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Update on Openreach G.fast, FoD, SoGEA and FTTP Broadband Changes

Friday, February 15th, 2019 (10:09 am) - Score 14,067
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We’ve today gathered together the latest information from our UK industry sources in order to produce a summary of the latest broadband ISP technology and service changes at Openreach (BT). On the list this time are new FTTC cabinets, the G.fast self install trial, SoGEA, FTTP on Demand (FoD) and more.

We’ll kick things off with some smaller developments. Firstly, Openreach have a new Huawei centric upgrade for their existing (FO1H200) FTTC broadband street cabinets that essentially turns a 288 line (ports) cabinet into one that can handle 512 lines (preferable to building a 2nd DSLAM cab when adding capacity). Previously they could upgrade these to 384 ports (here).

NOTE: Openreach currently has 88,500 live FTTC/VDSL2 cabinets via 5,300 enabled exchanges (UK footprint of about +91%).

By the looks of it they can also use this and a “side pod” (H100E) extension (similar to how G.fast is done) to turn an ECI 256 line cabinet into a Huawei 512 line one (mixes ECI and Huawei kit). We understand that Openreach will add capacity via a variety of different approaches to around 33,000 cabinets in the year.

Elsewhere their “Fibre First” roll-out of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) ultrafast broadband is currently in the process of looking to target social housing via local projects, which is something that both Hyperoptic and Community Fibre are also doing (usually through agreements with local councils). Details remain sparse but we’d expect Openreach to follow a similar approach.

Now on to other things..

End of Life for WLR (Old Phone Services)

Progress is being made on the plan to retire old PSTN / Wholesale Line Rental (phone) services by 2025 (excluding fully unbundled MPF lines), which will see Openreach stop selling voice services and deliver an all-IP network (original news). By the sounds of it they’ll now stop selling these to ISPs from 2023, with a “forced migration” process then expected to start from April 2025 (likely to annoy some older landline-only customers) ahead of complete withdrawal by December 2025.

At present this means that consumers will need to adopt VoIP (e.g. plug your phone into the back of a broadband router and / or Analogue Telephony Adapter (ATA)). As previously reported those people who live outside of a fibre (FTTC/P/G.fast) or MPF (fully unbundled ISP lines) area will be offered a special Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP) to help. Big challenges remain with this so it’s one to watch in future years.

G.fast Self Install Trial

At the end of 2018 we reported that Openreach were set to start trials of a self install solution for G.fast broadband in January 2019 (involving approximately 1,000 lines), which is due to run for 3 months (here). At present you need an engineer visit to complete the service setup but it will obviously be cheaper if this can be removed.

The trial ended up starting a little later than expected on 4th February 2019 and it’s only being tested with those who can achieve a line speed consistently above 200Mbps. Supporting ISPs are also being asked to adopt a single router solution (i.e. supply the customer with a router that integrates the G.fast modem), which is a bit tricky given the lack of affordable G.fast supporting kit (BT does this via their Smart Hub X / 2 routers).

Interestingly it currently looks as if Openreach will now give this a full launch before the end of Spring (April to June period), although that assumes the trial feedback is positive.

Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA)

The SOGEA service is a major change that’s designed to enable consumers to buy a standalone hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2) or G.fast (SoG.Fast) broadband line without the voice / phone service (don’t expect a big fall in price since adding voice is only a tiny part of the cost). At the end of 2018 we reported that this was now entering the final ISP pilot stage, which included the first tentative pricing (here).

The latest update suggests that this may get a formal launch just after Easter (April/May 2019 period), while the wonderfully named G.fast variant (SoG.Fast) will follow a slightly different path and may not enter Early Market Deployment (EMD) until a month or so after this. Full national coverage of SOGEA will then be achieved during the second half of 2019.

ISPs will be expected to sell a one box solution (i.e. router with integrated modem and most likely phone connectivity) alongside this service for obvious reasons (VoIP support).

Seamless Rate Adaption (SRA) Trial for FTTC Lines

As reported toward the end of 2018 (here), Openreach are gearing up to launch a large-scale trial of SRA technology on FTTC based “fibre broadband” lines. This enhancement could improve service stability by varying speed more effectively. We said last year that this was likely to involve around 100,000 lines and will probably run until around the start of Spring 2019.

