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Openreach Progress on SOGEA, FTTP, G.fast and New Install Options

Monday, October 22nd, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 7,924
engineer touching broadband cables openreach bt

We’ve managed to extract some useful progress updates from our industry sources on various different broadband related developments and technologies within Openreach’s (BT) UK ISP network, which covers FTTP, G.fast, SOGEA, 21CN migrations and the forthcoming addition of new install options.

Firstly, Openreach is now expecting that their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) coverage in the UK will increase from c.650,000 premises passed at the last update to 1.25 million by the end of March 2019 (they’re adding nearly 15,000 per week month at peak), which would confirm that they’re seeing success in ramping up their deployment toward reaching the target of 3 million by the end of 2020.

Some small improvements to FTTP migrations are also planned, which should smooth the path for those seeking to switch from Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) lines. One other thing to add is that Openreach appear to have improved the process of FTTP provision so that their on-time delivery is now at about 90% and mean-time-to-provide is at roughly 15 working days (thanks to extra resources and more efficient processes).

At about the same time as they reach 1.25m premises via FTTP (see above) then they should have also grown their G.fast ultrafast broadband base (recorded as 1.12 million premises passed in July 2018) to 2 million, which should take us to their target of 5.7m by the end of 2020 (March 2021 as a financial year).

Moving on to FTTC (VDSL2), Openreach say about 3% of related street cabinets are currently in “waiters” status (down from c.4% earlier this year). Cabinets are often put into this status when there’s no capacity spare to add new connections (this usually references ports rather than bandwidth). Capacity problems can take anything from a couple of weeks to several months to resolve, depending upon cost and complexity.

Now on to other developments..

Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA)

The SOGEA solution is designed so that consumers will in the near future be able to buy a standalone hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2) or G.fast broadband line without the voice (phone) service (don’t expect a big fall in price since adding voice is a tiny part of the cost). Implementing SOGEA has been a very complicated process and hence the trials have already been extended (here), but Openreach expects that the service could enter the large-scale pilot phase this December 2018.

By the looks of it this pilot will run for around 3 months and so the first commercial SOGEA products would then follow during Spring 2019. However this plan seems to be tentative as ISPs are still getting to grips with the new systems and setup, which leaves some scope for additional delays. Otherwise the core launch window hasn’t changed much since our last update earlier this year.

New Install Options

Openreach appears to be in the process of refreshing the install options that they offer to ISPs and end-users for FTTC, FTTP, G.fast and SOGEA. At present people tend to be offered either a Managed (engineer visit) or Self-Install (no engineer required – supplied with or without an Openreach or ISP modem/router) provision service. In the future these will be tweaked/renamed a bit and a new Premium option will be added.

We hope to learn more about this in the near future. We believe that the current plan is to retire the old approach by around the middle of 2019.

The National 21CN WBC Roll-Out

BT’s 21st Century Network (21CN) powered Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) platform, which is the foundation for a lot of modern internet connection technologies on the operator’s network (e.g. ADSL2+), is slowly continuing toward its goal of complete national UK coverage (i.e. replacing the old 20CN services / exchanges).

The target was to complete this by the end of 2018, although a small number will slip into 2019. At present around 280 exchanges are left to be upgraded (from a total of roughly 5,500) and we understand that 93 of those will be done before the end of November 2018. A further 88 will then follow by March 2019.

Meanwhile the final batch of exchanges, which represents some of the most economically and technically challenging bits, do not have a firm date but are expected to be completed sometime during 2019 and a few may even slip into 2020. However, as we previously reported, these only account for around 12,000 end-users.

G.fast Power Trial (Proof of Concept)

Openreach appears to be running a new Proof of Concept (PoC) trial to test a number of future enhancements to their hybrid fibre G.fast ultrafast broadband technology, which is taking place on an old cabinet at their Adastral Park R&D facility. The aim of this is to improve the service’s headline speeds and extend its reach on longer copper lines than are currently possible (at present it prefers sub-300 metre lines).

We don’t know exactly how they’re tweaking the technology, but it does involve different noise margins and power settings. In the future we also expect Openreach to adopt the 212MHz spectrum profile (106MHz is currently the max) in order to further boost speeds (they’ve tested this before using different kit here and here), as well as other recent amendments, but we don’t know if those also form part of the new PoC.

Other Bits

A few other things worth noting are that we still expect a trial of the new G.fast Self Install service (i.e. no engineer visit to your house required – cheaper) to begin by around the very end of this year (details) and the temporary suspension of FTTPoD orders remains in place, with no firm date set for its removal (here).

