BT's access network division, Openreach, is pressing ahead with its ambitious plans to deploy G.fast broadband technology to 10 million homes and businesses across the UK by 2020 and plans to do that with commercial G.fast network equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK).
Openreach CEO Clive Selley identified the selected suppliers during a media conference call Thursday morning, when he also announced plans to expand BT's G.fast trials to a further 12 locations across the UK starting in January 2017, taking the total to 17. Those locations include Bolton, Derby, Glasgow (Langside), Luton and Sheffield.
That's important news for the hundreds of retail broadband service providers that operate across the UK and which buy wholesale services from Openreach (which is a wholesale supplier only). G.fast has the capability to significantly improve the broadband speeds on offer via Openreach's access network compared with the VDSL technology currently deployed in Openreach's street cabinets, which (at best) tops out at less than 100 Mbit/s under optimal conditions. (See Long-Range, High-Speed Gfast Is Coming – BT.)
By the end of March 2017, Selley says about 140,000 homes and businesses will be connected to G.fast-enabled copper lines that will deliver broadband in two speed tiers -- up to 160 Mbit/s downstream and 30 Mbit/s upstream, and up to 330 Mbit/s downstream/50 Mbit/s upstream.
Selley noted that the trials and pilots have gone well so far but those have been using pre-commercial equipment. Now he wants to use commercial, production technology with enhanced first-generation G.fast chipsets and improved vectoring capabilities in this next phase, and deploy it over a wider variety of copper line variants and in different locations to ensure it meets Openreach's requirements. Those enhanced chipsets support the specifications of Amendment 2 of the G.fast standard, with new higher-power line drivers.
The news is good for Huawei and Nokia (which now has the former Alcatel-Lucent fixed line business as part of its portfolio) but looks like bad news for the other vendor that has been, and still is, involved in the initial G.fast pilots, Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN). Openreach declined to comment on what this decision means for its ongoing G.fast engagement and relationship with Adtran, though it should be noted that Openreach is only in the initial phase of commercial equipment sourcing process.
Adtran has a number of G.fast engagements around the world and along with Huawei, Nokia and Calix, which has had recent successes, is regarded as being a member of the leading pack of G.fast network equipment technology. (See Adtran Boasts 60 G.fast Trials and CenturyLink Plants G.fast Flag With Calix.)
The ramp-up in G.fast activity is part of Selley's plan to get "ultrafast" broadband to as many UK homes and businesses as possible. This will be done using G.fast for 10 million premises and FTTP for a further 2 million. BT defines ultrafast as any broadband service delivering downstream speeds greater than 100 Mbit/s (while "superfast" covers 24 Mbit/s up to 100 Mbit/s).
Selley has been CEO at Openreach since January this year and his efforts to improve Openreach's processes and offerings to retail service providers has arguably helped BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) to avoid being forced to spin its access division out as a completely separate entity. (See BT Clings On to Openreach – Just and BT, Ofcom & the Battle of Britain.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading