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Openreach to Trial Symmetric 1Gbps UK FTTP Broadband Speeds

Monday, June 17th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 9,913
digger openreach fttp

At present the two fastest packages on Openreach’s (BT) Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP network are asymmetric options, which offer peak download speeds of 500Mbps or 1000Mbps and uploads of 165Mbps or 220Mbps respectively. The good news is that symmetrical speeds are coming.

Sadly the operator’s two top tiers are aimed more at premium small business users than residential consumers (priced high with a £500 +vat connection fee) and you can only take them if you’re covered by one of their GPON / XG-PON based “full fibre” deployments (i.e. those covered by their ECI FTTP kit are currently still limited to taking 330Mbps as their top tier).

Nevertheless a lot of Openreach’s competitors in the alternative infrastructure space are offering symmetrical (same speed both ways) FTTP products, often to both business and residential customers, and as a result our sources have confirmed that the operator now looks set to respond by conducting a market trial of similar speeds.

As we understand it the plan is to offer four trial tiers with different prioritised rates using their new XGS-PON platform, although these will be subject to the outcome of a new business focused FTTP consultation that is due to be published by the end of this month (i.e. the proposed tiers could change).

The Proposed FTTP Trial Tiers DL/UP

Peak Speed: 1000/1000Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 220/220Mbps

Peak Speed: 1000/1000Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 110/110Mbps

Peak Speed: 550/550Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 220/220Mbps

Peak Speed: 550/550Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 110/110Mbps

The focus of this trial will be to measure market demand, which we think could be hobbled by the still extremely limited choice of supporting ISPs (only Cerberus Networks and Spectrum Internet seem to be doing the 500Mbps and 1Gbps tiers) and network availability. The new packages are also certain to be more expensive than their current asymmetric tiers but we don’t yet have any details on that.

Separately we note that there have been a few other developments on the FTTP front at Openreach. The first is a new “inside out” trial, which will be tested on orders in brownfield areas (i.e. previously developed land that is not currently in use) around Leeds and Edinburgh (tentative). In this setup engineers complete the in-home installation on the morning of the appointment, prior to the exterior work being completed (likely to be more efficient this way and more convenient for the home owner if delays hit the external work).

Elsewhere Openreach also plans to transition to a 1+0 Optical Network Unit (ONT) during 2020, which is the bit of kit that they install inside homes as part of an FTTP installation. The new ONT is a one data port box with no Analogue Telephony Adaptor (ATA) capability.

Speaking of the ONT, the operator has recently done some FTTP installs around Stourbridge by using a new Nokia based ONT. At present many such installs tend to use an ONT from Huawei but that company is currently the subject of much uncertainty.

At present their FTTP network covers 1.3 million premises across the UK (details) and they’re growing at a rate of about 20,000+ per week. We understand that this 1.2m splits down to around 700,000 brownfield premises, 200,000 greenfield premises and nearly 400,000 city premises.

Openreach aims to reach 4 million premises by March 2021 with FTTP and there’s an ambition for 15 million by around 2025. After that they also have an aspiration to reach “the majority of the UK, if the right conditions to invest are in place.” Current build costs are around £300 – £400 per premises passed and OR believes that it can “pass around 50% of UK premises within this range of costs.

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13 Responses
  1. Avatar Ken

    Are Openreach trying to kill their leased line market? But seriously, its great news that Openreach are finally considering deploying symmetric speeds on their higher FTTP tiers.
    Obviously they’re a bit late to the party but I suppose better late than never 🙂

  2. Avatar Phil

    What they seem to be saying is on the 1Gbps package it’s really 220/220Mbps, and bursts up to 1Gbps. So it’s an upto 1Gbps package, this differs from a 1Gbps leased line which would be a guaranteed 1Gbps, at least on the network the supplier has control of.

    With GPON that BT are offering this on, it is shared from the start at the street level, and XG-PON that BT are using only provides 10Gbps down and 2.5Gbps up, so it wouldn’t take many business customers for contention to kick in, certainly on the upload side, meaning those headline speeds may be seldom reached during busy times. So you get what you pay for.

    A leased line would come with SLAs, something a business requiring a 1Gbps line will also need, no such assurances with BT FTTP. You can also bet the 1Gbps pricing is still going to be quite high.

    I wonder if BT are starting to deploy or trial XG-PON2 then if they are offering symmetrical speeds, with XG-PON2 being 10Gbps up and down?

    I agree though it’s a fine line between competing with other suppliers offering these headline speeds to consumers, and not end up competing with your own products offered to businesses.

    • Avatar Joe

      Tbh you’re always hitting contention at some point along the chain. Seems a reasonable tradeoff for a middle ground product. Can’t see it will hurt BTs LL much but might help it fight in the small biz pond

      Anything about this new ONT? OR usually like 2 suppliers for everything for obvious reasons if they have 3 they are probably covering off a very low risk.

    • Avatar John

      It’s in the article.
      Higher upload tiers will be XGS-PON.

    • Yes the extra ‘S’ after XG is quite important.

  3. Avatar CJ

    I would love to be part of this trial haha 😀

  4. Avatar mike

    Is FTTPoD XG-PON?

  5. Avatar Max360

    Main difference, XG-PON only works in 10/2.5G asymmetrical mode. XGS-PON works in both 10/2.5 and 10/10G symmetrical.

  6. Avatar Chap

    Does anyone foresee a time when the ONT and router are combined in a single ISP supplied unit much like xDSL routers are/were?

  7. Avatar A_Builder

    Good news for UK PLC & BT PLC.

    The difference between leased and FTTP has shrunk but what the alternative?

    Loose those customers to Alt Nets instead?

    There are really different usage cases for leased historically. Ranging from needed a dedicated low latency guaranteed bandwidth for outwards facing servers to needing “something better than the copper rubbish on offer”. Our biz needs fell more into the second camp so we dumped one of our leased for a Alt Net 1G/1G which is adequate for our needs.

  8. Avatar Sally

    I don’t think many to ANY home users are in fear of getting this from Cerberus just yet – I had a order with them until i was told I was mi informed at the price of my new place – which is on a Market A exchange – Seems for being on an A exchange it’s nearly 200% more expensive!

    £240 a month for Market B – £565 for being on Market A! so that’s £600 install and £565 a month for 1000/220 OR for 500/150 it’s £600 install and £343 a month. I would have taken the lower 500 if they had not admitted I was lied to in order to get the same. The girl told me the £240 a month was right and that the surcharge bumped it up to £325 a month – but it was on top

    And they have the balls to have a FUP! – I know BW is expensive but they are very expensive for a shared service, I/e not like a business DIA circuit or whatever it’s called

    On the other hand you get £10 off a month if you have a current BT line and taken a Data only FTTP service.

    Spectrum only cover certain bits of the South West and not us – I was going to look at 300/50 but that has a surcharge of £72 a month on it and at £157.8 a month it’s not really competitive.

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