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Openreach Deploys Ultrafast FTTP Broadband Over Existing Copper Network

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017 (12:50 pm) - Score 5,040
underground fttp node bt openreach

Network provider Openreach (BT) appears to have completed the pilot of a new process option for Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) “ultrafast broadband” networks, which enables them to run optical fibre cables over their existing copper cable network / ducts at housing developments.

The use of existing infrastructure to run fibre optic cables into individual properties, such as via copper cable ducts and joint boxes, has been done before and the new technique probably isn’t going to work everywhere (e.g. sometimes there just isn’t the space or access for it). Special fibroscopic cameras have to be used first in order to check the underground ducts and remove blockages.

However, where it works then Openreach can save time (i.e. it reduces the need for engineers to blow fibre through underground ducts and to splice individual fibres together) and money by avoiding the need to dig up footpaths or driveways, while also using the latest ‘Plug and Play‘ cable connectors (connectorised).

Apparently the first to benefit are 230 houses on the Bracklenleigh estate near Carlisle (Cumbria), with another 70 new build homes on the estate also benefiting as a result of Openreach’s free FTTP deal with property developers, which applies to all new housing developments with 30+ homes. Over 55 households on the estate have already signed up to the “ultrafast broadband” service.

Matthew Hemmings, Openreach’s Regional Director for the North, said:

“I’m delighted to see customers in Brackenleigh already benefitting from this initiative, some of whom have struggled with lower than average speeds in the past.

We’re investing heavily in ultrafast broadband because we’re committed to giving Britain a first class network, capable of delivering the very latest communication services for households and businesses. By using new techniques we recently halved the cost of delivering ‘full fibre’ infrastructure, which has helped make initiatives like this one in Brackenleigh possible.”

A number of similar deployments are now being planned for locations in London, Essex, Cheshire, Devon, Warwickshire and Shropshire. All of this will no doubt help Openreach to reach their current FTTP goal of 2 million premises passed by 2020, which mostly consists of new build developments and business parks / estates.

UPDATE 15th Sept:

Openreach has clarified that the main difference here is they’re using small teams of apprentices who are being trained up to deal with FTTP installation end-to-end. The new teams are effectively able to do everything, which means that the operator doesn’t have to bring other teams in to do parts of the installation. This was how they managed to complete this job so quickly.

It would have been nice if the press release had made this clearer, instead of conflating several related aspects together.

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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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41 Responses
  1. Martin

    Here in Dolau, Powys we have FTTP. they certainly used all the old ducts to pull the fibre cables from a link in local exchange, although it then goes to another exchange as link to main hub.. then at the village transferred to the poles. again ready made fibre cables used overhead. as users have signed up they have put overhead duct and blown fibre to the house box. using all the existing poles and underground ducts. all welded as far as I can see. openreach techy was worried about the move to push connectors. considering our mostly wet weather surely welded fibre is best?

  2. Salek

    Surly Openreach already know which ducts are good candidates for this method of deployment, Just get on with the roll out before DOCSIS 3.1 kicks in,

  3. Steve Jones

    Isn’t that title a bit misleading? It looks more to me as if it’s delivering FTTP over the passive capacity built for the copper network.

    It certainly wouldn’t help at my old house which was done using direct buried cable (in the street as well). The estate was built in the 70s, so would reflect what was then Post Office policy at the time. No doubt it’s changed since. I got the impression from the OR guy who had to arrange to have the pavement dug up and the Y joint remade that it is an ongoing problem.

    However, judging by where I moved to (built in the mid-1990s using BT, not PO standards), the phone cable arrives via underground ducting.

    So probably no panacea, but applicable in some places.

    • Steve Jones

      “passive infrastructure built for the copper network”…

    • The official PR uses much the same language (“builds over its existing copper broadband network”), which doesn’t give us a lot of detail to work with.. it’s all quite vague.


    • GNewton

      Why does fibre have to use the underground ducts in the first place? In most places BT has the poles, though they are only used for the final drop wires to the premises. But why not run fibre from pole to pole?

    • baby_frogmella

      Mr Newton
      You will find that relatively new homes (built in last 30 years?) are supplied by copper lines via ducts so why not have fibre coming u/g as well?

