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Cityfibre Hints at 10Gbps for UK Homes After Calix AXOS Upgrade

Thursday, September 6th, 2018 (10:10 am) - Score 2,883

Cityfibre, which is rolling out a Dark Fibre and FTTP broadband ISP network across urban parts of the UK, has announced a new deal with Calix to deploy the “world’s only” Software Defined Access (SDA) operating system across its network. They claim it could help deliver 10Gbps to “every home,” maybe even 100Gbps.

As it stands the operator’s existing network, particularly their joint £500m deployment with Vodafone to cover a “minimum” of 1 million UK homes in up to 12 of their existing cities or towns by 2021 (here), is expected to deliver speeds of up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps+) to those who want it. At present there’s really no need, other than marketing, to deliver anything faster to homes but Cityfibre also have one eye on the distant future.

In keeping with that today’s announcement of their decision to implement Calix’s AXOS (E9-2) platform makes the claim that this will help to give them the capability of “delivering parallel 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) connections to every home and business, with further potential for speeds of up to 100Gbps.”

Once deployed, Cityfibre claims that they will operate a truly open-access Software Defined Networking (SDN) ecosystem. “Our carrier, mobile operator and ISP customers will gain direct access to unprecedented levels of programmability, network intelligence and automation – akin to owning the network, but without the upfront capital risk,” said the operator. But you need more than SDN to improve physical speeds.

As part of that the operator also anticipates being able to leverage newer technologies like NG-PON2, which in 2016 gained consent from the ITU as a new Gigabit Passive Optical Network standard (here); one where each wavelength is capable of providing a subscriber with optical access up to a rate of 10Gbps (2.5Gbps upstream). BT and Huawei were the first in the UK to play around with this in 2016 (here).

Cityfibre states that they will also now be able to “radically reduce network operating complexity and costs,” while deploying future services at “exceptional speed“. A useful bit of future proofing for such a network.

Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said:

“In Calix we have found a like-minded ally, an innovator that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible when intelligent software meets fibre-only infrastructure. Our partnership enables us to unleash the full power and potential of our fibre networks, creating the nation’s fastest, smartest and most accessible, digital communications platform.

The ability to scale services up to 100 gigabits per second, while driving customer experience to new levels, highlights the inadequacies of connections that are passed off as fibre today. It also shows that not all full fibre networks are equal and that, as an alternative network builder, CityFibre’s commitment to the UK’s digital future goes far beyond simply putting fibre in the ground.”

Michael Weening, Calix’s Executive VP of Field Operations, said:

“The Calix and CityFibre visions of a software defined access future are perfectly aligned. CityFibre built its network from the beginning to take advantage of all that a fibre infrastructure can enable, while we built AXOS with the intelligence to take that foundation to the next level.

With AXOS, CityFibre can more rapidly deliver new products, services and features to the market, further distancing itself from legacy competitive offerings that fail to enable true market differentiation. As we continue to innovate on the AXOS platform, the continued speed, agility and efficiencies we enable will allow CityFibre and its partners to change the UK’s broadband market forever.”

We should point out that other UK fibre optic networks (e.g. B4RN, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear) are also either testing (example) or talking about 10Gbps being a possible service for homes of the future, although as yet there isn’t really any demand for such a service in the residential connectivity market (it wouldn’t be particularly cheap either).

Today you’d still have trouble maxing out a 1Gbps connection online, not to mention the impact of irritatingly slow home WiFi and the fact that most computer kit only has 1Gbps capable Ethernet ports (an issue for the 10Gbps era).

Of course all this talk of multi-Gigabit speeds will no doubt give those still struggling on a handful of Megabits (or less) in isolate rural communities another reason to despair. Sadly progress, particularly in more commercially viable urban areas, rarely waits for the slowest to catch up and this is one area where the Government and Ofcom could still do more (they’re trying).

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25 Responses
  1. Salek says:

    With Open reach fibre first programme – I hope they are future proofing their network roll-out to at least have the same capability, can you imagine future fibre network having to distinguish themselves with different terminology,

    I think we all have had enough from broadband being labelled as – ADSL, ADSL2, VDSL, VDSL2 LVDSL, GFAST and so forth,

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I for one would welcome the day when all we have to distinguish between networks is the underly optical fibre technology 🙂 . Yes that’s one gripe fest I’d dearly love to become a reality, after all it would mean most of us finally have FTTP/H.

  2. CarlT says:

    It would be good to see Openreach move towards more sane pricing on 1G products and be somewhat less conservative with how they deploy. Requiring 10Gb between a maximum of 32 properties to supply 1G is absurdly cautious. Charging 80 notes plus VAT a month for a 1G/220Mb link between ONT and OLT is crazy.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Of course there is an advantage here, it gives alternative network providers more room to build and offer more competitively priced products (something they almost all seem to be doing). This way, even in the FTTP world of the future, rivals can still build themselves an advantage even in areas where Openreach’s full fibre may already be present.

