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330Mbps G.fast Pods Appearing in Broadband Delivery UK Areas Too

Friday, September 1st, 2017 (1:16 am) - Score 4,057

Some readers have been asking whether any areas that have been upgraded with FTTC (VDSL2) via the state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK programme are going to benefit from Openreach’s (BT) commercial roll-out of ‘up to’ 330Mbps G.fast technology. The answer is yes.

For example, take the PCP street cabinet Hunslet 62 in Middleton (Leeds), which serves about 120 premises and is twinned with a nearby VDSL2 cabinet that was upgraded via public investment support from the Government’s BDUK scheme. This same PCP cabinet now has a shiny new G.fast extension pod affixed to the right side of its casing.

Long-time readers may recall that this was one of several cabinets in an area where local broadband campaigners had to battle for an upgrade, after Openreach initially said that it “would not be commercially viable.” Funnily enough uptake since the FTTC upgrade doesn’t appear to have been an issue. How times change.

Several other factors are also likely to have played a role in Openreach’s decision to add G.fast to 62. Pretty much all of the premises that it serves are fairly close to the cabinet (good speeds) and Virgin Media has also deployed their rival 350Mbps cable broadband network into the same area (FTTC isn’t quite up to that kind of challenge).

Openreach is currently deploying their G.fast service to cover 1 million premises by the end of 2017 and they aim to reach 10 million by the end of 2020 (here). Credits to Carl Thomas for his useful contribution below.

hunslet 62 gfast pcp

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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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30 Responses
  1. AndyC says:

    Do these cabs have the kit in or is openreach just bolting on empty ones in readiness?

  2. Lee says:

    They come ready with the kit installed

  3. Confuzzle says:

    Does anyone know how long after install do they “go live”?

    1. Lee says:

      I suspect Openreach are installing a lot right now and will make them all live when they launch the product in due course.

      They may however make some areas live sooner if they increase the size of the pilot/trial.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      It shouldn’t take anything like as long as the FTTC deployments of previous years because the core infrastructure is already in place, hence the fairly rapid roll-out.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      I think the big issue is going to be stimulating uptake, and on that measure, OpenReach are almost entirely reliant on ISPs. Apart from general awareness and some special deals on wholesale costs, there’s not much that can be done.

      It remains to be seen if the pattern will follow that of VDSL2, where the only major ISP to put any marketing effort into the product was BT Retail. TalkTalk and Sky did virtually nothing in the early days to stimulate demand, because they feared the consequences on their own LLU investments (BT Retail having no such issues – although BTW did). Such was the disparity in promotional activities that many people were under the impression that VDSL2 was only available from BT at a retail level. For that, TalkTalk and Sky only have themselves to blame.

      I should add BT Retail’s sales activity to upgrade involved pro-active calls to phone calls (I got one). Something that is allowed under TPS for existing customers.

      So are we going to see the same thing? That is BT Retail taking the marketing initiative with Sky & TalkTalk begrudgingly following on? I suspect it will be a bit different this time in that I don’t expect national advertising to emphasise the new g.fast speeds outside of the generic Infinity product line. For reasons of lack of availability, I think it will just be defined as part of that Infinity product range. However, what I do expect is a lot of targeted marketing and sales material by BT Retail aimed at those customers for whom the product is available. I suspect it will also come with some tempting offers for upgrades (at least in the first year).

      I suspect we might also see Sky and TalkTalk doing something rather similar with their own customer base, or at least the ones on their “fibre” products who might benefit. In this case, they won’t be taking sales away from their LLU ADSL product. Sky, especially, will be keen not to lose customers to VM.

      So my guess is we’ll see some subtle changes to the national advertising of the main ISPs “fibre” products along with a lot of direct marketing. I also don’t expect to see BT Retail taking the initiative as they so obviously sis with VDSL2.

  4. Optical says:

    I’m in Bath & nearly every cabinet has had a G Fast pod attached,I presume they will reshell the older cabinets before attaching a G Fast pod.

  5. Frank Butcher says:

    I wonder if OR also consider the remaining available capacity on the existing VDSL2 cab when deciding whether to deploy a G.Fast pod? The G.Fast pod could also be used to provide additional capacity for the slower speed services at a fairly low cost. Maybe OR policy would preclude this though?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Good question, I’ll have to ask exactly how they’d aim to approach that sort of use case in the future, although it’s quite a rare occurrence.

