A common complaint about the Openreach fibre based services roll-out is that it is uses too little fibre and will not be able to cope with our Internet needs in a few years. The response from the BT Group is a stepped approach and FTTdp (Fibre to the drop point) is the next evolution in the various steps to take fibre direct into every home across the UK.
BT is almost ready to open its G.FAST lab at AdAstral Park in Suffolk and has released some information on what sort of speeds they are seeing from early G.FAST hardware. At 66 metres 700 Mbps down and 200 Mbps up have been achieved. On shorter copper runs of just 19m the downstream speed climbs to 800 Mbps. The split between download and upload speeds is not written in stone and can be tailored to suit deployments and product options.
FTTdp will involve delivering a fibre connection to the last telephone pole or pavement chamber before a fairly small group of properties and attaching the G.FAST hardware to the pole or in the underground chamber. The estimates are such that the speed test at 66m represents the picture for 80% of UK households.
G.FAST is yet to be ratified as a standard, but this is expected from the ITU with the designation G.9701 in December 2014.
It may seem stupid and short-sighted to stop the fibre when only 66m away from a property, but this avoids the extra layers of complexity involved in wayleaves on getting FTTH into a rented property, be it a flat or a house. Some past estimates from BT are that in the areas they have deployed FTTP, the final connection takes around 7 hours of work. Another factor is those areas served by overhead wires become more problematic.
Openreach has intimated that there is another option of deploying VDSL2 in a FTTdp configuration, though usually called Fibre to the Remote Node, which will shorten the run of copper needed, but only deliver the maximum VDSL2 speed of 80 Mbps. The remote node approach is something that is ready for market hardware wise and just needs the will to deploy to be given a little shove.
In a perfect world we would love Openreach to say that it was abandoning copper totally, but with over 27,000,000 households in the UK and little stomach to accept the short term costs of roll-out by major shareholders we are stuck with the stepped approach. Of course if the FTTH/FTTP roll-outs by CityFibre do hit the mark and show it is possible as quickly and cheaply as predicted then the money behind BT may change its mind. An interesting thought to end on is this, with BT taking a stepped approach the room for innovation and disruption is pretty large, though while the seeds do exist no-one has exploited this gap to serve millions of homes yet!