    • Joe

      Gnewton: Ducts are certainly safer. Accidents happen to poles from farmers flails to trees falling.

    • GNewton

      I have seen many places in the United States where fibre is just run from pole to pole, so there are robust enough solutions for this. We often hear BT coming up with the excuse that fibre is too expensive to install underground, hence my question why running fibre from pole to pole hasn’t even been considered in this country.

    • baby_frogmella

      As fibre in u/g ducting is less prone to damage (eg storms) than being suspended above ground I guess Openreach will try to install FTTP networks in existing ducts first providing they aren’t too clogged up and there is sufficient space inside them. If its too much work required to unblock existing ducts or if they don’t exist at all in certain areas then sure, Openreach will route fibre overhead on existing or new polse. Which is why in rural FTTP deployment areas Openreach will often use existing/new poles as there is no ducting in place or the costs to put new ducting in place is very high.

    • Gadget

      @GN Fibre is run from pole to pole where poles exist, but to the first approximation any route or part thereof is either pole or underground, very rarely does a choice between the two exist.

    • AndyH

      @ GNewton – I have explained above. They rodded, if they found a blockage that could not be cleared, then civil contractors would come and dig up the blockage. Which part of that do you not understand?

      Why do you think this is a PR exercise? The article is hidden in the BT > Press Releases > Regional > North West of England section. It’s hardly front page news and the title is ”
      Broadband speeds soar on Carlisle housing development thanks to Openreach ultrafast broadband pilot”. Is that misleading to you?

      BT is always testing new ways to deploy and improve delivery of its services. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s perfectly normal for any utility company. FTTP deployment now is completely different compared to 10 years ago. BT is just testing modern and improved ways to delivery FTTP.

      It seems like every time there’s a story about BT on here, you get your knickers in a twist. Go out and enjoy life, don’t focus so much on your BT hatred.

    • JAH

      Anglesey is completely covered with pole based fibre. Makes a lot of sense. It can look a bit messy in places though where three or four tubes are dangling between the poles. A minor cosmetic thing that I’d happily put up with!

    • George M

      I have FTTP in the south of England and the fibre was blown through the existing cabling ducts (for copper phone and now defunct cable TV system) and exited at the house via the access box.
      This technique was been used for years in my local area but does suffer from careless builders who have thrown junk into the ducts as they were building the estate.
      Unless I’m really missing something from the very vague press release about the method being used, I don’t see how it is news.

    • George M

      Reply to self:-

      Should have read the other comments first before typing my first one. Now see what is different.

    • AndyH

      @ George M

      I think I know where you are. MK WT?

    • George M

      Yep, we’ve talked in the past when I had speed issues relating to the exchange infrastructure.

    • Greg

      @Steve Jones … you think your old house built in the 70’s with old standard wiring is bad … I’m living in a house built in the mid 60’s and we still have the original GPO telegraph poles in the street!

    • GNewton

      @AndyH: Your emotional attachment to BT is quite irrational as demonstrated by your post here.

      Nobody is attacking BT here on this forum thread, the questions about running fibre on poles is a geunine one, and as seen from some posters here it is indeed being done in some rural areas.

      It is just strange for a company blowing its own trumpet over something as trivial as running fibre through ducts or on poles, this kind of thing has been done for ages, and you’d expect any telecom company to do this kind of work, that’s their normal job.

  4. baby_frogmella

    Not sure why OR class this as a new/pilot technique when they used existing copper ducts to install my FoD service a few months ago – ie no fresh digging was done at all to the nearest agg node or outside my home. I would have thought OR would always try to existing copper ducts to lay fibre for obvious reasons, where possible.

    • Salek

      Hence my First comment

    • Ultraspeedy

      “Not sure why OR class this as a new/pilot technique when they used existing copper ducts to install my FoD service a few months ago…”

      Because its BT and you may as well claim something is new even if it is not for self deluded P.R.

      Before your FOD service there was also this thing dating back to 2011…

      So like you im at a loss as to how a network deployment based on 5 year old ideas is as Mr Hemmings tries to convince us its “the very latest communication services” and “using new techniques”.

