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Adtran Hints at Openreach’s UK Plan for 10Gbps Broadband UPDATE

Tuesday, Dec 12th, 2023 (11:00 am) - Score 9,200
ADTRAN-SDX-6330-FTTP-Combo-PON

The EMEA CTO of network technology firm Adtran, Ronan Kelly, has today done an interesting video interview with Richard Tang, CEO of UK broadband ISP Zen Internet, which reveals a little bit more about Openreach’s future plan to upgrade their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network with 10Gbps capable XGS-PON.

Just to recap. ADTRAN are one of Openreach’s strategic suppliers, alongside the likes of Nokia (and formerly Huawei and ECI), for their full fibre broadband network. The operator’s UK FTTP network currently remains dominated by their use of a Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON), which places limitations on how fast they can go before capacity becomes an issue. GPON supports a capacity on each trunk line of up to 2.5Gbps downstream and 1.24Gbps upstream, which needs to be shared between several premises.

NOTE: Openreach are currently trialling download speeds of up to 1.8Gbps via GPON on FTTP broadband lines, while uploads remain limited to 120Mbps for homes and 220Mbps for businesses (here). This is about the limit of what they can squeeze out of the current GPON setup.

At the same time, many of their competitors are already busy deploying 10Gbps capable XGS-PON technology (the ‘X’ stands for 10, the ‘G’ for Gigabits’ and the ‘S’ for symmetric speed), which is a significantly faster, more cost-effective and power efficient technology. Openreach has also conducted various trials of this technology over the years (example) – usually focused on business lines, yet a clear upgrade plan has yet to surface.

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None of this is surprising because Openreach, as a huge operator with a lot of legacy systems and services, has to extensively test any significant upgrades and even small changes – often touching millions of properties – can have a big cost impact. Naturally, they tend to prefer solutions that don’t require major changes to what is already installed in homes, although until recently the options for solving this were more limited. But the interview suggests they have now settled on a solution.

According to Adtran’s Ronan Kelly (see interview), Openreach are adopting their ComboPON approach, which would make it much easier for them to upgrade without needing to change all of the existing optical modems (ONTs) inside homes that they’ve deployed via GPON (e.g. they can use either GPON or XGS-PON based ONTs, whatever the situation requires). Openreach has hinted at this before, but they’ve often been vague about it.

Ronan Kelly said:

“What [Openreach are] looking at is what we call within Adtran, Combo PON technology. Now this is not a new technology, per se, it’s basically a miniaturisation, if you will, where in the optical component, what we call the transceiver, that connects on to the fibre networks, we’ve been able to pack in both GPON and XGS-PON components in to that single optical component, including the optical combiner that sits within that component.

So now, very cost effectively, operators like Openreach and many of the AltNets that are using the same Combo PON technology can deliver both GPON and XGS-PON at the exact same time across those individual fibre strands … they’ve been quite astute in the migration path that they’ve selected.”

In querying this further, Adtran confirmed to ISPreview that the setup (specifically SDX-6330 – as pictured and released at the start of 2023) will give operators a clean upgrade path from pure GPON to ComboPON (GPON + XGSPON out of the same transceiver port at the same time, in a non-blocking fashion, onto the existing single strand of fibre), representing a power efficient way to deploy both technologies on the same fibre network.

The SDX-6330 is Adtran’s third generation of open and disaggregated OLT devices, which supports 48 ports of Combo PON capability and potentially up to as many as 6,000 subscribers in a reasonably small 2.5RU form factor. The OLT offers two 400G, two 100G, and two 10/25G uplink interfaces with embedded redundancy options. As Ronan says, some AltNets are already using this.

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We also asked whether this approach would work across ONTs from different vendors within the same network. Adtran said their SDX Open Disaggregated Optical Line Terminals (OLT) has already completed interoperability with ONT variants from all the popular vendors. But for each operator seeking to mix vendors, their specific ONT models, firmware varieties, and their specific service constructs must be verified and tested before such mixing can be guaranteed.

Naturally, Adtran wouldn’t comment on Openreach’s own specific rollout plan and timescale, or whether they would mix their estates or split vendors by geography, as that is for Openreach to say. We have put all of this to Openreach too and are awaiting their response. As we’ve said above, none of this is too surprising, but it’s nice to finally get some specifics and confirmation.

You can check out Richard’s interview series here and we’ll paste the video below once it’s live.

NOTE: Openreach are investing up to £15bn to reach 25 million premises (80%+ of the UK) by December 2026 and 6.2m of those being targeted are in rural and semi-rural areas (here). But they also hold an aspiration to reach up to 30m premises by 2030.

UPDATE 11:10am

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Openreach has informed us that they also have Combo cards from Nokia within their FTTP network, which is much as we would have expected. In terms of the geography of their estate, they usually choose the vendor on per headend basis and many exchanges already have a mix of OLT vendors. But for the future XGS uplift, they will move to Combo hardware, so the GPON and XGS-PON would be the same vendor on a given PON.