The latest information we’ve had suggests that the phased roll-out actually began on 4th February 2019 and the technology is expected to be removed once the trial completes in late July 2019. At this point it’s still too early to say whether the upgrade will be fully deployed post-trial or if ECI cabinets will be included, although SRA is a fairly common feature on other similar networks and so hopefully it won’t cause too many problems.

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 services on their network (e.g. ADSL2+), is continuing toward its goal of complete national UK coverage (i.e. replacing the old 20CN services / exchanges) but it is now expected to take longer than thought.

The original target was to complete this by the end of 2018 and toward the end of last year we noted that 280 exchanges out of 5,500 were still left to do. This figure has now dropped to 174 exchanges and a further 40 sites should be completed by the end of March 2019, with another 31 following during the early spring.

The remaining batches of 103 sites are extremely challenging to upgrade in terms of cost and backhaul capacity. Some of these may not now be done until 2021, although it’s important to put this into some perspective because all of these sites combined only account for around 9,000 end users. We are clearly talking about some of the smallest and most challenging areas of their entire network.

Fibre on Demand (FTTPoD / FoD)

Last autumn Openreach confirmed that they had placed a “stop sell” on new orders of their FTTP on Demand ultrafast broadband product (here), which followed a spike in demand that strained their operational capacity. FoD is designed to be requested (“on demand“) in slower FTTC capable areas where Openreach’s pure fibre optic cables usually only go as far as your local street cabinet.

Essentially FoD enables you to get an ultrafast Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) line built right to your property (e.g. business or home), even if FTTP wasn’t previously planned or natively deployed to your area. The big catch with this is that the end-user ends up having to stomach the often huge civil engineering costs for the service, which in some areas may stretch into the tens of thousands (i.e. it’s more intended for small business users).

The latest information we have is that FoD is already in the process of being restarted and new orders are being accepted, although the window for this is Dec 2018 to March 2019 so your mileage may vary. Meanwhile Openreach expect to be able to support 100 FoD orders per month from April 2019 (at present major clients like BT Wholesale are still limited 20).

The 100 figure may rise again toward early 2020 as more capacity is added.

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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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37 Responses
  1. Avatar JamesMJohnson

    There’s a reason why I don’t use VOIP at home… intermittent jitter on my connection.
    Apparently that’s acceptable for a FTTC connection… wonder how that will still be the case in regards to being able to communicate with the emergency services ?

    • Avatar 125us

      Jitter on VoIP on broadband is a function of the router not prioritising your voice packets. This is configurable. Millions of people and businesses use VoIP without any problem at all.

    • Avatar Joe

      It can also be packet loss and ultimate network congestion but essentially jitter is a very minor issue usually able to be dealt with easily

    • Avatar JamesMJohnson

      125us – I experience Jitter on all types of packet. The issue is between my router and the cabinet.
      My line attenuation changes between 21.8 – 23.3 and my Noise margins are generally between 4.3 – 6.3.
      (The noise margin does keep on climbing until I get a reset from Openreach… but they haven’t found the cause of the issue and so I have to wait until my speeds fall below the handback to get it temporarily resolved… averaging 3-4 engineers a year for the last 5 years)
      I wasn’t saying VOIP isn’t suitable, I was saying VOIP on a connection with issues isn’t suitable.
      I’m positive my jitter is a result of the underlaying issue but jitter isn’t something Openreach will acknowledge as a fault.
      Openreach always send the same level of engineer who always says/does the same thing.

      The point is… jitter isn’t classed as a fault so if something is causing jitter between your router and the cabinet then how can VOIP be a suitable replacement ?

    • Avatar Name

      But why do you need landline in these days?

    • Avatar mrpops2ko

      I recently integrated FQ-CODEL onto my home network and it has made a night and day difference in jitter. I have an 80/20 connection and if I was using over 16mbps upstream, the ping would skyrocket. From 10 ping to 80-120

      WIth FQ-CODEL I am now able to utilise 95% of my max upstream with incredibly minor latency gains. I go from 10 ping to 16 – 20.

      If you have the possibility of integrating FQ-CODEL on your home network / router, then i’d suggest looking into it.

  2. Avatar Mark

    Is this the Huawei kit that BT announced it would be removing from its entire network due to security risks?

