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

Monday, February 6th, 2017 (9:34 am) - Score 6,670
fibre optic cable connections at BT Openreach

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.

21cn_bt_wbc_coverage_plan_2017

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.

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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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49 Responses
  1. bdo21

    Out of interest, should the BT Broadband Checker show “Up to 1000” for those of us fortunate to have FTTP? Mine shows “Up to 330” but this article says 1Gbps is available now (at least from Openreach, even if not from an ISP).

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      The article makes it clear that those speeds are not yet available from most ISP’s and that’s why you won’t find that in the checker.

    • Ignition

      That checker is for BT Wholesale services; they don’t wholesale the 500Mb or 1Gb services as yet.

  2. bdo21

    Thank you Ignition – that makes sense. If BT Wholesale doesn’t offer 500Mb or 1Gb services, I understand why it doesn’t show up here and also why no ISP offers these speeds!

    • Ignition

      You’re welcome.

      Before they can offer such things they need to do some upgrades. Their interconnects to Openreach are 1Gb a piece, not enough for a 1Gb FTTP connection. They also need to do some upgrades on exchanges backhauls in preparation for such services. While some headend exchanges, if not many, will be on 10Gb there will be some on n x 1Gb, and to reliably offer a 1Gb FTTP service they need a full 1Gb of space on whatever links to be able to handle the burst.

    • New_Londoner

      @ignition
      Or they could follow the example of a budget altnet which offered 1Gbps over FTTP to a community but “forgot” to mention the single, shared 100Mbps backhaul link!

  3. Adam

    So how would someone know if they are on ECI kit?

    • Adam

      Found it and on dear, I am on ECI – so once again BT excludes people from speed updates due to their OWN cockup.

      Got to be living in one of the trial areas and be on Huawei to get anything it seems.

    • Lee

      It’s ECI’s issue, not the fault of Openreach.

      I suspect in time itn will ve rolled out to ECI. What are your current speeds?

    • TheManStan

      Yes and no to ECI BT.

      ECI could have implemented their IMP better, BT could have bought V41s instead of budget M41s that would allowed vectoring properly….

    • Lee

      Back before 2009 when FTTC was first installed by Openreach on their technical trial(and had been planned for a while before) Vectoring wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t given ITU recommendation until 2010, by which time, the contract for the supply of the ECI cabinets would have been signed.

    • TheManStan

      Except ECI cabinets were only installed in a window between 2012 an 2013, which is well after 2010… as I’m on one and wondered why they hadn’t put V41s in…

    • Lee

      Not sure where you’re attaining this misinformation. At a previous address we were on an ECI cabinet that was installed mid 2011.

    • MikeW

      ECI was initially trialled in and around York, if I remember correctly.

      The central York exchange is almost entirely ECI, with the first live from December 2010, and the last ones going live in January, February and March 2015.

      Huawei have a small footprint on that exchange, with the first going live in 2013 and a few still to be installed by the SEP project.

  4. Huw

    Is it possible to get hold of the list of the next 500 exchanges to be upgraded to 21CN? I’d like to see if mine is on there.

    • AndyH

      Which exchange are you on?

    • Huw

      Sorry – replied in wrong place, it’s:

      Benington (SMBEN)

      Thanks

    • +1
      The briefing on btwholesale.com is not pubically accessible.

      Exchange Coldingham (ESCLD)

    • AndyH

      Sorry, neither of those are on the next 500 list due until Jul 2017.

    • Huw

      Thanks for looking. I’m not too surprised. Annoyingly all the exchanges around it are 21CN already. I guess worse case scenario is the end of 2018 now so at least there is a fixed target. Its a race to see if I get FTTC or ADSL2+ first now then. Both would give similar speeds considering distance from the exchange.

    • AndyH

      @ Huw – I can tell you that your exchange will skip a 21CN and move to FTTC first. Cabinet 1 is due to go live in the next 6-8 weeks and cabinet 2 later this year. The work connecting the exchange to Stevenage looks mostly complete.

      @ Chris – You should be getting a mix of FTTC/P. FTTC is in the earlier stages and looks like Cabinet 2 is due in the summer with Cabinet 1 later this year. FTTP looks to be delivered sooner with an anticipated completed date of next month.

    • @AndyH Thank you very much for the info, it’s more than I’ve gotten from any official enquiry 🙂 I don’t suppose you have postcodes for the FTTP do you?

    • Kev

      @AndyH – are you able to see what’s happening on ESKIR (Kirkcaldy) P15? They’ve been set on the checker for build within 5 months for 2 1/2 years. They keep saying they’ve got authority for the placement of the new cabinet and then nothing happens.

      Cheers

  5. Huw

    Benington (SMBEN)

  6. MikeW

    Just looking back to previous reports from BT…

    XdB
    9 months ago, BT had said their proof of concept had improved 84% of lines, and that they hoped it would lead to better speeds for the majority. A median improvement in speed of 17%.

    Is the “10% of FTTC lines” now their total expectation after the rollout? Or just during the trial?

    21CN Replacement of 20CN IPStream
    The decision, finally, to get rid of IPstream in the remaining exchanges is good news … and with a relatively quick project.

