» ISP News » 

BT Update – UK Progress of G.fast, FTTP Broadband, 21CN and Qube Engineers

Monday, October 9th, 2017 (4:25 pm) - Score 9,938

BT recently held another one of their periodic meetings with ISPs from across the United Kingdom, which among other things revealed the latest roll-out progress for G.fast and FTTPultrafast broadband” tech, as well as a trial of Qube engineer visits and the status of their 21CN upgrades.

Generally the event didn’t reveal much in the way of new information, although there were a few highlights. Anybody with a deeper interest in the industry will probably want to know how the operator is doing with respect to their current trials and roll-out progress across various different broadband technologies.

G.fast and Fibre-to-the-Premises

We’ll kick things off with news that Openreach now expects to have covered 500,000 premises with their “full fibreFTTP broadband technology by the end of October 2017 (as usual there’s a question mark over how many of those will be completed and order-able premises), which is then expected to reach 650,000 by the end of March 2018 and then the current target of 2 million by 2020.

As expected the “majority of footprint growth on FTTP is new housing developments” (thanks largely to the operator’s offer of free FTTP to new developments of 30+ homes), although new homes in related developments are likely to be FTTP only with no copper WLR3 (Wholesale Line Rental) option and that did recently contribute to some complaints over phone services (here).

Openreach are still consulting on the possibility of doing 10 million premises by around 2025 and the latest update didn’t expand on that, except to say that a “major investment option” was being considered that could potentially involve building for the “next 20-50 years” (possibly all of the UK on FTTP? Maybe one day).

Meanwhile there was a small update on the new 330Mbps capable hybrid-fibre G.fast broadband roll-out, which has recently begun an expansion of its pilot to 1 million premises by the end of 2017 and followed by the goal of hitting 10 million by 2020 (here). On current progress, BTWholesale said they expect G.fast to cover 1.1 million premises by the end of March 2018.

SOGEA, LRVDSL and XdB Trials

Elsewhere BT said that Openreach’s pilot of FTTC based Long Reach VDSL (LR-VDSL) technology was not currently being planned for expansion to more sites. LR-VDSL could be used to support the Government’s proposed 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) by pushing hybrid “fibre based” broadband out to 99% of the UK by 2020 or 2022 (here and here).

Naturally the operator is awaiting the outcome of the Government’s USO consultation, which is expected by the end of 2017 or early 2018, before deciding what to do. It also noted that the current trial “hasn’t proved as much as expected, especially for the sub 10Mb lines” (i.e. Openreach may need to get more volume / data from testing). On this point it’s worth checking out the latest LR-VDSL performance data from the June meeting (here).

Separately there was a tiny update concerning the on-going XdB upgrade, which can in some circumstances boost FTTC speeds by supporting a target downstream noise margin (SNR) of less than 6dB (current default), with the margin dropping to just 3dB on some lines. So far this has only been deployed on their Huawei based FTTC network, although we recently noted that a solution for ECI kit was about to be tested (here). The latest update merely reveals that 1.6 million users are now actively on sub 6dB profiles.

Finally, we also got a small update on the Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) trial and its G.fast sibling, SOGFast. This is Openreach’s product solution for giving consumers a standalone (naked) “fibre broadband” (FTTC VDSL2 / G.fast) line without the phone / voice service (more details here and here).

The update states that the WBC SOGEA development is “nearing completion“, with availability expected to “grow very quickly when launched“. The on-going trial was recently extended to the end of December 2017 and BT still expects this to be followed by a short-ish pilot during early 2018, before the commercial launch. Similarly SOGFast’s target launch “remains on track” for April 2018.

21CN and Qube Engineer Trials

We’re often asked about the progress of the operator’s 21st Century Network (21CN) powered Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) roll-out, which is the foundation for a lot of modern internet connection technologies on the operator’s network (e.g. ADSL2+). Quite a few of the operator’s telephone exchanges remain old 20CN setups, but these are rapidly being retired.

Back in February we noted that the current plan was to replace all remaining IPstream exchanges with WBC by the end of 2018 (here) and the latest update confirms that this target has not changed, with the expectation being to “provide nationwide ADSL2+ coverage by 2018.” Over 220 sites have been enabled since June 2017 (around 50,000 end user upgrades) and, despite a few postponements in September, the operator claims to be completing between 6 to 10 sites per night.

