BT Openreach reacts to Digital Britain report

Warning: this post contains a large number of acronyms!

Interesting news this morning about how Openreach is reacting to the recent Digital Britian report in providing universal 2Mb broadband services. Using a method called Broadband Enabling Technology, or BET for short (yet another new acronym), Openreach proposes to provide a stable broadband service at distances of up to 12Km from a client’s nearest exchange. For premises situated within a current ‘not spot’ (thank the BBC for that term!) this could prove a viable alternative to using a mobile network or satellite operator, as having a fixed line broadband service would prove a lot more consistent, and also would not be as susceptible to enviromental conditions.

At first glance, it seems that BT have taken the idea of SDH and applied it to longer distances. Looking at the way this is depoyed, it seems that BT Openreach is extending the reach of it’s SHDSL services past the previous 5Km barrier. Currently there is little technical information about how they will do this, bar stating that they have made some “modifications and the use of a repeater unit”. However, it’s interesting that they’re using what was previously thought to be an end of life product, superseeded by both EFM and Annex-M, to provide services to the out of reach.

Since the Digital Britain report, there has been a lot of talk about how to provide a nationwide service capable of providing a universal 2Mb for a number of applications such as BBC’s iPlayer, VOIP and VOD to name but a few. Many different access methods, such as HSPA, WiMax and even satellite links have been considered in rural areas not deemed capable of obtaining a traditional fixed line ADSL service. In their various guises, they have provided a large amount of competition to fixed line operators whose coverage does not extend to ‘not spot’ areas. However these efforts have been largely independant to each other, and despite the advancements in technology within the fixed line communications sector, there hasn’t been a lot of options for people out of reach of their exchange. HSPA has proved not consistent enough, with users depending on mobile network coverage. With recent news of the Orange and T-Mobile merger, this could be something that may improve moving forward. Satellite broadband still does not have a large enough market penetration rate to be considered as a viable nationwide alternative. And WiMax is often used in backhauling bandwidth to out of reach areas, as opposed to a last mile access method.

By BT bringing this product into it’s portfolio it will go someway into giving it’s wholesale partners options to provide their ‘out of reach’ client base with a solid service for extensive use. With speeds of 1Mbps both down and up on a single copper pair, this is a positive step by BT in the right direction.

However, this also raises a lot of questions. All the marketing info we’ve been fed with relating to 21CN has previously made us aware that providing ADSL2+ from all of their exchanges was something BT were looking at having in place by 2012. It will be interesting to find out whether (should initial trials be successful) this may impact the rollout of Bt’s 21CN network. Also it will be interesting to find out the costs to the end user for this, as if it is using SHDSL technology, I couldn’t imagine the price point being markedly different to that previously. BT Openreach have admitted as much by stating “If there is funding to help meet the additional costs involved in deploying the technology, BET could offer a reliable and cost-effective solution to assist the Government’s ambition of delivering a minimum 2Mb/s service to virtually all UK homes”. Also, apart from throwing more copper pairs into the mix, it’s not really a scaleable solution for future bandwidth use.

All in all, it’s nice to see BT finally providing something that seems born out of market pressure. As mentioned, trials are being conducted currently. It will be even more interesting to see whether this proves both a commercial and technically sound option moving forward.

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4 Responses to “BT Openreach reacts to Digital Britain report”


  1. 1 cyberdoyle September 21, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    its not on a ‘single copper pair’ its on a bonded two pairs, and what you have missed is the fact that the majority of rural locations are sharing a pair on DACS for the phone service, so BT will have to lay very long lines of expensive copper to deliver this magic BET service, for which we the customer will pay indirectly because bt will cadge govt funding to do it. Thus wasting money that could have been used for fibre. to do the job right. Also if the end result is two phone lines, then the ISP will have to charge the customer for two. all for a paltry ‘up to 2 meg’ its a bledy disgrace IMHO
    chris

  2. 2 Carlos September 23, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I must admit, from their press release it looks like there are two options, one with a single copper pair, and for extra bandwidth, a bonded two pair option. However, the press release purposly does not go into much detail relating to the technical delivery of this service. You’re right in stating that in rural areas new copper will have to be laid. However in metro areas where there may be clients in the range of 8-10Km, a BET provided service is another option. I agree with your conclusion though, that with a move to FTTC and beyond inevitable, this is nothing but a poor interim solution, and although it is now good that BT have recognised an issue, their method to remedy it is VERY short sighted.

  3. 3 Tnelson October 1, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

  4. 4 Bill Bartmann October 9, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Hey, great blog…but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please 🙂


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