you want a smooth, fast and response experience with spatial computing cloud connected devices in 10 years, you’ll want a minimum of several hundred megabits per second, and you are going to appreciate the benefits up to and beyond 1Gbps.

    • Bob2002


      You have much higher standards than me, I was just thinking of a couple of sensors/fish eye lenses stitched together at say 30fps. Netflix deliver 4K at 15Mb/s, and typical HD(1080p) ranges from around 1.5Mb/s to 3.5Mb/s. I’m really thinking of cameras that can work over normal mobile networks.

    • Max

      Bob, have you used any VR devices yourself ? 1080P 360 videos look very bad! (I keep mentioning VR/AR because that is ultimately going to be common way to view these videos in a few years). I would go as far as to say a 4K 360 stream in VR looks similar in quality to a 360p regular youtube video. Subpar.

      I was also partially responding to other comments deliebrating how much bandwidth we really need.

    • I think there is still a misunderstanding, yes the existing coverage figures are not set in stone, since no-one can be 100% accurate and I deal with enough people with Openreach checker issues that even Openreach probably would get things wrong, and then there are people where Virgin Media sometimes say they can supply and when they order they cannot.

      NOTE: We make no claim to 100% accuracy and anyone who does no matter what the statistic for broadband anywhere in the world will be wrong, since with any large dataset you can never be 100% accurate, especially in a world where things are changing e.g. new premises, new cabinets, network rearrangement etc

      Of course now because of the above paragraph in the world of online comments, it gives some the perceived right to say the results are inaccurate and I would vehemently disagree. They are proving to be reliable indicators of what is and is not available in various areas, and react quickly to reports of errors, unlike some where you may only get data published once a year or worse.

      Our speed test technology is licensed to a number of sites and we report aggregate figures from all of these.

      At the end of the day, don’t think there is anyone else doing as much to
      a) Look at the speeds people are experiencing for a wide range of services across the UK
      b) Keeping track of the various roll-outs to see whether there is any reality to the PR machines claims.

  2. Sledgehammer

    “Clive Selley, Openreach CEO, said:

    “Superfast speeds are now available to 9 out of 10 homes and businesses.” Why do people state things like this when they they are not true. I am still on ADSL2+ and have been waiting 2years 9 months+ for our FTTC to have power and fibre cable connected. There must be a whole lot more people that still cannot have a FTTC connection, a lot more than 10%

    • Steve Jones

      Because it is true. That’s 10% across the country, not 10% in every village. Think Broadband do an independent analysis of the data (which they claim to be on the conservative side). Their latest estimate of coverage at greater than 24mbps was 91.6%. However, that’s not universally spread.


    • DTMark

      IIRC that analysis is based on radial distances from cabinets. Neatly tying back to BT’s initially commissioned report that says that 90% of people are within 1000m of a cabinet.

      That’s not the same as “90% can get”.

      Indeed I’d thought about 15% of lines don’t go via a cabinet so the unrealistic best case scenario would have been 85% coverage.

      So to get to 91% suggests that there are now no more “EO” lines and almost every cabinet in the country has been done and everyone connected to said cabinets has a line length and quality capable of superfast speeds.

      From what I can see, it appears to assume that if you’re within 1000m of the cabinet it will be “superfast” leading to oddities where the tool reports “should be over 30 Meg” when actually nobody with fibre at that location gets anything like that and even BT are only prepared to “commit” (Impacted Range B) to a very much lower figure.

      If.. and if.. there are a few assumptions in that analysis and because the methodology is not published I’m somewhat suspicious about that data.

    • MikeW

      I’m sure @MrSaffron can defend his data himself, but I’m pretty sure they don’t measure line length “as the crow flies”. What would be the point?

      However, they have also done analysis on the number of EO lines remaining, coming up with a figure of 2%, though that differs wildly by region too – Yorkshire and Scotland coming out at 5.5%

      That analysis is pretty current, so accounts for the conversions that have already been done.


    • Data Analysis

      They can not be that confident on their analysis or it be that accurate considering they state….
      “…. showing the effect LR-VDSL might have on UK broadband”

      The key word being MIGHT. I “might” have a greater chance than someone else of becoming a billionaire, then again i “might” not.

      A roulette wheel “might land on red then again it “might” land on black.

      BT “might” finally reach their initial guesstimate of 2+ Million having FTTP, then again they “might” not.

      A piece of string “might” be long, or it “might” be short, a bit like BT wires.

    • Steve Jones


      Of course be basic information is based on radial distance, but it’s calibrated to allow for the fact lines don’t travel in straight lines. Andrew also has mechanism to do manual checks. It might even be that Andrew has access to OR data sources that aren’t in the public domain.