    2. A_Builder says:


      I totally agree.

      Backhaul bandwidth can be adjusted upwards by using improved tech over existing fibres as needed. It was not that long ago that a 1G fibre link was a big thing now 10G or 40G are common and 100G is getting common and 400G is reality.

      This does seem to be where OR are pricing themselves out of the market.

      On a level playing field where there is FTTP overbuild I don’t really see OR picking up market share.

      This all stems from the £25Bn build a diamond incrusted Rolls-Royce mentality project which never seems to have been reduced to business 1st principles of “what is the most cost effective way of doing this.”

      It is almost like there is some insane OR desire for FTTP project(s) to be a commercial flop. Aided by the forced asymmetry which will cross them off some people’s shopping lists.

      I’m sure someone will pop up and say that it is all to do with market price regulation OFCOM bla bla bla. However, what gives the game away is that the the Alt Nets manage to sell to the consumer a 1G connection cheaper, all in, than OR manage to wholesale one. That doesn’t make a lot of sense IRL.

    3. CarlT says:

      Didn’t say anything about backhaul, Openreach are pretty competitive in that regard, and that you can’t have half a rack of transmission equipment in each property kinda makes comparisons between access network and core network invalid but okay.

    4. Jonathan Buzzard says:

      1Gbps between 32 nodes is realistically not sufficient, you would need multiple 1Gbps connections. At that point a single 10Gbps link has a lot going for it, especially give the dramatic price drops in 10Gbps pricing recently. Pricing is now starting at £50 per 10Gbps port. That’s £2.5k for a 48 port 10Gbps switch with six 40Gbps uplinks is you are not welded to the Cisco tax.

    5. A_Builder says:


      I think we might be at crossed purposes here.

      I was responding to you comment about 32 premises per 10Gb. OK this is not full backhaul but middle haul.

      I think using 10Gb links makes sense at this level but allowing for a full flow, at the moment of 10Gb per 32 all the way back upstream is excessive at the moment.

      It wouldn’t be worth using a 1G link from the GPON bistro node (or whatever is used) as this would be bound to need to be upgraded quite soon as data levels grow.

    6. CarlT says:

      I’m now even more lost.

      Operators pay a one-off couple of grand to Openreach for a 10G port from the OLT aggregating together traffic from many PON splits just as they pay a one-off charge for access to all FTTC DSLAMs connected to an OLT / switch.

      My point was nothing to do with backhaul or ‘middle haul’ it was purely about access network. There are plenty of operators selling a gigabit over GPON and it works just fine as there’s no visible contention. If you have 2.4G of capacity shared between even 64 connections all on a gigabit that’s still nearly 22Mb/s each sustained with room for one of them to burst to a gigabit. That’s way, way, way more than is required: even ISPs with very heavy usage customer bases are at less than 1/5th of that each at peak times and Openreach aren’t going to be selling much 1Gb – most of their FTTP customers are on 80Mb or less.

      Every B4RN customer is on a gigabit but their cabinets will dozens or even hundreds of such connections are probably fine on active-passive 10Gb. Hyperoptic have been known to aggregate multiple buildings on a single 1G link while selling 1G but manage to average 900Mb on the service. Where they’ve enough customers they’ll add a second one but they certainly aren’t throwing multiple 10G links at every building to ensure each customer has their own 300Mb.

      Standard capacity planning is to aim for the peak sustained load plus headroom for a customer to burst to full speed. Operators are selling a gigabit over less than 2.4Gb of DOCSIS 3 + 3.1 capacity split between a couple of hundred or more subscribers across mixed tiers and it works fine.

      There is absolutely no need to charge through the nose for what is basically a 300Mb down, 220Mb up leased line without the SLA, it’s a purely commercial decision that will have to change as Vodafone/CF continue their deployment and VM, eventually, release their 1G product – likely closer to 2020 than 2018 now sadly.

    7. TheFacts says:

      @CarlIT – Why are you the only one here who understands networks?

    8. A_Builder says:

      Again I think we are at crossed purposes. And agreeing on most of the points anyway.

      And it is my fault for not being clearer.

      What I should have written is that from the GPON back it makes sense to use 10Gb *capable* tech per 32.

      But that it makes no sense to allocate 10Gb *capacity* (per 32) all the way back upstream to the head end.

      Ultimately, as you say, it comes down to usage statistics as to what it is necessary to provide and how traffic is then shaped if someone is doing massive down/up loads/backups. And/or providing desired headroom for user experience.

      A lot of mid end gear (Synology NAS etc) now comes with 10Gb ethernet as default so I don’t see 1G as being very future proof but it is adequate for now. For instance if we are putting anything into the core of our offices then it has to at least have some 10Gb connectivity.

