'Death to copper, long live real fibre' is a nice snappy twitter sized sound-bite but while FTTH and FTTP is the ideal solution the cost and time to deploy it to the many millions of premises in the UK has lead us down the VDSL2 path. Of course there are various operators embarking down the FTTH/FTTB route (Openreach itself has over 160,000 FTTP premises passed) and cities like York may be the test bed to see how VDSL2, FTTH and DOCSIS manage in a head to head battle.
We have covered the news about an expansion of the Vectoring trials before, current testing suggests 9 Mbps of extra speed on average, though at the expense of sync times, i.e. the time for the modem to negotiate with the DSLAM has increased from around 54 seconds to around two minutes. There has also been the news of G.fast offering ultra fast speeds, but to a smaller footprint and one of the chipset manufacturers now claims to have doubled the range with speeds of 200 Mbps out to 400 metres from the G.fast node.
If Openreach where to just deploy G.fast from all its cabinets it would enable ultra-fast speeds for around 26% of UK postcodes, with the Sckipio range doubling that jumps to 56% with 200 Mbps connections. Cabinet based deployment is not likely to be the sole use of G.fast nodes, but you can get a very quick idea of the change possible, with DP and mini-cab deployments pushing the figures higher, how high will depend on how many nodes get deployed.
An interesting snippet of information about speed improvements for VDSL2 has emerged and this is that amplifiers may be considered for pilot/trials in Q3 2015/2016. Broadband amplifiers have been around for a while, but often not deployed due to ANFP issues previously, but with just Openreach FTTC hardware in the local loop this may become a lot simpler (there are some exceptions to this). Performance wise one supplier of line powered amplifiers is claiming a doubling of the distance, making 25 Mbps possible at distances of 2.4km when vectoring is also used.
Do not forget the concept of mini-cabs with small VDSL2 nodes that can be placed in-line for long exchange-only line clusters and it appears that the technical problems of getting superfast to 100% of the UK are resolved, all that is needed is for it to be built and paid for.
So while the 3% to maybe 10% who are connected to a VDSL2 enabled cabinet but do not get superfast speeds currently may feel neglected and angry the path for further speed improvements is very much open, and for the phase 2 BDUK projects there is an awful lot of options. The challenge is for Openreach to assess what is the most cost effective way of deploying all these options.