However one of the most interesting pieces of information in BT’s update was their plan for a Qube Engineer Trial to help “resolve broadband issues within the customer premises,” which we’ve heard about before but never in so much detail. For those who don’t know, QubeGB is a national UK alternative field engineering service provider for ISPs (currently used by BT, TalkTalk and EE).

BT Wholesale now propose offering Qube engineers, at a lower price (£60 +vat per visit vs SFI2 charged at £140+ if no Openreach fault found), in order to help ISPs to make “significant savings” when resolving broadband issues. The trial, which is open nationally to all ISPs with no volume constraints, has just started this month and will run for 6 months before being launched with full automation.

Apparently Qube engineers will be available for all BT Wholesale broadband products (IPStream Connect, WBC copper and fibre both purchased directly and through WBMC).

Qube can perform the following activities:
• Test the performance of the end user’s CPE (routers etc.) and compare with known good CPE.
• Upgrade or replace the NTE if required, replacing the NTE with a SSFP (from month 4 of the trial).
• Relocate the NTE (extension socket).
• Test the performance of the line at the master NTE with the extension wiring disconnected.
• Test all extension wiring and repair if required.
• Review and advise of optimum positioning of CPE (e.g. for optimal wireless signal strength).
• Prove internet connectivity to the customer (both wired and wireless).
• Co-op with the CP to attempt to resolve any issues.
• REIN testing –still under discussion with Qube.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on that to see what BT-based ISPs think. That’s all for today.


Forgot to mention that a trial of G.INP (Physical Retransmission ReTX) for ECI kit is currently running until December 2017 (related to this). The trial was originally due to begin sooner but it suffered a delay and only started on 25th September.

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
Mark Jackson
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.
Leave a Comment
32 Responses
  1. Avatar adslmax Real says:

    “next 20-50 years” (possibly all of the UK on FTTP? Maybe one day). I won’t be alive by then.

    No metion of g.fast when to start service by ISP’s?

    Very slow and still well behind than rest of the EU already on true fibre. Wake up UK.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      G.fast is now into its Early Market Deployment window, which is essentially the beginning of its commercial roll-out in all but name (as previously reported). We know of ISPs that intend to unveil products before the end of 2017 so I’d keep your eyes peeled, although the big boys (possibly except BT) may wait for awhile until coverage improves.

    2. Avatar streaky says:

      “rest of the EU already on true fibre”

      BT are garbage but we could do without lying. It’s simply not true that the rest of the world is on FTTP and we’re in the slow lane.

      It’s true that in countries building new networks the coverage is very high but in more westernised countries the UK is probably one of the best performers because of the work companies like hyperoptic are doing – but no thanks to BT. There’s no intent shown to invest despite massive taxpayer subsidies.

  2. Avatar Ultraspeedy says:

    A couple of small nibbles of interesting information but for the most part nothing of any real impact or new, shame.

  3. Avatar RuralBroadbandSucks says:

    Still they are avoiding upgrading rural locations.
    What a joke!
    It looks like I am on the ‘they wont be alive broadband improvement plan’ with adslmax Real

    1. Avatar h42422 says:

      They seem to be avoiding urban upgrades as well. There seems to be little change for example in London in the “under USO” category.

      To me it seems they are waiting for government to decide how to allocate the funds they have budgeted for USO work, and before there is decision on that, very little will happen, as pretty much every remaining slow line is now in the “expensive to upgrade” category – either long rural lines or urban EO lines.

    2. Avatar MikeW says:

      TBB’s figures show that progress continues in both urban & rural areas.

      Their numbers say that around 350k urban premises were added at superfast speeds in the last year, while the number for rural premises was around 420k.

      There’s at least another million to get past before USO funding starts to come into play.

  4. Avatar John Nolan says:


    Being pedantic here, but Qube should not be promoting (nor OR for that matter) “engineers” unless their individuals are accredited as engineers by the UK’s Engineering Council i.e Chartered. Look out for publicity from the Royal Academy of Engineering on this in the not too distant future

    1. Avatar onephat says:

      I didn’t think engineer was a protected title in the UK so any Tom, Dick or Harry could call themselves one.

    2. Avatar Carl T says:

      It isn’t protected however if this is going to change some changes need to be made. Right now getting Chartered status is an excessively big pain in the arse for those who work in some fields of IT. Demanding breadth of knowledge when the higher ends of the profession demand extreme specialism is poop.

