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Update on G.fast and LR-VDSL2 trials from Openreach
Tuesday 14 June 2016 11:30:06 by Andrew Ferguson

In a round table meeting with various publications Clive Selley who has been the CEO of Openreach for around four months now briefed journalists on his 'Better, Broader, Faster' strategy.

In the meeting the emphasis was very much that the way forward is dual pronged with the mixture of G.fast and FTTP with a particular emphasis that the FTTP footprint will address the large gap between existing superfast product ranges and the much higher entry level cost of Ethernet services. In short don't expect bargain basement Gigabit FTTP pricing from Openreach, but realistic pricing with various wraps and options that will make it ideal for business use, examples cited covering things like same day repair, lower splits over the GPON element. The ambition being that by 2020, of the 2 million FTTP premises passed half will be business premises in high streets and business parks.

The G.fast side was expanded on, with a little information on how the cabinet based G.fast roll-out will look like in practice. Pods will be fitted to the side of the green PCP cabinets with the power and fibre run in from the associated VDSL2 fibre twin. The location at the PCP reduces the copper run which is more important for G.fast and while a DP based deployment is ideal for perfect coverage, this cabinet led roll-out should allow for a very rapid deployment.

New GFast Pod for mounting on side of green street cabinets

A pod will support 96 G.fast ports (i.e. 4 cards of 24 ports) but since G.fast is vectoring based by default this means that with the initial chipsets deployment will be 2x24 ports with later expansion as vectoring engines evolve to handle the mathematics to handle 96 ports running in the 17 MHz to 106 MHz band.

Long Reach VDSL2 that was talked about originally last September is out of the labs and in the field with a public trial in Isfield, East Sussex to gather real world data on performance and thus verify the lab work. The sweet point being that at 2.5km LR-VDSL2 should provide 10 Mbps download speeds which is a substantial increase on existing VDSL2, and based on our figures 97.5% of lines with an existing green cabinet are under 2km long.

On the service levels which are never far from the headlines, while Openreach is meeting and exceeding the Ofcom mandated levels that ramp up each year, the CEO wants to ensure these are seen as minima rather than absolute targets, and changes to ensure more of the engineering staff are multi-skilled e.g. have the appropriate training and certification for working both underground and at height thus reducing the time it takes to fix problems after storms and/or floods. The changes to connectorised fibre for FTTP and new tools such as a simple to use hand drill powered duct clearing tool to help clear a way through existing ducting without damaging existing cabling will also play their part.

On the Universal Service Obligation while a long way from being set in stone, Clive suggested that Openreach believes only the final 1% will be left relying on satellite or fixed wireless solutions, with fixed line solutions looking able to bridge the gap between superfast coverage and the USO. Openreach obviously has a major part to play in the USO and a clear emphasis was made on what we previously have understood to be the case, that while the USO is a proposed 10 Mbps the hope is to use solutions that will exceed that by a reasonable margin.

As always the proof will be in what is delivered, but this applies to all the operators in the UK where a lot of good PR is produced declaring ambitions to pass millions of premises with ultrafast broadband.

Update Wednesday 15th June A few more snippets of information, longest operating G.fast line in trials is 400m and delivering ultrafast (100 Mbps and faster) speeds. Seven providers are taking part BT Consumer, EE, PlusNet, TalkTalk and Zen. Three different equipment vendors in the trials ADTRAN, Huawei and Nokia.

Comments

Posted by chaz6 6 months ago
Keep on polishing that turd!
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
2m FTTP passed by 2020 still looks low, given the 4m BDUK lines are supposed to be able order FoD or FTTdp should they need it. The state aid said extendable, expandable and affordable.
There is also huge underspends (£1bn), the £258m accrual and the BT capital to reconcile. What is slowing this down, resource or ambition, it is not the money.
Posted by themanstan 6 months ago
What about the ECI support?
Vectoring on those doesn't appear to be in the picture for the M41 DSLAM fitted... so how will GFast coexist?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Wow with the underspeed, accrual and BT capital it sounds like BDUK has actually spent no money apart from on consultants who don't pay many back if take-up is high.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
G.fast (17 to 106 MHz) and VDSL2 (2.2 MHz to 17 MHz) are two different spectrums so ANFP with PSD means you can do vectoring on one but not the other.
Posted by themanstan 6 months ago
Then it would make sense for ECI cabs to be prioritized as the speed benefits would be most felt for £ spent? Huawei can be vectored so speed recovered for the least spend, which can't be done on ECI.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Andrew If you appreciate the costs after 4 years you will understand how much FTTP is possible and how service gaps can be filled and why given the money available many are annoyed at being excluded.
Increasing take-up by 3% and releasing >£100m clawback is indeed an interesting story but the money will rest in BT's accounts for another 12 months. Consultants can be discussed but separately perhaps.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Huawei can be vectored, but won't be. The emphasis on that project disappeared overnight when the G.Fast plans were announced.

