Tuesday, October 10, 2017

More Details on WarwickNet’s New UK 500Mbps G.fast Broadband Service

warwicknet broadband cabinet

Last month WarwickNet became the first alternative network ISP to launch a 500Mbps capable G.fast hybrid fibre "ultrafast broadband" service for businesses via their own street cabinets (here), which would be well above Openreach's 330Mbps peak. Today we have some new details to share.

The ISP has good history of building their own Sub-Loop Unbundling (SLU) based connectivity solutions and harnessing Openreach's existing cable ducts to run new FTTC, FTTP and Gigabit style leased line services, which meant they also had the means to do an independent G.fast setup and that's precisely what they've done.

Unfortunately last month's announcement left a lot of unanswered questions and thankfully we've now had a few responses to our queries. Firstly, the G.fast kit being used by WarwickNet can be installed inside their existing street cabinet structures and so they've not yet felt a need to build side-pods to extend the current space (Openreach have to build pods on the side of their PCP cabinets).

"When deploying our infrastructure and cabinets we have built these with future technology growth in mind, and so have room for expansion inside the existing cabinets, so we don't need to install side pods to add more equipment for these additional services," said a spokesperson for the ISP.

In terms of the package and price options, these are still being developed but the provider has offered a rough outline.

Current package levels available at this point:

G.Fast 1 = 200Mbs download, 50Mbs upload
G.Fast 2 = 300Mbs download, 75Mbs upload
G.Fast 3 = 400Mbs download, 100Mbs upload

NOTE: We note the absence of a 500Mbps option and WarwickNet said that they are "currently looking at the feasibility of a 500Mbs package," but apparently they need more data from real-world deployments before they can "confidently deliver" a 500Mbps service at scale.

The roll-out so far has only gone into parts of Leamington Spa (Warwickshire) and a roadmap is currently being developed to "deploy across all cabinets with demand or those required imminently or upon customer request" (i.e. all of WarwickNet's cabinets).

The ISP also said that lab tests were suggesting that copper lines under approx. 200 metres should be able to achieve 500Mbps down, which is about in keeping with the technology's known capabilities at this time. "This is new technology for us, so we're still collecting performance data on real-world BT copper," said the spokesperson.

However, the provider noted that most of their customers have "relatively short lines" to the cabinet (compared with typical residential copper) and use "relatively modern high quality copper" cable, which makes it easier for them to deliver on the advertised speeds to any businesses they cover.

We also queried whether WarwickNet were making use of the latest ITU-T Amendment 2 and 3 to the G.fast standard (e.g. cDTA and 212MHz). The ISP confirmed that their current equipment didn't support either of those, yet. Additionally, 212MHz is not currently permitted on the UK frequency plan (ANFP) and so they couldn't use that even if they wanted.

Openreach has of course talked about pushing peak G.fast speeds 'up to' 500Mbps before, although at the time they suggested that this might not happen until much later on (by 2025). One big advantage that WarwickNet gains by deploying their own G.fast kit into an area before Openreach is that the latter cannot then build a rival G.fast network due to the problems with technological compatibility (vectoring etc.).

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