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Openreach UK Preparing to Launch Ethernet Access Direct 2.0

Monday, Sep 18th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 23,024

Network access provider Openreach (BT) are gearing up to launch a new high-speed Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) v2.0 product for businesses and UK ISPs in the future – estimated for early FY25/26 (i.e. the current details are highly tentative), which will introduce various improvements and new data speed profiles.

The EAD product is perhaps one of Openreach’s most familiar Ethernet services and provides point-to-point data connectivity between sites. The service can be used to build and extend customer networks, develop new infrastructure, and meet network backhaul (capacity) requirements up to 10Gbps. EAD is not a totally static product and has evolved a bit over the years, but EAD 2.0 looks set to go much further.

NOTE: c. 90% of Ethernet served premises in the UK are currently within a 10km route distance from an Openreach Handover Point (OHP) exchange, of which there are c. 1,000. These OHPs also provide nationwide coverage of modern “fibre broadband” services (FTTC, FTTP and G.fast).

The new EAD 2.0 product is expected to support new intermediary speed tiers (e.g. 2Gbps, 3Gbps) – all supporting the common Ethernet standards (IEEE 802.3) for a dedicated and uncontended leased line, as well as the ability to remotely upgrade bandwidths (assuming ISPs have the right optical bits and bobs installed).

Rather than adopting an active device (e.g. Openreach’s Active NTE) that uses power, EAD 2.0 looks as if it will seek to adopt a passive demarcation device with an inbuilt reflector that Openreach can test. Port costs, as well as space and power costs, should also be cut because ISPs won’t need to house headend kit in their Access Locate (PoP) space. Instead, a new multi-fibre Cablelink service will be offered to allow providers and their Ethernet switches to connect multiple EAD 2.0 services to a single provider’s port over VLAN.

Greater resilience is also expected because they’ll be allowing an end user site to be connected normally to its 2nd nearest OHP for route diversity (EAD and EAD 2.0 can be used together to support resilience). However, provision and repair times don’t look set to change much vs the original product, although some areas may deliver superior performance.

An Openreach spokesperson told ISPreview:

“We’re actively exploring a next generation Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) dedicated leased line product. This would be served directly from our fibre based exchange Handover Points to better enable bandwidths of 1Gb and above but with a smaller, more sustainable, space and power footprint for our Communication Provider (CP) customers, and handing over in fewer exchanges. We’re currently in active discussions with CPs to shape the final product design.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that the original EAD products won’t vanish once EAD 2.0 launches. Both will be available side-by-side, although Openreach hopes that the original product(s) may eventually be replaced over the longer-term, but not until EAD 2.0’s coverage and capabilities result in providers moving away from it.

Speaking of coverage, it sounds like Openreach will initially aim to deploy EAD 2.0 across up to 400 OHP exchanges (covering up to 50% of all EAD served today), albeit eventually rising to almost UK-wide coverage. Pricing details have yet to be confirmed, but existing EAD costs are probably a fair indication, although the aim is apparently for EAD 2.0 to support a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

One other important point to make is that EAD 2.0 is expected to benefit from the Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) rollout, which should ultimately result in future Ethernet deployments attracting fewer Excess Construction Charges (ECC) – they’ll use the same fibre spines for Passive Optical Networks (PON) and Ethernet.

Crucially, the final design for EAD 2.0 is still being decided, so it’s entirely possible that some of these details may change before launch. We’re expecting to get a better idea of what the final product design may look like toward the end of this year.

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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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14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Anon says:

    I am right in suspecting that this is an attempt to keep alive the ludicrous price/profit previously available to Openreach through “leased lines”? Always a great way of fleecing businesses, they’ll not give that up easily.

    1. Avatar photo Name says:

      doubt it

    2. Avatar photo Ex Telecom Engineer says:

      The price of the service would likely be determined by the SLA’s offered with the service, fast repair times and diversity will all cost more than a standard FTTP connection.
      There’d be nothing stopping BT using the same fibres as the GPON service’s, as long as they use different wavelengths than GPON, possibly at reduced prices for customers who aren’t bothered by the security deficiencies of using a shared fibre.

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      From what I can tell EAD 2.0 uses FTTP fibres but on alternate wavelengths. Looks like the way of interfacing is the standard OLT+ cable links + VLANs but with P2P linecards instead of GPON. I wouldn’t be suprised if this was reusing the P2P links used for FTTC cabinets in FTTP priority areas.

      Overall looks like a good product, not a perfect replacement of EAD (if I wanted to connect two sites its more complicated than EAD which is just a P2P ethernet link) but I’d expect the vast majority of EAD lines to be connecting to the CPs switch anyway.

      Should be popular with CPs, will be interesting what the SLA options are and how much Openreach will charge. Id expect much cheaper than EAD 1 as they’ll want those fibres available for new developments.

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Believe GPON and PtP won’t ride on the same fibres. CBT port rather than going back to a splitter going back to a dedicated fibre on the same spine as FTTP rather than being an entirely separate cable. That was the original plan a while back anyway.

      Cablelink is just a fibre cable link, doesn’t have to be anything to do with GEA or OLTs. There a source for this info please, Alex?

    5. Avatar photo 125us says:

      Plenty of businesses need leased lines. There’s lots of traffic that should go nowhere near the Internet, ever.

