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Openreach Start Removing LR-VDSL Broadband from UK Trial Areas

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 6,628
long reach vdsl broadband trial at street cabinet

Openreach (BT) has confirmed that they will imminently begin withdrawing their Long Reach VDSL (LR-VDSL) broadband technology trial from several deployments across the UK, which at one point had been touted as way of helping to deliver on the government’s 10Mbps broadband USO.

The Proof of Concept (PoC) LR-VDSL trial was essentially a modified version of the same VDSL2 technology that already exists in the current ‘up to’ 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) network, albeit harnessing higher signal power, vectoring, G.INP and wider frequency ranges (tech details) in order to deliver faster speeds over longer copper lines from your local street cabinet.

At one point it was even indicated that Openreach could have used LR-VDSL 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). The PoC itself took place in Isfield (East Sussex), North Tolsta and Barvas (Isle of Lewis) but there were some tentative plans to expand it.

Unfortunately an update posted by BT to ISPs last October 2017 noted that the technology “hasn’t proved as much as expected, especially for the sub 10Mb lines” (here). On top of that LR-VDSL worked best when older ADSL connections were first disabled, which could have complicated the roll-out because ISPs needed to be convinced to play ball (a particularly thorny issue for unbundled ISPs, not to mention some differences in pricing).

Shortly after this we learnt via another BT update that Openreach had “decided to no longer consider using Long Reach VDSL to deliver any Universal Service Obligation for Broadband” and that work was being undertaken to decide how best to tackle existing End Users (i.e. those who have already been moved onto LR-VDSL as part of the trial).

Suffice to say, we were unsurprised when some of Isfield’s residents recently began informing us that BT had begun notifying them of their intention to start “removing” the service and nudged the operator for a comment.

A Spokesperson for Openreach told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Since May 2016, we’ve been running a Proof of Concept (PoC) of Long Reach VDSL (LR-VDSL) in three locations: North Tolsta and Barvas in the Outer Hebrides and Isfield in East Sussex.

At the time, we saw significant increases in Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband speeds and considered LR-VDSL as a potential solution in helping the UK government to deliver its universal service obligation (USO) for nationwide broadband with a minimum speed of 10Mbps.

After consultation with many of our Communication Provider (CP) customers, LR-VDSL is no longer seen as a preferred technology to deliver the USO and we are intending to end the PoC.

We notified affected CPs in mid-January and lines will revert back to standard FTTC in mid-April 2018.”

The government recently detailed their final design for the proposed 10Mbps USO (here), although crucially we’re still awaiting information from Ofcom on the key aspects of supplier choice, technology split and any solid details of the industry funding arrangement.

Obviously the loss of LR-VDSL could mean that a tiny number of end-users suffer a loss of performance, although by the sounds of it their local cabinet should remain enabled for standard FTTC (VDSL2). Previously some of the areas only had access to ADSL.

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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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40 Responses
  1. Skyrocket

    It’s proved another failure by OR

  2. Skyrocket

    G.Fast will be next one of failure by OR for long distance away from the street cabinet

  3. Skyrocket

    ECI Cabinet will be another failure by OR for non-G.INP

  4. Skyrocket

    waiting list on most FTTC cabinet will be another failure by OR

  5. Mike

    Didn’t the regular BT advocates defend this idea at the time? Thank god the government has started to see through their BS and did not let them have a ‘soft’ 10Mb USO.

  6. Matthew Williams

    It’s a shame this has happened but not massively unexpected either. For long rural lines is there an option apart from FTTP or Satellite to get 10Mbps+ now even left ? I can’t think of one apart Fixed Wireless maybe. Hopefully these last 3% get good mix of FTTP and Fixed Wireless.

    • Technically there’s also Mobile Broadband too but it’s often a bit luck of the draw whether you happen to live in an area with a viable signal and fast enough data speeds. The other option is just to install more FTTC cabinets closer to homes, albeit at extra cost. Every area is different. Some niche solutions like FTTrN and WTTC also exist.

    • Mobile broad is okay, but you tend to need DF available to the mast or you end up with lots of capacity issues down the line. If you are going to spread the fibre then you might as well build some more infrastructure and push fibre deeper into the access layer.

