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A Look at Openreach’s New Small FTTP Broadband ONT and Mini OLT

Thursday, September 5th, 2019 (10:44 am) - Score 11,416
fttp_small_ont_2019

Installations of Openreach’s (BT) Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based UK ultrafast broadband ISP technology will soon begin seeing a new Optical Network Unit (ONT), which is not only very compact (pictured top) but also comes in at a third of the cost of the existing unit. Obviously they’ve sacrificed a few little things.

The ONT tends to be installed inside your home (wall hung), usually near to where the fibre optic cable physically enters the property, and it’s primary job is simply to take that optical signal and convert it into an electrical one so that you can hook-up a broadband router via a standard LAN / Ethernet port.

Openreach’s previous ONT tended to be shipped – inside a single case – alongside a Battery Backup Unit (BBU) by default but the latter is no longer a requirement (here). Essentially the new ONT isn’t much different from the one that was previously inside the aforementioned case, it’s just a little smaller (featuring one data port and one voice port) and obviously there’s no battery now.

You can see a comparison between the old ONT+BBU case (closed lid) and the new solo ONT below. Nothing special, we just thought readers might like to know that this is what new FTTP installs are starting to include.

fttp old ont vs new ont 2019

One other related FTTP change that might be worth noting relates to remote nodes. The maximum reach of an FTTP splitter (a bit of kit that divides up optical fibres from an exchange to properties) is 58 kilometres. So customers living further away than this from an exchange in remote or rural areas can’t get ultrafast speeds.

This year has seen Openreach introduce a new type of splitter (aka – Gigabit Passive Optical Network Splitter), which fits in a street cabinet or small rural exchange and “means we can now get FTTP to customers who are up to 98 kilometres from the exchange,” said Openreach.

Making space in existing cabinets (or extending those cabinets) does require a few changes but the actual splitter (aka – mini-head end or mini-OLT [Optical Line Terminations]) looks like this. The operator tends to call this a “subtended head end“:

fttp mini olt

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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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47 Responses
  1. Avatar CarlT

    Looks like the new OLT is a Huawei MA5800-X2 Mark. That match your research?

    Presumably rather than being a layer 2 switch terminating cabinets as the regular OLTs do it connects via a 10GE port back to another OLT hence the subtending bit. Like a DSLAM it delivers a bunch of VLANs, possibly nested depending on CP, to the OLT which are then sent to service providers via Cablelinks. This’ll be how they’re delivering FTTP to those remote areas in the Highlands.

    http://huaweigpon.cz/wp-content/uploads/SmartAX-MA5800-Brochure.pdf

    • Avatar CarlT

      ‘Like a DSLAM it delivers a bunch of VLANs, possibly nested depending on CP, to the OLT which are then sent to service providers via Cablelinks.’

      By OLT I meant the headend OLT of course!

      For the nerds I haven’t heard subtending mentioned in this kind of context since the old BT Wholesale ADSL days when they used to subtend DSLAMs – connecting one DSLAM to others in a star / daisy chain and using that DSLAM to backhaul those smaller ones rather than installing extra networking kit and backhaul into every exchange.

  2. Avatar MartinConf

    Just looks like the original Openreach ONT 1+1 just without the big case which I suspect it is, The real new BT ONT is a 1+0 from Nokia so this is just an interim solution without the big bulky case and no BBU

    • Like the article says, on the surface it’s pretty much the same but it’s slightly smaller and the BBU port has been removed.

    • Avatar MartinConf

      @ Mark Jackson

      When you say slightly smaller than the current ONT? the current ONT is (H)134mm x (W)115mm x (D)25mm any idea what size the new one is?

    • Avatar Chap

      Aside from the well-publicised debate around Huawei kit, what is the benefit for OR moving to Nokia ONTs given how much they have invested in Huawei kit. Wont they lose access to things like ONT diagnostic info?

    • Avatar CarlT

      BT will provision Nokia ONTs with Nokia OLTs.

      They will provision Huawei ONTs with Huawei OLTs.

      Sadly they will provision ECI ONTs with ECI OLTs.

      GPON provisioning is not standardised. Operators do it in their own proprietary way so Openreach don’t mix and match vendors across the PON. To do so complicates provisioning and loses them a bunch of visibility, management and telemetry.

      With that in mind this is the new Huawei ONT. The new Nokia one is for Nokia ONTs. The same ECI kit for the awful ECI OLT configuration.