    6. Avatar photo Facts says:

      @125us – All these technologies are last mile access. In that sense “FTTP” is no more Internet than EAD

    7. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @XGS Only this article, I do not not for Openreach or any of their CPs and there is no other public information online AFAIK. Everything I say is my own speculation.

      Openreach have been using CBT ports for a while on EAD installs, though it depends on the install. As you said it’s a dedicated fibre spliced to the CBT at the splitter node. It’s not clear whether they will use FTTP fibres or their own but Openreach have built WDM splitters in their network and would want to use their network fully so I’d expect the former.

      By cablelink I meant GEA cablelink, Openreach of course have other cablelink products, apologies for the confusion.

      The article says that equipment presence in the exchange wouldn’t be needed suggesting that either it can be combined with one if Openreach’s inter-exchange connection products or it’ll go through an OLT (like GEA), only requiring a fibre to the OLT.

      The article also mentions the lines being presented as a single port and using VLANs, suggesting it will be similar to GEA.

      I wouldn’t be suprised if the product ends up being more a “uncontented GEA” product rather than a leased line.

      @125us Openreach only connects the line to the uplinks via VLANs, if the uplinks don’t connect to the Internet then no issue? The original EAD product would remain as well.

    8. Avatar photo XGS says:


      Alex, the EADs use single fibres for services up to 10G. 10GBase-BX over single mode fibre. This would have a wavelength clash with XGSPON. 10GBase-BX uses 1330nm and 1270nm, XGSPON uses 1557nm downstream, 1270nm upstream. Openreach make limited use of XGSPON in some business parks, the same kind that’d be more inclined to purchase EADs and obviously it’d limit their options in future. I think we can all agree that the odds of Openreach jumping straight to 25GPON from GPON are low to almost-zero.

      The WDM you’re talking about is a co-existence element. It’s there to allow introduction of another PON standard on top of GPON and isn’t smart, it’s a port to combine the new input and a filter only allowing GPON on the GPON port.

      On the other part I think they’re referring to Openreach terminating the circuits at layer 2 and delivering them rather than Openreach running the circuits at basically layer 1 and handing them off a fibre at a time, 1 in and 1 out to the CP. The CP still needs a switch at the OHP but can handle both multiple EADs on a single fibre and take a layer 2 connection to Openreach. They don’t need a port for each and every EAD incoming to them, usually handled by having a switch port for every EAD, placing them onto VLANs themselves and transporting them to a router to be presented to it on sub-interfaces.

      It’s closer to GEA for sure. I imagine Openreach will, given they’re presenting everything as VLANs and not terminating anything, be using switches rather than OLTs for this task. Using OLTs as pure switches is a tad more expensive per port than just using switches however, of course, they may only want one type of chassis in the OHPs. Using ECI and Huawei OLTs is out of the question, the Nokia and Adtran kit it depends whether they’re using edge routers with OLT cards or dedicated OLTs. I’ve no idea which they’re using though I’d imagine edge routers with PON cards and I guess we’ll see!

    9. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      @XGS alternative frequency SFP/SFP+ modules are already common, FS.com has a large variety of them under Optical Transmission. I’m not aware of any Openreach XGS PON kit in the wild yet. You’re right that the WDM co-existence modules are primarily to allow future PON technologies but you can run any optical signal over them. I’m aware the filter isn’t smart and just combines/splits wavelengths.

      Side note this is unrelated to WDM-PON / NGPON2 technology, I’m only talking about the co-existence modules Openreach uses.

      On the Nokia side Openreach are using the FX 16 OLTs, Huawei is MA5800 or MA5600 depending on age and ECI is far too legacy to have many new developments. All of these are OLTs used as L2 switches by Openreach.

      For Adtran Openreach uses their SDX 6020-48 GPON OLTs which each have dual 100gig links back to an aggregation switch. You can see an Adtran setup here (https://youtu.be/xlyuR2bRCZg?t=14).

      Whether they use normal switches or OLTs I’d expect to depend on how integrated it is with GEA. Openreach could have it as an uncontended GEA product or have separate EADv2 uplink cablelinks.

      Worth noting that separate OLTs require separate GEA uplinks. It was less of an issue under FTTC when exchanges might have had 1 Huawei and 1 ECI OLT but now most exchanges have several OLTs.

  2. Avatar photo Pheasant says:

    @Alex A

    I had an EAD installed in Suffolk earlier this year and it used the fibre spine from the AgNode up the splitter node that also feeds my FTTP service (I actually paid for all that as part of a FoD install in 2018 – so thankfully I had no ECCs for the new service even though this is rural and the fibre distance back to the handover exchange was longer than a standard EAD).

    The serving CBT however is not used for the EAD connection. It runs from a separate Prysmian enclose on the same pole as the CBT.

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      EAD installs seem far more flexible, with the choice being up to the surveyor. They are meant to be from the aggregation node but from the splitter node either via a CBT port or a normal fibre bundle is common as well.

  3. Avatar photo Daminous says:

    And you can bet the farm it’ll be cheap rubbish, and you’ll be charged extortionate prices for it.
    It’ll be the same as the lies about the digital switch over, and full fibre, yet everyone isn’t getting the full FTTP, and BT, Openreach is using the telegraph poles to people’s houses.

    Sorry but fibre to the house is not fibre to the cabinet, then copper to your house via a pole. MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE FINDING OUT THE BIG SWITCH OVER IS A JOKE.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      You okay, bro?

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