End of the road for Openreach VDSL2 modems?
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.