      Just another day in BT fantasy news releasing.

    • AndyH

      @ baby_frogmella

      I think it’s more about the processes and systems that they have in place now to install FTTP.

      Installing fibre in existing ducting is nothing new, BT have been doing that for over 30 years. What’s new is using the process of using cameras to assess ducting and remove blockages. Also building the network with pre-fabricated connectors is a relatively new process that saves quite a bit of time.

      If you look at the FTTP builds of 8 years ago, there was a huge amount of time consuming labour involved. Everything needed to be rodded and if you couldn’t rod, you needed a civil contractor to dig up the road/verge to remove whatever blockage was there.

      @ Ultraspeedy – Don’t you get tired of changing your name on here and trolling the BT stories?

    • GNewton

      @AndyH: How on earth did BT detect and resolve blocked ducts in the past? In all seriousness, this news item here is just another PR exercise, nothing more. Running fibre through ducts, or up on poles has been done for ages, this is nothing new.

    • FibreLess

      If you don’t mind me asking was the cost for FoD any less as OR used the existing ducts?

      Our FTTC cab should hopefully be going live soon, I’m 200m from the cab and the ducts are new as it’s a new build area. Im hoping OR would allow FoD using the existing ducts when the cab goes live. Maybe our development has hope for FTTP with this new info as we missed the recent legislation around Fibre and new builds.

    • baby_frogmella

      I was quoted a FoD one-off install cost by my ISP which was based on radial distance from my home to nearest aggregation node – in my case band D. Openreach then did a survey and found that the install would encounter no potential issues so the install went ahead at the agreed price. If extra work was required (eg blocked ducts which required digging in order to clear or new ducts required) then I guess I would have been charged Excess Construction Charges (ECCs) which can potentially be 1000s but you do have the option of cancelling the order without penalties if ECCs apply. So in answer to your question: no, Openreach would not charge less if ducting is relatively new as their FoD pricing is non-negotiable, however they can charge more where extra work is required (ECCs).

      Btw this is my area and not a BT pole in sight

    • Ultraspeedy

      “@ Ultraspeedy – Don’t you get tired of changing your name on here and trolling the BT stories?”

      No because they are false accusations. Though if you believe your own remarks, you obviously do not get tired of reading my posts, so you are welcome.

  5. adslmax Real

    @Mark Jackson It’s doesn’t say which part in Shropshire? Telford & Wrekin including or excluding?

  6. We’ve just had BT today put rope in the ducting in preparation for FTTP. The check has literally been updated today too with half of the new 240 new build properties not showing as FTTP will be available.

    We’re in Otley, West Yorkshire

  7. AndyC

    Intresting, that estate is relativly new build (onky 3 years old (ish)) so the ducts would be in very good shape. Also not surprised meny have signed up as last time i was in the area there was no fibre “twin” on the cab outside the estate.


    dont know anyone there but the postcode checker says…..

    ADSL Products

    Downstream Line Rate(Mbps)

    Upstream Line Rate(Mbps)

    Downstream Range(Mbps)

    Availability Date

    WBC ADSL 2+ Up to 1.5 — 1 to 3.5 Available
    ADSL Max Up to 1 — 0.75 to 2.5 Available
    WBC Fixed Rate 0.5 — — Available
    Fixed Rate 0.5 — — Available
    Other Offerings Availability Date
    ADSL Multicast — — — Available

  8. brian

    I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here Mark… this reads to me like OR have trialed a way to get FTTP to new estates that were built as copper and were missed from commercial and BDUK. Admittedly the press release confuses the issue somewhat.

    • MikeW

      Sounds like that to me too.

      Brackenleigh got planning permission in 2012, and was partly-built in 2014 when Persimmon requested a change to the plans. And the story shows that 70 new-builds get FTTP anyway, as part of BT’s scheme for developments of 30+ … so still a development in progress too.

      It is likely it was built as copper-only, with underground ducting to suit – mainly swept-tee ducts, and 4-8 houses per chamber.

