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BT Update on UK FTTP, SOGEA, 3dB and 21CN WBC Broadband Plans

Monday, Feb 6th, 2017 (9:34 am) - Score 10,010

At the end of last month BT (Wholesale) released an update on their UK roll-out plans for various future broadband upgrades and technologies, which covers a variety of areas from the new FTTP speed profiles to the national roll-out of 21CN WBC (replacing all IPStream by 2018). Check out what’s coming.

Most of the plans and technologies that we’re about to cover should already be familiar to many of our readers and as such we’re just going to do a simple summary of the most interesting highlights, albeit with a short explanation for those who might not be keeping such a close eye on developments.

However we have missed off a couple of important broadband technologies because there wasn’t much in the way of new information to report. For example, we didn’t cover G.fast because we already know about their on-going pilot (here) and it was a similar story for the Long Reach VDSL (LR-VDSL / FTTC) trials (here); the latter is designed to help deliver the Government’s 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Speaking of LR-VDSL, BT confirmed that their trials are still dealing with the “implementation challenges” and much of that seems to stem from the problem of having to shift local ADSL connections to use LR-VDSL instead (needed in order to avoid interference and deliver the best speeds). Easier said than done when you have to deal with a variety of different ISPs and unbundle (LLU) networks with competitive interests.

In keeping with the above Openreach are also known to be simultaneously taking a multi thread approach to encouraging “slow speed” ADSL users (sub-10Mbps) onto “fibre” (FTTC/P), such as via the 18Mbps FTTC upgrade trial (here) and a similar acquisition trial is due to follow soon.

New FTTP Speeds and Roll-out

At present the top four fastest speed profiles for ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) broadband lines on Openreach’s national network are 220Mbps (20Mbps upload), 330Mbps (20Mbps or 30Mbps), 500Mbps (165Mbps) and 1000Mbps (220Mbps); most ISPs don’t offer the latter two as they’ve only recently been introduced.

However it will come as no surprise to find that BT also intends to introduce two additional FTTP profiles in order to match their G.fast service: 160Mbps (30Mbps) and 330Mbps (50Mbps). BTWholesale are currently expecting to start offering these from May 2017.

Meanwhile BT’s plan to make FTTP available to 2 million UK premises by 2020 (roughly half of those will be business connections) is expected to start ramping up its roll-out from around April 2017 (roughly 350,000+ premises can already access it due to the old deployment strategy).

The National 21CN WBC Roll-Out

At this time last year BT’s 21st Century Network (21CN) powered Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) platform, which is the foundation for a lot of modern Internet connection technologies on the operator’s network (e.g. ADSL2+), covered around 94% of premises in the United Kingdom.

However BT has confirmed that they now intend to replace all remaining IPstream exchanges with WBC by the end of 2018, which for example means that their ‘up to’ 20Mbps ADSL2+ broadband technology should cover 99.8% of the United Kingdom. This is perhaps no surprise given BT’s joint effort with the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme.


Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) & SOGfast

We’ve also got a short update on SOGEA and its comically named G.fast variant, SOGfast. Readers may recall that this is Openreach’s product solution for giving consumers a truly standalone (naked) FTTC / VDSL “Fibre Broadband” line without the phone service (more details here and here).

SOGEA has just started its technical trial, which runs until March 2017. Related users are benefiting from a free connection and rental charge, which lasts until at least July 2017. So far as we’re aware the plan is still to introduce this commercially during early 2018, although the precise launch date will no doubt depend upon the success of their forthcoming pilot (expected later this year).

Naturally BT are also working on a G.fast variant of the same solution (SOGfast) and the first trials are 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.

XdB Trial

Last year we reported that customers with FTTC (VDSL2) based “fibre broadband” lines on Openreach’s national network might soon benefit from a free speed boost because the operator planned to support target downstream noise margins of less than the current default (6dB), with the margin potentially dropping to just 3dB on some lines (full details).

The XdB trial has now been going on for awhile and it was recently extended until 28th February 2017. At present the trial is said to encompass all GEA-FTTC lines within the limited geographic areas of Devon and Somerset in England. Assuming the original plan still holds then the change is due to be introduced from March 2017.

Apparently Openreach anticipate that “only around 10% of FTTC lines will be moved to new margin value” and perhaps unsurprisingly the lines excluded include those on ECI DSLAMs (street cabinets). ECI kit has rather a flaky history when it comes to introducing VDSL2 enhancements.

Overall the above areas appear to reflect the main highlights from BT’s recent ISP Forum event.

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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