      Manufacturers are unlikely to provide ways to use another ONT on their OLT. Why would they when they can make the £££ selling every ONT connecting to their kit instead?

    • Avatar CarlT

      This is actually another reason why no ONT SFPs – need them for each vendor to offer the service across the board. No idea if they are available from all three.

      PS The ECI configuration can DIAF. Just saying.

  3. Avatar Jonathan

    As I read it according to G.984.1 (the GPON specification) the maximum distance from the OLT to the ONT is theoretically 20km of fibre (will be a bit less in practice). You can do a quick Google to easily verify that. Where are these extra long distances coming from? Presumably there are now say supporting 80km uplinks from the OLT to the core network.

    I would have liked to see an SFP ONT option too for those who would rather cut out the separate ONT. It’s not like Huawei don’t offer them.

    https://www.huawei.com/ucmf/groups/public/documents/webasset/hw_415752.pdf

    • Avatar CarlT

      Per my comment to NGA C+ optics with FEC provides a reach of 58km on a 4:1 split. The other 40km will be the 10G Ethernet link from the subtended OLT to the headend.

      How many people do you reckon are going to use SFPs and how’s the commercial viability of both providing those and then troubleshooting them given you now have a demarcation not across a piece of cable and a box you control but within an SFP cage connected to a device you do not?

      This seem a worthwhile exercise to you for a mass-market provider such as Openreach?

    • Avatar Jonathan

      I would imagine that a SFP based ONT would be quite popular among business users. Basically I you run some single mode cable from a junction box at the edge of your premises to where ever you wish to locate your router (probably in a cabinet somewhere in the middle of the building) where you plug the SFP ONT into your router of choice.

      The alternative being a PoE powered device ideally supporting 802.3af/at and 12-54V passive like a lot of Mikrotik products.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Wires-only leased lines at normal enterprise levels are a minority thing. In some cases providers not only want to provide an NTE to terminate the fibre but the entire router.

      Again to point out this is a shared network more akin to a cable modem network than a point to point fibre network. SFPs are trivially reprogrammable, potentially problematic on an operational level and far more grief than they’re worth. Far safer to just provide an easily replaceable, locked down NTE and have clear demarcation and easier replacement.

      I can’t off the top of my head think of any cases where businesses are expected to put an operator-provided SFP into their equipment. Wires-only or managed router/firewall in my experience.

    • Avatar CarlT

      As far as the other part goes I can’t say I’ve ever seen a PON solution where the customers / building owner provide their own pig tails between units and a fibre tray. I’ve seen point to point where this is the case and there’re an ODF in a basement with wires-only or managed router provision at the end but not where it’s PON to an SFP.

      Without exception every PON installation I’ve seen in the UK has been delivered via a full fibre run inside the building with a splitter node or several in the basement or comms room.

      Not sure why the alternative has to be something PoE capable. The existing has worked fine for a few hundred thousand installs. Something for consideration in the future as I’ve said but I can’t see either SFP or wires-only being a thing unless plugging the fibre into an Openreach approved router that they are able to provision.

      This whole thing is, as I’ve said, much more akin to cable / HFC network layout than point to point fibre and has to be considered in that way. The only reason cable operators in the USA allow customers to connect their own equipment is because they’re legally obliged and they hate doing it.

  4. Avatar Jonathan

    I would also say it would be nice if the new ONT supported PoE. That way would don’t have to have a power socket next to the thing. I would also be nice if they could be hardwired so nothing was on display other than a small white box on the wall.

    • Avatar CarlT

      That would seem quite impractical under a variety of failure scenarios. New fibre splicing every time an ONT fails isn’t a great way to run a mass-market business.

    • Avatar Jonathan

      I was thinking more of hardwiring an ethernet connection into the back of the ONT which provides PoE power. Rather than having the ONT having cables draping all over the place for power and network connection.

      Though to be honest a RJ45 socket on the back rather than the bottom would be adequate. I didn’t mean that you would hardwire in the fibre optic cable.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Quite a niche case again – most people don’t have PoE switches let alone structured cabling within their walls. Huawei don’t make such a device as far as I’m aware for those reasons.

      Perhaps a way into the future.

    • Avatar Mot

      Agree it would be nice if it was PoE for those with PoE switches which is quite common with IP based CCTV systems these days.
      I have used a PoE splitter on my “MK2” ONT enabling me to lose the PSU. Quite happy that I have the BBU casing as it’s all very nice and neat with CAT6 in the wall.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I agree with Jonathan regarding the suggestion of PoE. There is often an installation issue in existing homes where the current NTE location is chosen or in new builds where the new ONT is being sited for a router in a living room or under open stairs. PoE does not need a PoE switch simply a PoE injector built into power transformer (like some WIFI APs have). It simply allows for installation options for the customer and a single Cat 5e/6/7 cable to the router (including ultra thin and flat cable) or to a central powering location (enabling UPS etc).