      The trial is likely to have been an estate-wide effort, rather like one 18 months ago in Swindon. IIRC that one left role in the final drop ducts. Hard to say whether it is the same here, or the connectorised drop is installed directly.

  9. Ben

    I live in a 200 year old house, in a village of about 50 similar houses.

    We’ve been updated on OR website to say we’re getting FTTP (internet, at last!), checked after seeing OR engineers in the local agg. I Don’t believe there is any ug ducting to our property so imagine it’ll be coming in over the telephone poles although I’m no expert. About time they looked at cheaper, easier methods

    • MikeW

      I think about half of premises are fed by pole, about a quarter underground, and a quarter from DPs inside the building (probably MDUs) or on an outside wall.

      They’ll be looking at cheaper, easier methods for all of these. Although they seem to be missing a trick with MDUs.

  10. alan

    “…a pilot of their new installation option for Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) “ultrafast broadband” networks, which enables them to run optical fibre cables over their existing copper cable network / ducts….”

    EXTRA EXTRA read all about it, BT figure out how to put a cable in a duct.

    • Alan

      UPDATE UPDATE READ ALL ABOUT IT… BT figure out not only how to put cable in a duct but also figure out how its cheaper to get the apprentices to do it. WOW they are geniuses.

  11. Michael

    Is micro trenching not a thing for openreach? I’ve heard a lot about it, seems to work. Why not buy a bunch of those machines and get to work.

  12. Gill Bridgwater

    House wired to copper wire to exchange. – Can’t have fibre!!!!
    I live quite close to our Excange in Tregynon, Newtown, Powys SY163HA (NO 31 Tan y llan).
    What are my options? All my neighbours have fibre!!
    Only want fibre as my speed fluctuates soooo much…
    Gurrrrr…. not happy.
    Other people in our village in same position.

  13. Casha

    Signed up with BT beginning October for superfast FTTP – as advised by Welsh Minister for Skills and Sciences.

    Well, the FTTP may be fast but not BT. Still waiting 5 weeks later.
    Still no wayleave across neighboring land requested.
    Incorrect information – BT – ‘we can sling the cable from electricity poles’ – BT engineers from Cardiff 5 weeks later(!) -‘no we can’t because they’re too high voltage.’
    My mobile BT app tells me that we are currently enjoying FTTP connection since 20th October….no we are’nt.
    We’ve had to make about 10 calls over the last 5 weeks to find out what was going on using independent queuing service…never did BT phone us back as we requested, nor as they promised at the end of each call.
    Our notes to them about access to the property and specific problems with the ground were never recorded on our ‘file’ – meaning we had to recite the whole gory lot time and time again.

    The engineers who came beginning October – 3 vans with 6 men – had a google map of the area and once they’d walked to our house, stood in our yard and said, ‘oh no we can’t do this work, it’s over 200m from the cabinet’….isn’t that why they downloaded google maps? to see where it was? It is in fact between 400-500m from the road. Surely they must have noticed that. So i assume BT paid for these vans and men to do absolutely nothing and write a report about it.
    And although I told them explicitly that they mustn’t drive down our farm track as it was not accessible to their vans, they did try – and had to back out and slewed mud all over the track that I have to get out to go to work over….

    I feel that we must be inaudible, as opposed to invisible, for no matter how often we advised them of the specific problems they never seemed to know when we spoke to the next person.

    The Welsh Assembly team told me when they looked on our post code/address that BT had also recorded that we were connected since 20th October…..

    Now the rains have come and the ground is a bog so we’ll probably have to wait till next late spring before they can get in and dig – or sling, with the tenant farmer’s permission.

    I wonder if we’ll still get the same deal as we agreed to beginning October, seeing as BT are hiking their prices again in January.

    Currently [not] enjoying Europasat/Tooway connection – promnised much but delivered little and have a monthly 30% reduction in fees for the extremely poor speeds and connection we have…and we upped this from BT broadband via phone 4 years ago…now it’s almost as bad.

    I’ve been to some out of the way places in my life, so at least I’m grateful I don’t have to climb a tree 2 miles away from my residence to get a mobile signal….there must be some hope somewhere for speeds above about half Mbps – 5Mbps….! pleeeaase….

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