There is an intention to deploy vectoring where it can extend range in specific BDUK cabinets. I suspect it will help add to the range of long-range efforts too.

If there is anything to guide the best choice of locations for G.Fast, it is probably the existing take-up rate or the (slightly different) fill percentage.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
£50m from 3%.
Posted by CarlThomas 6 months ago
Hands up if you read this article to see comments about BDUK accounting. *tumbleweed*

My own cabinet is going to look really weird if it gets the 'pod' attached, with a stand-off shell on its left and that on its right.

ECI isn't going to be prioritised, Huawei isn't getting vectoring. G.fast is not for speed recovery, it's for ultrafast keeping Ofcom happy and competing with VM. The benefits of a boost from 60Mb to 300Mb versus 70Mb to 300Mb aren't going to be on BT's radar.
Posted by CarlThomas 6 months ago
@VFM - Take this to the European Commission, Ofcom, the DCMS, whomever.

I'm unsure why you repeatedly post this stuff on here and ISPReview.

We are the wrong audience and if it's so cut and dried, they have the power to pursue it.

Here the usual suspects will agree and rally, everyone else will roll eyes as it's the 100th time they've seen this stuff and read the next comment.
Posted by Mitchy_mitch 6 months ago
I'm a little out of touch with the tech.
Can someone confirm if you require a FTTC cab for gfast to work ?
Or do they also do gfast direct from the exchange. Thanks
Posted by gt94sss2 6 months ago
@Mitchy you don't need a FTTC for g.fast but you do need both fibre to the pod and power - something FTTC cabs already have. Hence Openreach's decision to roll them out next to their existing FTTC cabs first - it's the cheapest and quickest way of deploying it
Posted by Mitchy_mitch 6 months ago
@gt94sss2 thanks. Ive not seen a pod & power in the wild yet.
I've been told by BT that my estate should have FTTP by mid 2017.
Are BT also calling Gfast FTTP?
Is the BT network build in North Swindon FTTP or Gfast?
It's starting to get a bit confusing with the different flavours.
Posted by gt94sss2 6 months ago
G.fast and FTTP are different. G.fast will start with a pilot covering 25000 premises in Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire and Gillingham, Kent later this year before a nationwide deployment next year.

In Swindon, they are trialling FTTP- see https://www.homeandwork.openreach.co.uk/OurNetwork/ultrafast/our-current-trials.aspx
Posted by chilting 6 months ago
LR-VDSL would certainly solve our speed problems for about 99% of residents here in rural West Sussex.
It would give us the proposed 10Mbps USO and if bonding is used on the longer lines it would also give most of us superfast broadband.
As an example I currently get 5Mbps at 2km from my cabinet doubled up to 10Mbps with bonding.
Posted by lee111s 6 months ago
@Chilting

Who are providing bonded VDSL2? As far as I'm aware, it isn't something Openreach provide.
Posted by olicuk 6 months ago
Assuming "A pod will support 96 G.fast ports" effectively means a pod will support 96 customer lines, I'm guessing G.Fast is planned to be (priced as) a niche product, and take up is expected to be low, with the majority of users staying on the 40, 55 and 80Mbps products?
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Carl - sorry, but there is enough funds to do at least 1m FTTP, which I thought would be relevant to the subject matter.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@ValueForMoney BDUK costs and the cost of doing business with local councils and Government is irrelevant as this article is about the technology and decisions Openreach are making about their commercial investment.

Am sure in 4 years time you'll be saying that 4.5m VDSL2 lines were delivered for just £100m so why did they bother with BDUK at all.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
On issues of only 48 and then 96 port capacity, looking at take-up of up to 76 Mbps versus up to 38 Mbps even close to cabinets, it does not look likely to be a major problem.

Unless an improved economy means we all own 2 UHD TV in the next three years.

What the pod may do is mean no second (or third) VDSL2 cabinet is needed in an area, e.g. pods might be added as VDSL2 cabinets fill up.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
On 48/96 capacity vs a 288 VDSL2 cabinet:

In 2014, Ofcom showed that around 10% of VM customers were choosing their top tier - at the time changing from 120 to 150Mbps; around 25% of VM customers chose the middle tier (changing from 60Mbps to 100Mbps). The rest were on the bottom tier.

