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End of the road for Openreach VDSL2 modems?
Thursday 02 October 2014 11:39:32 by Andrew Ferguson

Adrian Kennard has blogged about forthcoming changes to the way Openreach will handle supply of its VDSL2 modem with the Fibre to the Cabinet service. For the first four years of the FTTC roll-out everything was engineer installed and broken Openreach modems were swapped out through an engineer visit, then in 2013 the self-install started to roll-out and just a few weeks ago this was declared as a live product.

Experience from users on our forums reflects the reality of the sales volume of FTTC, that the bulk of orders are from BT, TalkTalk and Sky customers where the providers all supply their own combined VDSL2 modem/router now and even on some managed installs engineers appear surprised when a small provider has not supplied a VDSL2 modem.

The blog from Adrian Kennard of AAISP hints that while managed installs will continue to be provided that late in 2015 the Openreach modem will be supplied still, but will cease to be supported and swapped out if it dies e.g. dead modem due to a lightning strike. For the smaller providers this adds to the costs and complexity of supporting customers, since the Ethernet interface the Openreach hardware presented meant the scope for user failure through fiddling was less.

The third-party combined modem/router market for VDSL2 is still in its early stages, but choice of hardware is increasing, and two suitable models would be the Billion 8800NL and at the higher price end there is the Fritzbox 7390 and 7490. While Openreach did not exist when a similar shift from managed to self-installs took place a decade ago on ADSL services, BT Wholesale carried out a similar way of forcing the market to supply its own hardware, by raising the price of a managed install to £250

At least we are not in the situation of some North American services where you are charged a modem rental fee per month

Switching to your own combined device for home use can be neater in terms of less boxes needed and allow access to VDSL2 line statistics without the complicated routes of unlocking Openreach hardware (hence the big trade in these devices on eBay), but in the SME sector the preference will be for two box solutions. This means the modem handles the VDSL2 and presents an Ethernet signal to a capable firewall device that will also do VPN termination and other tasks a business wants from a firewall/router device.

The problem for AAISP and other providers is that when dealing with Openreach, BT Wholesale or other operators they are often small in terms of volume and the accountants will have a tendency to favour the requirements of the biggest two or three providers.


Posted by dogbark over 3 years ago
"e.g. dead modem due to modem strike" should be "e.g. dead modem due to a lightning strike"
Posted by Kushan over 3 years ago

I thought it was due to modems gaining sentience and demanding better working rights?
Posted by dogbark over 3 years ago
That could be a disaster - one out, all out.
Posted by mobilebb over 3 years ago
Modems joining Unite, the broadband world would surely end.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@dogbark No parrots were harmed in the product of this article, but the dead modem was not a modem on modem attack, but a lightening strike :-)
Posted by dogbark over 3 years ago
"lightening" lol
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago
Surely this is essentially just moving to the current position of ADSL. Has that been causing undue problems? There is now the choice of several VDSL integrated modem/routers. Separate VDSL modems will surely become a niche product (as it is with ADSL - they are available, but not common).
Of course it's a problem for small providers to be able to provide managed services for swapping the things out, but that applies to many other bits of IT/comms equipment.

Posted by westli1 over 3 years ago
ON BTW's Customer Service Forum last week, it was mentioned that FTTC Early Life Failures were on the increase in 2014 due to self-install. This is only going to increase ELFs.
Posted by dogbark over 3 years ago
The OR modem isn't even a modem, it's a modem/router configured in bridge mode.
Posted by westli1 over 3 years ago
@TheEulerID Interesting that you say there are several, as BTW stated " currently the only device which is approved is the Thompson Technicolor 589v3"
Posted by otester over 3 years ago
lol, andrew cannot into spell.

Also don't you need a special cable from master socket to VDSL modem/router?
Posted by dogbark over 3 years ago
Normal RJ11 modem cable, or even RJ11 - RJ45.
Posted by mabibby over 3 years ago
So BT invest all this money and ALOT of taxpayers money into bringing fibre nearer our homes, great!

But now they decide to negate that benefit and not remediate the common dwelling wiring issues that plague the majority.

The product should remain engineer installed so that the benefits can be fully gained from the technology.