      As for the diagnostic lights these could be under an inspection flap.

  5. Avatar Tom

    I recognise those Huawei CPEs. I live abroad now – for FTTP they provide a router which takes the optical cable directly but to use your own router you need one of these little boxes. They’re very reliable, I have to admit. No issues with it and very minimal set up. Works well with the VLANs used for delivering TV service (BT TV for example).

  6. Avatar NGA for all

    I thought a switch to C+ optics would create the longer reach? This needs clarifying.

    • Avatar CarlT

      C+ optics alongside FEC produce a reach of 58km on a 4:1 split. The other 40km comes from the 10G link between the subtended OLT and the headend.

    • Avatar Jonathan

      Except why stop at 40km with ER SFP+’s? It would be trivial to switch to ZR SFP+’s and go 138km. It’s not like Huawei don’t do ZR 10Gb SFP+’s.

      Heck if you are only doing a 4:1 split then ditch GPON switch to a CWDM PON solution, junk the subtended OLT and go to 120km from the exchange direct with symmetric 1Gbps. The suitable SFP’s are under £50 each when ordered individually.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Where’s the line card and chassis coming from to do this? Huawei sell specific kit for specific purposes. I’m not aware of the OLTs Openreach use supporting CWDM, neither these subtended ones or the headend units – Huawei actually sell a specific chassis, the OSN 1800, for WDM.

      This ignoring the standardisation, scalability, etc, of such a solution. Openreach have to produce essentially the same products everywhere. Providing point to point Ethernet over CWDM for a small group of customers isn’t really an option, asinine as that is. Provisioning changes, parts and engineer training become an ‘issue’, the cost of the hardware on both ends as mentioned above becomes an ‘issue’.

      If you’re referring to perhaps provisioning them off existing routers Openreach don’t have them. The only active equipment they’re allowed is some transmission kit, which doesn’t connect via the Cablelink to CPs, and the OLTs, which as above I don’t think support WDM.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl-T bear with me so I understand. Do this unit mean we are extending a wholesale product out to this box where it was once expected all FTTP was served from the POP? This included exploitation of C+ for up to 80-100Km runs in rural.

      The fact there will be a cabinet en route with power, is that a factor or is it just the limits of the service creation environment?

    • Avatar CarlT

      The wholesale product is not extended out to this box. This box is being used to extend range nothing more. The wholesale product begins at the headend this box connects to.

      This box will live in a powered cabinet or a tiny rural exchange. In cabinet is actually how everyone else bar CityFibre and Openreach deliver as standard. This is a way to extend reach without having to modify the wholesale product in any way – same Cablelinks connect these customers as those directly served by the headend OLT.

      This is actually beneficial to both customers and operators. It increases the likelihood that rural customers will have access to more FTTP providers than just those served by BT Wholesale as well as providing more abundant backhaul than would be present at a rural exchange.

      100km is outside the range of C+ optics. Per my list below 58km split 4 ways, max.

    • Avatar CarlT

      I should rephrase a bit – obviously the entire link from customer to headend is part of the Openreach wholesale product but this doesn’t influence that product it just extends PON reach.

      Same wholesale product, same terms, the bonuses I mentioned above relative to terminating and having handovers in loads of much smaller, rural areas.

      This is actually a good thing and far better than having loads of smaller headends that cost money to build and have relatively few customers and hence little attraction to operators to take interconnects from or invest in capacity to reach – Openreach are doing it for them by aggregating the customers together in larger bundles at bigger interconnect points.

      This is a really good move actually. Kudos to Openreach. I’ve been waiting for street-side OLTs for a while.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      CarL-T – that’s good thanks. That was some time ago but a very good read.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl T thanks. Keen on transparency so funds reach where intended.

    • Avatar CarlT

      This is a really efficient, great way to get those rural customers’ data to towns and cities that are more fibre and backhaul rich as the rural data combines with urban data for presentation to the providers.

      An exchange with 50,000 customers connecting through it via FTTC/P is going to be better provisioned and have better connectivity options than one with one of those ONTs serving a thousand customers with no rack space for CPs to install kit and even then it’ll only be BT Wholesale taking a 10G for all the customers – none of the LLU operators will be interested as it’s just not worth their while.

