Vodafone slams FttN as UK government expected to announce fibre rollout

Calling FttN 'archaic' and 'woefully inadequate', Vodafone has welcomed reports that the government will announce full FttP broadband across the UK.

Vodafone UK has welcomed reports that Chancellor Philip Hammond will use his Autumn Statement on Wednesday to announce a fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) broadband rollout across the United Kingdom to replace the current fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network.

The government will reportedly kickstart the full-fibre rollout with a £400 million fund, with the BBC also reporting that Hammond will pledge £740 million towards the development of 5G.

Calling FttN and similar technologies making use of both legacy copper and fibre for connectivity "much slower and less reliable", Vodafone UK said it recently commissioned independent research showing that BT's broadband rollout will provide just 6.5 percent of premises in the UK with 1Gbps fibre services by 2020.

The research also showed that BT's G.fast network technology will increase coverage by less than 5 percent, as it will likely be available only to those living a few hundred metres from the cabinet or node, as well as being duplicated in areas where high-speed broadband is already available.

Vodafone UK said it commissioned the research due to "the absence of clear plans from BT for the rollout of either G.fast or FttP by region or constituency".

"We welcome the government's move to focus on providing full fibre, and we call upon BT to be upfront with the British public about its rollout plans and acknowledge that G.fast will do nothing to help those stranded on archaic and woefully inadequate broadband today," Vodafone UK director of External Affairs Helen Lamprell said.

"BT is pushing a muddled compromise rooted in the past, while the rest of the world is focused on building the gigabit society at light speed over fibre."

BT last month commissioned a report of its own on the benefits of G.fast across the globe, with the Ovum report stating that the network technology will enable fibre-copper networks to compete with pure fibre networks in terms of speeds.

BT's Openreach division is expected to launch the first commercial G.fast services next year. An extension to its current pilot of the technology will see another 140,000 premises obtain access to G.fast by March 2017.

"Our aim is to make ultra-fast broadband available to 12 million homes and businesses in the UK by the end of 2020, and we're embracing a mix of technologies with G.fast and FttP to achieve that," said Openreach CEO Clive Selley.

"We have pioneered G.fast in our labs, driven the global standards, and have been working closely with our communications provider customers on the trials, so we're very excited that it's time to start rolling this technology out nationwide.

"The great thing about G.fast is that allows us to deliver affordable ultra-fast speeds to customers quickly and at scale."

BT's field trials have seen average speeds of 330Mbps delivered, with 10 million premises planned to be connected by G.fast by 2020; the remaining 2 million UK premises will be connected with FttP. BT has also been testing XG-FAST in lab trials, attaining speeds of 5.8Gbps over 35m of copper.

The news of the UK's reportedly impending FttP rollout comes as Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) is heading towards a fibre-copper future: According to the 2017 Corporate Plan, a base case of 2 million or 17 percent of premises will be covered by FttP; 6.1 million premises or 51 percent will be covered by FttN, fibre to the basement, or fibre to the distribution point (FttDP); 2.8 million or 24 percent of premises will be covered by hybrid fibre-coaxial; and 1 million or 8 percent of premises will be covered by fixed-wireless or satellite.

NBN's new FttDP network covering 700,000 premises in Australia will also be launched without the G.fast network technology promised by BT in the UK "in order to make it simpler for our retail service providers to offer services to end-user premises".

The absence of G.fast will mean speeds will be capped at around the 100Mbps mark currently attained on FttN.

The Australian government has said its decision not to roll out FttP across the country is rooted in reasons of the high costs associated, as well as the time it would take to connect fibre to all premises nationwide.

Last month, Google Fiber halted its rollout of FttP across the United States due to the costs inherent in funding the project.

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