Openreach looks set to replace ECI cabs with Huawei - UPDATED
It is looking like there will be a big chunk of work undertaken by Openreach to replace ECI based VDSL2 cabinets with the Huawei equivalent.
Our tracking knows of some 25,191 ECI cabinets that could be replaced, what we do not know is what sort of timescale is involved and how many will actually be replaced. Variables we suspect include whether an area is on the FibreFirst plans in which case a bulk move of everyone to FTTP may mean there is no point in doing the upgrade, for other areas where Openreach FTTP may be ten years away putting in new electronics may be worth the expense.
One advantage to the Huawei cabinets is that the performance is measurably better than the ECI ones, the combination of G.INP and vectoring are two big factors in this, the graph below showing the median speed test result for FTTC tests on the relevant cabinets shows that the difference is worth around 3 Mbps on average.
The 25,000 ECI cabinets were largely part of the original commercial VDSL2 roll-out so more often deployed in urban environments but the 64,000 Huawei cabinet areas are a mixture of urban and rural and with rural areas likely to have more longer lines this makes the average difference more of a suprise. We suspect the improvement in ECI performance in July 2018 may have been down to the limited deployment of G.INP.
The support for vectoring which mitigates almost all the impact of crosstalk is an important consideration, especially now that take-up is so high, i.e. the more lines running VDSL2 in a cable the higher the crosstalk levels and this means slower speeds.
Once the Openreach PR team is back in the office on Monday we will fire off our questions, mainly around how many cabs will get replaced and what sort of timescale is involved. The mechanism for moving people is likely to be similar to the live to live process that happens for infill cabinets, i.e. minimise downtime during the switchover and be co-ordinated with providers.
In the meantime there was the a snippet of news around G.fast services on the Openreach site which ISPreview covered on Friday, we are working to get caught up on our list of exchanges were we believe there is more G.fast available and all the usual end of quarter activity in terms of speed test analyis and we will then run the numbers to show what difference we see as we shift our own systems from a 100 Mbps minimum speed for G.fast to a 120 Mbps figure. This of course will also get reflected on our maps and availability databases and report back when this is all complete.
Update Saturday 6th July: A comment arrived on Friday from Openreach in response to our enquiry.
We’re constantly working on ways to upgrade and extend our network but we have no immediate plans to swap out fibre cabinets on any significant scale.
So no big programme to swap the hardware in the cabinets in the short term. For the small number (maybe around 200) where this does happen it is believed this will take place overnight with the existing ECI hardware removed and new Huawei kit installed in the same cabinet overnight.
While updating there is another ECI topic around, and that is Openreach FTTP locations restricted to 330 Mbps due to the ECI hardware in the handover exchange and the lack of a switching layer. This has been covered by ISPreview and The Register.
Only a tiny proportion of our FTTP footprint, covering less than 50,000 premises, is limited to 330Mbps download speeds – and we're constantly working on ways to upgrade and extend our network.
We're investing billions of pounds into FTTP ahead of widespread consumer demand, and all of our current and future build is capable of offering gigabit speeds.Openreach statement on ECI 330 Mbps FTTP limit to The Register
The statement issued to The Register seems to suggest that Openreach believe the footprint affected is some 50,000 premises and that it should not be growing and we disagree on the not growing, since in the last day we have seen some BDUK infill FTTP restricted to 330 Mbps and some Fibre First style overlay in Northern Ireland in Dundrum. In the case of Dundrum the handover is thought to be at the Ormeau exchange where the Fibre First FTTP we've seen in 2019 looks to be proper Gigabit capable.
While the main retailers still only sell a maximum 330 Mbps FTTP product this may be of little concern but in a year or two when maybe we have several big (read advertise on TV) providers pushing Gigabit options this 50,000 and it seems growing (though slowly) footprint may be more of an issue.