      Not really worth BT Wholesale’s while but they’ll probably have no choice.

      That 10G will probably go into a switch to become a 2G LAG as backhaul is so expensive from there.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      Carl T – No surprises there which is good. Getting folk to turn up and resource the projects has been the challenge.

  7. Avatar Gary

    Nothing wrong with upgraded kit, but Does extending the range of a splitter to 98Km really achieve anything tangible. Possibly reduction of physical exchange buildings

    Openreach comment they can now provide fttp at 98Km from an exchange, I’d assume that’s a miniscule number of properties and an eyewatering proposition financially.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Up to 26 km reach with 1:64 way split
      Up to 35 km reach with 1:32 way split
      Up to 40 km reach with 1:16 way split
      Up to 50 km reach with 1:8 way split
      Up to 58 km reach with 1:4 way split

      Then 40 km for the link between the subtended OLT and the headend OLT. On the Openreach network the range would, hence, be between 75 km and 98 km. The 98 km is an edge case.

    • Avatar NGA for all

      It was hoped the FTTC phase would create all the POP and AGN@s needed in rural for both FTTC, FTTP in-fill and support 4G-5G. I ask C+ optics question in this context.

      There should be nothing going in to hamper future migration to WDM! That is the up-grade path.

      Is ‘service creation’, often no more than re-imposing the constraints of the past impeding a better design or we just living with the limitations of the current generation of kit?

      One upside of doing rural is that it does come with some permission to break from the constraints of the past.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Think you’re big on value for money. Openreach are being paid to deliver FTTP/C not to build new exchanges when not necessary. They’re trying, rightly, to retire exchanges not build more.

      Rural doesn’t come with permission to break the constraints of the past. The same rules apply everywhere, Openreach don’t get to randomly invent new non-standard products because of gap funding, that’s within the gift of alternative networks.

    • Avatar CarlT

      As far as hampering WDM goes nothing is going in that does and it’s not the immediate upgrade path. The chassis can hold line cards with 16 GPON ports, 16 XGPON ports and 8 XGSPON ports for right now. That’s more than adequate for the foreseeable with chassis upgrades required to increase backplane capacity to go beyond that as the chassis goes up to 80Gb/s capacity per slot.

      You did read the link I provided above before assuming it would hamper WDM somehow, right?

      If we’re trying to install kit that won’t hamper things way out into the future we’d never install any kit or would install kit so obscenely overpowered for right now products would cost a fortune or companies go out of business.

    • Avatar Joe

      I can’t see any scenario in which 98 would actually be used (even highlands and islands).

      I can see it might make longer term streamlining easier.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Gary

      It may be a minuscule number but the long tail of properties that cannot be served by an copper product as they too far from anything do need some impressive fibre lengths.

      This is OR trying to come up with better/cheaper/fast ways of moving the last few percent onto FTTP.

      And TBH copper lines that long must cost fortunes per premises to maintain so there is possibly a better commercial case to doing this than meets the first glance.

      Sounds like good new to me: if there was no use for it OR would not have bothered.

  8. Avatar Dave

    Any idea where I could buy a battery backup for this newer unit? Preferably something similar to the older in line unit that came with the older BBU.

  9. Avatar Meadmodj

    As previously highlighted the smaller unit above is simply a variant of the HG8110H-20 without the case, BBU and the ONT BBU socket. It simply follows OR/Ofcom announcements to move the BBU responsibility (vulnerable customers) to the ISPs. In the meantime it still has a FVA (Tel) socket. At some stage if OR can eliminate the dependency for the FVA functionality then they could move to a smaller unit. But I don’t expect that until BT Digital Voice is well up and running with any agreements with ISPs being concluded.

    As examples of smaller units with a just a single gig port, the Huawei EG8010 is only 83mm x 69mm x 28mm and draws only 2.5w with the Nokia 7368 ISAM ONT G-010G-Q being 89 mm x 82 mm x 27 but states >4w

    BT/OR will of course have sufficient volumes to package, brand and specify their ONT to their requirements.

    If the cable management is included, even without the BBU, I prefer the mounting housing for overall neatness. Particularly if all cabling is via the back and passive PoE splitters are used to power it from elsewhere.

  10. Avatar carterbrandon

    I’m planning to switch to FTTP in early December, but I’m not sure there’s room on my wall for the big unit. What’s the chance the engineer will turn up with the small one?

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