    • Matthew Williams

      True there is Mobile Broadband but if your going bring a fibre cable for mast into a remote area couldn’t you also easily do something like FTTrN off the cable as well. I assume mobile broadband is cheaper but if your bringing Fibre in the first place just saying is all.

  7. Phil

    It’s all about “shorter range, lower cost, more profit, being able to market higher speeds and then delivering something slower”, there is no money in expanding outwards for Openreach, which is why we are stuck with G.Fast pods on decades old telephone cabinets that do nothing to shorten lines or bring fibre closer to the premises. G.Fast is a folly, those who will benefit from faster speeds have little reason to upgrade to it.

    • New_Londoner

      @Phil
      “G.Fast is a folly, those who will benefit from faster speeds have little reason to upgrade to it.”

      You’re not the first person to say this. Some that have posted similar comments previously are the same people demanding FTTP for all, which is odd if they don’t believe there is any demand for G.Fast speeds let alone Gigabit or higher. If that is so, what is the justification for U.K.-wide FTTP?

    • NGA for all

      @New_Londoner The Openreach consultation earlier this year pointed to lower operational costs and higher capacity for all fibre networks. Although Ofcom are contributing nothing tangible to the full fibre policy setting, the Openreach targets of 3m by 2020 and 10m FTTP by 2025 suggests the arguments within BT are nearly over.

      Interim copper solutions have demonstrated, particularly where BT decided to take subsidy, that overlaying fibre on an existing network is relatively cheap. If the learnings were applied the monies held by local authorities post ‘true ups’ and the £397m of the BT Capital Deferral outstanding were applied to creating all fibre exchanges in rural then a much more constructive debate could take place.

    • Mike

      G.Fast is pointless it will not help meet the 10Mb for ALL. Quite funny really BT tried to get a soft 10Mb USO and now its all too clear why………. Cos they can not provide it.

    • TheFacts

      @NGA – all fibre exchanges need all ISPs to sign up and LLU to be abandoned?

    • NGA for all

      Facts; no problem gaining consensus in rural exchanges.

    • Gadget

      @NGA according to the data on Thinkbroadband (https://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/8010-what-broadband-providers-financial-results-often-fail-to-reveal) 32% of BT consumer are still on ADSL/ADSL2+, rising to 79% on Post Office, 48% on Sky, 48% on Talktalk. Additionally what are you going to say to those on ADSL who would be forced into a higher monthly cost for FTTx?

  8. Dect

    Another nail in the coffin for those of us with slow broadband

  9. h42422

    @skyrocket: what is the point of these “failure” messages?

    I find it commendable that they have acknowledged a problem and tried a way to solve it, properly analysing its pros and cons. Now they know this is not the solution, and instead of maintaining a marginally beneficial technology, they decided to shut it down and put their resources elsewhere. There is no indication whatsoever that this would mean they would never do anything. In contrast, this proves they are researching ways to solve this particular problem.

    If this technology had proven itself useful, it would have given a far quicker speed uplift than replacing FTTC with FTTP. And customers could have kept their cheaper FTTC deals instead of being forced to migrate to more expensive FTTP based deals.

    So it was worth a try. Openreach seems to be blamed for anything they do or do not.

    • Dect

      Openreach (and the greater BT) are the cause of slow broadband in the UK with the lack of investment in their infrastructure and poor choices (eg ECI M41 cabinets) over many years, I think its easy for those with good broadband to forget the facts.

    • Meadmodj

      I agree with h42422 that it was worth a try. Tests in the lab are nothing like the real thing especially on line pairs with history. At least it takes one more complication away regarding interference on the other products.

      I personally don’t blame Openreach. We all knew back in the 80s that fibre was the way forward but decisions by Government/Ofcom has driven these interim technologies. Whether you are for nationalisation or private investment there were and are funding options. We can fund HS2 but can’t fibre the UK (the latter being cheaper and 5G will also require full fibre coverage).

      There has always been a technical limit for the FTTC proposition. The solutions probably now include taking the fibre to the Pillar (remember them) or the DP. As a stop gap segregate the PCP so that we can use different technologies or settings on the different cable lengths without interference. Alternatively just bite the bullet and use fibre.

      I am sure the guys at BT are on the case technically and they will progress if commercially sound.