      Openreach already align their speed tiers in such a way that the technology differences between FTTP, FTTC and G.fast can in theory be close to seamless for consumers, save for some natural price differences (e.g. connection fees). For example, you can have a 40/10Mbps FTTC profile and the same also exists for FTTP at an identical rental of £88.80 +vat per annum.

      In theory G.fast could align quite smoothly with FTTC pricing using the same approach but, due to the limited port count of early deployments, I suspect they would rather ISPs initially treat G.fast as a separate “ultrafast” product. ISPs could still upsell to it of course but so far G.fast tiers only exist at 160 and 330Mbps.

  6. lyndon says:

    Will we be needing larger footpaths to accommodate more cabs for future developments with copper technologies?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      In some areas it has become a bit silly, such as funnily enough using the nearby example of Hunslet 82 🙂 .

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/wp-content/gallery/bt-openreach-uk-illustrations/hunslet_cabinet_82_gfast_pod.jpg

      Now that’s a lot of cabinets and there you have an argument for FTTP making more sense. Alternatively we might expect to see smaller nodes (mini cabs) stuck on top of telegraph poles or underground (FTTdp + G.fast), instead of big street furniture. Certainly I think there’s a point where the number of street cabinets starts to reach silly town.

  7. Steve Jones says:

    Once a cabinet is enabled for FTTC, the incremental cost of adding a g.fast pod is relatively low as the heavy-lifting parts (fibre runs, duct clearances, power supplies, head-ends etc.) have all been done.

    So the commercial model for a g.fast pod upgrade is going to look rather different to that for the original FTTC deployment provided that there are sufficient local premises.

    This is not to deny that BT weren’t highly conservative on their FTTC take-up assumptions. At the time of the commercial roll-out planning, there would have been a prioritisation on the most promising areas, in good part because the aim will have been to cover as many premises as possible as quickly as possible within what will have been limited resources.

    I have absolutely no doubt that, in time, a lot of those areas outside of the commercial footprint would have been enabled, even though firm plans didn’t exist. When BDUK came along with a priority based on the maximum coverage in the least time, then it made considerable financial sense to BT management to let that project carry some of the financial risk by conservative bid criteria (presumably taking a bet that any other bids would not be competitive). Of course the high take-up rate in the BDUK areas has meant BT are paying back a lot of the grant (or have made provision for it), but in the meantime it has greatly increased its footprint at less commercial risk.

    So, in financial terms, it made a lot of sense for BT not to expand the already planned areas for its commercial roll-out when the OMRs were carried out (and hence maximise the intervention areas) as it was probably very well aware that a large intervention area would maximise its competitiveness in BDUK bids. A strategy not without some risk, but probably quite a clever one.

    A cynical approach or just a rational and clever strategic decision to optimise the company’s position given a stated government policy. You decide.

    nb. I might be giving BT senior management too much credit in this analysis, in which case they just lucked in…

    1. GNewton says:

      @Steve Jones: I still think that the original taxpayer’s expenses under the BDUK umbrella was a waste, BT had no need for it. As you mentioned, once the heavy FTTC base in BDUK funded areas was done, it relatively easy cost-wise to add G.Fast. But now the taxpayer won’t see a ROI, all the G.Fast commercial benefits will go to BT.

      Having said that, the question is will there even be a sufficient market demand for G.Fast? For most users, existing superfast VDSL services are sufficient, why would they pay extra for G.Fast when they don’t have a need for it?

    2. Lee says:

      Just like people want a car that will do 0-60 in 4 seconds and 190mph. They don’t need it, but want it.

    3. Steve Jones says:

      @GNewton

      The government structured BDUK, so take it up with them.

      As far as the government’s “business case” for ROI was concerned, it was never about a return on the direct investment as such, it was predicated on increased economic growth (which returns funds to the Treasury by its very nature) and by allowing the government to move more to “e-services”, which are meant to gain efficiencies. Outside the area of fiscal returns on increased growth, there was also deemed to be a social policy benefit.

      Much the same argument goes into much more expensive projects like HS2.

      In any event, BT has to repay much of that grant money (which is recognised in the books), and it’s not even true that BT will be the only commercial beneficiary (although they are only allowed a return on their part of the investment anyway). The ISPs that resell the service are also going to be beneficiaries.

      Of course, the state can make its own investments and try and run it commercially, but the Digital Region project in South Yorkshire turned into a fiasco and the taxpayer lost out with some estimates of the loss being around the £100m mark. That was for a project that only covered a tiny proportion of the country. Compared to that BDUK has been very cheap indeed (when I last added up the net grant receipts in BT’s books, it was, from memory, less than £700m and undoubtedly more of that will be returned).

