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ISP Zen Internet UK Stops Selling G.fast Ultrafast Broadband UPDATE

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021 (10:00 am) - Score 8,880
gfast cabinet internals

Rochdale-based UK ISP Zen Internet has quietly stopped selling Openreach’s (BT) hybrid fibre G.fast based “ultrafast broadband” products, which were first launched by the provider back in 2018 alongside average download speeds of 145Mbps (30Mbps upload) or 300Mbps (50Mbps upload).

The G.fast (ITU G.9700/9701) technology works similarly to the existing 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service. In this setup, a fibre optic cable is run to your local PCP Street Cabinet, which is then fitted with an extension “pod” to house the new G.fast line cards. The service then reaches your home via an existing copper cable.

However, G.fast can only deliver its best speeds to those within c.100-300 metres of a cabinet, and take-up has been weak. Back in 2019 Openreach took the decision (here) to shelve the technology’s rollout in favour of a greater focus on Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology. As a result, G.fast only managed to cover 2.8 million UK premises before it was stopped (down from the original plan for 10 million) and future support thus looks uncertain.

Suffice to say that we weren’t hugely surprised when our readers started to report that Zen’s availability checker was no longer returning results for G.fast, although we didn’t expect it to happen quite this soon. Furthermore, Zen’s ultrafast broadband product page still states: “We’ve been supporting Ultrafast G.fast and FTTP technology for over five years, so even if you can find another Ultrafast provider they won’t have our expertise or experience.”

After running some of our own checks we were also unable to bring up any results in G.fast areas, while Zen’s own live chat system has confirmed to two customers (Credits to Phil and Ryan) that the products were no longer being sold. So far as we can tell, Zen’s decision to stop selling G.fast only applies to new customers, while existing customers will continue to be supported.

We have hailed Zen’s PR and product teams in the hope of getting an official response and will report back later.

UPDATE 5pm

We’ve had a statement from Zen.

Paul Sinclair, Zen’s Marketing Director, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Due to a combination of factors, though mainly driven by the pace of the full fibre rollout and take up of this by our customers, we will discontinue selling G.fast to our residential customers at the end of this week.

Currently customers can still purchase G.fast over the phone, but in preparation, this service has been removed from our website. We will continue to support existing G.fast customers and the service will still be provided to our wholesale Partners via ICP.”

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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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32 Responses
  1. Jonny says:

    I’d be interested to see if Zen saw an increased amount of time spent on G.fast faults compared to other technologies. In my experience G.fast struggled to hit the estimated speed ranges if those estimates were under 200Mbps, and the quality of Openreach engineers assigned to support the product was generally poor. One suggested that a G.fast line syncing at 70Mbps and dropping regularly would be fixed by upgrading to a 330Mbps tier and wasn’t interested in opening up joint boxes to check the condition of the copper.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      I’ve seen plenty of similar gripes to those.

    2. A Jarvis says:

      I said from the start, ‘Pointless G.fast’ would be a can of worms in terms of fault-finding, with variations in firmware updates/software updates (incompatibilities over time) making things very difficult.

      Not just aspects of poor quality real world copper/aluminium cabling, the stability/quality of the power supply is also an issue, affected by low-level ‘pump-noise’ in industrial areas. On the security front, G.fast should never be used for anything that is deemed critical infrastructure.

      You have to question Ofcom’s role in this, having washed their hands, by stating their approach was ‘technology neutral’. Such weasel words. All of this information was in the public domain, yet they ignored it, to appease BT’s Pointless G.fast rollout plans. Weasel words, from Ofcom, and it should be noted, many parachuted into their jobs from BT.

      MPs really should show some practical due diligence and stop believing ‘BT will do the right thing’, (I hear this far too often from MPs). They’re a commercial company, that serve themselves, and that’s it.

      Far too often BT reverts to type: ‘sit on hands, wait for handouts, the pub drunk blocking the doorway, effectively, stopping others from ordering their full-fibre pint’, as they sit like vultures over their copper carcass, ready to over build.

      Far too often this is the approach to roll out plans rurally, yet where would BT be now, with no phone call income, if they hadn’t got those BDUK handouts to upgrade their network, albeit with ‘up to’ FTTC. Maybe, just maybe, B4RN’s pragmatic gigabit approach might have become the default for all rural areas.

      If it wasn’t for people putting their head above the parapet, stating G.fast was completely the wrong approach, G.fast would be the dominant technology rolled out in the UK right now by BT, think that one through.

      There is so much wrong with G.fast technology, it’s hard to get your head around why it was ever taken seriously.

      Absolutely no faith in Ofcom as a regulator, they’re clearly BT’s poodle.

  2. Rab says:

    Good. G.Fast is a poor technology and the sooner providers start distancing themselves from it the better. Only full fibre should be in consideration, unless the property is in an *extremely* difficult to reach area.

    We live on an Island it’s well within our capabilities to have full fibre throughout the country.

    1. John says:

      It’s not a poor technology.
      It was a poor choice of deployment by OpenReach.

