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An overview of the Openreach FTTP setup
Wednesday 27 October 2010 01:25:55 by Andrew Ferguson

The roll-out of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP/FTTH) is no secret following the announcement in July. As we head towards winter, Openreach is talking of product launches and communication providers selling the services as a retail product in the Spring of 2011.

The trials featured two brownfield sites (one where the copper phone network already existed) - Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes had extensive ducting, allowing Openreach to test and develop the techniques required for wider deployment, and Highams Park allowed them to trial deploying fibre between telegraph poles. This means that some users taking a FTTP service, will be connected by means of a wire from the nearest telegraph pole to the home or office. It should be noted that while the trials have solely offered FTTP, actual roll-out will most likely be a mixture of FTTC and FTTP in any area.

We have now been able to visit BT in Milton Keynes and see some of the hardware and processes used in deploying FTTP into homes and businesses. A very quick overview of this process is:

  • Usually five or six properties (maximum 12) connected to one Manifold, which will be underground and no further than 60m from the properties. Each property will have a fibre tube run to it, with the actual fibre (four fibres are run in reality) only being run and the hardware in the property only being installed once you order the service.
  • Each manifold links back to a larger splitter node via fibre. Each splitter node supporting 32 manifolds.
  • Each splitter links back to an aggregation point, where multiple splitter links arrive.
  • The aggregation point uses another larger fibre to link back to the Next Generation Access Handover node. This node need not be in your town/village, since the fibre can be run for some distance.
Image of manifold and splitter in same underground chamber
Picture of a chamber showing fibre splitter and manifold.
(Click image for larger copy)

Other than the hardware in the handover node and at the end-point (i.e. your home/office), none of the components are active, thus not requiring mains power (which FTTC cabinets require) and they are also designed to be situated underground. This allows components to be linked using existing ducting or overhead poles. The fibres are run through the ducting by blowing the fibre through newly laid tubes, and while the tubes are relatively strong, to avoid stretching which may result in problems blowing the fibre, this must be all hand pulled by Openreach staff. To give some idea of the timescales involved, currently it takes around 7 hours to do the final install from manifold to customers property. It is therefore easy to imagine a single street with 30 or 40 properties and why when scaled up, FTTP is more costly than FTTC to roll-out.

The situation in the property itself has changed a little since information from the Ebbsfleet trial started. At this time since the fibre is an adjunct to the copper network (which will remain in place) no battery back is provided, and delivering the fibre into the property involves locating a network termination box on the outside of the property, where the fibre from the manifold will terminate, with up to 30m of fibre in a more rugged form that can be situated anywhere in the property so long it is less than 30m from termination box. At the end of this internal fibre cable, the fibre modem requiring mains power will be located. This has an Ethernet port that can be connected to an Ethernet router or direct to a computer. There are further Ethernet ports that will be used for additional services as the product is developed.

High resolution pictures:
Fibre Manifold
Fibre splitter with 32 trays
Manifold and splitter in same chamber
Fibre tube

Comments

Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
Depends what you class ftth and fttc as before you say its 'more expensive', I tend to think its better spending a bit more in time costs to get a superhighway through a fibre than spending money doing fttc just to get a dirt track. The ROI on FTTP is far greater in the grand scheme of things. If you do FTTC you are still going to have to do fibre eventually. Why not just do the job right the first time?
Posted by wragby over 6 years ago
Interesting photos. There are some more photos of an actual installation in progress here http://www.trefor.net/2010/09/30/fttp-installation-first-photos-of-trials/

and an architecture diag here
http://www.trefor.net/2010/07/08/fttc-and-fttp-local-architecture/
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Simple cyberdoyle. Cost. Its not a "bit more" to put in FTTP its billions across the country, and the customer isn't willing to pay those billions yet.
Posted by themanstan over 6 years ago
And BT isn't willing to take on more debt than it can reasonably service. Remember, inspite of having inherited a gold plated employee pension fund (government covered in case of bankruptcy) it still needs to put over £0.5B a year for the next ten years to cover deficits. £6B would build a lot of network!
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
@CD If FTTC can give a path to up to 100Mbps then the point when you actually need FTTP to the home moves back a long way - unless of course you are a long way from a cabinet!
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
So poles are mentioned in the article are we saying the fibre is delivered to the home above or under ground?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
It can be delivered by either method.