  5. Avatar Tim says:

    It seems my exchange was one of the September postponements.

    I had previously been told there were nor plans to upgrade my exchange, but six weeks ago I was told that my broadband was to be moved to 21CN. However, it was cancelled the day before it was due to happen. I’ve been told it will still happen once they have resolved whatever the problem was.

  6. Avatar Carl T says:

    The FTTP progress is underwhelming. New build and BDUK seem the order of the day.

    I’ve been informed there’s some magical, amazing solution for those too far from the cabinet for G.fast. We’ll see.

    1. Avatar Bill says:

      Yes I heard the same somewhere, but probably it’s located at the end of the rainbow.

    2. Avatar asrab says:

      you mention this super secret magical solution,

      “I’ve been informed there’s some magical, amazing solution for those too far from the cabinet for G.fast. We’ll see.”

      if it is so super and magical why bother with GFAST all, please enlighten us

    3. Avatar CarlT says:

      Think you missed the point of my comment: I have no idea what it is either and it sounds like bovine excrement.

  7. Avatar Ed says:

    It makes me laugh that Qube are even contemplating doing REIN. You might as well get donkeys to do it, they’d probably do the same job just for carrots instead of £60 odd quid.

  8. Avatar Bonehead says:

    I don’t know but it seems to me that wireless is the only option remaining for us rural folk.

    Bring on 5g.

    1. Avatar RuralBroadbandSucks says:

      If you can get a mobile signal (which I can’t). I guess that I am extra special, crop broadband and 0g’s.

    2. Avatar RuralBroadbandSucks says:

      *crop broadband = crap broadband (damn my rural autocorrect)

  9. Avatar Billy says:

    Everybody forgets BT is a private company not a charity . are the people willing to pay higher fees to have faster broadband if not dont moan, as for being in the country they decided to live in the sticks are they going to demand a library in every village and a supermarket i dont hear people complaining Tesco isn’t closer. I need my share to go up not spend all of the profits

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      I’m happy to pay, Mr Troll, though I’m not happy to pay a big install fee that subsidises BT’s FTTP in the area when they actually decide to honour us with a rollout, and pay a substantial premium on the monthly pricing too.

      Were they still offering the original package of a high install fee then the same pricing as native FTTP areas I would have ordered already.

    2. Avatar Bill says:

      I think Billy that you may not have understood the thrust of some of the comments here. There are definitely those who are just anti-BT and they will whinge forever.

      But the fact is that BT is in this strange position of being a private company but having inherited an infrastructure which is of considerable national value, and which would never have been constructed by BT with its “shareholder” priorities.

      So people are right to expect BT to do a lot more than just a normal private company.

      Even as a private company BT have received much public funding which reinforces the argument.

      However their consistent dragging of heels and cowardly business practices (e.g. overbuilding smaller operators) means they are losing the moral right in my opinion to be the custodian of the nation’s infrastructure.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      ‘the custodian of the nation’s infrastructure.’ What does that mean?

    4. Avatar h42422 says:

      No, “everyone” does not forget that.

      This “BT/OR is a private company and they cannot be expected to do anything for you so stop moaning” -argument tends to be a bit tired.

      BT is not the only one to blame, but they should take their share of it. Ofcom forcing line rental prices down does not help, but there is something seriously wrong in OR business model as well.

      We in the last five percent have equally contributed the past twenty years or so in our line rentals to the pool of money that has been used to upgrade your lines, but we have not received any benefit from this contribution. My 3Mbps line in London attracts exactly the same line rental fee as a line close to a cabinet with 70Mbps speed, and G.Fast upgrade in the pipeline. We have every right to complain as we are not receiving the service you get, despite having to pay equally as much. And I remember vaguely having contributed to your line upgrades in my TV licence fee as well. Now whatever money OR has to invest, goes into upgrading already fast lines to G.Faster instead of finally addressing those who are still stuck with speeds we used to get 15 years ago.

      So that settled, we do have a case to complain here and it cannot be dismissed with the vacuous “you must not complain as they are a BUSINESS” -argument.

      Of course I do blame Ofcom as well. £1/line/month would not be noticed by the vast majority, but it would give them more money to upgrade their network. I would be happy to pay this and keep paying after my line has been upgraded, which probably will never happen.

