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CityFibre Upgrade UK Network to 10Gbps Full Fibre Broadband UPDATE

Monday, Jul 25th, 2022 (10:22 am) - Score 16,480
CityFibre ODF in Fibre Exchange

Network builder CityFibre has today announced that they will begin upgrading their national UK GPON based full fibre broadband ISP network to harness XGS-PON technology from April 2023, which will enable them to offer symmetrical download and upload speeds of up to 10Gbps – Gigabits per second (9.953Gbps to be exact).

Just to recap. CityFibre is currently investing £4.9bn to cover up to 8 million premises – across around 285 cities, towns and villages (c.30% of the UK) – with their network by the end of 2025 (here). The operator also already covered 1.7 million UK premises – with 1.5m ‘Ready For Service‘ via a supporting ISP (here).

NOTE: Cityfibre is supported by various ISPs, such as Vodafone (Gigafast Broadband), TalkTalk (Future Fibre), Zen Internet, Giganet, iDNET and others, but they aren’t all live or available in every location.. yet.

However, despite the fact that they already advertise symmetric speeds of “up to” 1Gbps to homes and businesses via their ISPs, the network itself is still based off Calix’s GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) technology and this invariably places some constraints on how much capacity can actually be delivered to each end user (i.e. GPON shares capacity of 2.48Gbps downstream and 1.24Gbps upstream between 8 to 32 users).


One way around this is to upgrade the hardware at the end of the fibre cable to kit that supports the new XGS-PON standard, which CityFibre has chosen to do with the support of Nokia and Calix. This will enable the operator to support more customers on each port of their Optical Line Terminals (OLT) and to keep pace with rivals that are already building XGS-PON, which in turn means the potential for symmetric speeds of up to 10Gbps.

CityFibre also expects to benefit from “substantial network cost savings, reducing power use across its networks and improving the efficiency of its future network expansion“. A smooth upgrade path from GPON to XGS-PON has already “been proven” through the successful completion of a whole-city upgrade pilot in York. The York upgrade was undertaken in partnership with Calix, LambdaNetworks and Splice Group.

The pilot project’s purpose was to evaluate and address all the technical, process and customer experience challenges of upgrading the live network. “The first customers have now been connected to the new platform with near perfect optical testing results,” said the operator. The successful pilot, we’re told, will enable CityFibre to work with its ISP partners to “upgrade end-customer ONTs in phases going forward, thereby minimising any network upgrade related service experience impacts“.

John Franklin, CTIO of CityFibre, said:

“CityFibre is committed to building a Full Fibre network that is Better By Design, providing our partners and their customers with the fastest and most reliable services at the best value. By partnering with Calix and Nokia we now have two trusted and market-leading technology vendors underpinning a nationwide 10Gbps XGS-PON technology deployment programme.

Our parallel deployment of a high-capacity national backbone to carry virtually unlimited traffic alongside this XGS-PON deployment programme will deliver a highly efficient and adaptable network for the future. This in turn will enable our ISP partners to offer a differentiated range of services in full confidence that speed and service quality can be maintained as consumer and business bandwidth demand continues to rise.”

We’re currently trying to confirm precisely which approach CityFibre will be taking with their ONT upgrades (that’s the wall hung optical modem that gets installed inside your home), as there are different ways that such changes can be handled. But an engineer may need to enter your home in order to perform the physical device swap.


However, on the whole, this is a good development, and it’s much wiser to make this change now than to worry about having to do it across an even larger network much further down the line. Major operators like Openreach will have to follow suit at some point, and it could be much more tedious for them, given how far they’ve already built.

Many of the smaller alternative networks (AltNets), which started building over the past 2 years, have already wisely opted to deploy XGS-PON from scratch.

UPDATE 2:48pm

In relation to this, Nokia has today announced a 10-year XGS-PON broadband equipment agreement with CityFibre, including access nodes for its nationwide network of purpose-built Fibre Exchanges, fibre modems for customer homes and IP aggregation switches. Shipments will begin in Q4 2022.


Included in the deal:

We’ve also got a bit more detail on CityFibre’s approach to end-user upgrades. The operator says they’re focused on a solution that uses “co-existence elements to support parallel running of GPON & XGSPON systems“, as well as developing an inter vendor GPON/XGSPON ‘combo’ port solution.