  3. Avatar Phil

    Do you have a photo of large Huawei FO1H200?

  4. Avatar Tim Moss

    I’d love for ISPs to consider the option to sell just the modem to customers with term obviously, like they can’t help fix issues on your own network only up to the modem. I know Plusnet give you the option to order without the router but don’t offer just the modem

  5. Avatar William

    Whats going to happen to phoneboxes when the PSTN analogue voice goes on wlr3 lines? BT going to fit a VOIP box and modem in the kiosks? (Some people do still use payphones!)

  6. Avatar Brian

    With regard to National 21CN WBC Roll-Out, Sanquhar (WSSAQ) availability checker has been showing upgrade in a rolling months time since August 2017, with around 1150 lines. Still rolling month due date.

  7. Avatar Marty

    Surprising we still haven’t heard anything about the 212mhz of spectrum for g.fast to get it beyond 350m is it still being trialled? Maybe openreach have thrown in the towel on that one as with LRVDSL.

    • Avatar osewaninaru

      Extending the G.fast band from 106 MHz to 212 MHz likely won’t do much if anything to extend the reach beyond 350 meters. High frequencies simply don’t reach that distance. G.fast 212 is for short lines, usually FTTB installations.

    • Avatar Joe

      You can go beyond 350 (approx 500) on the existing tech but its just not worth it in terms of diminishing returns.

  8. Avatar KcM

    212MHz G.Fast will do more to boost headline speeds for those already in the 106MHz G.Fast range than it will for extending range further.

    The best way they can extend range is by using the current VDSL2 spectrum.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      I’’d tend to agree with that.

      It is quite puzzling that OR have not come up with a composite product harnessing VDSL and GFast spectrums combined.

      That being said as I have posted on here numerous times using a 35 profile on VDSL would have been quicker and cheaper than the present implemtwrion of GFast and benefitted more popele to boot.

      GFast as it now is, is just a fragmentary revenant of Gavin’s dream to put a GFast pod on every phone pole.

      The problem with that being that once you have gone to the bother of running the Fibre and power to every pole you have done most of the FTTP investment. And with pure FTTP you don’t need power to the pole so by time you factor that in and the pod it is probably pretty close to doing full FTTP. Plus then you have active electronics to maintain as opposed to a passive optical system.

      Personally I would have run the fibre to the pole and terminated at a connectorised block, Then the upgrade of the drop could be done on demand with a pre terminated Fibre kit.

  9. Avatar John

    Everyone seems to jump to that conclusion but there’s absolutely nothing to suggest OpenReach intended on putting a G.Fast node on every DP.
    The intention was only to go deeper in the network.

    If you’re taking fibre as far as every DP then it’s considerably cheaper to install FTTP for the final drop than to install a G.Fast node with the necessary power supply for the many many DP’s.

    Any overhead feeds or underground with clear ducting would be simple to install an FTTP drop cable.
    A node on DP’s only makes sense with areas where the lines are direct buried or installing the final drop with fibre would be a challenge.
    In many of these areas it’s not just the final drop from the DP that is direct buried so even getting fibre as far as the DP would be an expensive and challenging task.

    There are OVER 4 million Distribution Points on the OpenReach network.
    G.Fast from the DP was never going to happen.
    G.Fast from a node, deeper in the network than the PCP, was perfectly viable though.

    There are a number of places where the D-Side branches off deeper in the network that a node could have been strategically placed to cover the same amount of properties without having to install a node on every DP.

    I fully expect them to share the VDSL2 spectrum IF they can sufficiently minimise any impact on the FTTC network.

  10. Avatar John

    I agree VDSL2 35b would have been better than G.Fast.
    The problem there is the entire ECI estate would have needed replaced.
    It doesn’t support profile 35b.

    The smaller Huawei cabinets would have needed considerable upgrades and Vectoring would need deployed throughout the network.
    Much of the CPE out there isn’t even Vectoring Friendly.

    The OpenReach solution when they come across a line that won’t sync on a Vectoring enabled cabinet because the ISP supplied device doesn’t support Vectoring is to simply disable Vectoring on that line.

    With the OpenReach free for all on modems on their network profile 35b was never really viable.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @John

      Yup but 35 profile is backwards compatible with a 17 profile. I don’t think they are in any way exclusive so 17 profile models auto negotiate a 17 profile with the 35 profile line card. So I am not seeing the problem.

