Openreach to Trial Symmetric 1Gbps UK FTTP Broadband Speeds

digger openreach fttp

At present the two fastest packages on Openreach’s (BT) Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP network are asymmetric options, which offer peak download speeds of 500Mbps or 1000Mbps and uploads of 165Mbps or 220Mbps respectively. The good news is that symmetrical speeds are coming.

Sadly the operator’s two top tiers are aimed more at premium small business users than residential consumers (priced high with a £500 +vat connection fee) and you can only take them if you’re covered by one of their XG-PON based “full fibre” deployments (i.e. those covered by their ECI FTTP kit are currently still limited to taking 330Mbps as their top tier).

Nevertheless a lot of Openreach’s competitors in the alternative infrastructure space are offering symmetrical (same speed both ways) FTTP products, often to both business and residential customers, and as a result our sources have confirmed that the operator now looks set to respond by conducting a market trial of similar speeds.

As we understand it the plan is to offer four trial tiers with different prioritised rates using their new XGS-PON platform, although these will be subject to the outcome of a new business focused FTTP consultation that is due to be published by the end of this month (i.e. the proposed tiers could change).

The Proposed FTTP Trial Tiers DL/UP

Peak Speed: 1000/1000Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 220/220Mbps

Peak Speed: 1000/1000Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 110/110Mbps

Peak Speed: 550/550Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 220/220Mbps

Peak Speed: 550/550Mbps
Prioritised Rate: 110/110Mbps

The focus of this trial will be to measure market demand, which we think could be hobbled by the still extremely limited choice of supporting ISPs (only Cerberus Networks and Spectrum Internet seem to be doing the 500Mbps and 1Gbps tiers) and network availability. The new packages are also certain to be more expensive than their current asymmetric tiers but we don’t yet have any details on that.

Separately we note that there have been a few other developments on the FTTP front at Openreach. The first is a new “inside out” trial, which will be tested on orders in brownfield areas (i.e. previously developed land that is not currently in use) around Leeds and Edinburgh (tentative). In this setup engineers complete the in-home installation on the morning of the appointment, prior to the exterior work being completed (likely to be more efficient this way and more convenient for the home owner if delays hit the external work).

Elsewhere Openreach also plans to transition to a 1+0 Optical Network Unit (ONT) during 2020, which is the bit of kit that they install inside homes as part of an FTTP installation. The new ONT is a one data port box with no Analogue Telephony Adaptor (ATA) capability.

Speaking of the ONT, the operator has recently done some FTTP installs around Stourbridge by using a new Nokia based ONT. At present many such installs tend to use an ONT from Huawei but that company is currently the subject of much uncertainty.

At present their FTTP network covers 1.3 million premises across the UK (details) and they’re growing at a rate of about 20,000+ per week. We understand that this 1.2m splits down to around 700,000 brownfield premises, 200,000 greenfield premises and nearly 400,000 city premises.

Openreach aims to reach 4 million premises by March 2021 with FTTP and there’s an ambition for 15 million by around 2025. After that they also have an aspiration to reach “the majority of the UK, if the right conditions to invest are in place.” Current build costs are around £300 – £400 per premises passed and OR believes that it can “pass around 50% of UK premises within this range of costs.

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