In BT's sphere, a large 500-line PCP might give you raw demand for G.Fast from 20% - around 100 lines. However, BT will only be able to offer the service to the ones on short-enough lines - which might drop /serviceable/ demand from 100 lines down to 50.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
Demand for G.Fast from the outer areas of a PCP (the other 50 lines) will have to wait until a solution brings fibre deeper (closer by another 300m).

Perhaps Openreach will have to invent a new kind of All-in-one cabinet that has room for both a VDSL and G.fast DSLAM.

Or perhaps Huawei will have to create a G.Fast DSLAM that runs VDSL2 too. I imagine the silicon isn't well optimised for dense VDSL2 deployments yet, so we might have to wait for that one...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@WWWombat Labs already have kit that flips between VDSL2 and G.Fast in the DSLAM (and was shown last September), but that's the small 8 to 16 port devices and the complexity is getting power to them.

As was said in the meeting, the pod increases the speed of delivery. One presumes then if demand is there that other solutions can and will follow.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
As a means of adding capacity to the commercial 50K cabs it looks ok, but you need to ship 100k of these boxes in 4 years to reach 10m premises.
Hence the question on why so little FTTP!

And yes most of not of all of Phase 1 state aid will be returned because cabs on their own are cheap but do not solve the problem for many. This is relevant for the forthcoming Ofcom NGA cost modelling exercise where to retain a VULA price quite a bit of FTTP investment is needed.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@ValueForMoney Care to try again?

BT does not have 100,000 cabinets anyway.

10 million premises with G.fast at 100 Mbps and faster can be achieved around 50,000 cabinets. Model for all 90,000+ cabinets shows that if you did them all would be around 19 million lines.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@ValueForMoney So what number counts as many in your book?

Remember Openreach only get gap funding for those that should get superfast speeds, so delivering cabs where 90% cannot is not in their interest.
Posted by Blackmamba 6 months ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
The GFast will be used in selected location at the request/ demand of the Customers on an old/FTTC this will be then classed as the coverage of that Cab/FTTC this could be close or at the end of the cable run. I would think each Cab will be classed as Bestoke and will be driven by price and demand competing with FTTC/P on the location. eg pick and mix.on an old Cab 600 lines all being terminated at the local node.
Posted by chilting 6 months ago
@lee111s
My ISP is A&A.
Bonding is expensive for the rental and equipment, but it works!
Full details on A&A website.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
The G.Fast Box stated 96 ports, so a 100 into 10m is 100k of these object, so 2 per commercial cabinet to make your 10m, so you can pass 10m by installing say 20k but so what? Over a year discovering cost of power was a problem! In Jan 15 G. Fast was presented as a panacea. Now it is another interim.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Andrew You still believe in gap funding? Look at the costs reported (NAO) and the state aid receipts reported. The lack of gap funding will be fixed so it is less of a problem, but the lack of FTTP ambition is only being addressed slowly and the mis-representation on costs has been a factor.
There is lots of Gap funding for FTTdp if BT step forward, and it is very good to see it where it exists. More, much more is needed.

Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Andrew Ultimately the number that counts I think (my opinion) is the capital cost per premise passed used in Ofcom;s cost recovery model from next year.
If this is set at £110 per customer passed, then BT invests this and is seen to invest this for all customers passed including rural. If more FTTP is needed then the sum rises. That plus the accruals would even things out.
Posted by CarlThomas 6 months ago
I'm not aware of any time G.fast was presented as a panacea. It is, and always has been, an interim solution much the same as FTTC.

As time goes on G.fast will certainly see fibre deployed deeper, however the initial budget is pretty restrictive.

Openreach actually deserve some credit for how cheaply and efficiently they are doing this.

Declaration of interest: None. Cabinet-based G.fast does nothing for me, 500m away.
Posted by gt94sss2 6 months ago
@Andrew Do we know what chipset vendor(s) Openreach have decided to use?
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Carl - indeed the cheapness, which has taken some time to acknowledge is worthy of praise, but that means more of the connectivity problem can be solved. FTTdp is also cheaper than expected, so more is needed.
Posted by lee111s 6 months ago
@valueformoney

Not quite. It'll be 10m homes passed. So one G.fast cabinet on a pcp that supplies 500 lines but with 350 within G.fast range will be classed as 350 passed I'd imagine.
Posted by CarlThomas 6 months ago
I'm not sure how it can be extrapolated from FTTC being relatively cheap that FTTdp is cheaper than expected.

