BT Preps Its Next FTTx, Core Moves

LONDON -- ECOC 2013 -- BT is putting multiple new access and core transport technologies through their paces as it maps its route to broader fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployments, the operator's managing director of research and innovation, Tim Whitley, told delegates at the ECOC (European Conference on Optical Communication) 2013 event in London Monday.

In a keynote address, Whitley briefly outlined BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)'s broadband access network developments to date, which have included a limited deployment of FTTP and a much broader rollout of fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) technologies. The latter platform still utilizes the copper access network for the final connection to the home though the deployment of remote VDSL DSLAMs.

That FTTC service involves taking fiber to about 90,000 street cabinets around the UK, which, on average, are about 350 meters from customer homes and workplaces. BT has boosted the potential speeds for the mass market service to 80 Mbit/s downstream.

The next phase on the road to mass market FTTP is fiber-to-the-distribution point (FTTdp), which takes the physical fiber even closer to the end user. Whitley said BT has about 4 million distribution points around the UK (including overground and underground points).

As part of its plans to further boost its broadband speeds, BT is evaluating a couple of access technologies and exploring ways to boost its core network capacity.

In the access network, the operator is evaluating the potential of vectoring, which cancels noise in the copper connections and so enables a cleaner, faster connection. Vectoring is proving popular amongst operators in Europe that are looking for higher-speed broadband options that squeeze more life out of their old copper plant. (See Heavy Reading: Copper Networks Not Dead Yet, DT's €30B Plan Wraps LTE With Vectoring, Adtran's Euro Adventure, ASSIA CEO: Next Step for DSL, and TDC Trials Vectoring With AlcaLu.)

BT is working with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. on this development and believes it can take its broadband service to 120 Mbit/s downstream on average-length copper loops.

For its FTTdp developments, BT is scoping out the potential of G.fast, an emerging broadband access standard that takes vectoring to the next level. BT believes G.fast could ultimately enable broadband speeds of more than 500 Mbit/s and possibly even 1 Gbit/s, said Whitley. (See Euronews: AlcaLu Boasts G.fast Trial.)

In the meantime, BT is also developing its FTTP service further beyond the regular 100Mbit/s service by offering a 330Mbit/s service in some parts of the UK. It has also trialed next-generation 10Gbit/s technology in the county of Cornwall. (See BT Puts ZTE's XGPON to Work.)

All of these developments, though, mean that BT needs more core network capacity; otherwise it will not be able to handle all its data traffic efficiently. "As we uncork the access bottleneck, we need to make sure we have a core network" with the requisite capacity, stated Whitley, who added that BT estimates it will need a 3.5Tbit/s core network by early 2016.

To plan for those expectations, BT is deploying 100G coherent systems in its 100 largest POPs and is also engaging in 400Gbit/s, 800Gbit/s, and 1Tbit/s trials with Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN). (See Euronews: BT, Ciena Boast 800G First.)

The next big test for major telcos is gaining greater network "control, flexibility and interoperability... this is why the prospect of SDN [software-defined networking] is so exciting, as it offers the opportunity to allocate wavelengths in seconds," something that is becoming increasingly attractive as demand for data center interconnectivity grows, noted the BT executive.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to Ethernet & SDN Expo, a Light Reading Live event that takes place Oct. 2-3, 2013 at the Javits Center in New York City. Co-located with Interop, Light Reading's Ethernet & SDN Expo will focus on how the convergence of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 with emerging carrier software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization technologies could change the whole telecom landscape for service providers. For more information, or to register, click here.

Dredgie 9/25/2013 | 1:26:08 PM
How will SDN play out? It's going to be interesting to see how they figure SDN will fit into this, initially. With a fixed resi play, it could be network-controlled on-demand bandwidth for CDN / content caching. That'll make their network more efficient, thereby reducing costs. Bus services plays are a little more obvious (i.e. BoD) and there are revenue opportunities along with cost reductions, there. 
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