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Openreach Plan Self Install G.fast Broadband ISP Trial for Late 2018

Monday, June 4th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 12,255

A recent meeting between ISPs has revealed that Openreach expect their new 330Mbps capable G.fast ultrafast hybrid fibre broadband technology to cover 2.2 million UK premises by 31st March 2019 (currently c.1 million) and they’re aiming to trial a new self-install solution later in 2018 (i.e. no engineer required).

The G.fast technology works in a roughly similar way to the existing VDSL2 based Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service. Essentially a fibre optic cable is run to your local PCP Street Cabinet, which is then fitted with an extension “pod” (on the side of a cabinet) that houses the G.fast line cards (this can handle up to 48 ports, but it should eventually manage 96). After that the G.fast service reaches your home via the existing copper line.

At present the only way for end-users to get the service is via a managed engineer installation, which requires them to enter your home and plug everything in for you (the Master Socket may also be upgraded to an NTE5C + new faceplate). This is actually quite handy because engineers can often spot and resolve issues that might otherwise negatively impact your service performance.

Initially most of the installs will involve a two box solution, which means that a dedicated modem (Huawei MT992) will be used to handle the G.fast side and then you can plug your own kit or the ISP’s router into that in order to distribute the broadband connection.

Openreach BT gfast modem huawei mt992

However earlier this year BT’s own retail ISP surprised us by becoming the first to show that it could already deploy a router with an integrated G.fast modem (BT Smart Hub X), which is something that we’d normally see alongside self-installs and not this early (at present there aren’t many G.fast integrated routers in existence).

In a self-install situation the ISP simply sends their customer the necessary hardware and asks you to plug it all in yourself, which is usually fairly simple (especially if the provider can use a one box solution like the Smart Hub X). On top of that, self-install methods tend to be cheaper (no home engineer visit) and that makes the possibility of packages with free activation more viable.

We’ve long predicted that G.fast would get its own self-install solution because, not unlike FTTC (VDSL2) before, it would be a logical next step for the service. On the other hand there’s something to be said for the benefits of having an engineer do the work, particularly with a technology like G.fast that uses higher spectrum frequencies and may be more exposed to interference issue like Repetitive Electrical Impulse Noise (REIN).

Other non-G.fast Matters

We should also point out that the ISP meeting revealed a few titbits of new information on other areas too, which don’t really warrant their own news article so we’ll just run through them briefly below.

  1. A total of 28.5 million premises can now access the FTTC / VDSL2 network (can deliver peak theoretical speeds of around 80Mbps on some lines), with the operator predicting that this will increase by a further 200,000 premises in time for the end of March 2019 (a slower rollout as BDUK contracts are much more focused on tackling extremely sparse rural communities). Around 3% of premises are also in “waiters” status (often caused by FTTC cabinets being out of capacity).
  2. The final rollout of 21CN based WBC ADSL2+, including 20CN retirement, appears to be going well but there are a few issues. The plan was to complete the national rollout by the end of 2018 but upgrades for 250 sites have suffered delays (mix of issues from data integrity errors on orders, engineer resource, network capacity, site readiness etc.) and around 100 “complex sites” may slip into 2019 (these account for considerably less than 20,000 end-users – not a huge issue).
  3. Openreach’s G.fast and VDSL2 (FTTC) service won’t be the only one getting a broadband-only (SOGEA / SOGFAST) product by early 2019. The update states that older pure copper ADSL2+ lines may also get their own broadband-only product (no phone service required), although no dates are given.
  4. Finally, BT’s on-going trial of Customer Premises Engineers (Qube engineers) has been extended until the end of September 2018. Readers may recall that this solution was established to help “resolve broadband issues within the customer premises” (here), which cost less than half the price (£60 +vat) of a more traditional Special Fault Investigation (SFI) visit and are more focused on broadband connectivity issues.Apparently these engineers have a good success rate (resolved 81% of faults) and new capabilities are being added. For example, Qube’s team can now use an app to pin point dead spots for WiFi in the customers domain and they may soon be able to tackle some problems with star wiring / Bridge Tap scenarios (a trial will be conducted in July 2018).


Leave a Comment
20 Responses
  1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

    28.5m with up to 80Mbps premises appears to be very optimistic. It is my understanding that there are around 27m residential and around 2m business rateable premises. That infers only 500,000 who can’t get this higher FTTC rate. This does not appear to reflect other stats published for ADSL and those on lower FTTC speeds. Also it also does not appear to reflect that since the recent advertising changes the higher speed products are no longer offered in my street.
    So my personal experience is we are going backwards. Not only will my line not support Gfast but any ISP change will now be restricted to the lower FTTC products forcing me to stay as I am on a higher FTTC product delivering 40Mbps.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I think you might have read too much into that, 80Mbps “capable” is just stated to help define the peak theoretical speed tier of Openreach’s VDSL2 service and nothing more. Obviously speed differs based on issues such as copper line length etc. I’ll make that clearer above.

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      Thanks. But even the 28.5m is suspect for FTTC unless OR have put their provision in the wrong places. If we count all those in rural that can only get ADSL and those still on Exchange Line Only ADSL it does not relate to ONS figures for the number of domestic and business premises. So someone is miscounting.

    3. Avatar Steve Jones says:

      If there are 29m premises, and all those connected to a VDSL2 service (at any speed) are counted, that would amount to 98% coverage. The superfast availability figure is now over 95%(not all OR of course), but that gap of 3-4% is just about feasible for being on a VDSL2 enabled cabinet yet unable to reach 24mbps. My brother is one of those.

      However, I think OR would have to include the FTTP premises too. Tight, but not impossible.

    4. Avatar NGA for all says:

      Openreach report a system size closer to 26m, so I assume they are counting a potential capacity to serve VM customers, should they add capacity. Ofcom sometimes use 30m premises so I assume this includes premises without a phone line. Of the OR 26m system size, there appear to be an average of 7% who are too far to benefit from >24Mbps and this grows to 50% of customers in the more rural areas (Fermanagh).
      FTTP needs be accounted for, and BDUK efforts in rural need to be saluted on this effort and the potential to so so much more.
      I think it would be better if Openreach only reported on their own active system size, and how well they serve it, and state the potential premises served separately.

    5. Avatar CarlT says:

      It is standard practise in telecoms to refer to premises passed.

  2. Avatar NGA for all says:

    200,000 extra premises for rural in 2019 looks small compared to the monies available and the gaps in service. This is less than 1% for twelve months. If it is mostly FTTP, it might be ok.

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      I presume more of the manpower is focused on the fibre first urban areas and addressing that there is currently a better chance of getting Openreach FTTP in a hamlet than most of our cities.

  3. Avatar Adam says:

    Any news yet on ECI G.INP?

  4. Avatar CliveC says:

    Draytek have made reference to an integrated G.fast router – the 2866, which will be part of the CEBIT launch. Also a 2865 supporting profile 35b Supervectoring. Neither mentioned for a UK market as yet, but suspect it’s only time.

  5. Avatar Marty says:

    Commercial launch doesn’t look like at the earlist 2019. At the rate it’s going even with the ramp up after launch it does look like they might be behind that figure of 10 million by the end of 2020 a little bit.

    1. Avatar Marty says:

      Seems to be at the earlist 2019

    2. Avatar CarlT says:

      There are a lot of pods on cabinets outside the pilot areas.

    3. Avatar TheFacts says:

      And areas live outside the pilot areas.

  6. Avatar Cliff says:

    Does G.Fast require a new faceplate and/or filters different to those ADSL/FTTC uses?

    1. Avatar Anon lurker says:

      As far as I’m aware, G.Fast does need a new faceplate (which is made for a NTE5C master socket). One of these: https://i0.wp.com/blog.cerberusnetworks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/gfast1.jpg (image found on Rev.K’s blog).

      So unless BT/Openreach create a G.Fast specific ‘dangly’ filter for existing master sockets I can’t see how there won’t be a need for a managed install.

    2. Avatar Anon lurker says:

      Openreach have a history of spending as little as possible, so I doubt they’d be sending these out for ISP’s to bundle with their ‘all in ones’, but I haven’t seen any dangly filters either.
      Maybe someone on here or Kitz knows more and could share.

    3. Avatar Tom says:

      There are gfast dongle filters about. The bt hub X comes with one in the box.

  7. Avatar Anon lurker says:

    Openreach have a history of spending as little as possible, so I doubt they’d be sending these out for ISP’s to bundle with their ‘all in ones’, but I haven’t seen any dangly filters either.
    Maybe someone on here or Kitz knows more and could share..

  8. Avatar John Turner says:

    re. 21CN rollout

    I’m assuming my location (remote Highlands (Strathconon) is one of the sites that will drift into 2019

    Is there anyway I can discover the location of my exchange on the 21CN rollout schedule?

    We are on an Exchange Activate so have fixed 0.5mb connection so anything helps

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