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BT Openreach to Begin Phase 2 Trial of SOGEA Standalone FTTC Broadband

Friday, February 10th, 2017 (4:15 pm) - Score 4,137

Openreach (BT) has announced that their Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) product, which aims to give consumers a truly standalone (naked) FTTC / VDSL “Fibre Broadband” line without the voice (phone) service, will enter Phase 2 of its trial with UK ISPs from 2nd March 2017.

The Phase 2 CP trial (testing modified orders, fault handling and reverse migrations to other platforms etc.), which will run until 17th July 2017, is the final step before Openreach moves into their larger scale pre-commercial pilot (more details here and here). The commercial launch itself is currently expected to begin sometime during early or mid 2018. Customers on the trial will benefit from free rental and transactions until 28th February 2018.

Openreach are also working on a G.fast variant of the same solution, which has been given the comical name of SOGfast. The first trials for that are currently planned for “late” Summer 2017, which suggests that they might potentially have it ready in time for G.fast’s commercial roll-out or very soon afterwards.

The new product is likely to be an attractive option for anybody who only needs their fixed line for broadband and in theory it should be a little bit cheaper than taking a basic line rental and broadband bundle, although you don’t save a lot by cutting out the voice component. Much will also depend upon how ISPs choose to position related products.

Some ISPs, such as AAISP, are already able to offer a similar solution but SOGEA should make it all more straightforward.

Leave a Comment
19 Responses
  1. Bob de Builder says:

    If the savings on the line rental are too low, I can’t see too many people rushing for this SOGEA Standalone product and relying on mobile or VOIP for emergency calls.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Over the longer term that may be beside the point as BT are working towards PSTN retirement, so one way or another the traditional approach won’t be sticking around.

      Likewise SOGEA could solve a few problems for ISPs with SFI and broadband fault finding, but that depends upon Openreach’s approach. So how much money it saves is perhaps a wider and more dynamic consideration than may first appear.

    2. MikeW says:

      At first glance, the benefit of SOGEA to end-users is indeed for “naked broadband”.

      For Openreach, the benefit is that their product ordering system gets re-written. Today, that system enforces the need for a primary voice product before you can add a secondary data product on top. In the future, the data product becomes the primary product.

      As Mark says, that turns into a benefit as the PSTN gets turned off, and voice services migrate into being add-on services on top of the primary data product.

      That allows BTW to offer a VoIP product alongside SOGEA … which I imagine will be the main way that BT intends to migrate people away from PSTN.

      The desirable end result, for BT, isn’t “naked broadband”. It is “voice on top of broadband” as a replacement for “broadband on top of voice”.

    3. NGA for all says:

      @mikew or a router/femto cell so we discover convergence over a common data transport layer.

    4. CarlT says:

      That’s already there, NGA. I have a femto cell that carries voice and data about 6 feet from me. The convergence layer is IP, what’s carried over that is irrelevant.

    5. NGA for all says:

      @CArLT the basics are there, but the spectrum should be open to all providers, thus allowing the propositions to be better integrated. I would include in that not just the naming and number of the service, but the underlying data transport being capable of being readily optimised by the user.

  2. Steve Jones says:

    I wouldn’t rush into an assumption that a service without voice will be cheaper at all. Even if the wholesale costs are fractionally less as it doesn’t include the E side part of the leg, any difference will be tiny as regulated prices are cost-based and there really is no cost saving to OR.

    In addition, the marginal cost of providing a voice service is vanishingly small and, reducing as it might be, charging for voice calls (or a package), including those for call termination, does help offset the costs.

    Only if operators can retire MSANS from a lot of local exchanges will there be much cost saving. That would mean moving to a GEA-FTTC product to all customers in the area and withdrawing any exchange-based ADSL.

    However, I expect some form of VOIP will be generally be included (although not the Internet-type VOIP, but some form of protocol back to the head end with a dedicated PSTN port on the hub. I’m not sure what that means for power backup on the hubs for emergency service access (required on PSTN) if they are a critical part of a fixed line set-up.

    1. NGA for all says:

      The femto cell capability as part of a router, if it supported a wholesale service should feature.

      I think BT should convert its £200m of low powered 2.6Ghz spectrum holding onto a wholesale offer and get some credit for some fraction of the £200m spectrum fees against the £350m capital deferral it owes.

      BT can grow ARPU and take out PST costs.

  3. GNewton says:

    What is the exact difference between e.g. AAISP’s naked VDSL (which has been around for a long time) and BT’s SOGEA?

    1. Vince says:

      AA’s current service does include a PSTN service in reality, they just make it unusable.

      SOGEA is actually just FTTC provision.

    2. MrIcaras says:

      A&A just request Outgoing Call Barring from BT Wholesale. You do have dialtone but can only dial freephone numbers.

    3. Freeola says:

      We have also done this for some time. Just order with Admin OCB.

  4. George M says:

    I can see it costing the consumer more. Why? Because income from phone calls is a major profit centre for CPs so without that profit, they will just increase broadband costs to recover it. So any saving to the consumer will vanish.

    1. dragoneast says:

      Yep, costs are increasing everywhere. The payments to OR and suppliers are only part of the cost base of ISPs. Many of them have eggs in other baskets as well. I doubt if many, or indeed, any of us are volunteering for pay cuts, are we? If our household goods and services go up in price (and barring financial services aren’t we still an importer rather than an exporter), do we expect our wages and salaries to do so too; or are ISPs and ISPR readers the exception? (Mind you all of us here are probably so well off, already!!!).

    2. 125uS says:

      I buy broadband for businesses outside of Britain and where it’s available, naked DSL tends to cost £3 or £4 more a month than DSL with a phone line – for exactly the reason you idrntify.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      Yes, I made much the same point.

  5. MrIcaras says:

    Steve Jones, SOGEA does still include the E-side “for testing purposes”, though of course there’s no dialtone. The E-side on a SOGEA line exists purely to connect the D-side to the test head inside the exchange.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      OK. That’s interesting. Even less reason to believe that the wholesale cost of the line rental for SOGEA will be less than that for MPF if it still requires the E side pair for line test purposes. If there is no line rental cost saving, then any idea that “naked” VDSL will be cheaper than VDSL + voice service tends to go away entirely given that the ISPs use the voice element as part of the revenue stream and the actual marginal cost of providing a voice service is very low.

  6. Walter G M Willcox says:

    @ MrIcaras I believe there is a dial tone so you can e.g. check the line number with 17070 but it is otherwise useless. (It also helps Openreach NOT to “steal” the pair ! )

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