I await the outcry of poor FTTC sync speeds and reliability, just like ADSL.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@mabibby - The joys of 1980's deregulation which allowed us to install our own extension wiring.

Am sure fibre operators might complain if you splice on your own fibre and then ask them to maintain that too.

With self-install FTTC, nothing to stop providers doing the install themselves i.e. hiring local IT firms to do the work or big firms like Fujitsu.
Posted by -Alex- over 3 years ago
Not sure I'm too keen on this either - those of us who have had ADSL line problems know too well of the experiences with faults not getting fixed.

This change reminds me of another RevK post from 2012:

Just wish it could be a real product!
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi. If you fail to get the sync speeds up in the first 24 hours on FTTC due to the DIY you are in trouble over reset problems so it is much better for all conserned to have it fitted by an engineer and pay or rent.
Posted by Kebabselector over 3 years ago
I'm happy for Self installs to commence - it might free openreach engineers to install more cabs.
Posted by baby_frogmella over 3 years ago
@ Blackmamba
I miss your customary greeting "Hi Broadband Watchers" LOL
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Request. Hi Broadband Watchers
10k customers passed per day this gives aprox between 50 and 70 cabs fibred and data loaded by Openreach. The Standing and blockage are contract work and they are working many hours per week when requested.
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago
That stuff over fixing internal wiring is easily dealt with. It's perfectly possible for an SP to provide that as part of a package (it doesn't need to be BT that does it). However, there's always pressures from SPs to have minimum priced wholesale packages available so that they can decide what to include or not.
It's simply, as Andrew points out, a follow on from the logic of deregulation. Many people might be quite happy with not having to pay for an engineer's visit, even if it is just indirectly.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi EU. And Broadband Watchers.
I think the above comes under the Heading Buyer Beware (BT is not interested in the Equiptment and wiring passed the master socket even it effect the speeds and service) Because this is controlled from the DLM Openreach £££.
Posted by warweezil over 3 years ago
I have a fritz 7390 just waiting for fibre.. all it needs is for Openjoke to get on with our delayed upgrade
Posted by tjhodgson over 3 years ago
Something to remember related to this is that any modem connected to the service is meant to have gone through Openreach compliance testing and pass the criteria set out in SIN498. To the best of my knowledge currently none of the modems mentioned in the article have successfully completed that testing.
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago

The implication of what I read about SIN 498 it is that BT OR does not have to do the compliance testing, the onus is on SPs to ensure that their customer's equipment has been appropriately tested. In theory, everything connected to the BT network has to meet the appropriate standards.

In reality, all it really means is that the customer (and their SP where relevant) will be responsible for whatever misfortune arises due to incompatibilities. In practice, like ADSL modem/routers, people will just buy what they fancy. VDSL modem/routers will be no different.
Posted by jawicks over 3 years ago

the goal-post recently moved so that although any SP can in theory do their own testing, only test-engineers "certified" by OR can perform that testing for the results to be acceptable to OR.

And who are currently the only "OR certified" test-engineers, yep you guessed it, the ones in OR own testing facility. Sigh !!
Posted by alexatkinuk over 3 years ago
I have never been a fan of self-install, BT just use it to pass the blame onto the end user for any problems.

In my opinion, all broadband should be engineer installed while allowing the end user to use their own equipment should they want to. That way accountability is maintained when there is a fault and BT can always ask you plug in their equipment when testing faults so they cannot pass the blame.
Posted by phil_w_lee over 3 years ago
If, as has been mentioned by some commenters, none of the mentioned VDSL modem/routers are actually approved, it seems strange that the Billion 8800NL at least is being sold by BT themselves.
Would they be selling something which is unfit for it's intended purpose?
I welcome wires only (aka self-install) as it means that there is no need for those who are capable of doing the work themselves to pay (however indirectly) for someone else do do it for them. I do feel that engineer install should remain an option for those who need it.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Alex If the customer wishes to use their own router and wiring as long it does not effect other customers that is fine and place the cost onto Openreach.
Posted by Blackmamba over 3 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
Please remember it is the ISP to give a service to its customer not Openreach it's in there domain you are paying.
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