We’ve also heard talk that Openreach will be testing some further tweaks to their Dynamic Line Management (DLM) system in order to improve the balance between line stability and speed. Sadly we don’t have much information on this, but it doesn’t sound like a major change.

Leave a Comment
29 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder

    I was pleased that the Gfast footprint was limited as part of the outbreak of common sense at BT central. Gfast should only be put in where it will work really well ie on PCP’s with a dominance of short lines.

    Because the presence of Gfast delays the arrival of FTTP putting it on PCP’s with a mixed ecology of line lengths makes little sense as it just disenfranchises those on longer copper lines. And more importantly from OR’s point of view (and mine as a BT shareholder) OR only get the financial uplift on the retirement of the copper so they need to cover the PCP 100% for that gain to kick in.

    And when the higher frequency is deployed please please please boost the upload speed to something like 80-100Mb/s. It is actually the one place that Gfast can do better than VM’s offerings, at the touch of a button, and therefore gives OR a key differentiator.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I agree. Sounds like more money spent on cabinet G.fast. If R&D have time on their hands I would prefer them looking at the general FTTC speeds and a latest generation G.Fast solution (off the shelf) for MDU/Offices (FTTB) where FTTP is impractical/costly/lengthy.

    • Avatar Joe

      “I would prefer them looking at the general FTTC speeds ”

      They won’t do much of that as its a dead end

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I’m not asking them to defy physics but testing innovative ideas. It could be DLM is too clever for its own good and should be turned off in certain situations. Or whether by introducing SOGEA the FTTC line settings can be altered as many houses have two D side pairs back to the cabinet and so technically one pair could be used for broadband and the other for telephony. These may be completely dead ducks technically or commercially but it is that type of practical R&D that is needed to maximise existing investment. There has to be something as it may be another 10 years of FTTC for many.

    • Avatar A_Builder


      There are two approaches to increasing FTTC throughput

      a) Low frequency reapportionment

      If the POTS, ADSL & ADSL2+ are retired then FTTC bandwidth can be increased considerably.

      This all uses much more bandwidth than you would think given, say, the guard band frequencies between ADSL and POTS.

      When ADSL came out mass produced filters were not so good so a cautious approach was taken to assigning frequencies. And similarly when ADSL2+ came out they had to both coexist in a non overlapping manner.

      b) high frequency adoption of 35 profiles that will give pretty similar characteristics to Gfast only it works better on worse line. Also gives better upstream options. This only works where there is no Gfast deployed otherwise the frequencies overlap which is not impossible to deal with but much harder. Rotating time frames……..

      The advantage of option (b) is that is out of a box deployable and cheap to do as it only requires the line cards to be changed in the DSLAM. This doesn’t really need research as I think DT are already deploying this in numbers using Huwae kit (?) someone will doubtless correct me. It just needs testing.

      Option (a) does help a lot particularly on longer lines and combined with option (b) gets you pretty much to Gfast performance levels, on FTTC, but critically on longer lines for a lot of people. But critically requires OFCOM et al to play nice.

    • Avatar Joe

      @A-Builder: I don’t disagree with the options you mention – indeed I’ve said many of the same things on this forum over many years.

      What I question is how willing OR are to put the time/effort into rolling out those options; in how many areas are they willing to spend as opposed to wait for GFast/FttP or their successor techs to pick up most of the slack and leave the rest. (it might take a higher USO to force them to do this)

      The 2nd Issue is Ofcom. I have practically zero faith in them to take, in a useful timeframe, the regulatory steps to allow/force switch off of old pots etc before its not worth ORs time to roll it out.

    • Avatar A_Builder


      The POTS off thing and the ADSL sunset have got to be addresses pretty soon by OFOCM. But I agree the politics get in the way of rapidly deploying this option universally.

      It would be totally unfair on OR (yes I actually said that!) to have a dual USO whereby OR provided USO on a pure fibre line and then also had to provide USO on copper. That won’t help the investment case for rural. Half of the investment case for FTTP pivots on the lower running and maintenance costs.

      If OR have provided a good quality fibre to a premises that is available to wholesale they have done their job and a good job. No need for anything else comms wise.

      Personally I think the 35 profile is the medium term way to go as it is cheap easy and as far as I can see no regulatory hurdles. And this could be a genuinely fast rollout unlike Gfast as there are no civils involved. It also enables OR to get enough bandwidth that they can temporarily head off the VM threat until they can get pure fibre to the area. OR are going to need to do some stop gapping unless they want to loose ares of the country to others.

      Having had a look at the published power curves for Gfast I remain unconvinced that this will offer much to any except those on the best copper pairs.

    • Avatar Joe

      The impression I get from Ofcom is that their switchoff plan involves waiting till the tech is so obsolete that no one is left using it to object! This is no use to OR or the FttP rollout and is a huge delay. Switchoff needs to be a carrot for scale universal Fttp/Gfast (at least on individual exchange areas)

      Certainly much of the rollout speed depends on how lightouch ofcom are with OR (and others) over FttP and the gaurantee of the length that will last. Regulators just can’t keep their sticky fingers off things though and the companys know it which isn’t helping.

      I’m sure profile changes can helps but without switch off much of the ‘free’ speed doesn’t happen. It all boils down to how much is left after FttP/(mg/Gfast) scale.

    • Avatar osewaninaru

      “I think DT are already deploying [VDSL2 profile 35b] in numbers using Huwae kit (?) someone will doubtless correct me.”
      Deutsche Telekom is deploying 35b from all their suppliers (Nokia, Adtran and Huawei). They don’t like depence on a single supplier.

      About retiring POTS to ADSL2+:
      Might be nice for some very long lines, otherwise the gains are limited. The bandwidth reserved for POTS is tiny (25 kHz), not worth talking about. While ADSL2+ goes up to 2.2 MHz that part is still being used, albeit with reduced efficiency because of DPBO and it not being vectored. So you lose 5, maybe 10 Mbps? Doesn’t matter much when you can reach 250 Mbps on 35 MHz total spectrum.

    • Avatar A_Builder


      “About retiring POTS to ADSL2+:
      Might be nice for some very long lines, otherwise the gains are limited. The bandwidth reserved for POTS is tiny (25 kHz), not worth talking about. While ADSL2+ goes up to 2.2 MHz that part is still being used, albeit with reduced efficiency because of DPBO and it not being vectored. So you lose 5, maybe 10 Mbps? Doesn’t matter much when you can reach 250 Mbps on 35 MHz total spectrum.”

      Quite agree the POTs thing is a sideshow but retiring the older ADSL does, as you say, make proportionality more sense on very long lines that are at the edge of VDSL2+.

      The thing about POTs retirement is that when POTs goes then any connection back to the exchange and therefore ADSL is going to go at the same time.

    • Avatar Joe

      “The thing about POTs retirement is that when POTs goes then any connection back to the exchange and therefore ADSL is going to go at the same time.”

      Exactly. Pots forces a change. (Its also a cost saving as some of the old network duplication can die as well)

  2. Avatar NGA for all

    This BT slide deck puts it reaching 13k a week with the 2.5m to do split 800k New Build BDUK and 1.7m commercial. Slide 11 shows a 9k a week number.
    125 weeks x 13k a week = 1.6m extra by Mar/Apr 2021 but that whole lot better that where we were.
    It would be good to understand the ‘ghost plan’ referenced so public policy could be informed.

    • Avatar Joe

      Always hard to judge are they doing even builds or focusing on easy stuff first or spending time on optimising rollouts so a speed up occurs later

    • Avatar DevonPaddler


      By trying to read between the lines of some slides, you are missing some of the detail in plain sight. 13k passed per week is for Fibre Cities (aiming for a total of 1.7M by 20/21) which is bang on that target, not total FTTP build (which includes BDUK & New Developments)

      You can also see that Openreach expects to hit c20,000 passed per week in 20/21, with growth in that metric year by year.

      I wish I could tell you they named the Ghost Plan in your honour, as they know how much it would wind you up! But in reality Ghost Planning is a standard project management tool when trying to accelerate delivery or analysing critical paths.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      DevonPaddler. The BT slide says ‘We’ve reached a build rate of 13k FTTP a week across the three major programmes (New Homes, BDUK and Fibre Cities)’. The associated picture shows a slightly lower number. This is BT info as written.

      Do you have another piece of published BT data you can share? What is the published trajectory to reach 20k a week! More than happy to show the transformation occurring in BT.
      Achieving 20k a week will be good. It is needed if the BT Capital Deferral owed and unreconciled BT capital from BDUK is to be converted into coverage.

      This stuff is cherry. The irksome bit, in my opinion, was when BT Group lied large (including parts of the oral evidence to CMS Broadband inquiry 15/16), at the expense of their engineering division, their customers and ultimately their shareholders. Even that appears to be changing which is very welcome.
      Ghost Plan should be no more than a simple means of building up coverage in exchange areas covered by a handover point. I am sure folk in Devon Somerset would appreciate sight of the ambition.

    • Avatar DevonPaddler

      @NGA Fair pickup – I misquoted the graph which is just Fibre Cities at sub c10k passed per week – my mistake

    • Avatar NGA for all

      DevonPaddler; No worries, this is a hell of a turnaround taking place. Even 10k a week is huge.
      A real effort is needed to stop monies now disappearing back to Government.

      Unfortunately the ‘commercial confidentiality’ clauses can be used to mask transfers out of the sector.

    • Avatar DevonPaddler

      Heh, what has any BT Capital Deferral have to do with it? The rate will naturally accelerate as that is the nature of civils & increasing engineering workforce by ~10%… i’d expect the run rate to exceed the 20k rate shown for 20/21

      But this is all fully costed investment based on forecast demand modelling – it’s clearly not reliant on any additional BDUK contracts nor any potential USO build out.

      Council budgets are under pressure – why shouldn’t the LA investment return to general budgets? That would demonstrate a successful LA intervention with multiple gains locally – better broadband and a financial gain longer term. Much better than just recycling funding in a haphazard way. Better to consolidate and then start a BDUK2 with clarity if needed.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @NGA for all

      I think we would all have been delighted if OR had been doing 10k/week for the last five years as they should have been.

      It was always perfectly feasible.

      The issue is making sure that roll rate continues: as it really has to now.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      A_Builder – Indeed.
      Devon_Paddler with respect the slide shows BDUK related work. If you read the 2013 PAC evidence and everything since at a Parliamentary, all funds were intended to stretch fibre as far as possible.

      I will let 20k a week plus to the shareholders, but a rural element to complete another 600-700k FTTP in a reasonable time needs to be accommodated. FTTP in-fill capability was originally in scope (2011-12) and costed as part of the £1.7bn and BT £480m contribution to allowable costs. The Capital Deferral is relevant as it is monies owed to complete a job.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      “The Capital Deferral is relevant as it is monies owed to complete a job.”

      That’s not correct Mike. As Devon_Paddler says, it’s up to each local authority whether to use any gainshare money owed when the contracts complete to build more broadband, or whether to bank the money for other purposes. I suspect many will go for the latter option, especially as the government’s USO scheme should be live by then.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      New_Londoner if you read the PAC representations from BT and DCMS then the intent was to push as far as possible.

      What might be throwing this is the scale of the involved and the location of BT’s capital contribution.

      If the contracts do not permit roll over, then this can be challenged and needs to be. Leaving gaps in service defeats the original of the intervention.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      New_Londoner I would go further. While there was no excuse for BT’s gaming of its costs and capital which contributed to the limitations in the contracts and the subsequent changes in the state aid 440730 demand unworkable lotting in the last 5%, this should not be used as an excuse for LA’s to give up and rely on an ill informed B_USO.

      Central Government will be embarrassed at BT returning their half of the monies for a job undone, and now seeking an industry fund to pay for work where there is already budget.

      There is plenty of room to demand those funds be used in the B_USO fund to pay for full fibre where the contracts have failed to do as intended. There is plenty of room for Openreach to report the potential of these funds to go further and outline a plan to do so, whether it is extending contracts where there is no viable competition or running a further round as is about to occur in NI. NI election funding has arisen from two failed attempts to get the CD excesses re-allocated where needed.

  3. Avatar Wujek Pawel

    Is there any publicly available roadmap/plan where I can check when G.FAST will be installed in my town/cabinet?

    • Avatar Marty

      They don’t have a public available future road map but a current one can be found at the thinkbroadband website

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      The 122 locations announced are assumed to still go ahead unless their status is affected by Fibre First. As Marty states the first indication of live will be when the first ISP adopts as shown on TBB. All network providers will be hesitant to commit at detailed street level in advance.

  4. Avatar TheMatt

    Still waiting for G.Fast despite them fitting the pod in June… ask openreach about it and they don’t even seem to know what it is or tell me that “superfast” is already available … which is VDSL not G.Fast Openreach seem to be really clueless about the whole affair.

  5. Avatar Geoff

    All the talk of fttp and g fast remain a fantasy where I live (an East Midlands town with over 45 cabinets). Openreach couldn’t be bothered to fibre up my cabinet even though all the rest in the town were fibered up over 3 years ago. Complaining to Clive Shelley’s office or Ofcom got nowhere. This company are a joke and cannot consider themselves to be a genuine fibre broadband infrastructure services provider!.

  6. Avatar Brian

    The National 21CN WBC Roll-Out, WSSAQ Sanquhar exchange already showing as going into march

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