      Agreed on the ECI estate and this is an issue all round even for VDSL performance.

      However this didn’t have to stop OR going down the route of 35 profile on the Huawei estate as they are gradually upgrading those anyway as the DSLAM’s need expanding with more ports so there is a mechanism for natural cycle upgrading going on anyway.

      I though that most of the more recent BT hubs and say Draytek devices natively supported 35 profile anyway? Certainly the relevant chipsets have supported it for some time.

      The Gfast to the pole things actually came out of Gavin’s mouth……this was when the copperheads had full sway at OR, and clinging to the copper is cheaper than fibre mantra overcame both spreadsheets and common sense.

    • Avatar NE555

      > Yup but 35 profile is backwards compatible with a 17 profile.

      Not with all those third-party ADSL providers using LLU on the same copper network. As I understand it, even profile 17 is being run at reduced power to reduce the effects of interference with ADSL.

      The existing big providers like Sky, Talktalk won’t want to see their LLU investments blown away. But LLU is providing an important service to all consumers including FTTC: keeping the costs realistic.

      Before LLU came along, and wholesale ADSL was a BT monopoly, remember how rubbish it was (2M or 8M max) and expensive as well? FTTC is the same monopoly, but LLU keeps the pricing sane – since the majority of users aren’t prepared to pay a large premium for FTTC, and if the gap becomes too wide, they will swap back to ADSL.

  11. Avatar Glenys Jones

    FTTP , been waiting years for it here in N Wales. Finally its here !! Only to find that the only Service Provider is , guess who ? BT . So much for more choice and faster broadband. BT & Openreach are still running rings around this industry , as a mere customer i am so fed up of this .
    If we paid / were charged for the speed we actually got there would soon be some change in the right direction .

    • Avatar CarlT

      Other operators can and do supply FTTP using Openreach’s network.

      I would be content for people to pay an appropriate price for the service provided. My bill here in the suburbs of a city would drop nicely thanks to not having to subsidise rural areas, and if as a bonus my taxes weren’t subsidising FTTP for other areas that’d also be grand.

  12. Avatar Ralph Brunjes

    It is fine for Openreach talking about broadband speeds in exes of 200mbs but we still have to pay a little less for a service that can sometimes just about get for example BBC iPlayer.
    We can only get 2.5mbs if we are lucky , and all they tell us is oh you are on the old telephone system.
    So even when or if we have a fault on our phone line they have a hard time fixing it because it is an OLD SYSTEM. Do they not train their engineers on the OLD SYSTEM anymore?

    • Avatar Joe

      They but the old system as you cal it is far more fault prone and inherently less good even when working optimally and its often suboptimally.

  13. Avatar John

    VDSL2 profile 17a and profile 35b are only backwards compatible if the DSLAMs in use support it.

    Both the Huawei DSLAMs used can be upgraded to profile 35b and both do vectoring.

    The ECI M41 DSLAMs OpenReach use do not do profile 35b and no not do the necessary Vectoring.

    They would need to rip the ECI kit up or just leave areas served by them without profile 35b.
    It’s not as simple as they are compatible technologies.

    • Avatar osewaninaru

      Deutsche Telekom replaced all the ECI kits and is now runnung 17a+35b profile via Huawei, Adtran and Nokia. They currently reach 17 Million households via 35b and want to make that 28 Million by the end of the year.

      LLU is reduced to frequencies below 2.2 MHz (ADSL2+) and “virtual unbundling”, i.e. the other ISPs can use the DSLAMs of the local Vectoring operator to reach their customers.

  14. Avatar John

    I’d love to see a quote that says they intended on installing G.Fast on every DP.
    FTTP is often cheaper by the time you have fibre as far as the DP.

    • Avatar Fastman

      not always especially in rural or where you have direct in ground from DP to premise , or a long drop to premise or a continuous DP which might serve a number of premises over a significant distance , so not always the case

  15. Avatar John

    I’m in the group remaining for 21CN WBC Roll-Out (c. 50 lines in our call Exchange activate building
    If it cant be upgraded then Openreach should be required to deliver an alternate solution…or am I being unreasonable?

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