      G.Fast was never designed to be an FTTC product.
      It’s better suited to a FTTrN (fibre to the remote node) deployment.

      Everyone I know with a G.Fast connection says it works great.
      The addition of Vectoring, G.INP and SRA means it’s considerably more stable than a VDSL2 connection.

      I thought it was a horrible choice by OpenReach because of how they decided to deploy it.
      There’s nothing wrong with G.Fast itself.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      John makes a fair point, although the extra cost and hassle of needing to maintain and power so many remote fibre-fed nodes (each node could only handle a small number of ports) did push up the cost of an FTTdp/rn style approach. Long-term if you’re going to do that then the extra cost of going to full FTTP suddenly doesn’t look like such a big leap.

    3. Jahbulon says:

      John, I agree it is better for fibre to the node/basement and then GFast to the flat from the basement etc. But here is my anecdotal GFast experience: I had 80mbit on VDSL2 which was about the top limit, so when GFast became available I thought well, I get 80mbit VDSL2 so I’m sure I’ll get good GFast with the broadband checker saying I’d get well over 150mbit.

      I ended up getting 60mbit, openreach/EE couldn’t fix it and I had it removed as it fell well short of EEs minimum speed guarantee. During the install it turned out that I had a line length of just over 260 metres and openreach/bt should never have offered it. They even quietly removed “Amber” status from the checker and it now just says “available”.

      I’m not sad to see UK ISPs stop selling GFast. I have a feeling my entire street is missing from an openreach FTTP deployment because we have GFast (I could be wrong, but all the streets that don’t have it say FTTP is in the planning stage, and every street that can get it says it’s not available and not planned, it can’t be coincidence? can it ? )

    4. John says:

      That’s not a problem with G.Fast itself but how OpenReach deployed it.

      As it has to co-exist with VDSL2 the lower tones aren’t used.
      This means many people will get less on G.Fast than they do on VDSL2.
      This is especially true for upstream, with a large percentage of those on G.Fast syncing lower on the upstream than they did on VDSL2.

      The “Amber” showing on the DSL checker was deliberate.
      Any property that was a “managed install” was “Amber”.
      As self install on G.Fast was only a trial for a long period it meant almost every G.Fast line showed as Amber instead of Available.

      As for G.Fast preventing FTTP, the evidence is very mixed on that.
      There are many properties with G.Fast being overbuilt with FTTP.
      In some areas they are overbuilding all G.Fast. in other areas they are only overbuilding low G.Fast estimates and leaving those with full G.Fast estimates out of the FTTP rollout.

      In much of Edinburgh they are overbuilding all the G.Fast making it redundant within a couple years of deployment.

      In the end of may delay some properties from getting FTTP but it won’t stop it forever.
      G.Fast will eventually need overbuilt with FTTP.

    5. John says:

      Indeed Mark, that’s why it was a bad choice of technology for OpenReach’s network topology, with existing VDSL2 throughout.

      They should have just gone with FTTP or of they really had to pick something else in-between, it should have been VDSL2 profile 35b.
      It could be deployed from the cabinet and co-exist with the existing profile 17a.

  3. Buggerlugz says:

    So BT’s G-fast lives up to its predecessor “superfast” then…….neither of which are actually “fast”.

    1. Carl Farrington says:

      I used to run a BBS system, and call lots of other BBSs. 33.6kbps.
      I used to think the £400 a month phone bills would be forever a hindrance. Hated BT with a passion for not giving internet freedom in those days while the Americans all had free local calls and local-area ISPs.
      This stuff now is rapid. All of it.
      I still have (some) office PCs on 100mbit fast ethernet.
      How things have changed. I’m very happy. Except when I get grief from a coffee shops that I support who can still only get 5-8mbps down and 1 meg up (adsl2) for the whole store’s customer WiFi, and cctv.
      The technologies are great, if you can get them. I’m rural now and I get 39/8 fttp. Gigaloch are bringing us a gig hopefully, if the farmers allow free passage under their land.

      One of my customers has g.fast, white labelled small telecoms reseller style, i.e. from the people who provide their phone system. They get 150mbps down as far as I can tell. Very impressive. Fee customers have 500/500 btnet leased lines that are wires-only renewals for ~200 a month. Five hundred megs, both ways.

  4. Martin Pitt - Aquiss says:

    We could have told them this in 2019…oh wait we did 😉

  5. Ben says:

    Hmm. This seems like a bit of a odd move. While we’d all like FTTP, the fact remains that the majority of the population can’t yet order it, and some of those people *can* order g.fast. I agree with everyone else that it’s not a perfect technology, but surely offering ultrafast broadband via g.fast is preferable to offering superfast broadband via VDSL?

  6. Marko says:

    I’m on G-fast, absolutely brilliant product since there is no FTTP in my area. I’m hitting always the contracted speed.

    1. Stephen Wakeman says:

      Same here. Installed end of 2019 and I get 310Mb downstream, 45Mb upstream and in that time I’ve had 1 instance of the service being down, due to an issue at the exchange, which lasted about 8hrs. I’m with Zen.

