The opportunity arose to visit Huntingdon in September which is one of the FoD2/G.fast trial locations and while we did not do peeking into live pavement chambers a selection of the hardware was available to take a peek at and thus we are sharing our pictures and information from the morning. All the images are available in higher resolution if you want to get a closer look by simply clicking on them.
The Huntingdon trial areas have 22 live customers on G.fast already with the expectation to rapidly grow to 700 live customers, from a potential footprint of several thousand the first Premium Fibre customer has also been connected with we believe a second one going live on the Wednesday while we were in Huntingdon. The G.fast trial is Huntingdon is based around locating the G.fast hardware in pavement chambers and will make use of new connectorised fibre systems that are also part of the FoD2 trials. G.fast has several deployment options, i.e. in a pavement chamber, on a telephone pole or the simplest being co-located in an existing fibre cabinet. A lot of worry has been expressed over how the G.fast kit will be powered and in Huntingdon new power pillars are being used to send enough power down bundles of copper pairs to the remote G.fast nodes with ranges of 1200m for powering nodes suggested, further is possible if you increase the number of copper pairs used and will also vary according to how many lines are expected to be active on a node.
The pole mounted arrangement for G.fast can be seen above, with the white DSLAM on the left, a connectorised splitter in the middle and the copper splitter. The plastic hangers are actually for connectorised fibre drops to properties that may have ordered fibre on demand, i.e. the install of a G.fast node means FoD2 would become available. The differences in how the fibre will be deployed for FoD2 if a connectorised deployment is used is clear from the following diagram.
If Openreach is ever to deliver FTTP at any scale it does need to reduce the time taken to install the final drop to each property that orders the service and while FoD2 is still going to carry a premium price the hope is that it will be substantially cheaper than the original FoD product. One of the problems with the old FoD product was that the survey and planning phase seemed to take forever, improvements are promised complete with a new planning system to deliver orders faster and at a lower cost to Openreach.
While we have no price for the FoD2 Premium Fibre service we can tell you it is a 1 Gbps downstream connection with 100 Mbps upload.
Alas no peeks inside the G.fast hardware itself, it seems the units are still being referred to as virtual silicon, i.e. they are not final versions just yet and while end-users are reporting brilliant stability and speeds over 300 Mbps the final production silicon is not expected until 2016. Which shows how cutting edge the G.fast deployments are and while easy to criticise that Openreach is not bothering with just doing full FTTH/FTTP, it is their own commercial choice and leaves plenty of room for others to deploy full fat fibre. The G.fast roll-out if it does deliver 10 million passed inside the five year plan will mean that from 2025 to 2030 onwards the final push for FTTH/FTTP should be something Openreach can then manage, i.e. while a massive FTTH/FTTP network is given any official timelines to continuing push of fibre deeper into the local loop shows if the economics and requirements stack up in a favourable way it can be made to happen.