In terms of interworking, they already have interworking between the ONT and headends and fully expect to have it on XGS too. But there’s still no update on when we might see XGS based products.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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31 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Chris says:

    Great to see ADTran delivering useful kit for isp’s to provide service.

    A true shame that uk government let Marconi go bust in favour of awarding 21cn contracts to Huawei

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marconi_Communications
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BT_21CN#Suppliers

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      “let Marconi go bust”

      I mean not really. BT can buy from whoever they want, that’s the point. If they go bankrupt because they don’t win business then that’s on the business.

      I’m assuming complacency at the tendering process, and they seemingly had a JV with Huawei already, so could have bid for the work as part of the JV rather than independently. It looks like they were already screwed, and were banking on work coming from BT to “save them” – e.g. milk BT to ensure that they were no longer struggling.

      I don’t see a problem in allowing a business in that position to die.

    2. Avatar photo Chris says:

      BT was heavily reliant on Marconi kit at the time, it was in every BT on prem deployment I had ever seen. It was a given that every new circuit (frame relay, mpls etc) was delivered over a Marconi ntu

      Kit like in this pic was ubiquitous
      https://www.rainsbrook.co.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=telecoms:oms840

      at the time, BT not using Marconi in 21cn was akin to a pub not stocking any alcohol. Marconi had also bet everything on being a major contributor to 21cn especially as there was talk of Huawei being sidelined due to security concerns. Huawei cosying up with Marconi was seen as a way for them to get a foot in the door.

      Now of course uk government has asked telcos to remove Huawei systems from their networks.

    3. Avatar photo Robert says:

      @Matt – perhaps. But there’s no denying Huawei received significant support from the Chinese government as a way to spread Chinese influence around the world. That allowed them to massively undercut competition in order to establish a foothold.
      It is a shame the UK government, and yes, also UK company directors at places like BT, have never felt a much loyalty to the many UK innovative, world leading companies that made this nation great. We’re suffering now as a result of attitudes like yours.
      There’s a reason every Taxi in Germany is a Mercedes, and a reason EDF are a global leader in Nuclear.
      Equally, the succesful UK defence sector pretty much only exists because the government has kept it alive over the years.

  2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    STOP PRESS! Rumours abound that BT MAY finally upgrade to XGS-PON, years after the party started with ALTNETS.

    Won’t mean much to consumer, just a story trying to make BT look relevant. Pretty sure once its deployed, BT will continue their knee capping of upstream – i.e. don’t expect BT to go symmetric. It’s just not BT to offer anything than minimum they can get away with.

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      Considering their size and how long they have been around you would have thought they would be up there in the world of tech, but that is BT for you, charge huge amounts for old tech, after all we had it for years with FTTC.

      Not saying that we all need super-duper high speed Fibre connection, but if BT had moved their behind years ago instead of putting a hybrid Fibre system in place, things could have been different.
      But maybe it is a good thing as it have given alt networks the chance to get going.

      this is the U.K for you, years behind over countries.

    2. Avatar photo Ben says:

      But… do 95%+ of end users care about GPON or XGS-PON? Very few users will be taking 900Mb/s+ packages, and out of those very few will be running into GPON’s 2.5Gb/s per PON limitation.

      Don’t get me wrong, one day it’ll become a very necessary upgrade, but from an economic perspective it probably makes sense for Openreach to stick with GPON until XGS-PON is required. XGS-PON is much more expensive than GPON!

    3. Avatar photo NE555 says:

      “Pretty sure once its deployed, BT will continue their knee capping of upstream”

      Very likely. Technology and product marketing are two different things.

      If they lose a few customers to altnets (particularly the ones who are the high bandwidth users) they won’t lose any sleep over it.

      In any case, some of those altnets deploying XGS-PON are using it with 1:128 splits, just as a way to save some cost at the headend rather than providing high bandwidth services which very few consumers want.

    4. Avatar photo Sydney Ross says:

      @Ad47uk

      The irony of your comment, you went kicking and screaming when you moved off of FTTC

  3. Avatar photo Jonny says:

    Interestingly this seems to suggest that Openreach are going to do XGSPON on a 1:32 (1:30 used) split, unless there is a way of doing different split ratios for XGSPON and GPON wavelengths.

    1. Avatar photo Ben says:

      I think it makes sense. Openreach can deploy PON everywhere on a 1:32ish split. They can then sell “standard broadband” with GPON, “professional broadband” with XGS-PON (which might feature, e.g., dedicated capacity at the PON and / or symmetrical speeds), and then leased lines as they are today.

    2. Avatar photo Simon Farnsworth says:

      I would expect Openreach to do what the ITU recommend for PONs, and deploy multiple parallel technologies; they have GPON and XGS-PON available on each 1:30 split, and if you take “slow” services (like 80/20 FTTP), you get provisioned on GPON, while if you take “fast” services (like 4G/2G FTTP), you get provisioned on XGS-PON.

