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Openreach to Start UK ISP Trial of Self Install G.fast Broadband

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 (2:31 pm) - Score 18,108
gfast pod side view with openreach engineer

As predicted Openreach (BT) has today announced the forthcoming launch of a new Proof of Concept (PoC) trial, which will make it possible for ISPs to offer customers a “self install” (i.e. no engineer required) variant of their new 330Mbps capable G.fast (hybrid fibre) based ultrafast broadband service.

The G.fast technology works in a similar way to the 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) to house the new line cards and kit. After that the G.fast service reaches your home via the existing copper line (works best on shorter lines under c.200-300 metres).

At present the only way for end-users to get the service is via a managed installation, which requires an engineer 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 performance, but it does add a cost (see below).

Meanwhile many of the early installs have tended to involve a two box solution, which means that a dedicated broadband modem (Huawei MT992 – pictured below) is used to handle the G.fast side and then you plug your own kit (or the ISP’s router) into that in order to distribute the internet connection around your home (via WiFi etc.).

Openreach BT gfast modem huawei mt992

However in a self-install setup 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 single router solution that integrates the G.fast modem, such as BT’s Smart Hub X or Smart Hub 2). On top of that, self-install methods are cheaper (no home engineer visit) and that makes the possibility of packages with free activation or shorter contracts more viable.

Back in June 2018 we revealed that a G.fast Self Install service would be announced before the end of this year (here) and Openreach has today confirmed their plan. The initial PoC test will begin in January 2019 and then run for 3 months. The plan is to test it with approximately 1,000 lines and during this period the normal one-off connection charge will be reduced to zero.

In a short briefing Openreach said, “The proof of concept is open to any [ISP] who has signed the Gfast self install proof of concept terms and conditions which are available on request.

NOTE: Openreach usually charges £99 +vat for an engineer install with their own modem or £49 +vat for an engineer install with the ISP’s device (modem or router).

The introduction of a Self Install feature marks the next logical step for this 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 more spectrum frequency (106MHz and up to 212MHz in the future) and may thus be more exposed to interference issue (e.g. Repetitive Electrical Impulse Noise or simply REIN).

Under the old VDSL2 based FTTC service you could still get a reasonable speed even if your home wiring had some issue, but this is much more of a challenge with the high sensitivity of G.fast. Hopefully Openreach’s PoC will be able to identify such problems and finds way to mitigate them. In particular a lot of people still have older Master Sockets that remain exposed to interference from the Bell/Ring Wire (easy enough to solve but only if you know what you’re doing and some homes have very different arrangements).

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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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21 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    The obvious thing might be to verify the master socket b4 allowing a self install.

    • Avatar TheMatt

      Joe yes but who does the verification? if it requires someone to visit the premises then it defeats the object. However if BT could be bothered to update it’s database then yeah, do that. I have an NTE5c socket but on the BT DSL checker it says I don’t.

      I am due for a G.Fast installation this month but it’s also going to be an on-site visit from openreach and the two box solution. EE had 50% off so it was only £25 this time.

    • Avatar Joe

      They do have a help with identify your socket. Perhaps get self certification. You pay if you’re wrong! Or I suppose asking ppl to send a photo might be workable in some way.

  2. Avatar John

    The DSL checker can’t detect and doesn’t specify the type of master socket.

    NTEFaceplate and VRI are explained in more detail here

    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/07/bt-wholesale-broadband-checker-adds-options-vri-ntefaceplate.html

  3. Avatar bob

    My Openreach visit when i had FTTC install a few years (around 2011-12) ago was a 2 box solution a craptastic ECI modem and an equally craptastic Homehub 3. The engineer was equally craptastic. He did indeed fit a new faceplate at the time, but could not be bothered to screw the modem to the wall (excuse of my drills battery is flat) and so lobbed it all behind my TV, not good for wifi or anything radio based in general.

    He also used the wrong RJ45 cable to connect the modem to the router (the homehub/modem combo came with 2 cables one red, one yellow) he used the wrong one on the WAN socket and yes it does make a difference one cable is fully wired the other is only 100Mb wired ie wires to only 4 of the 8 pins).

    He then kindly walked away with my DSL filters which were plugged into old master socket and were my property which came with an Netgear ADSL modem/router i had purchased for use with my prior NOT BT provider. Also failed to cable clip the incoming phone cable back to the wall which he removed during the install of the new faceplate. (Maybe his hammer also had a flat battery).

    If it was not for it being a special offer at the time with free install i would had complained, instead i just ditched them the moment my contract was up. The junk equipment is also in a junk drawer we all have.

    Seriously people if you can wire a plug you can take care of most install stuff yourself, and in many cases i suspect do a far better job than some lot BT/Openreach send out at £100+ quid a go.

    • Avatar Mike

      Complained? That’s theft.

    • Avatar S Wakeman

      You didn’t complain because it was free? If you don’t complain then you can’t really comment on it being a shoddy job as there’s no feedback loop to contribute to. He’d just go and do the same elsewhere and not be told any different.