      This is now a numbers game with politicians trying to show they are doing something. We need to make sure that they don’t think they have resolved the problem with short term expedients.

    • AndyC

      @Dect

      Check your history. The uk government is why we have slow bb now.

      The then bt openreach had fibre at one point cheaper then copper and had the factory’s ready to do a full fibre rollout then along came the cable company’s and the gov said we want some of that and banned bt from doing it because even then they knew that fibre whould leave anything that cable could do in the dust.

      There will NEVER be a full uk fibre rollout as long as the likes of virgin media and all the people who have heavily existing asdl equipment in the exchanges have a say as they know they will loose every customer they have.

    • Mike

      “There will NEVER be a full uk fibre rollout as long as the likes of virgin media and all the people who have heavily existing asdl equipment”

      Virgin do not sell ADSL anymore. Have not done for years.

  10. Offcom Bottled It

    Such a shame. This was an elegant solution to switching off ADSL and combining the frequencies from the cabinet rather than a patchwork of different frequencies bands. A pity that offcom are still wedded to allowing isps to sweat their copper assets and are looking to shore up ISPs profits than providing immediate faster services.

  11. Tim

    To be honest this is a good thing. It means that OR can’t now fob-off people by trying to offer up-to 10Mbps on long lines. It should either meant that they invest in more FTTP, remote node G.fast or let the real next-gen players get on with it because OR isn’t going to do anything.

    If OR carry on how they are trying to squeeze more and more out of twisted pair then soon enough they’ll get squeezed out of the marked.

  12. lyndon

    LR/vdsl appeared to be a ray of hope for those FTTC customers on long lines.

    Whats’s left to help these people apart from 4/5G?

    • Tim

      FULL Fibre to the Home.

      But 4/5G is more realistic

    • Meadmodj

      5G does not travel well and will require multiple small masts. If we can’t get fibre up the country lanes to isolated clusters of houses 5G will suffer similarly. Unlimited mobile data is rare due to the same bandwidth issues. Mobile maybe a solution for some but many with slow or nonexistent broadband are likely to have poor mobile reception too. Ofcom are too short sighted.

    • Mike

      BTs imaginary non-existent satellite product maybe?

  13. Ultrafast Dream

    The one thing I haven’t seen investigated for rural dwellers is the possibility of point to point and subsequent Omni Wireless distribution from Wind Turbines as the Turbines are going up at a rate of knots. I appreciate they move with the wind and there could be some form of disruption from the turbines themselves but I’m sure something could be considered I remember reading somewhere that a trial back in 2011 pushed an Omni signal at over 2Km back then. Just a thought….

  14. Skylar

    Nothing to stop talk talk or sky or any other provider, from pioneering their own long reach vdsl services. Oh I forgot they don’t want to spend their own money, easier to piggy back onto BT

    • Mike

      Why would they want to when its obviously been shown if BT are abandoning it that LR-VDSL is a dead duck

  15. Final boss

    Virgin should allow other ISP’s to use their infrastructure as does bt. That will get broadband to most house’s and alleviate load.

    • TheFacts

      Totally wrong.

    • Meadmodj

      Virgin Media contain their distribution networks to reasonably populated locations or identified opportunities such as new builds. Ofcom could only move to force VM to open up their network if they became dominant. The Government view would be that as long as there is at least one provider down your street that can facilitate the latest “minimum” then they have met their target.

  16. Tony

    It was a trial to see if it could work, an easier and quicker way of providing a faster service without the need to dig up roads and lay new expensive ducting that ALL providers could use if they wished.
    Openreach are pushing ahead with FTTP instead, despite the fact that most of the big providers don’t offer it as part of their packages yet.
    It all takes time and money, but no one wants to wait, or more specifically, pay what it costs to get it.

    • Mike

      “Openreach are pushing ahead with FTTP instead…”

      I think you will find they are pusing ahead with gfarst

  17. Brian Heslop

    Disappointing to here this. It was sounding like a good idea for Market A exchanges with no LLU. Would have given uplift to rural properties on longer lines that are too far from the cabinet, where the cost of FTTP is too high to make it a likely possibility. Yes mobile data could be used but the cost would be too high, with no unlimited option available

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