Both solutions are based on our initial work in York, ongoing R&D with our technology partners, and vital feedback from our ISP partners on the best experience for their customers. Our priority is to manage the migration in collaboration with our ISP partners, either through specific requests to upgrade services over time or to an agreed schedule ahead of equipment end of life,” said a CityFibre spokesperson to ISPreview.co.uk.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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30 Responses
    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Not really a suprise, York used Huawei GPON gear instead of the Calix gear CityFibre used later on. It was expected that they would change it at some point.

    2. Avatar photo Anon says:

      @joshe – That link doesn’t say York uses Nokia kit?

  1. Avatar photo steve says:

    I live in Plymouth where allegedly CityFibre are installing fibre, no idea if anything has been installed in any customers connected as CityFibre dont seem to provide any infomation or updates about anything

    1. Avatar photo Rich says:

      They release sections as they finish them.

      Check here: https://bidb.uk/

    2. Avatar photo PW says:

      The first installs are starting in Plymouth this week. Worth checking back with your ISP and seeing if they will prioritise you. There is normally an initial smaller volume before the books are opened fully.

  2. Avatar photo Sam says:

    Overkill.. just focus on 1 gig lines..

    1. Avatar photo Le Chief says:

      I don’t need it / can’t justify it therefore NOBODY needs it.

    2. Avatar photo dee.jay says:

      You don’t need it *yet*

      One day you will. Better we future proof for it now.

    3. Avatar photo MikeyMole says:

      Oh come on that’s been said at EVERY step forward for speeds.

      “not needed!”.

      It will be. Additionally you didn’t read the article – it’s not just about giving customers potential for 10gbps – it’s about getting the existing customers on 1gbps lines more stable speeds by increasing bandwidth on the ISP side.

    4. Avatar photo Mark says:

      I remember being told 1Mbit was overkill, there is no point in building out an inferior network just to have to spend more to upgrade it again.

      Leave that for ooenreach who wasted all that money doing fibre to the cabinet just to have to spend loads more to upgrade it all again.

    5. Avatar photo Gordon says:

      I remember trying to sell 500mb broadband in the days of “my dial up is fine, I don’t download music.”

  3. Avatar photo Mark says:

    They’re not saying they are selling 10G. XGS enables 10G of SHARED bandwidth, so you could have 10 customers all using their 1G service at max capacity, whereas GPON would only allow that for 2 1G customers. Crude analogy but you get the idea.

    1. Avatar photo Aled says:

      I suppose the old design could support 32x simultaneous customer connections at a minimum download of ~ 75 meg download speeds.

      I wonder what the likelihood of 32x simultaneous large downloads is?

      Still, always good to see an upgrade. I am a bit confused how the maths works, cause I thought XPSON also supported more users.

    2. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      My understansing is Openreach trialled XGS-PON and 25G PON last year, to test its compatibility when utilising the same Fibre as GPON. Very few users require XGS-PON, or 25G PON, but BT/Openreach can add it as required in the future, without interfering with existing GPON customers.
      It’s likely that CityFibre are currently benefiting from the Nokia and BT joint trials, carried out at Adastral Park.

    3. Avatar photo Anon says:

      @Ex Telecom Engineer – Actually no, Cityfibre have already done this with multi-vendor setups in York (i.e. different vendors for GPON and XGS-PON). It’s completely independent of others such as Nokia and Openreach. My understand is that Openreach only use Nokia in production.

    4. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      “Actually no, Cityfibre have already done this with multi-vendor setups in York (i.e. different vendors for GPON and XGS-PON)”

      The article states “Nokia has today announced a 10-year XGS-PON broadband equipment agreement with CityFibre”, so it stands to reason Nokia will use knowledge gained from it’s joint trials at Adastral Park last year.

      “My understand is that Openreach only use Nokia in production”

      I’m not sure what you mean by only using them in production, I can only assume you mean they’re purchasing the kit and installing it themselves, rather than contracting Nokia to do the install’s. I have no idea what the differences are between the CityFibre and Openreach Nokia contracts.

    5. Avatar photo An Engineer says:

      ‘It’s likely that CityFibre are currently benefiting from the Nokia and BT joint trials, carried out at Adastral Park.’

      There were millions of premises passed with both when Openreach were conducting the trials with Nokia last year – Singtel and others have been selling XGSPON on the Singapore NGNBN, a network already running GPON, since 2016.