      The various BDUK projects also have means to establish actual coverage using sampling techniques. Andrew knows what he does, and he is confident about his numbers, or maybe you know better? One thing that I’m very sure about is that this isn’t simply a straight line model.

    • Steve Jones

      @Data Analysis

      What on Earth has LR-VDSL got to do with it? The actual characteristics of LR-VDSL and how it will finally roll-out are unknown. A huge amount will depend on the detail of the ANFP adjustments that will be required along with power-masking. There is also, pretty well by definition, no way of independently checking actual performance when it’s in trial and, inevitably, the parameters of that trial are unknown at this stage. So it’s full of “what-ifs”, and it can only be based on the few trial reports that OR have released so far. It’s inevitably more speculative than a technology which already has several million installations in production.

    • Data Analysis

      “What on Earth has LR-VDSL got to do with it?”

      Dunno ask Mike the reply was to his post pointing to a LR-VDSL story

    • gerarda

      Of course you are probably right in the sense that if everyone of the 91% covered by a cabinet ordered today there would not be enough ports to meet the demand

    • FibreFred

      Who is this data analysis guy?

      No I’m not taking bets

    • MikeW

      Dang. That would’ve been easy money.

      No-one here cares about the LR-VDSL aspect of the TBB story (which was, as it could only be, speculation); just the EO analysis that was tacked onto it. But regulars on here know who it is who chooses to take comments off at a pointless tangent.

    • Data Analysis

      Sorry did you rather mean the bit with the headline that states….

      “Percentage of premises thought to be using Exchange Only lines as of 10th August 2016”

      Key word in that this time round being “thought”. Hardly confident in their figures, again!

    • Feel duty bound to reply:

      ‘Effect that LR-VDSL2 might have’ – we can only say might because the technology is not mature and only have lab based data, and a very limited number of lines we’ve seen in the pilots and are always cautious about things.

      ‘Percentage of premises thought to be using Exchange Only lines as of 10th August 2016’ – the note of uncertainty is simply because while we are confident on the figures, there is always change happening, e.g. new premises being built and network re-arrangement on-going. For example Hyperoptic may go live in a postcode, before all the premises are completed, so postcode size changes over time, and similar with other developments.

      I know people love black and white, but try asking how many premises there in the UK and you will get varying answers, the same with how many rural and that is even before you add the complication of broadband on top.

      https://labs.thinkbroadband.com/local/index.php?tab=3 lets you search the data and check what we are saying for your individual postcode, and there is a way to report corrections and I welcome people highlighting these so long as not accompanied by death threats (not a joke have had threats in the past).

      The 91.72% with access to an over 24 Mbps service, still means around 2.4 million premises only have a slower service option.

      As for those saying it must mean all cabinets are live, we have 78,860 structures live and today 17,209 more which are not live. I say structures rather than cabinets as FTTP is not cabinet based per-se, and some cabinet areas count as two structures to reflect mixed technology, e.g. FTTP and VDSL2.

    • Data Analysis

      Oh i understood Andrew and that was my point at this time neither you or anyone knows how LR-VDSL will perform in a large deployment, you are estimating the figures which i understood perfectly.

      The same as you point out goes for exchange only lines its an estimate, probably a greater chance of being accurate but still only an estimate with figures always altering for better or worse in that regard.

      I apologise for the wording used about “confidence” to point out to certain individuals the words used in your article indicate the figures are estimates. Rather than cast in stone or 100% accurate as was initially implied by them.

      Can i also ask while you are here Andrew, are speed figures in most of you tests and articles based on speed tests conducted on your site, from other information available, or a collaboration of your own and outside info then averaged together?

  3. Nightglow

    RE:Sledgehammer:We have two cabinets in my village, one each end,my cab got FTTC in 2011 peeps other end of village are still waiting 5 years later for their cab to get it’s fibre twin,so they can get FTTC.

  4. fastman

    sledgehammer so whats the issue — is someone blocking the power – so what cab are we talking about

    • Sledgehammer

      Cab 38 Wallasey and there are other FTTC not enabled in Wallasey. I think it’s just BT/OR that have just put every FTTC that has not been enabled locally on the back burner and will only get round to enabling them when they feel like spending some money and not a day before.

    • AndyH

      How does that make any sense? Every day they are not working, they are not receiving any income for the FTTC rental.

  5. Sledgehammer

    One other point “are there any exchanges in England that have all there old cabs/FTTC fully enabled and providing a FTTC service to the full exchange area?”

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