    A year ago, they were saying there were 1,900 such exchanges, but they suffered from space and wiring issues. BT planned to enforce migration by physically swapping out a 20CN DSLAM and replacing it with a 21CN DSLAM in one overnight task. Followed by a more controlled swap of the remaining DSLAMs in the exchange.

    With 1,600 exchanges to go, finishing by the end of 2018 means they have to take that first step, the physical overnight swap, in 3 exchanges every weeknight between now and then.

    • Not clear on the “10% of FTTC lines” aspect. Waiting on a future update to the final roll-out plan to see exactly what’s happening. So for now I’d just assume it’s with respect to the trial.

  7. eM

    I’m on sub-10 Mbps ADSL (2 Mbps in fact) and I can’t wait they start to “encourage” me to upgrade to FTTC. I have in fact tried phoning Sky to try and buy the 18Mbps FTTC product and their sales team isn’t even aware it exists. Pointed them to a page on their own website – were very surprised 😛

    • Yes front line support at the big ISPs won’t generally be aware of these things subtle changes under the hood, usually takes a bit of prodding in order to find the right person. Mind you I think they might still be running it as a trial with a limited number of subscribers.

    • joe pineapples

      Where is that page eM?

  8. Brett Baker

    It would be nice to get the 330mbps (50mbps) upgrade for free for those of us already on the 330mbps (30mbps) service, but I bet that doesn’t happen.

    • Adam

      Always people on the highest speeds that complain. Be nice to get 330/30 full stop.

      Stop whinging.

    • CarlT

      It can’t, Brett. Openreach aren’t allowed to regrade you, that’s up to your ISP.

      Adam: we’re all allowed to complain, whether we’re on 300Mb and want 1Gb, or 1Mb and want 10 🙂

  9. Allen

    Dont suppose you could tell me if Lucy Lane North is on the list. Id be surprised (its a 1 off Exchange in the country) but I live in hope :S

    • AndyH

      Unfortunately, it’s not on there.

    • Allen

      Thanks for checking for me

    • MrIcaras

      What makes you think it’s a one off? I’ve seen plenty of exchanges just like it. They’ll need to swap the current ADSL equipment out overnight and change it for ADSL2+. That’s why it hasn’t been done up until now, the exchange is tiny and there’s no space for anything else.

    • 3G Infinity

      AndyH,

      Exchange THPS was scheduled for Jun 2017, Hampshire CC now say that it is 2018 – any visibility? Its currently not WBC, 21Cn or FTTC.

  10. Would it even be theoretically possible to have a symmetrical connection by bonding 2 FTTC lines, using a specially built router/modem which on one line has the wide download and narrow upload channels as normal, but on the other second line this would be reversed with a narrow download channel and a correspondingly wide upload channel?

    e.g.
    2*40/10=50/50 symmetrical
    2*80/20=100/100 symmetrical
    etc.

    • 125uS

      It’s technically possible, in that it would work in a lab, but it’s not practical for a real-world application. That’s because of far end crosstalk. It would put a ‘loud’ signal on the line close to signals on other people’s lines that are ‘quiet’, making those other people’s broadband go slower. On a quiet day you can make sense of what someone is shouting to you from perhaps 100 metres away, but not if there’s someone standing next to you at the same time trying to yell to someone else 100 metres away.

      The opposite problem would occur at the cabinet meaning your higher upstream speed would suffer too.

      An engineer would tell you that the best way to resolve this without replacing all the cables (the medium) is to make the signals share the available resource in time rather than space – TDM vs FDM. I believe that’s the principle behind G.Fast – transmit and receive take it in turns across all the connections.

    • Steve Jones

      Quite simply no, as it would breach the ANFP and wreck the service for everybody due to cross-talk. Not only that, but because the full strength upload signal at the customer premises would interfere with the heavily attenuated download signals through cross-talk as they will have overlapping frequency bands. So it wouldn’t even work for the customer.

    • gpmgroup

      Thanks Steve & 125uS for taking the time to explain, that helps build a better basic conception of how things work.

  11. Andrew Woodward

    Any idea if Cabinet 6 in Fairford is on list to be upgraded. Was due to get FTTP from gigaclear but they decided not to with no reason given.

  12. hv

    And of course no help or hope whatsoever for us suffering 2mb/s urban ADSL lines. Everyone else seems to get an upgrade at some point, and ADSL users get motivational “encouragement” deals to move to VDSL. We just got our price increases and absolutely nothing else.

    Not even a glimmer of hope.

    • MikeW

      Hope of what?

      BDUK isn’t only a rural programme, though not all cities have been included, or bothered to use their funds.

  13. MAC

    Can anyone please tell me when Trearddur Bay: WNTRB will be upgraded to 21C WBC ADSL? Is it on the list of next exchanges to be upgraded?

    I am farely close to the exchange, so my connection speed might double.

  14. Although the briefing seems to be private, the current plan of 21CN migrations (including recent history) seems to be in this “National Service Migration Schedules” spreadsheet, available to all on the BTW site:

    https://www.btwholesale.com/assets/documents/Network_Information/WBC_National_Service_Migration_Schedule_May_2017_v2.xls

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