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Openreach’s SOGEA Standalone Fibre Broadband Product Gets a 3rd Trial

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 (7:51 am) - Score 5,151
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Openreach has started an unexpected third UK ISP trial of their long in the making Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) product, which will allow consumers to buy a standalone “fibre broadband” (FTTC VDSL2 or G.fast) line without the voice (phone) service.

Back in October we noted that the Phase 2 trial of SOGEA had been extended until the end of December 2017, which we understood was partly because some ISPs still needed more time for testing and preparation. At the time BTWholesale said that SOGEA development was “nearing completion“, with availability expected to “grow very quickly when launched” and a pilot would then run from January to March 2018 before the commercial launch.

However Openreach has announced that SOGEA will now get a phase 3 trial from January 2018 (not a pre-commercial pilot) that will also combine both of their hybrid Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) broadband products – ‘up to’ 80Mbps VDSL2 and ‘up to’ 330Mbps G.fast – into the same phase. As a result the trial lines will remain free of rental and connection charges for orders placed up to and including 30th May 2018 (they will then stay free until 30th December 2018).

The implication of this is that the final pilot and commercial launch will probably be pushed back by several months (note: the expected length of Openreach’s future pilot is 3 months), which would probably result in a commercial launch during H2 2018 or later, depending upon progress.

The SOGEA product is an important one for Openreach based ISPs because it represents a very different approach to broadband provision from what we’ve seen before. Previously consumers had to buy their phone service alongside line rental and then “fibre broadband” (VDSL2 / G.fast) was added on top as an optional service. However these days more people are buying bundles and few people used their fixed line for making calls.

By comparison SOGEA reverses this and means that it will be possible to buy a standalone broadband connection without the phone service, although you will be able to add the voice feature as an optional add-on. In theory this could produce a cost saving for those who don’t take the phone component but in practice any savings would be very small (most of the cost is still in the core line rental and broadband).

The service also introduces a new front plate for the latest NTE5C Master Socket, which where necessary is designed to prevent analogue voice being reinjected onto Openreach’s network from the end users premises (see SOGEA’s technical details). All of this will help to support a future direction where voice calling is largely handled by VoIP rather than analogue phones (note: we expect to see some ISPs supplying related routers with phone ports).

At least one ISP (e.g. AAISP) has cleverly managed to hack together a similar sort of product solution where you can buy a line without the analogue voice calls component (i.e. used just for broadband), although Openreach’s SOGEA is designed to represent the correct approach.

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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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32 Responses
  1. Optimist

    Like buying a car with no passnger seat.

  2. JustAnotherFileServer

    People wonder why the UK is so far behind, it’s because it takes far too long and uses far too much money on these trials. Most other countries just develop/test and then deploy. In this country we spend far too long just ticking boxes instead of just getting on with it. That’s what you expect though from having a Prime Minister who takes nearly a year just to write a simple letter.

    • TheFacts

      So other countries don’t have trials for suppliers like the ISPs to setup and test their systems?

    • GNewton

      @TheFacts: The SOGEA trials are way too excessive. Have you ever worked in IT or on ecommerce systems? Then you will know why. It shouldn’t take this great amount of time to set up this simple new product! It’s not a new technology.

    • TheFacts

      @GN – maybe it’s due to some of the ISP’s integrating their systems. We don’t know.

    • TheFacts

      @GN as the man says – ‘Back in October we noted that the Phase 2 trial of SOGEA had been extended until the end of December 2017, which we understood was partly because some ISPs still needed more time for testing and preparation. ‘.

    • JustAnotherFileServer

      @TheFacts Maybe in future those ISPs either need to employ people who can do the job or they get left behind as it says later on in the article that “a commercial launch during H2 2018 or later, depending upon progress.”

      The later part worries me, because if some ISPs are having difficulties even now, will this push the commercial launch date back even further?

      It should not be that difficult for ISPs to modify their systems for things that are not totally new.

    • GNewton

      You would assume that Openreach provides a proper API or interface for ordering its new SOGEA product. The end customer orders from an ISP, whose system then reaches an order success state where the order details are then automatically passed on to the Openreach web-based secure API, and this in a suitable and well documented format. This kind of an integration doesn’t take months to implement for an ISP, especially when the order fulfillment is all done by Openreach.

