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Openreach cranking up the ultrafast engine out of 1st gear
Thursday 22 September 2016 12:08:02 by Andrew Ferguson

While the debate about what is best for the UK in terms of its broadband future continues with the public battle of the PR machines between BT/Virgin Media and the group behind the FixBritainsInternet campaign continues Openreach is still in the game of delivering connectivity and the CEO Clive Selley has announced some key changes for the coming year and beyond.

  • Following on from previous FTTP options for developers of larger new build developments, this has been extended so that where developers engage with Openreach, FTTP will be delivered for free to developments of thirty or more premises. For smaller new builds a cost share model allowing FTTP is available too.
  • LR-VDSL (Long Reach VDSL) has shown average increases of 13 Mbps across eight lines in the Isfield trial and 2017 will expand on existing the two trial locations (Isfield and North Tolsta) to cover 1,500 premises including in Ashcott, Somerset and Peatling Magna in Leicestershire.
  • New delivery methods (e.g. the North Swindon trials of connectorised fibre) have delivered cost savings and Openreach is looking to seeing if this reproduces itself for other FTTP areas delivered.
  • is moving onto production equipment, and therefore the pilots are extending to around 140,000 homes and businesses by the end of March 2017 in seventeen locations. Bolton, Cherry Hinton, Cheltenham, Derby, Donaldson, Gillingham, Langside, Gosforth, Huntingdon, Luton, Rusholme, St. Austell, Swansea, Swindon, Sheffield and in London - Balham and Upton Park. Initial production kit trials will start in Cherry Hinton and Gillingham to verify that the production volume hardware matches the performance of the much more hand built kit of the early pilot projects.
  • Two vendors for the production hardware, Huawei and Nokia and further iterations of the hardware is expected further improving performance. Ambition to have passed 500,000 premises by the end of April 2017, making the two speed tiers of 160/30 and 330/50 (Mbps down/up) available as option.
  • The PIA product is in a concept trial running until December 2016, with some 65km of duct reserved so far and 51km under construction and is running with five communication providers involved.

The overall aims of making ultrafast broadband available to some 12 million premises by 2020 is still in place, but we are sure that as that deployment reaches volume that we can expect to hear more about what will happen from 2020 onwards in the next few years. There is always the possibility that those saying FTTP is cheaper to install than might be proved right and by 2020 might see an even higher ratio of FTTP delivered by Openreach. At the end of the day the majority of the public care little about the technology, they just want a connection to be at the right price point, plus offer speeds that let them do what they want (i.e. decent speeds and low latency).

For those struggling along on a sub 2 Mbps connection of having to drive to the next village to check email, the news about more faster products will annoy, but areas such as the Universal Service Obligation were addressed and in some cases we are already seeing FTTP being delivered to premises with sub 2 Mbps type connections in areas like Northumberland and Herefordshire to name a couple of areas.

Obviously by still working on, Openreach will be accused of sweating its copper assets, but in a climate where people want better connectivity yesterday and no-one is willing to put the money on the table to achieve 100% FTTP within a short time frame (hardware costs remain the same no matter what time frame, but labour costs and work force size become more of an issue the shorter the time frame is) using solutions such as mean you can hit premises passed targets faster. So while is not future proof for the whole of the 21st century it will help the UK retain its position in the global digital economy.

On the Isfield LR-VDSL trial we are seeing speed tests in the area, but do not have the same level of before and after information to verify the Openreach average claim, but as the trials expand to more premises it will be easier to get a significant sample to look at. Also as the footprint increases we will endeavour to add to our speed test analysis so that an idea of what speeds people are choosing to buy and achieving become clearer, i.e. is actually ultrafast.


Posted by Kebabselector 7 months ago
I see Clive Selley is finally out of his meetings then. Could LR VDSL work from the exchange to smaller uneconomically viable cabs like mine. It might help the 30% of residents with out Openreach fibre that are served by my local exchange.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
Rules on frequencies means no, would still need a cabinet to house the kit, so VDSL twin next to existing cab, but might improve viability.

No one solution is the answer to all the problems.
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
LR-VDSL might make cabinets viable that are currently unviable (even with subsidy), but only if there's a high proportion of premises that are currently out of superfast range, but would be brought into range.
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
Is Isfield only trialling 8 LR-VDSL lines? ISPr report a 200-line cab (even though there doesn't look to be one that big in Isfield), and show a graph of results that appears to be for 33 lines.
Posted by CecilWard 7 months ago
I wonder how long the loops were in the Tolastadh catchment area before the LR-VDSL trial started? Does anyone know if they had EO lines before? It would be a life-saver here in Heasta in Skye, where the shortest line in my village is ~4.6 miles and downstream sync rates are all sub-2.6 Mbps, many a lot slower.
Posted by Kebabselector 7 months ago
@Andrew, thanks for the info - looks like the light at the end of the tunnel is dimming.

For us we are not out of reach for superfast - providing our cab(s) get upgraded. But I was hoping this might have been a clever work around to deliver a better service from the exchange.
Posted by tombartlett 7 months ago
Isn't LR-VDSL incompatible with ADSL?

