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Openreach Hunts Third Strategic UK FTTP Broadband Supplier

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 4,134

Openreach (BT) appears to be hunting for a third strategic supplier to help support their UK roll-out of a new Gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network. The move might also help to reduce their reliance on Chinese firm Huawei, which remains the subject of on-going security concerns.

In terms of performance, capability and value, the kit that Huawei provides to Openreach has generally held up quite well and is widely used. At the same time major operators always like to have some diversity in their supply and hence why BT normally works with more than one strategic supplier for key parts of their infrastructure.

At present the operator’s deployment of full fibre technology – aiming to cover 4 million premises (homes and businesses) by March 2021 and then there’s an ambition for 15 million by around 2025 – is using hardware and services provided by both Huawei and Nokia (there’s also some older ECI kit but that’s another story).

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We’re on track to make faster, more reliable full fibre broadband available to four million premises by March 2021, and we want to go much further, so using cutting-edge technology will be key to achieving that.

We already manage a large and diverse supply chain across our full fibre build, and we’re constantly reviewing our options to make sure we can continue to build a high-quality network that offers great value for money.”

Adding a third major vendor could also help to bring down Openreach’s costs through competition, although mixing lots of different kit from different vendors can sometimes lead to long-term differences in performance and capability (e.g. the turbulent history of ECI in their FTTC network). At present Openreach are not saying what suppliers may be in the frame but a formal tender is expected to be issued very soon.

Assuming a third supplier is secured then we expect that such a deal would involve a range of equipment – inside the exchange, outside in their network and in customers’ premises (the same as we’ve seen from Huawei).

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar CarlT

    As the manufacturers of the ONT and OLT have to match for everything to work ideally it’s a deal requiring both equipment at the exchange and within the home indeed.

    Outside plant only where they are running FTTP from remote nodes. Will be a few of these.

    Passive kit may be made by whomever.

    • Avatar JustMe

      This used to be the case previously however its more common for systems to be open, driven hard by the AT&T, Verizon’s of this World. If you go with something like Calix, yes, pretty much a closed ecosystem and probably one of the reasons they have struggled in Europe.

      Looking at some of the newer XGS-PON kit etc, inter-op is easier. There are pros and cons going with the same vendor (one throat to choke versus eggs in one basket).

    • Avatar Jonathan

      Technically this is not the case. It all should conform to standards and just work. That vendors lock stuff down and only support specific ONT’s is a policy decision and not a technical one. It would be like saying only use Huawei modems with a Huawei VDSL cabinet. Hopefully we are lomg past that nonsense now, and that it ever existed for GPON is mindless stupidity that the likes of Openreach should never have stood for.

    • Avatar Ivor

      “It would be like saying only use Huawei modems with a Huawei VDSL cabinet. ”

      But that isn’t far off the truth – there have been issues mixing and matching DSL chipsets and even firmwares. It made sense for Openreach to match modem to cabinet back when they handed out and maintained the CPE, and it’s arguable if the “wires only” approach works for everyone involved, given the overheads for OR to maintain an interop test process, and for ISPs to pay for and use it.

      For that reason, I suspect Openreach is not likely to begin mixing and matching for PON, especially when a compatibility issue can potentially degrade or take out service for tens of neighbours, including voice services

    • Avatar TheTruth

      @Jonathan

      What you say isn’t correct regarding compatibility between different vendor OLT’s and ONT’s

    • Avatar CarlT

      Technically it’s the case. GPON operation is to a degree standardised. Provisioning, telemetry gathering, etc, is not.

  2. Avatar NGA for all

    Good hunting. It should be a no brainer.

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