    • AndyH

      @ GNewton – As was mentioned to ISPs:

      “Since the start of the WBC SOGFast alpha trial in July 2017 significant new product capability has been developed. Trialling the service will give customers a chance to test their systems and processes for consumption of this new end user access option.”

      As much as Openreach would like to roll things out as quickly as possible, there are systems and processes they have to go through. People might think their ‘trials’ are excessive, but it is part of their legal undertaking with OFCOM to go through these steps.

  3. GNewton

    “although Openreach’s SOGEA is designed to represent the correct approach.”

    Why is Openreach’s SOGEA better than the one used by AAISP?

    • CarlT

      That you even write that confirms you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • GNewton

      @CarlT: Well I assume you know this technology then, don’t you? Would you be so kind to share with other readers here what the exact difference is between what some ISPs like AAISP offer versus OpenReach’s SOGEA? We know of users who use AAISP’s VDSL-only product and it seems to work flawlessly.

    • Steve Jones

      @GNewton

      Try doing your own research. AAISP have a number of informative web pages, like this one :-

      https://www.aaisp.net.uk/kb-broadband-ttbt.html

      In short, AAISP use standard OR (and BTW) wholesale products and can offer broadband without a telephony service as a retail service. It differs from SOGEA as the latter is a wholesale service providing a sub-loop service back to an FTTC cabinet, not a copper path back to an exchange (albeit that as the line diagnostic equipment and 50v DC bias used in testing is fed from the exchange so a full loop might still be present).

      SOGEA will allow operators to host equipment at fewer exchanges, but any voice service must go over IP.

    • MikeW

      (TL;DR? It is a fundamental business reorganisation)

      Retail ISPs (or more generically, CPs) put together their product offerings using one or more wholesale products from their various suppliers.

      AAISP might be offering a VDSL2-only product at retail level, but that doesn’t mean that all the components that they use are formed from VDSL2-only parts. In particular, the part that they must be buying from Openreach – the VDSL2 component to the house/business plus the backhaul to the handover point – can only currently be bought in combination with a metallic path of some description.

      This is what Openreach’s conditions for FTTC states as of Oct 2017:

      The GEA-FTTC Service will only be available […] to those End Customers premises which are served by the underlying copper access products provided by means of BT’s Wholesale Line Rental (“WLR”) or Metallic Path Facilities (“MPF”) products at the time of order and during the period that the GEA-FTTC Service is provided. The GEA-FTTC Service will immediately be terminated at a particular End Customer premises if the WLR or MPF product is terminated to such premises.

      AAISP must order an MPF or WLR component, even if it sits unused by the end user.

      Once SOGEA becomes available, then FTTC will be available (from Openreach) without linkage to a WLR or MPF product.

      As explained previously, these trials aren’t really about trialling technology, but they’re all about interfacing to the Openreach ordering system, and getting the ISP’s IT systems to perform steps in the right order. And (of course) getting ISP telephone and support staff to understand the new way of doing things.

      Given that the ordering system has been built with the linkage between broadband and WLR/MPF as a permanent expectation, SOGEA represents a fundamental rewrite in the way things work – within Openreach, within Wholesale, within ISPs, and between the three.

      On top of that, individual ISPs can choose whether to offer a naked broadband product, or to build a voice product (based on VoIP) on top of SOGEA. This makes for a whole new set of technical and business details that must be handled by ISP staff. This could be different for every ISP, but it would be safe to bet that BTW is coming up with an equivalent to WLR to be bolted on.

      A different way to visualise this: The voice products used to be the bottom of the pyramid, as a base requirement, with data products optionally layered on top, and then other services on top of that (eg TV). With SOGEA, that changes: the data product becomes the bottom layer, and everything else is bolted on top.

      Simply stated, SOGEA makes for a completely different set of business operations throughout the industry – at least for NGA products. If you don’t realise this shift, then CarlT’s comment applies.

    • AndyH

      GNewton is just trolling the Openreach stories again:

      GNewton
      February 10, 2017 at 6:46 pm
      What is the exact difference between e.g. AAISP’s naked VDSL (which has been around for a long time) and BT’s SOGEA?

