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Openreach Prep 0.5Mbps FTTP Tier and Trial FoD for MDU Buildings

Saturday, November 16th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 9,820

Openreach (BT) plan to launch a new symmetric “low speed” 500Kbps (0.5Mbps) tier on their UK Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network, which might seem odd until you realise that it’s part of their transition away from the old phone services (WLR / PSTN). Elsewhere FTTP on Demand is being trialled in apartment blocks.

At present a lot of work is going on behind the scenes in order to prepare the market for two major changes. Firstly, the gradual migration of traditional voice services to all-IP technology (e.g. VoIP) by December 2025 – essential on full fibre lines where electrical signals are no longer used – and, secondly, the complete switch-off of the copper network in favour of “full fibre” / FTTP (phased – fully completing some years after 2025).

Assuming all goes to plan then Openreach will not be providing their own voice products after 2025 (i.e. shifting the responsibility for delivering this and VoIP on to ISPs and wholesale providers). However it’s long been recognised that Openreach would still need to facilitate a data product for voice-only homes on FTTP and that’s where the new low speed tier comes in.

We now know that the tier will sit right at the bottom of their FTTP product portfolio (beneath 40Mbps) and, at a speed of 500Kbps, it will effectively act as a “voice only” replacement product for their old Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) solution. The new tier is set to launch sometime in 2020 (likely spring in order to support prep work for migration trials in Salisbury and Mildenhall – here and here). Prices for this will be revealed soon.

We did ask – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – whether consumers who took this 500Kbps voice only product would be able to plug-in a router and get online. ISPs have confirmed that this is indeed possible and so it could be seen as a potentially cheaper way to access the internet, although trying to surf the modern web at 0.5Mbps is NOT a pleasant experience. VoIP of course doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth, thus 0.5Mbps is fine for that.

Just as a recap. Openreach’s current plan is to stop selling the old WLR/PSTN services to ISPs from 2023 (after the aforementioned trials have completed), with a “forced migration” process expected to start from spring 2025 (likely to annoy some older landline-only customers) ahead of complete withdrawal by the end of 2025.

Many consumers will probably get a VoIP solution from their ISP (e.g. plug your home phone into the back of a broadband router or use an ATA – Analogue Telephony Adapter). Meanwhile voice-only customers in areas with no “fibre” (FTTC/P/G.fast) alternative will be offered a special Single Order Transitional Access Product (SOTAP) to help (a new SOADSL – Single Order ADSL – copper broadband service will underpin that).

NOTE: Both SOTAP and SOADSL will begin trials in 2020, with a pilot to follow in 2021 around Mildenhall.

FTTP on Demand

Finally, because we were asked, here’s a little update on Openreach’s FTTP on Demand (FoD) product. 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 rollout, which in some areas may stretch into the tens of thousands (i.e. it’s more intended for small business users).

Until last month the operator was still only able to cope with a total of 45 orders per month, although this has now been lifted to 100 (at least until March 2020). However of more interest, perhaps, is the fact that Openreach are conducting trials that will extend FoD orders to Multi-Dwelling Unit (MDU) buildings (e.g. residential apartment blocks or offices). The lack of MDU support has been a long running gripe against FoD.

One caveat is that the trial has a maximum capacity of 5 orders for all Openreach customers. Still this could be an interesting solution for some buildings, where FoD may be more viable on cost than it is currently when only used for connecting individual premises.

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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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24 Responses
  1. Avatar Jake4

    Nice leak of labours free internet speed.

    • Avatar James W

      Haha. Then silly money higher speeds.

      Jokes aside that is certainly the way forward in respects of removing copper services. Then if the customer wants faster it can be done remotely.

      What would make more sense is if a customer only wants phone services and no broadband is to provide a router that serves the phone. But later on when the customer wants broadband they don’t have to wait for installation. The customer services rep can press a few buttons and the speeds upgraded.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      I’ve got to correct that with the other secret terms of the Labours ‘Free’ broadband.
      – it works for 4 days a weeks
      – takes 6-18 months for installation *
      – if you get a line fault forget it
      – comes with a free analogue trimmer phone

      I think I’ve got that right?

      *subject to strike action

    • Avatar Ian

      At least it would be free, some people pay for those kind of speeds.

      Anyway, free internet would be great, it’s the way it should be.

      considering the billions we spend on the defence budget, id much rather see investment in community fibre for all.

    • Avatar Mike

      I suspect Labour would probably push the 500Kbps service as the free tier with higher tiers being astronomically expensive (unless your a polit bureau official).

  2. Avatar chris conder

    Also means that whatever the current government is at the time they can be watching us. Big brother. Wonder if the young voters realise this… bet VPN sales rocket.

    • Avatar The Facts

      @CC – How do GCHQ monitor B4RN customers?

    • Avatar joe

      Monitoring BARN uses is a bit like bugging the WI. Really not worth the time.

    • Avatar CarlT

      It is pretty funny watching people thinking they are safe and sticking it to ‘the man’ by using VPNs.

      I have two VPNs. One gets me onto my work network, the other I operate.

      Every VPN service should be treated like an unfriendly Tor exit node.

  3. Avatar Stop robbery

    At least nobody will cut the services stealing the copper wires.

  4. Avatar Victoria

    0.5Mbps… is the price is really low (say 50p per month), might be useful for IOT devices away from home internet line

    • Avatar Jonny

      I’d expect it to be priced at a landline-equivalent level since the idea is that it replaces a copper line for people who just want a telephone – and the installation costs need to be recouped somehow.

      Your IoT/sensor networks are going to be better suited to LTE/5G/LoRa.

    • Avatar Phil

      They may restrict the connection to SIP/RTP protocols only so excluding the use of the connection to much else.

  5. Avatar Jamie

    In case folks aren’t aware, BT Business have already stopped selling copper based voice services on FTTP lines. They now offer Digital Voice (VOIP) as standard, the good news is their VOIP dect handset works with any third party router.

  6. Avatar Spring Ford

    “although trying to surf the modern web at 0.5Mbps is NOT a pleasant experience”

    With a remote rendering style browser it might not be too bad. For example Opera Mini was slow but worked over GPRS last time I tried it. On 0.5Mbps it will likely fly. Of course not so good for video, but you will still get something if the provider offers the video at suitable quality for the link speed*:-) The current Opera Mobile browser still offers Data Savings options. I understand that they render the page on their servers and then send the image to you.

    * MUCH much Kudos to youtube for offering USER selectable video bandwidth. MUCH HELL to Channel 4 for making their product unusable on my old computer due to a lack of such a selection. BBC in between, they automatically choose the bandwidth for you but I want to do it for myself.

  7. Avatar Michael McArthur

    We would just love to be able to access any type of fibre service. We live in The Southside of Glasgow and have a green cabinet (56) about 150 metres from our home and BT openreach tell me that it’s not possible due to further engineering required. That’s 7 years of waiting gone so far.Bloody hopeless lot.

  8. Avatar AnotherTim

    OK, here’s a thought experiment. I can’t get better than ADSL2+ currently, as the cost of providing better is prohibitive – well above next year’s USO.
    If I cancel my land line now, and I or subsequent house owner then attempt to re-order a land line after 2025 will I be able to do so, or as the cost is likely to still be above USO will it only be available if I pay the ECC?

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      Having just re-read the article, I guess SOADSL will continue to be available in scenarios like the one I proposed above, which will presumably delay the copper retirement.

  9. Avatar Guy Cashmore

    I thought the whole idea of this process was to allow OR to close down the existing telephone exchanges and I’d presumed dispose of the buildings.

    For those of us stuck on EO lines, I wonder where SOADSL (Single Order ADSL) is physically going to be delivered from?

    • Avatar AnotherTim

      I expect SOADSL will have to be delivered from wherever it is currently delivered from. The whole reason to be stuck on an EO line is that it is too expensive to move it to a cabinet. If it were to be replaced by FTTC/FTTP then they wouldn’t supply SOADSL, so the fact they are planning to supply SOADSL at all surely suggests that ADSL will remain the only option for some.

  10. Avatar Meadmodj

    These should be regarded as transitional products. Ideally if OR were totally in control then they could target a specific exchange or cabinet area and migrate everyone to FTTP but they are not. They have existing service and contracts to maintain at both ISP and consumer level. In addition different ISPs and locations may be on different timescales. The number left on ADSL will continue to reduce (inc 4G) and the migration to VoIP on FTTC will pick up in advance of many FTTP roll-outs. OR will work with its ISP customers to minimise the actual cutover but there will be situations where the customer may resist a change (whether principle or cost) and therefore OR need manageable alternatives.
    What is more important is that customers understand the difference between DEL and VoIP and that not all VoIP services will be the same when choosing between them.

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