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By: MarkJ - 29 December, 2011 (7:20 AM)
fibre optic cablebt openreach logoBTOpenreach, which is responsible for providing ISPs with equal access to BT's local UK telecoms infrastructure, has confirmed that the current technical trial of its 'up to' 80Mbps superfast Fibre-to-the-Cabinet ( FTTC ) broadband speed upgrade will officially move into the registered pilot phase on 6th February 2012.

The move is part of BT's on-going plan (May 2011 announcement) to boost the maximum download speed of FTTC ( e.g. BT-Infinity ) from 'up to' 40Mbps (10-15Mbps uploads) to 80Mbps (20Mbps uploads) by increasing its spectrum allocation (from 7MHz to 17MHz) within the Access Network Frequency Plan (ANFP).

FTTC delivers a fibre optic cable from the local telephone exchange to your nearest street cabinet (i.e. replacing the old copper line), while the remaining connection (between cabinets and homes) is done using VDSL2 via existing copper cable (similar to current ADSL2+ broadband but faster over short distances).

BT confirmed during October 2011 (here) that the first ISP trials were due to take place between the end of January 2012 and March 2012. We now know that the pilot will finally become open to registered triallists of the GEA-FTTC 80/20 product variant on 6th February 2012.

In relation to this BT also intends to upgrade the FTTC estimated line speeds that are returned by their Enhanced Managed Line Checker (eMLC) over the weekend of 28-29th January 2012, which should eventually make it possible for ISPs to give speed estimates for the new 80Mbps service.

BTOpenreach has also been quick to warn that not all modems and routers will be able to cope with the new speed, which is a problem that we've seen crop up before (e.g. slower Wi-Fi kit bogging down the fixed line connectivity).

BTOpenreach Statement

We recommend that [ISPs] review your help & support materials and procedures in relation to the use of wireless routers. End user throughput speeds may be limited by the specification of the wireless router. In this case, we recommend that the end user’s laptop or PC is connected by a wired Ethernet connection before a speed fault is raised.

In addition the eMLC upgrade also means that ISPs will need to cap the speed estimates for their existing 40Mbps products as the upgraded checker would otherwise return "a single speed estimate based on the updated ANFP ADE17 bandplan". In other words some 40Mbps subscribers could be shown far faster speeds because the checker would base its test around the new 80Mbps changes.
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