    • Avatar bob

      “If you don’t complain then you can’t really comment on it being a shoddy job as there’s no feedback loop to contribute to. He’d just go and do the same elsewhere and not be told any different.”

      You can not speak to anyone at Openreach direct, the best you can do is send an email which never in my prior experience gets any response. Contacting BT Retail who was the ISP at the time over such a matter would had also been a long winded chore, because at the time the support was all Indian based, which could not most of the time get something as simple as an appointment right let alone, the long complaint i would of had about a bodge install and my filters being taken.

      As to him going on to the next install and doing the same, he probably did or has and more than likely did the same to others before me. I doubt i was the first and doubt any other complaints got any results because 6 months later i saw him up the pole installing a phone line for someone, again probably another bodge as a month later the same house had another engineer visit up the pole, more than likely to fix his mess.

  4. Avatar Kris

    How about providing the rural areas with 5mbps broadband instead of ignoring us and charging higher prices for pathetic connections?

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Are you also complaining to other telcos, like Virgin, GigaClear, Hyperoptic etc?

      Or just the one you think should be providing broadband by rights?

  5. Avatar Brett

    Always worth complaining, it helps everyone else.

  6. Avatar James

    Engineer install visits have a far lower early life failure rate then self install. A engineer visit should check all wiring and setup is right, service tested and demonstrated to end user as within the speeds expected with no errors, and 1 customer device connected proving all is OK. Also a pair quality test is completed and rectified if it fails at the point of delivery to the customer, and any questions answered from the customer. (half of this isn’t done by Kelly’s or Quinns, only Openreach Engineers, due to contractors not having the kit to do these advanced tests, and too busy rushing off to the next job as paid per job)

    Self install? Plug it in and hope, and if it doesn’t work or slow, a non appointed fault is raised of which all engineers hate as it makes fixing the fault frustrating and harder, proving line is good to pole or underground joint, often raising a no access report if fault is in the lead in or the internal wiring! Job taking twice as long, and Openreach are not paid for fault repairs unless it’s the customers wiring at fault!

    • Avatar bob

      “Engineer install visits have a far lower early life failure rate then self install.”

      Is that opinion or do you have any evidence to back up the claim?

    • Avatar James

      Bob – I cant divulge what ive seen or where from, but I have seen the figures. Its a fine balancing act. Whats cheaper? Paying for a engineer install on all provides, almost removing any chance of a early life failure, or risk self installs and hope that the majority of orders go through without a fault/problem being raised, with the odd engineer visit for the few that dont work?

    • Avatar Joe

      No brainer given much home wiring. You could probably draw a division say homes >1990 where the chances of bad wiring are low and self install those

    • Avatar James

      Believe me, the worst homes for bad wiring are those built before 2018! (I.E all!) Even new builds have horrid wiring installed by electricians and builders rather than professionals. Openreach give new master sockets to builders and the wiring, but it still depends on whether the electrician knows what he/she is doing! Star wiring after the master socket is common, and this affects broadband too! Many new builds don’t even have a Openreach master socket, but a modular socket with ring capacitor built into a MSFP (Multi Service Faceplate) where the power sockets, aerial, satellite and sometimes ethernet are all installed on. And many homes built before 2000 have wiring that’s OK for phone, just about ok for adsl, but fail on vdsl and g.fast when enabled.

    • Avatar Adam

      You Must work for openreach because everything exactly as You said

    • Avatar joseph

      If he does work for Openreach then he is a liar. Openreach do not have up to date information or figures on who even has a NTE5c socket fitted as pointed out by 2 earlier posts on here, let alone which install was engineer or user completed.

      It would be impossible to do so, if you moved home in the same area and take your phone number with you and then order FTTC/G.Fast and go for a user (NON-Engineer) install…. But the previous occupiers and previous number had FTTC/G.fast which was an Engineer install then what suddenly does that address and number in these figures become? A user or an engineer install?

      I do not know what figures he believes he has seen but they and the statement can not be accurate. If he works for Openreach he would also know not all new builds are done the same and would also know that on a proportion of new build BT/Openreach or contractors of them often do the installation of the phone lines and sockets.

  7. Avatar Max

    How would we actually go about being apart of a trial like this? I’m assuming Openreach will contact random customers?

  8. Avatar Paul Green

    G-Fast = Openreach polishing a turd.

    When will they just get on with a proper fibre roll out FFS

    • Avatar Mark Bancks

      Exactly!
      I would encourage everyone to read the Wikipedia page
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiber_to_the_premises_by_country

      It shows how far we are behind with BT/Openreach constantly sidestepping government efforts and ofcom to keep polishing that turd!

      Spain will have completely converted its telephone network to FTTH by 2020 (I’ve seen it and bought it – 300/300M solid connections 6 months ago).

      UK – In July 2018, the EU reported that the UK had achieved 2.3% coverage in 2017, up from 1.8% in 2016.

      Pathetic!

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