    4. MikeW says:

      Its a good question about the outcome from G.Fast takeup affecting VDSL2 clawback.

      I imagine the contract doesn’t cope with the scenario, whereas the “fair” outcome is that every G.Fast subscriber should be considered within the takeup count for SFBB. After all, their traffic is now an NGA service carried over fibre that only exists because of the BDUK subsidy, and will have “stolen” from prior VDSL2 takeup. It would be a travesty if not counted.

      This might be caught under @NGA’s “future proofing” clauses, but I’ve not seen a contract with those in them.

      Is there enough demand? Who knows. But this is a commercial decision for BT, so they are the ones to suffer if there is not. No one else.

  8. MikeW says:

    BDUK areas seem to have been included in G.Fast before.

    I recall that one of the exchanges included in the earlier trials, somewhere in Kent, only had BDUK DSLAMs.

  9. Simon says:

    OMG lick carl’s ring why don’t you lol

  10. dave says:

    It does seem silly putting g.fast on the cabinets. The only people that benefit are those that are 100 metres from the cabinet and can therefore already get 80Mbps. They could even get 100Mbps+ if the limits on FTTC were changed. G.fast needs to be on the poles or manhole closer to the houses than the FTTC cabinet.

    Living over 2km from an FTTC enabled cabinet it is really annoying seeing those that already get better speeds and have the choice of VM get another boost to their speeds when speeds where is I am haven’t improved since ADSLMAX was enabled in 2006.

    1. James says:

      Know how you feel. A bunch of cabs were all enabled around our area in 2011. A few streets were left out & we were kept on EO with measly 1 – 3.5mb’s ADSL speeds. BDUK stepped in & said they were upgrading our area, everyone was ecstatic only prob was that for some crazy reason OR connected over half the remaining EO lines here to an existing cab that is over 1500 metres (as the crow files, so line length will be much longer).

      At the end of the day, it all comes down to cost. Ideally, they’d go onto the poles etc but bolting them onto existing cabs (at least initially) is quicker, simpler & cheaper for the sake of mass coverage. The prob comes after that initial deployment to fill in the void(s) for those that have been left behind. Some are still on EO, some on cabs too far away to ever get fibre. So with G.Fast it’ll be the same story. A few years down the line, OR will be looking to roll out the next iteration of G.Fast & many many many millions won’t have have got onto the original version of the tech.

  11. Fastman says:

    gfast works at about 400 – 450m form the cabinet so your assumptions are incorrect

  12. FibreLess says:

    Our FTTC cabinet is being privately funded by the housing developer. Just this week we requested Openreach to consider upgrading us to G.Fast in the trials. Made the request via Superfast Berkshire. Response from OR was positive, the cabinet meets the requirements for High Density upgrade, OR will monitor uptake when the cab goes live. We live in hope.

    1. MikeW says:

      What are the “High Density” upgrade requirements?

    2. Lee says:

      I’d assume that it’s a full fibre cabinet but with a PCP that doesn’t serve enough properties to warrant a second cabinet.

    3. Fastman says:

      that cab is nothing to do with superfast Berkshire so not sure why you even contacted them and it depends on the distance the premises are from the cab — not sure who has advised you and when / how seems very strange — which cab are we referring to

    4. Fibreless says:

      @Fastman, I can most certainly contact Superfast Berkshire if I feel the need to. I had exchanged emails with them about the status of our area in their phase 3 rollout and decided to ask if they could ask OR to consider our area for G.Fast. Our FTTC cab is privately funded and there are a large number of homes within 450m of the cab. SFB have excellent direct contacts at OR which I don’t and as our cab is privately funded if OR don’t include us in their trials then this FTTC upgrade is likely the only investment our area will see for many years. Cab 56 on Reading, Earley.

      No harm in asking, in fact speaking up and asking is what got the developer to fund the FTTC upgrade. Until we sent all the details of our broadband issues to Mark on this site, the developer wasn’t willing to listen to us. Thank you Mark!

    5. MikeW says:

      I’m now thinking that a High Density upgrade is one that uses the high density linecards to upgrade the existing DSLAM (eg 288 -> 384). But I expect OR could well employ some density tests to decide whether it is worth adding a pod too.

  13. James says:

    It’s great news that BDUK funded cabs will be included in the rollout. Wonder whether this will reach to the AIO cabs though!

  14. Fastman says:

    I would be surprised as Gfast Pod is attached to the PCP

    1. MikeW says:

      Shoulda made AIO cabs with the other end capable of holding a G.Fast DPU. A three-in-one.

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