      In time, HS-PON includes a convergence layer that Openreach could use to “merge” GPON and XGS-PON on a single fibre – or even merge GPON, XGS-PON and 50G-PON into a single layer for fast users.

    3. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Openreach’s cautious 1:32 has more to do with light levels, every time the signal is split it has some loss. Capacity wise Openreach would probably run XGS PON at 1:256 but the light levels would only be good for short distances around the exchange.

    4. Avatar photo Dassa says:

      That is exactly what the Adtran kit is capable of – it effectively integrates two OLTs at on the same fibre, one for GPON and one for XGS-PON. The two OLTs are logically separate, they just share the same single fibre. Subscribers are either provisioned on the G- or XGS- PONS as appropriate and will have an appropriate ONT fitted at their premises.

      Eventually when the next generation of PON comes along, either we will see OLTs integrating three separate PONS over the same fibre or GPON will be dropped with the remaining users being upgraded to the (by then) “slow” XGS-PON.

    5. Avatar photo Ben says:

      I think triple-PON OLTs will become standard — with the “legacy” standard, the “current” standard, and the “future” standard all on the same OLT. It seems clear that the first iteration of this will be GPON / XGS-PON / 50G-PON — perhaps with Openreach using 50G-PON as a compromised (but cheaper!) alternative to their leased lines.

    6. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Took years for XGSPON transceivers to be miniaturised enough for combo ports to become a thing. Can’t see the initial 50GPON hardware being combo ports with two other transceivers in the one module much as 25GPON isn’t.

  4. Avatar photo Paul says:

    Sod 10Gbps. I would settle for 0.1Gbps, but I can’t even get that, since OpenReach pretty much flat out told me they could not be bothered to roll out fibre to my street.

    1. Avatar photo Sam P says:

      Starlink

  5. Avatar photo yeehaa says:

    For a moment I thought that was Shay Given being interviewed by Richard Tang!

  6. Avatar photo Christopher Corker says:

    Virgin laid their cables on our road a few years ago.
    Can Openreach piggyback on these or will they have lay their own cables.

    1. Avatar photo The witcher says:

      They will have to put their own cables in their own ducts

    2. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

      They can’t Virgin Media own there network

  7. Avatar photo Alex A says:

    Don’t expect it soon, Openreach is currently using the SDX 6020-48 which is GPON only, and would require a swap out to the SDX 6330-48 for XGS PON. For Nokia, it’s a swap out of the line card and transceivers.

    Before people complain about Openreach – they’ve been using Adtran since 2020 and this XGS PON OLT has only been released this year. While they did offer XGS PON OLTs under their SDX line they are only 16 ports as opposed to 48 ports so much lower density.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      They could make ready and upgrade individual optics / add the XGSPON wavelength from another chassis as required.

      Need to change ONU anyway so there’s not going to be any expectation of an instant install from their customers.

      They’ll be wanting more use from their GPON-only kit if they can at all get it, and they have coexistence elements ready to combine wavelengths from different OLT ports. At some point they’ll be migrating users to new chassis but no rush if they can help it.

  8. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

    This is absolutely amazing news I mean I am happy with 900/110 full optic broadband. But 900/900 is absolutely TrueFibre. The future is symmetric time to move away from Asymmetric broadband. This was old technology meant for ADSL/ADSL+2 FTTC/VDSL2

  9. Avatar photo TrueFibre says:

    I understand I will need wait 5 or more years yet

  10. Avatar photo You user says:

    Meanwhile the likes of you fibre give me 2gb/2gb with a free static ip for £49 a month…. openreach won’t change for years..

  11. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    If this is correct it makes you wonder why Openreach is wasting time and money with 1.6 and 1.8 GPON if they intend to go to XGS-PON anyway. 900 ought to be enough for most people for now. They do seem quite good at wasting money on half measures (eg G.Fast) rather than biting the bullet in the first place.

    1. Avatar photo Billy says:

      Openreach are neither nimble or agile.

    2. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      It made sense for Openreach to deploy GPON as it was cheaper and proven compared to XGS-PON. Now, when looking to gradually migrate from GPON to XGS-PON, Openreach can replace the SFP+ module with Adtran’s combo PON on the same OLT port and upgrade the users who need greater bandwidth with XGS-PON ONTs.

  12. Avatar photo Kris Lord says:

    It’s interesting to see this combined tech. I had assumed openreach would end up running pretty much two distinct systems, one with gpon and one with xgs.

    I don’t think the complaints are fair – investing in infrastructure costs a lot and it’s only to be expected any provider wants to utilise those the the maximum.

    Gigabit internet is £15-20 more than FTTC which just feels like a massive bargain.

Comments are closed

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