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BT’s Huawei Cabinets Give Better VDSL2 “Fibre Broadband” Speed than ECI

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 (5:20 pm) - Score 8,706

Anybody familiar with Openreach’s (BT) roll-out of VDSL2 based ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) tech knows that the operator tends to deploy two different types of Street Cabinet hardware, one from Huawei and another from ECI. But a new study suggests that Huawei’s kit is faster.

The use of two different types of cabinet / hardware is to be expected and simply reflects natural diversity in supply (i.e. don’t put all your eggs in one basket), but at the same time we’ve long noticed that ECI hardware on Openreach’s network has tended to run into trouble, while Huawei’s kit seems to suffer fewer hiccups.

For example, ECI kit didn’t have the best time when Openreach was testing Vectoring to remove cross-talk interference from VDSL2 lines (here) and the recent attempt to roll-out of Physical Retransmission ReTX (G.INP) also had plenty of hassle from the ECI side of things (here).

Similarly we understand that the on-going trial of a 3dB Noise Margin (SNR) may need a bit longer before it’s happy to be deployed with ECI kit (here), but the official deployment isn’t due to begin until March 2017 and so there’s still time to sort that out. All of the above features can aid performance and the fact that ECI tends to struggle certainly won’t help.

Now Thinkbroadband have decided to take a closer look at the performance differences between ECI and Huawei cabinets on VDSL2 / FTTC lines, which finds that a difference does appear to exist. You can see the full results on their website, but here’s a short extract.

Speed test Comparison for VDSL2 tests on ECI and Huawei cabinets
ECI ECI Huawei Huawei
Date Median Download
Mean Download
Median Download
Mean Download
Dec 2016 27.8 30.5 31.4 32.6
Nov 2016 28 30.5 31.3 32.5
Oct 2016 27.5 30.1 30.8 31.9
Sep 2016 27.2 29.5 30.2 31.4
Aug 2016 27.7 30.2 30.4 31.7
Jul 2016 28.7 31.2 31 32.2
Jun 2016 28.6 30.5 30.6 31.5

Overall the benefit appears to be fairly small, reflecting an extra 1-2Megabits per second for people connected to a Huawei cabinet versus an ECI one and we’re told that it’s a similar pattern for upload speeds.

However this information should be taken with a pinch of salt as every area will be different and in some locations ECI kit may do better. Openreach also appear to be deploying more Huawei cabinets now than ECI (perhaps because of past problems), which may also be distributed differently. Never the less it’s a fascinating little study.

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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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26 Responses
  1. adslmax Real says:

    I do feel sorry for those who are struggle with ECI cabinets. Lucky for me as mine is connected to large Huawei cabinet (288)

    1. Lee says:

      Aren’t you getting FTTP though? Or was that another of your fairy tales?

    2. Ignition says:

      Thought he was getting G.fast, Lee, before I spoke with the guy he claimed had confirmed that he would. Weirdly enough that guy had no idea what Mr Max was talking about. Imagine that.

    3. Lee says:

      I’m sure somewhere on TBB he was spouting about his soon to be 330meg FTTP too 😀 Clown.

    4. adslmax Real says:

      You probably talking to the wrong person!

    5. Fastman says:

      Well i’ sure he wont be talking to you any more !!!!

    6. Ignition says:

      That was from his cancelled move to North Yorkshire.

    7. Ignition says:

      As far as mistaken identity goes I’m pretty sure there’s none here, but thanks for getting me back in touch with Ian Binks. Had been too long.

    8. adslmax Real says:

      Openreach should replaced all ECI to Huawei cabinets instead for the better for everyones.

    9. adslmax Real says:

      I WAS going to say it is really easy to spoof names here, but then I noticed he hadnt answered the initial question.

      (Not really adslmax Real)

  2. Tom says:

    I’ve long known that ECI were slightly dodgier. For a start you get strange problems and line profiles when using a Huawei modem with an ECI cabinet. Yet these weird problems don’t exist when using an ECI modem on a Huawei cabinet.

    Openreach have also been publishing updates to providers, recently, over vectoring(?) issues (iirc) on ECI cabinets yet these problems don’t affect Huawei ones. Hurr.

  3. Enki says:

    How do you tell what type of cabinet your router/modem is connecting to?

    1. Tom says:

      Going outside and looking at the cabinets 🙂 They look slightly different.
      This picture has both in it:
      The cabinet closest to the camera is a Huawei and the one furthest away is an ECI.
      If you can find one like that in your exchange area and match the type then the rest off that exchange are going to be the same (with a very few exceptional exchanges that I’ve been told have both).

      (There may also be ways of telling in software)

    2. Lee says:

      A lot of exchanges now have both. As far as I know, all BDUK cabs are Huawei, whereas as commercial cabs are a mix of the two.

      A PCP local to me now indeed has one ECI and just this month been fitted with a Huawei cab to increase capacity.

    3. skandia says:

      cab pictures can be found here:


    4. Enki says:


  4. Colin Presland says:

    How do you know which cabinet you have got locally?

    1. Foostyknewaboutbigjock says:

      Go on the openreach website type in your home phone number or postcode and choose address should tell you there if your connected to a cabinet or exchange only line, doesnt tell you what type of cabinet your connected to tho.

  5. Foostyknewaboutbigjock says:

    Lucky i am connected to a Huawei cabinet at the end of my street.

  6. MrWhite says:

    I’m sure I’d read ages ago it was in part down to the chipset of the modem used at home (especially when it was the separate OR modem). If the manufacturer of the modem and cabinet were the same, then you’d potentially get a better connection speed; with a mismatch reducing it by 1-2 Mbps.

    1. brianv says:

      One of those urban myths.

      The Infineon chipset in the ECI M40 DSLAM has a completely different codebase to the Lantiq CPE, such as the ECI B-Focus.

      Only lately did Infineon and Lantiq merge in to one company.

      Though even now, the two codebases – Central Office and Consumer Premises Equipment – are maintained separately.

      So there’s no gain in interoperability by matching CO and CPE chipsets. The Broadcom DSL platform, in general, performs notably better than rival platforms including Lantiq.

    2. MrWhite says:

      Cheers @brianv

      That clears that one up!

  7. Enki says:

    Many thanks!

  8. Jonnyredhead says:

    So if one is stuck with an ECI cabient, what current up to date ECI modems can one purchase.

  9. Bucklez says:

    I’ve a line on a ECI and a Huawei – both sync at 80/20 and throughput is identical, is this more in relation to sync speeds and throughput?

    1. MikeW says:

      The data over at TBB comes from their pool of speed-test results (ie throughput).

      However, the conclusion is that the higher throughput speeds on Huawei are because they tend to have higher sync speeds, as a consequence of employing G.INP retransmission

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