  4. Ultraspeedy

    Is there not a number of ISPs you can buy BT/Openreach broadband from already without line rental?

    • Ultraspeedy

      How does an ISP process a broadband only order? For ADSL and FTTC I know of many individuals with broadband and line rental from separate companies, there must therefore already be the means for “single order” process for broadband to companies.

      The only thing preventing broadband only on such a line must be BT. Live voice on a line is not needed, i have seen new builds get internet before a live line with dial tone on it. I have also personally many years ago forgot to pay the phone bill before going on holiday, only to come back and find the phone line basically dead (no incoming or outgoing calls possible) but the broadband from another company on the line working fine.

      Its difficult to understand why or what they are testing when both ordering side of things for a “single” product and actual supply already are possible and known.

      No doubt you will disagree as usual and try to rubbish this statement though.

    • GNewton

      @Ultraspeedy: I think Steve Jones and MikeW have kindly answered this question here. In the case of AAISP it’s based on a MPF back to the exchange with the voice telephony service switched off, whereas SOGEA won’t have a linkage to a WLR or MPF product. Voice telephony on SOGEA will still be optionally available via VoIP service only, however most users won’t need one.

      Anyway, your question, and those of others, are valid, and it’s a pity that this discussion has again so quickly derailed here, with the usual offending posters here.

      Might be a good idea if Mark Jackson could moderate it a bit more.

    • AndyH

      @ GNewton

      It’s a remarkable coincidence that whenever Mark write an article about Openreach and SOGEA, you state the same things each time:

      1) Why the need for so many trials?
      2) Why is Openreach’s SOGEA better than what AAISP already offer?

      It’s been explained to you several times why trials are needed and how this differs to what AAISP offers (as far back as 2015!). If it’s not trolling asking the same things over and over every time there is a story about Openreach and SOGEA, then I don’t know what it is.

    • GNewton

      @AndyH: I suggest you get in touch with Mark Jackson if you don’t like certain user posts here or get offended by them. I have explained on this forum why the SOGEA trial is excessive, you don’t have to agree with it, but there is no need for you to be so rude on a public forum!

    • JohnnyK

      I read these comments quite regularly and GNewton appears like clockwork whenever there is a story about BT, Openreach and fibre. It wouldn’t be so bad if you have valid points to raise, but you post the same verbose and rhetorical questions over and over.

      I suggest if there’s anyone that needs moderation, it’s you GNewton. You’re quick to claim you’re the victim, when in reality you bully other members and troll stories about BT.

    • TheFacts

      @GN – you have not explained why the trial is excessive, you have no knowledge of it.

      How about:

      The new trial phase, CP Trial Phase 3, will provide a trial opportunity for both Single Order GEA and Single Order GFast products. The trial will test the latest deployment and technology capabilities and capture learnings and customer experiences of the Fulfilment and Assurance order journeys delivered through to EMP release R3700.

  5. noko

    I’ll just leave this Internet speed comparison here in the hopes that more people see it, get angered by it, and share it.

    https://i.imgur.com/ZGlfJd4.png

    • CarlT

      Apples and oranges. Compare it to Hyperoptic and provide prices in terms of purchasing power parity rather than a straight exchange rate.

    • GDS

      Hey who needs 1Gbps anyway?
      What’s wrong with a multi-decade FTTC solution that gets slower and slower and less reliable every year?

  6. Tom

    I want to know if any voltage is applied down the line. If an engineer sees a pair with no voltage testing back to the cab they think it’s spare and they will use it to provide service for another customer.

    • No comment

      There would be no harm in leaving some kind of dummy dial tone on the pair , however any engineer worth their salt would know there was conditions present without . All the 3rd party people working in the network though, that’s a different matter.

    • Ultraspeedy

      There would be voltage with or without line rental, if how ever a BT engineer relied on his old tone equip (the thing you hear go beep, beep, beep when they are up a pole) then yeah that could cause an issue.

    • TheFacts

      @US – the beep beep system involves putting a tone on a pair and finding it amongst a bunch of pairs in a cable.

  7. Boosey

    Couple of observations from me

    Releasing this product into the mass market signals the end of the “telephone line” era and a psychological shift from BT in concentrating on being a connectivity provider.

    How does this play into the age old discussions around Emergency Services access?

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