      Still, there is something very wrong in their internal business model as well. They seem to be treating individual lines as business units instead of the whole infrastructure. If a line costs more than X to upgrade, they will never do it. Instead, they spend their money elsewhere to G.Fast and providing free FTTP to new builds. If they treated their infrastructure as a single entity, there would not be arbitrary cutoff points they currently have. As this decision is entirely theirs and not forced upon them by the regulator, we do have a case to challenge this in our complaints.

      The only option we are given is to pay OR from our own pockets. In some cases, if there are many to contribute, it works reasonably well. In my case, where we have in practice only two flats willing to pay anything, I would be looking at £15k-£20k instead of a minor increase to my monthly internet bill, and this is just too much.

      There is just no other way than to try to make noise about this. There is no realistic way to solve the problem with residents’ funding in many cases. Public money has not been this far available. OR is not willing to do anything unless someone pays them. This leaves people in a limbo, which is a source of immense frustration. And to add insult to injury, every time someone makes the argument OR has not set their priorities right, we are just reminded they are not a charity but a business, so better shut up.

      Starbucks now pays more UK tax than before, thanks to the noise people started making about their business decisions. Sometimes it actually helps to make the argument over and over again, and make sure it is heard. When that argument was made, surprisingly few responded with “they are a business and not a charity, what are you complaining, they know what they are doing and every business decision is always right” -argument, that seems to be constantly present in OR related discussions.

      I wonder why.

    5. Avatar GNewton says:

      @TheFacts: “‘the custodian of the nation’s infrastructure.’ What does that mean?”
      Please study up on the history of BT, especially on how the access network infrastructure was originally financed and built.

    6. Avatar TheFacts says:

      @GN – an expression not relevant to what has happened to telecomms in the last 30 years.

    7. Avatar brian says:

      It matters not how the access network was built and financed as the private sector bought the network off the government in 1984.

  10. Avatar gerarda says:

    Looked at the LR-VDSL figures for June and MikeW formatting of them in a sensible order for the first team.

    It does seem as Mark suggested very little data to work on
    but if it can be extrapolated from what there is then it may bring a number of plus 10Mbps lines up to superfast but is not going to make much headway in bringing very slow lines upto the USO

    1. Avatar gerarda says:

      ignore that post – I misread the graph when looking at it on my mobile

  11. Avatar 2 Doors bob says:

    I think people would feel better if they simply got the speed they were paying for , Having headlines about G.fast doesn’t cut it with me as not much good on long lines ..76meg more than enough if people could can attain those speeds . more nodes on poles are what’s needed if BT don’t want to pay for fttp

  12. Avatar Paul says:

    Sorry to change tack,

    I live in Whitchurch in Cardiff, and am trying to find out when G.Fast will roll out here, and if I can get it,

    does anyone know how you find this information out? I’ve searched around a bit and can’t see anything obvious. I dont see it listed on Samknows on the exchange information.

    Thanks for your help

  13. Avatar JT says:

    How do I find out whether my exchange (exchange activate in the Highlands) is part of the 21CN upgrade project?
    Anything close to 5mb would be an amazing upgrade considering most people have gone for the £70pm limited satellite internet option
    For BT lines, we have fixed 0.5mb fixed internet speed and not even a ‘plan for a plan’ for anything approaching superfast broadband

Comments are closed.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £22.00
    Avg. Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Onestream £22.49 (*29.99)
    Avg. Speed 45Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • xln telecom £22.74 (*47.94)
    Avg. Speed 66Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Plusnet £22.99 (*35.98)
    Avg. Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £60 Reward Card
  • Vodafone £23.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Prices inc. Line Rental | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. BT (2769)
  2. FTTP (2757)
  3. FTTC (1785)
  4. Building Digital UK (1743)
  5. Politics (1667)
  6. Openreach (1622)
  7. Business (1435)
  8. FTTH (1340)
  9. Statistics (1241)
  10. Mobile Broadband (1228)
  11. Fibre Optic (1065)
  12. 4G (1058)
  13. Wireless Internet (1021)
  14. Ofcom Regulation (1015)
  15. Virgin Media (1006)
  16. EE (697)
  17. Vodafone (669)
  18. Sky Broadband (668)
  19. TalkTalk (663)
  20. 5G (518)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact