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Openreach Start SOGEA Pilot and Reveal Standalone Broadband Prices

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018 (2:23 pm) - Score 14,183
nte5c mastersock bt openreach

Openreach (BT) has today confirmed that their new Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) product, which enables consumers to buy a standalone FTTCfibre broadband” (VDSL2 or G.fast) line without the voice (phone) service, will enter the UK ISP pilot phase on 9th January. The first prices have also been published.

At present most consumers on Openreach’s national network must buy their phone service alongside line rental (included by default) and then broadband is optionally added on top, although many ISPs bundle the two together by default. An exception exists for “full fibre” (FTTP) ultrafast broadband lines (i.e. no copper involved), which can optionally be purchased in a data-only (no phone) variant.

However most people only keep a fixed line phone (voice calls) service because it’s necessary for their broadband to work and increasingly few bother to use this for making calls, with Mobile handsets and VoIP often proving to be more cost effective. On top of that the nationwide roll-out of “full fibre” networks will eventually make the old phone services irrelevant (old analogue phone services will be withdrawn in 2025).

In response Openreach has spent the past few years developing an alternative product, which carries the distinctly un-sexy name of Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA). In simple terms this will allow you to buy a broadband connection without any phone (voice) service attached (the latter essentially becomes optional via IP / VoIP, with broadband now being the default).

The service also introduces a new front plate for the latest NTE5C Master Socket, which where necessary has been designed to prevent analogue voice being reinjected onto Openreach’s network from the end users premises (SOGEA technical details). All of this will help to support a future direction where voice calling is largely handled by VoIP.

NOTE: In the past some have made the mistake of assuming that SOGEA would make such broadband-only connections much cheaper vs broadband + phone bundles, but in reality you still need the copper line rental for broadband and only a tiny amount of the delivery cost sits with the voice (phone) service that goes over the top!

This is a radical shift for both the network operator and ISPs (reversal of the old approach), which has required a lot of internal changes to be made and as a result the early trials have gone on longer than expected (example).

The New Pilot and Indicative Pricing

At launch the SOGEA pilot service will only be available on FTTC and G.fast (SOGFAST – terrible name) broadband lines, although there are plans to extend this to include older ADSL / ADSL2+ lines in the future. The pilot itself will start on 9th January 2019 and run for 3 months until 31st March 2019. During this period any lines / customers involved will benefit from free rental and connection (lasting until 30th September 2019).

In theory this pilot will then be followed by the Early Market Deployment Launch (EMDL) phase, which leads ISPs into a full commercial launch, although no firm date has been set for this. Openreach have instead left open the possibility that their pilot could be extended if the required pilot outcomes aren’t achieved.

Meanwhile the SOGEA wholesale pricing that has been announced today is still indicative (subject to change), although as expected it’s largely just a merge of the existing copper line rental costs with the broadband side (connection and rental fees).

For example, the monthly rental for an 80Mbps (20Mbps upload) SOGEA line is £17.11 +vat, which compares with just £9.95 +vat on the same FTTC tier but you usually still have to add line rental to the latter (i.e. a fully unbundled MPF line adds around £7.15 to £7.57 per month to this – depending on service class). When taken together the costs are similar to the old approach.

We also note that migrations will now be charged at the sum of £5 + the appropriate FTTC (VDSL2 or G.fast) connection (e.g. a SOGEA Installation at Cabinet “Self Install” will be charged at £51.96 +vat – this represents a reduction from the previously announced principle of £11.24 + the appropriate FTTC connection).

NOTE: Remember that ISPs still have to add their own costs (20% VAT, profit, features, capacity etc.) on top to make the price we all pay.

Bandwidth Variant Rental Charges for ISPs

Feature Annual Rental £ Exc VAT
Up to 40Mbit/s downstream and up to 10Mbit/s upstream 155.50
Up to 55Mbit/s downstream and up to 10Mbit/s upstream 186.71
Up to 80Mbit/s downstream and up to 20Mbit/s upstream 205.31

Connection Charges for ISPs

Feature Connection £ Exc VAT
SOGEA New Provide “Self Install” 78.86
SOGEA New Provide with installation at Premise 130.90
SOGEA Installation at Cabinet (“Self Install”) at Openreach served premise 51.96
SOGEA Start of Stopped Line (“Self install”) at Openreach served premise 9.63
SOGEA Start with Installation at Premise at Openreach served premise 104.00
GEA-GEA Migration (same premise) 9.63
GEA-GEA Migration (same premise) with Installation at Premise 104.00

Further details can be found here but as usual we’ll have to wait and see how ISPs eventually sell such products before truly being able to judge its impact. We suspect that some may initially struggle with the question of how to promote or transition their product line-up to such a service, particularly since on the surface it doesn’t offer much of a cost saving and most people currently take a bundle.

At this point we should highlight that a number of other ISPs, such as AAISP and Freeola, have already tweaked their existing phone line services to remove the voice component for those who only seek a broadband line (i.e. it’s not SOGEA but follows the same sort of idea).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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42 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil

    So we end up with a similar problem we have now in needing to take both (data and voice) just in reverse, anyone wanting a phone only service, will need to buy a data service then add a VoIP package and pay extra for that. This adds all the complication for the end user of routers/modems and powering them, configuring VoIP etc, which for the elderly and some other groups will be completely beyond their abilities.

    I would hope BT will have a very simple plug and play option consisting of modem, pre-configured VoIP and outward facing PSTN port included that removes a lot of the complexity. They could use their existing ADSL from the exchange configured with the minimum sync speed required to support a VoIP phone service which will see a very nice high SNR margin for stability for most people, perhaps even self powered from the exchange.

    • Avatar Guy Cashmore

      I’m aware of a few ultra long EO lines here in Devon that BT have admitted (after a long fight) won’t support ADSL at any speed. I wonder then how they will provide basic voice services to these customers after 2025, which they currently do have on these lines.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Given 2025 is over 6 years away I would imagine a solution may be produced in the interim and does not require urgent action right now.

    • Avatar Joe

      Those may be the linesa that remain EO long after it dies elsewhere. Alternatively we may just move to a ‘line’ being defined to include mobile/sat provision

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      @CarlT, 2025 is over 6 years away, but when I moved into my house 5 years ago FTTC was being rolled out and an upgrade was imminent. Five years later I’m still on ADSL, and there is currently no plan, and therefore no date, for it to be upgraded to anything else.
      So even with 6 years, there isn’t much time to spare.

    • Avatar Ivor

      Guy:

      Perhaps this is a downside of the fragmented rural rollout, especially for CDS and its use of multiple suppliers for each phase.

      On the other side of the Tamar, BT seem to be putting FTTH all over the place now – in my village and surrounding area there’s a definite focus on the places that are just too far away from existing FTTC (in a couple of places, G.fast) cabinets to get a meaningful service. Sadly, no FTTH for me yet as I have a comparatively decent FTTC service (which doesn’t make much sense when they’re running fibres past my house to reach those further away, but oh well).

      Not sure it’s actually part of Superfast Cornwall because the postcodes aren’t on their list for the extension programme, so it seems like something Openreach are doing by themselves.

  2. Avatar Keith Renicor

    I have just phoned BT about this & the numpty at the other end knows nothing about it!

    • They wouldn’t because the current trial is being conducted on a closed basis and the pilot won’t go live until next month, but even then BT itself will probably do it on a selective basis (i.e don’t expect front line support to know anything about betas / pilots etc.).

    • Avatar at@at

      Who was the numpty again?

    • Avatar Possible Numpty

      Frontline staff here, possible numpty. I must say this excellent site is more often than not the first I’ll see of this type of news (thanks Mark!) No doubt we’ll be briefed a few weeks or so before the general launch.

    • Avatar CarlT

      BT Retail don’t know the ins and outs of a trial the supplier of their supplier are conducting.. who would have thought?

    • Avatar Not a numpty :)

      Front line teams will be briefed prior to a consumer launch for now they have just a holding statement. If you wish to join BT trials sign up to trial center.

  3. Avatar Dave Hughes

    I’m moving into a new build home on the 14th December in Flintshire, it’s fitted with fibre.
    Will my property be set up to take this?
    Can I be part of the trial? If so what do I have to do?

    • If it’s proper “fibre” (i.e. FTTP and not FTTC/Gfast) then SOGEA is probably irrelevant to you. If it’s FTTC or G.fast then I’d wait to see what your ISP says in January as they may or may not take part.

    • Avatar Spurple

      Not sure why you care about this. It would be the same old Internet access, now rebadged to emphasise that voice is optional and it will cost pretty much as before as the article has shown.

    • Avatar Not a numpty :)

      If it’s FTTC at your new place which you can check via the BT Wholesale online checker then possibly. You just need to sign up at BT trial center https://bt.centercode.com/enter/

  4. Avatar Humble comment

    Think this pricing should be more public knowledge we blame all the big providers for charging us extortionate costs when really its the monopoly Openreach caking in it

    • Avatar Vince

      Wrong.

      The Openreach pricing for current PSTN service has not moved up in years – in that time providers have more than doubled line rental.

      It’s not Openreach taking the mick…

    • Avatar Humble comment

      I use to pay more back in the day for adsl than i pay now for 70mbps.

  5. Avatar Gareth Ball

    I have 330mbps FTTP with BT and I’m still forced to purchase a phon line. Should this not be the case?

  6. Avatar Darren

    Does that mean that if they are going to remove the voice section from the phone line that would give them more audio to play with to send the digital signals along, so on ADSL instead of relying on just the high frequency sounds with a filter 25khz – 1.1Mhz they could use the full 300hz – 1.1Mhz to send the digital signals down, and if so with that extra frequency could they then use that to send the signal through faster and speed the internet up even more?

    • Avatar CarlT

      No. Not until Ofcom say so.

    • Avatar Phil

      @Darren, yes they could use the whole frequency range, although it wouldn’t make a huge difference to the overall data-rate, however it would extend reach, and would be enough to allow something akin to ISDN to provide enough data speed for a simple VoIP terminal in the home for those only wanting a voice service, or simply on such a long line that was all that was possible. However this would likely need new equipment in the exchange (unless existing ADSL cards can be configured to use the lower frequency which I doubt), and perhaps changes to the users home wiring and filter arrangements.

      It needs to be approved by Ofcom, but it wouldn’t be that preventing it happening, it would be because it just isn’t worth doing.

      For those people on very long lines getting no or little ADSL service, and BT still at that time legally obliged to offer a voice service, they would probably provide some other installation, perhaps an external antenna onto a mobile network, or ADSL repeaters.

  7. Avatar Mo

    This concerns me because I’m in telecoms with one of the big ISP’s and we use the phone line to help troubleshoot and identify faults. So now I’m wondering when some faults are easily identified through the voice service, for example crackly line or broadband drops out instantly due to the voice service, how will we be able to identify these issues without the voice service. Just a thought because I’ve booked countless openreach broadband skilled engineers out who find no fault until the phone line is actually in use. Who knows what this may lead to. Obviously the hopes of removing the older voice equipment in the exchanges and making them smaller or selling them off is the clear goal, but I think that should come about with the goal and completion of a full FTTP roll out.

    • Avatar Another 1

      Hi Mo

      I assume the engineers will follow basic diagnostic procedures very similar to FTTP as you can’t plug in a phone line for it. It will most likely be hiccups and bumps at the start but should smooth out as the technology develops in the same way FTTC did after it was 1st developed.

  8. Avatar Derick John Donaldson

    Sorry but does this mean that I can ask Sky to remove calls option or can they continue to demand monthly line rental regardless of what you are saying?

    • Avatar Joe

      You still get your bb over a line that has to be maintained. the marginal cost of the phone line is tiny.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      This is a pilot with selected addresses. Sky products and those of others are based on the current OR offerings. Each ISP contract for their own voice services and if the ISPs provide a suitable router or add-on box that includes SIP/VoIP then they can offer a phone service without the line dependancy. This has been open to them for a long time they have not felt it worth it. The reason standard land line is provided is that it is currently tied to the line rental. This product will remove that direct relationship.

      The closure of the PSTN will wake up the telephony market. BT will be be replacing it but with a centralised integrated network but the overall capacity will be lower simply because we do not make so many calls and the current PSTN is under-utilised. I expect fixed and mobile products to converge as Digital Voice becomes the offering on new contracts. The PSTN replacement and economies of scale will mean VoIP providers will need to think hard.

      Sky and others may still choose BT for telephony but will be free technically to go elsewhere. Whether they treat it as a costed ad-on or an inclusive extra will depend on their competition but the direction is towards multiplay packages including phone/mobile. ISP charges include more than the line provision but are more related to the BT price point than any base cost they actually incur. After all its profit they are after.

  9. Avatar Meadmodj

    BT has proposed to replace their PSTN by 2025 but the copper network will remain probably until 2040.

    The purpose of this product and the price structures is the start of a migration to Digital Voice services. The provision of the Openreach infrastructure has to be paid for (regardless of some of the inefficiencies that remain) and they need to maintain their revenues during these significant transitions. It is also in our interest that OR have sufficient funds to invest in FTTP as most of the Altnets will be concentrating on the profitable urban.

    The exchange line equipment and “E” side of the network will now decline and more focus will be placed on the FTTC cabinets and “D” side. It is natural therefore that the prices reflect this change. Competition will encourage FTTP take-up but it will result in higher performance broadband not cheaper prices. There is only one direction of travel for prices whether Openreach investment or the Alnets with their investor funding.

    Openreach will cease new WLR around 2023 but will maintain an MPF product and are developing a SOTAP product to support ADSL for a limited period. However, the overall aim of BT will be minimise fixed land line and encourage special services to migrate to IP options (BT has created a test lab specifically for this purpose). BT will probably retain line equipment presence for some time though, but considerably reduced.

    BT has now included a Digital Voice option on their new Smart Hub 2 and migration of customers will probably start next year. The BT ISPs and others will be migrating to this SOGEA product quite quickly once the processes are proven as it assists PSTN closure.

    Just the change of NTE and sources of interference may assist some in the short term we will see.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      Alnets. Altnets.

    • Avatar Joe

      “BT has proposed to replace their PSTN by 2025 but the copper network will remain probably until 2040.”

      Not sure I buy 2040. It just won’t be cost effective to keep it that late.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      It may be a “forced” closure but I thing FTTC will be with us for some time, there are still specialist uses of the copper network and much depends on Government funding/interference. Recovery/closure will proceed as FTTP coverage increases (especially E Side) but I was rather referring to the last nail.

    • Avatar Joe

      Much depends on ofcom. If they’d let telcos provide over wifi/mobile etc then closure could be earlier but if they insist on physical cable then late..

    • Avatar Phil

      So given we are almost in 2019 and they say by 2025, that means last day of 2024 so they have 6 years to replace every single PSTN telephone with a VoIP service. That seems very optimistic and bordering on the impossible. Do they even have the capacity to connect every single PSTN line up that has a telephone to a FTTC/G.Fast or ADSL service to enable data for VoIP? How will this be communicated to the consumer? It’s essentially an analogue switch off on the phone system. The TV system took around 5 years from when it was announced that switch off would take place, and that was after several years of digital TV sales where people could transition themselves to the new service.

      Seems pie in the sky to me, guess we’ll catch up again in 2025 and discuss how well its gone!

    • Avatar Joe

      Phil, Switching off PSTN by 2025 isn’t the same thing as no copper by 2025!

      2025 is PSTN -> VoIP

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      The BT PSTN closure may overrun but not by much is not totally dependant on every one moving immediately to Digital Voice. BT can retain exchange line equipment so it is more about how much interim kit they need to install to maintain interoperation. Those on new builds will get it anyway and it will be included in FTTP roll-outs. Others will be on contract change possibly with package incentives. The USO coverage will of course assist. Finally PSTN prices will rise so that Digital Voice is the natural consumer choice. Appropriate router software/settings will ensure QoS for phone use.

      The issue for Openreach is LLU, MPF and special use (alarms, meters, other signalling etc) and co-ordinating their other customers hence why copper will remain until fully resolved.

  10. Avatar Graham Long

    “If it’s proper “fibre” (i.e. FTTP and not FTTC/Gfast)” – May quote you on that Mark.

  11. Avatar Timeless

    will be following this eagerly, hope all ISPs take this up.. would appreciate updates like many of us here letting us know when it potentially becomes commercial.

  12. Avatar Phil

    Hi @Joe, indeed I didn’t mean copper removed, just every PSTN converted to a VoIP something service seems a big deal.

    Essentially most people might as well just use their mobile and I guess this is what BT is hoping to ease the transition. Given Wi-Fi calling is getting better support, even if a mobile signal is patchy in the home the mobile connects up just fine, and that is just VoIP then using the mobile number.

    There will always be people and the older generation that will be happier having a fixed line though, and that may not change for a while.

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