Either way there's evidently no appetite within Openreach to spend on such things en masse for right now so it's pretty academic.

They're a private company. They'll invest in commercial areas as they see fit. If it's insufficient they'll lose market share as long as others step up.
Posted by lee111s 6 months ago
@chitling

They do ADSL bonding. VDSL2 (FTTC) bonding is not something Openreach offer.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@valueformoney If only the sums were as simple as you make out, but I am 99.99999% sure you are wrong.
Posted by chilting 6 months ago
@lee111s
It makes no difference ADSL or FTTC, I now have FTTC.
Openreach have no input. The service is from your ISP.
A&A use a FireBrick FB2700 as an off the peg option - you simply connect the two routers.
Other options are available.
Posted by lee111s 6 months ago
Well actually it does make a difference.

Bonding is not available on FTTC connections on the Openreach network as far as I know. If it is, I'd love to read the Openreach documentation for it. I'd like to know how you claim Openreach have no involvement even though you have A VDSL2 connection from Openreach? Are you confusing load sharing with bonding?
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@Andrew Wrong about what? FTTC costs, the budgets available, the tactical or interim nature of G.Fast.
@Carl - OR is still a regulated monopoly, but the inclination will be to game the costs and investment levels.
Posted by CarlThomas 6 months ago
lee111s Openreach supply layer 2 connectivity. Bonding at layer 4 is perfectly doable. Connect both lines via a VPN to an endpoint configured via equal cost multipath to split load between them. Advertise the subnet at home as routed via the VPN concentrator and you are set. No Openreach intervention needed. No NAT, all routed, lines bonded at layer 4.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Your simplistic view that 96 ports means 100,000 cabinets needed. This then blows all your other assertions into their constituent atoms.

You love figures, but often not clear how you arrive at them or are staring averages without saying so and any indication of the range.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
10m lines would should point to a willingness to support that number of cabs. In practice if it translates to 20k, then it highlights the interim nature of the solution.

The latter criticism is valid but that information (cabs or capital) is available and fully referenced to the degree a public record permits. The £258m accrual is part proof of that, and there is much more to come, to support a deeper roll out. We now know this will not be G.Fast based and more likely to be FTTdp.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Do you know how many cabinets BT has? Hint it is less than 100k.

So there is a document detailing the costs for each individual cabinet somewhere - link and not your document that raised more questions about data than it solved.

The £258m is proof that people are buying it, i.e. reducing the risk element and thus as per contract gainshare kicking it. It is not evidence that cost of delivering a cabinet was wrong.

What tech is FTTdp, since in most minds that is also G.fast.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
BT has 87,000 PCPs according to their presentations, and according to Ofcom have installed 51,000 commercial VDSL cabinets.

If 13% increase 20 to 33% triggers £258m which is great, it is close to £500 per incremental customer -520k customers 13% of c4m. So one way or another, or no matter you call it the money is coming back. Bur £500 per incremental customer is not gainshare, it will include a mix of monies owed.
FTTdp is fibre to a dp where where the customer needs to pay a connection fee. No electronics or power.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
On FTTC costs, you must be very generous indeed not to divide the total amount contracted against an estimate of the structures and not notice that the process removed the need for gap funding until a true up occurred.

These matters are being dealt with, which is why the technical options are important. The interesting bit how far the money can stretch and how much FTTP can be delivered. The latter must be of interested to this forum.
Posted by gt94sss2 6 months ago
@vfm FTTP.dp needs active electronics and power at the DP...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
So your fibre to dp, is not what you described what is globally called FTTP and Openreach is delivering.

Not generous just aware that I do not have data on many of the variables and thus do not want to extrapolate as much as some seem willing to.

The gap funding has achieved what would probably have happened commercially, but not in the same time frame.

As with your FTTdp definition you are playing games with wording to create fud.
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
What active components exist at FTTdp where customers pays for the final drop? It is FTTP but the final drop would be paid by the customer. Openreach is delivering selectively.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
@ValueForMoney Perhaps you can share a sample postcode an area where this FTTdp service is sold.

Then we can figure out whether you mean

Fibre on Demand (£1000's for install fee)
OR
WBC FTTP (£99+VAT install) and choice of speed/price points per month.
Posted by rjohnloader 6 months ago
But 2.5km from cabinet. BT doesn't care about LONG distance (around 5km here). Luckily in this village we do not have to use copper for Broadband at up to 30Mb/s
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Hence why counties like Herefordshire have 4% FTTP via the BDUK process and climbing
Posted by tombartlett 6 months ago
Isfield is in East Sussex
Posted by gt94sss2 6 months ago
@ValueForMoney As has been said, what you are describing is not FTTP.dp but FTTP.

