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Sky seeks more control on fibre services
Wednesday 10 July 2013 09:49:48 by Andrew Ferguson

TalkTalk may have blazed the path for telephone and broadband bundles, but with Sky now in second place for the title of largest retail broadband provider in the UK they have an increasingly loud voice with regards to how Ofcom regulates the market and in particular the growing market for Next Generation Access via Openreach FTTC and FTTP products.

The current situation is that Openreach have full control of the DSLAM that resides in the green street cabinet, and the only control the provider has is a choice from three products (40/2, 40/10 or 80/20) and whether the line should be run with Standard, Stable or Speed based DLM options. Openreach control the backhaul to a handover node (usually a larger exchange) where providers can pick up the traffic from Openreach directly or rent a BT Wholesale based backhaul to a larger Point of Presence (POP - ~20 around the UK)

Any communications provider with code powers does have the option of what is called sub-loop unbundling, which allows them to place their own cabinet near to an existing telephone cabinet and install their own VDSL2 based hardware. This is essentially how Digital Region in South Yorkshire operate (3.5% of UK homes) and a number of smaller providers have much smaller footprints.

It appears as a response to the Wholesale Broadband Access Market review by Ofcom that Sky is looking for something in between these two options. Sky in its response is calling for the ability to actually rent and control a VDSL2 line card port in the Openreach cabinet to give them more control and the ability to offer unique products. This technique is called SLU bitstream (sub-loop unbundled bitstream) and as well as controlling the port and thus the DLM extra options for backhaul where they can pick up bandwidth directly at the cabinet are explored.

For those wondering what sort of things Sky might be wanting to do, consider the current price premium for fibre based services, and how people with a very tight budget are holding back from upgrading. If a provider was able to offer a 25 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up FTTC based service for £7 extra a month it might encourage take-up, another option is that with port control the provider can control the interleave depth and thus keep latency low, as at present some people are upgrading from ADSL2+ services with low latencies of 10ms to find that FTTC while giving faster downloads and uploads has higher latency in the region of 20 to 30ms depending on what the mysterious Openreach decides to use for interleaving levels.


Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
I'm not convinced about the cost arguments, the costs are basically fixed once the card is in the DSLAM and the fibre is in the ground so a 25/5 product to my mind saves nothing.

I'm surprised we don't already see that advertised at a discount even if provided on a 40/10 circuit - the sync speed is invisible or irrelevant to the typical user.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Port costs are largely fixed, but if combined with cheaper backhaul there is some scope for a cheaper entry level service.

I think the control over DLM is the bigger issue.
Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
If they (Openreach) released control of DLM to the ISP so not only could interleave depth be kept low. the option of fastpath would be available to gamers &those who use voice coms, They could also use SRA as apposed to DLM, So those with high levels crosstalk ect, could keep the low latency and have a varieable sync speed,no more waiting weeks for dlm to wake up following a fault ect
Posted by tommy45 over 4 years ago
I do think people would want a bit more speed than 25/5 though,
Posted by themanstan over 4 years ago
Do they rent the card and a portion of the backhaul then?
Posted by Bob_s2 over 4 years ago
Cost though is the driver of mass take up. The market is very price sensitive and costs very volume related

Sky knows the market well and the ability to offer different products at different prices to meet the needs of different groups of people is sensible
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
herdwick the costs arent fixed, burst speed isnt free. Not sure what sky reasons are but I suspect control of dslam is a big factor as FTTC DLM is a bit of a joke.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
On the DLM was already going to do a refresher on this, but other stuff has taken priority
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
On the DLM front, it may also depend on where BT goes with PHYR as a replacement (or at least partial replacement) for FEC and interleaving.

Both of them would be affected by noise reductions from vectoring (DSM level 3) and any spectrum/power changes (DSM level 2).

It wouldn't surprise me for Openreach to reject access to DLM, based on the fact that they may change it out of all recognition.
Posted by adslmax over 4 years ago
DLM is to stay at the exchange under openreach control, don't think BT won't release it to ISP. Never will be.
Posted by uniquename over 4 years ago
Openreach FTTC DLM isn't at the exchange.
Posted by joe_pineapples over 4 years ago
A 25/5 product at the right (lower) price would be very appealing to someone in my position, who is likely to only get around 23meg down anyway.
Posted by JonBurnie over 4 years ago
I would jump at a 25/5 product for a additional £7 a month!
I live in rural Devon approx 4 km from my BT/sky exchange and although
I now enjoy 3Megs download I rarely see more than 500Kbps upload.
So all you people with fast Vdsl2 Already then please do not knock this idea.
I might actually be able to use the our for real document storage
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