Broadband News

Ofcom publishes battery backup guidelines for FTTP

After the usual consultation process Ofcom has announced the minimum requirements for battery backup on Fibre to the Premises (FTTP/FTTH) products. Currently the number of FTTP installs are so small that this is not much of a problem, but with some of the BT £2.5bn investment going towards the full fibre solution, and other players like Hyperoptic, Fujitsu, Virgin Media, CityFibre also starting to move into this arena it is something that needed addressing. This also affects community solutions, particularly if in a rural area where power cuts are more common, e.g. use of overhead power cables. If plans come to fruition we are looking at some four million FTTP properties in the next few years around the UK.

The current situation is that with the delivery of a massive chunk of broadband and telephone services over a pair of copper wires that in the time of a power cut, a non-powered telephone will continue to work and support lifeline services (999/112). For households that have moved to embrace DECT cordless handsets remember that if the power to your property fails they will not work unless you have your own battery backup for the basestation.

"Our consultation therefore proposed the following principles, applying to both new-build and 'overlay' FTTP deployments:

  • A battery back-up should always be provided to support publicly available telephone services (PATS) provided over FTTP.
  • The minimum duration of the back-up facility should be 1 hour.
  • Communications providers should take appropriate steps to ensure that the needs of vulnerable consumers requiring additional protection, who depend on 999/112 to a greater extent that the majority of the population, are addressed."
Ofcom guidelines on the use of battery back-up to protect lifeline

The issue of identifying vulnerable customers is important, as it means FTTP providers need to ensure that they either supply several battery size options, or provide a larger backup solution to all customers. A key point is that the guidelines are there to ensure access to lifeline services, thus premises hardware that can intelligently switch to a low power mode to pro-long battery life may help to avoid bulky hardware.

To date, the general solution to the issue of lifeline services and fibre to the premises has been for people to retain their copper landline, but with the new guidelines, the scope is increased to remove the copper network in an area, or at least reduce its footprint massively. In terms of rolling out fibre networks, this can help to free up space in ducting, and carries the prospect of reduced network maintenance.

Those readers with longer memories may recall in 2008, Ofcom talked about expecting a four hour backup for new build FTTP properties. The difficulties in providing this in terms of cost, difficulty to install and the issue of maintenance has led us towards todays issuing of a new guideline.



This is a great move forward where the majority of the population have Mobile Phones for Emerygency Purposes anyway.

As long as the vulnerable are considered and have a sufficient backup, then this should aid BT in clearing up the copper network and scrapping the metal in to fund the fibre!

If not, I'm sure the pikey's will oblige! :)

  • mabibby
  • over 8 years ago

We have 8 hour backup in our hub planned, and 2.5 hour battery backups in every home. Photo of the proposed kit is in our FAQ on our website. b4rn dot org dot uk
That means that should customers choose to they can sack off the old copper and use our fibre for phone connections. The cost of these things is coming down all the time, I think ofcom don't keep abreast of new technology very much?

  • cyberdoyle
  • over 8 years ago

Well my experience of a VirginMedia line (a plain copper based telephone service) at my previous address was that the phone line would always go dead when there was a local power cut.

It was reported but never fixed. Presumably there's a UPS in the cabinet, but this was clearly faulty. If they don't bother fixing these units, what's the chance they'll monitor/service units protecting FTTP?

  • idf03
  • over 8 years ago

"the majority of the population have Mobile Phones for Emerygency Purposes anyway."

And how many mobiles will actually work, for how long, in the event of a non-trivial mains outage? Lots of fill-in base stations rely on mains without standby power. So there will be many fewer cells, ie worse coverage and less capacity. If you see a signal at all, try to make a call and you'll get "network busy", just like you do in a motorway traffic queue.

"Virgin ... Presumably there's a UPS [somewhere]"

Afaik there's no such requirement on Virgin's telephoney service, therefore they don't provide it.

  • c_j_
  • over 8 years ago

On any copper service it's important to have a cheapo corded phone that is powered from the system. I have one next to the cordless base station to swap out during power cuts.

  • themanstan
  • over 8 years ago

CD hopefully 2.5 hours is enough... my experience of power outages when outside town/city limits is they often are longer. Hence, some friends having fairly hefty gensets so they can lead vaguely normal lives.

  • themanstan
  • over 8 years ago

"the majority of the population have Mobile Phones for Emerygency Purposes anyway"
I'm not sure if that is true of the population as a whole, or only of younger people. Many older people either don't have mobile phones, or never use them (and so would find the batteries flat if they tried to).

  • pfvincent
  • over 8 years ago

The idea of FTTH was supposed to be passive optical networks (PON), making use of components like passive PLC Splitters. Will we ever escape the need to worry about power?

  • skyrocketsupply
  • over 8 years ago

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