      And I do agree with you that on the OR charging front and that their hand will be forced on this. That is the joy of market forces as they are now moving in the direction of providing what everyone will want/need in the future for a price most people can afford to pay. Which to my mind is the sign of an effective market taking off in FTTP.

  3. chris conder says:

    B4RN already provide a 10gig feed to two businesses who requested it. Once you have the fibre it is easy to upgrade. Most are quite happy with a gig though, at the moment 10gig is for showing off. 😉 and ‘upto’ 80meg is quickly becoming a joke through obsolete FTTC.

    1. CarlT says:

      FTTC is still fine for most people and, I’m sure, most B4RN users have a 95th percentile in the single figures.

      Doesn’t mean, of course, that there isn’t a place for 1Gb.

      Can’t really use B4RN as a comparison, though. Comparing a non-profit to any commercial entity isn’t really fair. Hyperoptic is somewhat better and the Vodafone / Cityfibre joint venture pricing will be very interesting.

    2. Bob says:

      Take up of FTTC is actually strikingly low according to someone at Ofcom that I spoke to. I know a number of ISPs are dropping ADSL but that’s probably relating to maintaining LLU infrastructure/relationships vs FTTC from BT OpenReach.

      The problem is that many people are happy with up to 18Mbps and those with poor line quality aren’t always helped with FTTC (although I was). My mother certainly doesn’t care about upgrading to FTTC even if it is only £4 difference

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      Who on earth said FTTC take-up was “strikingly low” at Ofcom? All the data, particularly from mature FTTC based deployments under BDUK, show the exact opposite.


      I’d say that nearly 50% take-up in the more mature parts of BDUK’s deployment, particularly considering that it’s a general and not demand-led rollout, is very good. None of this should take away from the negative sides of FTTC, but take-up really isn’t a problem area.

    4. Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:


      I’m very surprised by that OFCOM comment, as 97.4% of our orders over the past 6 months are FTTC based products. In fact, in recent months, we have just as leased line orders as we do ADSL.

    5. TheFacts says:

      @Bob – that must explain why so many FTTC cabinets are being expanded…

    6. CarlT says:

      It’s a sample of one but in my area uptake of FTTC was around the 90% mark to the point where 2 x Huawei 288 were needed to serve about 630 premises, with the second of those expanded to 384 lines.

      ADSL was very poor which helped a bunch.

      I believe, and welcome correction, that FTTC/VDSL has overtaken ADSL now.

  4. Another Tim says:

    To be honest statements from CityFibre such as ‘it could help deliver 10Gbps to “every home,”’ only annoy me. CityFibre have no interest at all in delivering anything to every home. They just want to serve profitable urban areas. I know they are a business, and businesses want to cherry pick to maximise profits, but it still annoys me when the pretend they are championing something for everyone’s benefit.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      In this context I believe they mean “every home” within their own network area, at least that’s how I read it. There’s no pledge to cover every home, this is all about an upgrade to their own platform.

    2. un4h731x0rp3r0m says:

      Remove the words “CityFibre” from MOST of your statement AnotherTim and replace with another provider name, especially bigger players and i think you will find your statement applies to them just as much.

      The part about “every home” though is redundant… As MarkJ also mention Cityfibre and every provider you can mention, even BT have never promised Full Fibre connections to every home.

  5. Richard says:

    Whilst individual devices are limited to 1Gb that doesn’t mean that you might not have multiple devices on the network all trying to download as fast as possible at the same time which would make having more than 1Gb at the router to the upstream provider useful.

    Admittedly, only businesses are really going to see that kind of demand in the very near future but home networks will get there eventually and 10Gb PCIe cards are less than £100 for upgrading a home PC and some high cost motherboards have 10Gb adapters on-board now so 10Gb in the future is not as insane or far off as it might feel (certainly by 2033 I’d expect it to be standard.)

  6. Simon says:

    Yes 10Gbps to the home*

    *As long as your home is in a posh toff test area – like Oxford again

    1. CarlT says:

      For someone who apparently has loads of cash and property wealth you don’t half give the impression of extreme jealousy over ‘posh toffs’ and seem awfully bitter about your broadband options when you claim to be able to move very easily somewhere with top notch FTTP.

      CF are building where their customers tell them to. Their FTTP build is a joint venture. Milton Keynes is hardly ‘posh toff’ 🙂

  7. SCL says:

    I am not so sure but IMHO the SDN in access network is not a real world thing, or at least not now. SDN needs quite a lot orchestration between devices and an access device to support SDN is not really helping to reduce the maintenance cost of the network. The whole network needs to be upgraded to be capable of doing SDN which means at least you will need a SDN controller and new edge switches that can support it. Most of the ISPs does not have the resource to test this kind of complicated network before it goes online. I don’t know why it can help City fiber and their ISP customers…..

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