FTTdp means equipment is fitted on DPs.
FTTP means its fibre to the premises.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
Doh! on the east/west mixup I even remembering double checking, but brain decided to type the wrong one :-)

Posted by AndyCZ 6 months ago
I can probably add some meaningful FTTC figures.

As of 9 June 2016, BT has 75,209 live FTTC cabinets covering 25,319,669 premises.

A further 10,726 cabinets are due to be installed/activated within the next 12 months or so.
Posted by CarlThomas 6 months ago
Thanks Andy. Hope you're well?
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
@VFM
10m G.Fast ports?

Have you fallen foul of the difference between premises coverage vs premises capacity?

In GEA1, BT have passed 25m premises: "coverage", the number who have the option. BT haven't delivered 25m ports of capacity, nowhere near.

75k cabs, even if they were all Huawei 288's, with a full complement of cards, would only reach 21m ports.

With a current 6m GEA subscribers, I'd guess that BT currently have around 8m ports deployed. That's after 6 years.

Why would they need to deploy more ports than that for G.Fast? They probably need less than 1m.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
@VFM
FTTdp is not an acronym that people understand to mean what you think it means.

FTTdp is most commonly understood to mean fibre delivered to the DP, but no further (ie there is no option to drop it into the home). Instead, that fibre is used as backhaul for some active equipment sited at the DP.

The groups developing G.Fast - in the days when G.Fast was intended to run in a node sited at the DP - used the term FTTdp to mark the extra technology that such a node would need beyond G.Fast itself. Things like remote power, and different methods of management.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
@VFM
Look here for some FTTdp architectures
http://uppersideconferences.net/g-fast-summit2014/pres-gfast2014/day_0/day_0_1_jochen_maes.pdf
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
@VFM
When, in two examples like that, your understanding is so far away from the norm, it is hard to believe that *any* of your figures stand up to scrutiny.

In your first post here, you maintain that there has been £1bn of underspend, without explanation.

I find that interesting, because the tiniest bit of scrutiny shoots that down in flames too. BT's accounts seem to show they haven't claimed a total of £1bn yet - not even as a gross figure, before deferment.

This site is full of people who'd love FTTP, if it could be costed right. With figures we can /trust/.
Posted by gerarda 6 months ago
@andyCZ how many of those 25,319,699 premises are capable of getting superfast speeds?
Posted by ValueforMoney 6 months ago
@WWWombat Thanks for the reference.
The fact BT has not claimed the monies show the monies are still available to be used to fill the gaps.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 6 months ago
And it is down to the local authorities who to award any contracts or extensions to existing contracts too.

i.e. BT cannot just keep on building an invoicing beyond the scope of the original contract.
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
@vfm
If BT hasn't claimed the money, it shows the contracts are still running. The money remains earmarked for BT to claim, so ... no, it cannot be spent on infill. Not until it is declared as underspend.

Your £1bn of underspend is a long way from the £150m reported today.
http://www.computerweekly.com/news/450298530/BDUK-finds-mroe-cash-for-rural-broadband
Posted by WWWombat 6 months ago
@andrew
Agree. Important to note that the contract scope is the number of premises, while the cost is a cap.

Once BT reach the right number of premises, they must stop. If there is underspend and/or clawback, then there is state aid approval for the build to continue ... but both BT and LA must agree to the proposals.
Posted by herdwick 6 months ago
I was using an FTTP connection today, tested at about 38M both ways (Gigaclear). The NTE was on the guy's wall many months ago but it's only just come on stream. The feed to it passes a relative's house who has a little connector pot but Gigaclear have said they aren't going to service his street despite the fibre and cab being in place. The same fibre feed passes within 20m of my house but on the opposite side of the road and again Gigaclear aren't doing this side of the street.

So the sunny uplands of FTTP aren't as wonderful as some would have you believe.
Posted by michael_s_perry 6 months ago
We in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, have been promised G.fast speeds of at least 52 Mbps from 2nd July this year. We are about 700 metres fro the cabinet currently supplying VDSL2 at 42Mbps, so clearly the roll out is starting and speeds are an improvement.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 5 months ago
G.fast products in the trials are 160 and 300 Mbps so a promise of 52 Mbps sounds more like the BT Retail upgrade of Infinity 1 from up to 38 Mbps to up to 52 Mbps which is nothing to do with the G.fast trials and roll-outs.
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