When are they going to stop selling ADSL? Could ISPs force everyone on a cabinet to switch to fibre?
Posted by themanstan 7 months ago
It is incompatible, LR-VDSL uses the ADSL freqs to get the higher data rates.

ISPs couldn't but OFCOM could!
Posted by CecilWard 7 months ago
@tombartlett - would be an ideal situation then where there are no pre-existing cabs at all. Users could then either stay on their existing EO lines continuing with ADSL, or get put straight on to a new LR-VDSL cab.
Posted by CecilWard 7 months ago
@Andrew good article. Absolutely no glimmer of light at the end of any tunnel here though, unless one day the USO turns out to be real and not some horrid monopoly offering or a satellite copout.
Posted by godsell4 7 months ago
All of this just a few weeks before OFCOM's digital review, good timing.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
Timing or not, if Openreach is to deliver 12 million ultrafast for 2020, they have to start the ramp up of volume from the existing ~300,000.

Plus the Ofcom review has been ongoing for over a year now, two if you include PR battles.
Posted by godsell4 7 months ago
Sorry, I should have included an emoticon or two. The comment was not intended to be sarcastic, I think it is good timing as it deflates the argument of those who are unreasonably critical of BTO.
Posted by MarcusJClifford 7 months ago
Regarding FTTP for free to developers of 30 or more premises - is this nationwide? 30 premises could be quite a small footprint development e.g. 4 blocks of flats etc, or a small estate. In rural Scotland would this be viable or done by BT?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
No location qualifiers were given, but am sure if someone was to build 30 homes on rock 30 miles off the coast that does not already have some current generation BT fibre serving an exchange/cabinet then then caveats would apply.

How many developments of 30 homes or more are appearing in really rural Scotland? Lots of new build in Aberdeenshire but this is new new build, not stuff where people have already moved in.
Posted by CarlThomas 7 months ago
To be honest I'd imagine that even more isolated areas wouldn't be a problem for the most part.

Having to run copper to them anyway would make fibre a lower maintenance option.

Powering 30 premises can be done from a pizza box OLT, just need a single port.
Posted by fastman 7 months ago
kebak selector can only see Gfast being implemented on cabs that are enabled I don't expect Gfast will be deployed Gfast where the cab is not already enabled

Kebab which is your cab ?
Posted by fastman 7 months ago
Marcus j Clifford - the things you need to check are th dates when was the registered for fibre and was it !!!! it is not or was not it will not have been covered -- providers pay developers to put copper or fibre on site
Posted by fastman 7 months ago
yes Aberdeenshire !!!! did you have some specifics -- or shall I Guess !!!
Posted by mklinger 7 months ago
what are they doing about exchange only lines, it seems many have just been forgotten. We're about 400 metres from the cabinet and less to the exhange, so distance isn't a problem
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
@MKlinger On EO lines many have been resolved, but varies from county to county, but still plenty of them out there.
Posted by Kebabselector 7 months ago
@fastman CMSTE Cab 50 - among many that are not enabled in the Stechford/Yardley area (around 30%). I'm going to check a few cabs out to see if they are all the smaller PCP. I know 49, 50 and 51 are.
Posted by 2doorsbob 7 months ago
I'd be interested to learn what exchanges G.Fast will be enabled in Sheffield and weather BT will be fitting closer nodes on long lines
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
The back of the queue is over thataway ;)

In truth, if they're only reaching 140,000 on 17 exchanges, it is only likely to be one of Sheffield's exchanges ... and then only a subset of cabinets.

BT may well be fitting closer nodes, but the current evidence suggests the answer is "not yet".
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
On closer nodes its a definite not yet, my feeling is looking at 2019 onwards and popularity of product where enabled will be key

Or put another way, if no one shows they are willing to buy 160 or 330 when they can get 70 or more now, then why keep investing...why not spend the more on more VDSL2 nodes to get more more cheaply to 60 to 70 Mbps
Posted by fastman 7 months ago
if CMSTE was a either a small cab or a new cab it wont be on on any programme -- it certainly wont be on the commercial programme and it no postcode was known it wont be in an intervention area (assuming the area was eligible and not covered already)
Posted by WWWombat 7 months ago
Ah ... your exchange is one where there has been no BDUK programme, so there has been no organisation or community willing to add subsidies.

That probably means there wouldn't be money to put a cab outside the exchange even.

Have you considered community funding?
Posted by KarlAustin 7 months ago
It's all well and good improving the products, until OR improve service then there are still going to be major issues. We had an FTTC upgrade booked, no show by OR, no contact at all. Made some spurious claim about some work, didn't log anything, still not logged anything a week later or closed it - so no new appointment can be booked to get it actually done!
Posted by chrysalis 6 months ago
I feel there is something political leaning on openreach telling them to not rollout FTTP to cities as else rural residents will complain to want the same. Even part of the article ironically suggests this where it seems to be either nationwide FTTP or no FTTP.
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