Bradwell Abbey is all underground, but Highams Park will involve poles.

Same elements of splitter, manifold etc but rather than sub ducting into existing ducts, fibre tubes between telegraph poles.

More images will be added to guides as time allows.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Thanks, well that's very interesting, the pole delivery. Surely a money saver and I'm assuming the tube cuts down on wear/tear elements/bend etc
Posted by KarlAustin over 6 years ago
Poles should be significantly cheaper due to the labour costs involved in digging and pulling duct/fibre through - although from poles I'd imagine they need a bit tougher tubing so that it doesn't sag too much and cause stretching of the fibre.
Posted by nmg196 over 6 years ago
"If you do FTTC you are still going to have to do fibre eventually"

Not necessarily. Some people get nearly 40Mb on FTTC which is enough for any application. In fact it's enough to stream around 10 Full HD TV channels simultaneously.

"I tend to think its better spending a bit more".

What do you mean "a bit"? It's over 40 times more expensive than FTTC. Nobody is willing to pay that for something they don't need - probably not even you. That's already been proven. Some people even baulk at the £50 install charge, let alone a £4,000 - £20,000 charge.
Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
@ New_Londoner + nmg196

So you both know what the future holds for broadband requirements do you?

Perhaps you can also predict me some winning lottery numbers for next week while your at it?

Money will always an issue, but its sad to see how many countries round the world seem to find answers/solutions to these issues, and look to properly future proof there broadband. "Half arsed measures" should be the tag line for England...sadly.
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
@Randomise has a very good point, and yes it will have to be done eventually, so why pay £6bn for FTTC and then pay £28bn (eventually) for FTTP when you can just go straight to FTTP saving you £6bn in the long run and have a network. cont...
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
Once FTTP is in place, it will last decades but know the UK they will make it last 100+ years, it's easily upgradable, cheaper to maintain, create lots of jobs and bring more money for the country, FUTURE PROOF, not gonna list them all. It makes far more sense to just skip FTTC and go straight to FTTP. cont...
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
I know BT can't afford it, i would of rather of spend the £2.5bn in FTTP completely and just kept gradually upgrading the rest of the country, better late then never. Even if it took them much longer. cont..
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
Not everyone needs 100Mbps true and you can't predict future demands. But what's stopping ISPs from offer 25/50/75/100 packages? I'm sure a lot of people would by the 25Mbps package but at least it won't degrade due to length and you get what you pay for, and can easily be upgraded....

I will always say FTTP to 100% of the country, always!
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Its the same questions as always and the same answer, the reason why FTTP to everywhere is not on the cards is money. Plain and very simple
Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
@ GMAN99

Funny how other countries (equally as screwed as ours financially) seem to be finding money to invest in FTTP.

Just as a side question, the cost to role out FTTP does that include the Tax on Fibre?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Who is finding their money though is it government or private sector?. I would have thought it would include the fibre tax yes.
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
I recent article said that 25% of that £530m will be fibre tax. What a joke?

GMAN99, it's both government and private sector working together with their governments doing most of the funding... correct me if im wrong.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
lol, so they are using money paid by use left over from the digi switch to pay them in tax, sounds about right.

And if its governments doing most of the funding elsewhere yes that makes sense, total opposite to us.

Our gov puts in peanuts and takes a chunk of it in tax (for the second time over)
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
paid by us, not use ;o)
Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
@ GMAN

"I would have thought it would include the fibre tax yes."

Thanks

On that basis then I would actually like to know the "REAL" cost of deploying FTTP then because if the government is as commited as they say they are to rolling out FTTP then they should just refund the fibre tax back and use the money to invest into FTTP.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
If we ignore all the hardware costs, consider what 7 hours salary is as engineer pulls through final fibre tube and blows fibre through, then commissions kit inside the home.