      In places that’ve had FTTP a while networks have run BPON and GPON simultaneously, with BPON being phased out, and from there XGSPON being introduced overlaying GPON. It’s really not a massive deal technically and certainly nothing to do with either Openreach’s 25G or XGPON trials that happened to co-exist with other standards.

  4. Avatar photo Harmeet says:

    For those that wanted to know:

    The ONT is a Nokia XS-010X-Q ONT, which supports auto-negotiation with a 1 x LAN 100M/1G/2.5G/5G/10G Base-T interface with an RJ-45 connector

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      For those wanting pictures nbi (national broadband ireland) and ziply fibre (only for their multi gig services) also use it.

    2. Avatar photo - says:

      They surely will want to standardise on the Nokia XS-010G-Q when they come to mass roll out, which is a good chunk cheaper and offers a 1/2.5G UNI. In volume that extra cost will really add up, and 2.5G is going to be the best bet over copper for a while.

  5. Avatar photo Jack says:

    I think I speak for quite a few people here in that I would be over the moon with 1gb!

  6. Avatar photo An Engineer says:

    I hope this means they’ve either stopped or will imminently stop the install of GPON in new sites. Be crazy to light many new PONs with GPON now.

  7. Avatar photo Phillip Gwynne says:

    I’d be happy just for BT to get off their tight and lazy asses and least put the outdated upto 40, err nope 38, no let’s being realistic 36mbps FTTC in our small 3,300 (albeit increasing every three/four years) properties village with only seven public houses, just a small secondary school of 1,400 pupils, small industrial estate. BT really are a joke, a lot of the ISP’s that use openreach are now advertising the FTTP speeds upto 900mbps rather than 1GBPS. Even Virgin can top 1 gig without full fibre and a lot of their cabinets have a hell a lot of customers using them as BT cannot provide anything capable for watching Netflix, or YouTube without buffering. To people saying they don’t need 10Gig. What happens in a few years time, when you change your TV to an ultra HD one of you haven’t already but then realise you want to watch things a n ultra hd and don’t want to go to a shop and buy a Blu-ray ultra hd disc (assuming discs will be around
    Much longer), but now your watching Netflix, your kids are upset because they’re suffering lagging when trying play online games, or they have to leave their console on overnight to download the latest game as new consoles are download only. I had to leave my
    Pc on for two nights to download a game and this was four years ago! I now have to use the 4G on my phone to try and speed up downloading just software/Windows updates as it can either be 2-3 hrs sometimes, or if the 4G is performing well, 20-30 mins. And obviously leaving a PC on all night is wasting electricity. I assume you who say this drive the most basic, cheapest, lowest performing car?

    1. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      “BT are a joke” because they’ve not got to your village yet, even though nationally they’re – by a very very large margin – the biggest FTTP operator in the country?

      Virgin have the benefit that their much newer legacy network is capable of higher headline speeds than BT’s 100 year old legacy network, but it’s not all smiles and sunshine as it’s an hilariously asymmetric service & oversubscription is rife

    2. Avatar photo An Engineer says:

      You know the article is about CityFibre upgrading their platform and in no way related to Openreach or full fibre availability, right?

      Not prioritising your village over the remaining 22 million premises Openreach have to cover neither makes them tight or lazy.

      Given you consider it superior as it’s ‘real’ gigabit I’m surprised you aren’t upset that Virgin Media haven’t seen fit to build to you either. You’re as entitled to their service as you are full fibre from Openreach.

      Given the article is about CityFibre how come they haven’t built to your village? Is it only Openreach that should feel obligated?

      The school will have a dedicated line. The industrial estate a combination of dedicated lines and broadband depending on needs.

    3. Avatar photo Kenneth says:

      ‘BT cannot provide anything capable for watching Netflix, or YouTube without buffering’. Actually I have BT 900 and my netflix never buffers even when 3 people are watching at the same time. Youtube never buffers and plays perfectly at 4k. The reason why BT only advertise 900meg is that most network equipment cant support more than that via cables.

  8. Avatar photo Bilal says:

    Openreach in the mud

  9. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    I bet 10GB/s over CityFibre will be cheaper than 500MB/s over Openreach. This is how they will beat Equinox…

Comments are closed

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