By Mark Jackson, ISPreview UK | August 14th, 2014
BTOpenreach has announced their intention to pilot a new capability (GEA-FTTC Start and GEA-FTTC Stop) from 22nd September 2014, which will in the long run enable them to provision superfast broadband (FTTC) lines at a faster and cheaper rate than is currently possible. But there is a caveat involved.
The 6 month pilot, which will take place at a selected number of telephone exchanges, essentially involves a change of approach by Openreach engineers and one that is focused around retaining key jumpers in FTTC (NGA) enabled Street Cabinets (aka – GEA-FTTC Stop), rather than recovering them after a line has been stopped. For example, this can happen when somebody moves house or ends their service for another reason.
Next the GEA-FTTC Start process simply reflects the ability to quickly start (re-provide) a “new” FTTC line where the jumpers are already present following the GEA-FTTC Stop process. By doing this engineers can effectively re-use existing FTTC lines, which in some cases may completely remove the need for an end-user or Openreach network visit.
Openreach is looking to drive process efficiencies and improve GEA-FTTC provision lead times by introducing two new capabilities that will change our engineer’s involvement at the NGA cabinets. Re-using existing GEA-FTTC lines where possible, will allow the re-starting of our GEA-FTTC services for your end customers in less time than our standard NGA products.
On the surface this might sound like an easy task, but it does require Openreach to make changes at the telephone exchange too and indeed the reason their pilot is so long is simply because at present there are no real-world lines to test with. In order to gain enough feedback Openreach will probably need to test with a number of fairly busy areas.
Unfortunately we can’t currently asses what other potential conflicts or problems might emerge because all of the relevant details have been kept away from public view. However we are aware of one caveat, which is that GEA-FTTC Start will only work with ISPs setup to use the PCP-Only (FTTC Self-Install) method and this still isn’t widely used. Most ISPs tend to default to an engineer installed FTTC service, not least because it can help to iron out some potential home wiring problems.
ISPreview.co.uk has requested a list of the initial pilot exchanges from Openreach (likely to be expanded in the future) and will report back later on their reply.
This Price Notification page contains some details about the cost of Openreach’s new capability, which pegs the price of restarting a related stopped FTTC line at just £32.52 +vat. By comparison Openreach’s self-install method, which can still require engineers to visit the local cabinet (but not your home) is £49 +vat. In other words it could soon become cheaper for some ISPs to setup FTTC and at that level more providers might be able to absorb the cost and offer a “free” setup.
It’s further noted that during the PCP Only Install process, Openreach will automatically convert the order into a GEA-FTTC Start order if the fibre jumpers exist in the cabinet. Good news, albeit perhaps an administrative headache for some ISPs as the costs may vary for different locations.
Apparently there are no firm exchange lists yet, although a spokesperson for Openreach did inform ISPreview.co.uk of the following: “The pilot will start in the Swansea test centre and will increase to cover the ‘West Wales’ and ‘East, West and Central Downs’ regions by the end of the calendar year. We are exploring further regions for 2015, with the south of England, Wales and the Midlands being looked into.”