Now add costs of the bits of hardware, time doing the other bits of the network build.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
I know andrew, that's what I was thinking and that's assuming he's working on his own, a day's work alone is a fortune. I can't see that the customer will pay all of it upfront though it would be too costly, I would expect there will be a higher installation cost than FTTC but not so high to put everyone off. I'd expect the majority of it will be absorbed and paid back in rental over time,which is why ROI on FTTP will be even longer. It will probably take a while before each individual install is paid off in full
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
As for the FTTC now vs FTTP now argument, as I say its down to cost, but one thing to bear in mind is that the FTTC rollout might make the eventual FTTP rollout more of a reality (bear with me) if BT get good returns on FTTC and customers demand even great speeds beyond what FTTC can deliver the money they make out of FTTC could be invested into more FTTP. I've no proof that is their way of thinking of course but it makes sense... to me anyway :o)
Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
@ GMAN99

You would hope thats the case but sadly I doubt they would think that logically.

The trouble is as you and Andrew have pointed out, the Time involved in setting up FTTH is quite long so when BT finally finish deploying FTTC and start considering deploying FTTH we are going to be even more behind that we already are compared to everyone else.
Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
Cont

Also judging by the information in the article (correct me if I am wrong) but the way FTTH would be deployed throughout the whole of the UK is completely different to the way FTTC is deployed because it is reliant on the old copper cabs and lines.

The above is probably a bad description but I hope you get what I am getting at.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Parts of the FTTC rollout and FTTP rollout network will be the same, this is needed to help with rolling out a mixture to a NGA Handover node area.

So it is possible that in 10 years we may see some fttc vanishing to be replaced with FTTP.

Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
Cont

This may mean that if you installed FTTP to a house where FTTC was present it wouldnt necessarily link back to where the fibre terminates at a cabinet (the FTTC fibre) therefore meaning extra cost in the long run.

Hope that makes sense
Posted by Randomise over 6 years ago
@ Andrew

Ah I see so it is kind of interlinked then at some parts of the network.

So when you say FTTC will vanish do you mean it will become an Aggreation point, rather than a cabinet effectively?
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Sure but there's no reason not to do it that way. If there is an existing FTTC presence in an area that wants to go FTTP (for some/all) then it makes sense to deploy extra fibre and the main splitter to where the cab is and then link it the home from there, and then eventually (subject to future changes, voip, battery backup etc) decommission the cab altogether leaving just the main splitter.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
The ducting in which the fibre tube is placed, or should one say pulled through, will invariably be the same ducting as used to supply the copper network in an area. The game is to avoid having to put new ducting into the ground, or new telegraph poles being erected.

Where things may be very different is once you get back to the aggregation point, which might link you to an exchange 10 miles away, rather than your local one. This can and does happen with the FTTC roll-out too.

Too early to talk about FTTC vanishing, its something at least 10 years down the line.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
Vanishing! I'd like to see it arriving :) probably years off for me yet
Posted by gleichfalls over 6 years ago
There are a couple of errors on this article.
The picture doesnt show a splitter but actually show a fibre distribution point and manifold.
Also a manifold has the potential to feed a max of either 7 or 12 properties depending on the type of blown fibre tubing feeding the manifold.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Manifold numbers change, my bad.

The DP vs splitter, looks like a DP, but the DP while on detailed picture was distinctly called splitter in presentation.

Have loads more pictures that will get labelled up at some point.
Posted by gleichfalls over 6 years ago
Well its definitely a dp as splitters are cylindrical in shape and have capacity for 128 trays. Splitters are much larger than the dp in the picture.
Posted by jbwalter over 6 years ago
Slightly off the current thread. I have just used the BT checker and this paragraph is included:-
"Your cabinet is planned to have WBC FTTC by 31st December 2010. Our test also indicates that your line currently supports a fibre technology with an estimated WBC FTTC Broadband where consumers have received downstream line speed of 30.4Mbps and upstream line speed of 6.8Mbps."
Posted by jbwalter over 6 years ago
continued:
Could someone please explain what they mean about the fact that the line supports speeds up to 30.4Mbps. I am lucky if I get 3 to 4Mbps. The previous owner of the house had a Virgin connection, and the Virgin cabinet sits just outside my house. Does that have anything to do with this? My present ISP is o2.

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