      I do understand the general negativity toward it, especially from those for whom it fails to live up to expectations and who then feel (and probably are) deprioritised for FTTP. But in those cases it seems odd that companies would stop selling the product if there is no faster alternative available to customers in that area.

  7. Sam says:

    Personally I think they should roll out Profile 35a

    1. adslmax says:

      No, it will never happen now or any future. Openreach aims to get FTTP roll out.

      My line was excellent on VDSL2 (within 250m) with getting 80/20 at all times (7 years) before left Plusnet to join UnchainedISP for TalkTalk Business G.fast 330/50 as my line seem ok for 210m away from the g.fast pod. Now using G.fast for the last 3 months with speed of range 200 to 237Meg with snr varies between 2.1dB and 3.9dB with upstream of 26 to 37Meg with snr varies between 2.9 and 3.3dB.

      BTw checker did say I would get G.fast between 172 to 230Meg down and between 14 to 34Meg up with VDSL2 stay on 74/19.

      I think the weather also in factor play into this as well. The hotter weather it get, it get less on G.fast but don’t know yet in this winter come along when it get colder.

      Here is latest stats as of now:

      DSLAM type / SW version: BDCM:0xc190 (193.144) / v0xc190
      Modem/router firmware: AnnexA version – A2pvfbH043q.d26u
      DSL mode: G
      Status: Showtime
      Uptime: 3 days 15 hours 25 min 42 sec
      Resyncs: 0 (since 31 Aug 2021 18:24:10)

      Downstream Upstream
      Line attenuation (dB): 38.8 0.0
      Signal attenuation (dB): 38.8 0.0
      Connection speed (kbps): 211107 33420
      SNR margin (dB): 3.1 2.9
      Power (dBm): 0.0 4.0
      Interleave depth:
      INP: 551.00 535.00
      G.INP: Not enabled Not enabled
      Vectoring status: Unknown

      Next year I will downgraded back to FTTC 80/20 because G.fast has become more expensive now. For future FTTP – yes I will take it but probably stick to lower price for FTTP 80/20.

    2. Lexx says:

      Likely they won’t take you off G.fast it just be set to 80/20 profile witch mean it’s super stable as you have 120mbs of headroom

  8. Buggerlugz says:

    Got to love how BT is even allowed to use the letter G in G-fast, knowing its never going to deliver gigabit speeds but the ASA and OFCOM are more than happy to let it slide.

    Then again, they’re good at pretending superfast is, so give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.

    1. bob says:

      The letter G in G.fast stands for the ITU-T G series of recommendations.

      The G saris of recommendations cover transmission systems and media, digital systems and networks.

      The G does not have anything to do with gigabit

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Yeah, complete co-incidence…..still, neither are fast.

    3. bob says:

      G.Fast is a DSL standard. It’s not some term made up my ISP marketing teams. Most ISP call there products something totally different.

    4. 125us says:

      G doesn’t stand for gigabit. It defines the standard as being one set by the ITU.

      What on earth would the ASA or Ofcom have to do with it?

  9. mrjohnzon says:

    pathetic just bring back dial up instead.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      I’m not saying that, I’m just saying it freekin irks me when ISP’s can sell products as “fast” when by today’s standards they are not that.

    2. Alec Reeves says:

      Everything ISPs do annoys you. It’s either too slow or too expensive, you don’t like what it’s called and you also suggest regularly that everyone who works in the industry is corrupt or lazy or stupid. You never make suggestions for improvement, just carp about what the businesses and people actually rolling this stuff out are doing.

      There has to be a shorthand to bunch the speed ranges together. You’ve haven’t suggested anything better than the government’s current definition.

    3. Alec Reeves says:

      Apologies. That was uncalled for. You’re entitled to your view.

  10. adslmax says:

    I hope other few more ISPs to stop selling G.fast eg: BT, EE, TalkTalk, Sky, Pulse8, UnchainedISP, Freeola etc – so, it will put more pressure at Openreach to push further FTTP.

    I think the peoples including me are to suffer that FTTP at the lowest priority list for a very long time because of G.fast there.

    1. Ben says:

      Bit of a strange comment given you buy g.fast from UnchainedISP. Perhaps vote with your feet before pulling the rug out from under everyone else?

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  12. Paul says:

    Gfast is likely to be the only way to get faster, am on ADSL to the cab almost 80/20, but I live in a tower block and there’s no chance of ftp 🙁

  13. Chris C says:

    Sadly Openreach didn’t deploy the technology as it was designed to be deployed, it was meant to be an intermediate between FTTC and FTTP, so node is closer to home than the cabinet, but not all the way to the home.
    Ironically I predicted they would attempt from cabinets, as I expect the urge to do it on the cheap was just too great, they obviously then realised that was inadequate and it seems decided the business case for g.fast closer to the home didnt save enough money over a FTTP rollout and hence opted for FTTP instead, probably the better decision.

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