FTTP vs G.FAST

Fibre to the premises (FTTP) vs G.fast. What are they? Which is better?
Customers want their broadband to be affordable as well as fast and we will be able to do that using G.fast.
Gavin Patterson

CEO, British Telecom

FTT-what? Who-fast?

Fibre to the premises, also known as FTTP, is a product that delivers internet from the exchange to the building (or ‘premises’). It’s not new and if you’re lucky enough, it may already be available to you. However, only 2% of the UK can already get it, so there’s more chance that you’re in the 98% who can’t. FTTP is seen as the ultimate solution by many. Having every building in the UK connected with fibre cabling will allow everyone to stream, download and make calls at the speed of light.

So why isn’t FTTP available to everyone? Cost. It costs a huge amount of money to dig up roads, lay ducting and install fibre cabling. Openreach have the largest slice of the pie when it comes to fibre in the ground, but they’re a business. Why would they deliver fibre cabling directly to premises if they won’t get a financial return on that investment?

Although some FTTP has been delivered, over the last few years Openreach have set about installing FTTC, or fibre to the cabinet. This means replacing the copper connection from the exchange to street cabinets with fibre, but not all the way to the premises. Each street cabinet will then serve a large number of premises via legacy copper phone lines. In April 2016, BT Openreach announced that 86% of the UK could get FTTC (also known as fibre broadband). It’s cheaper to do this and it’ll deliver improvements in internet speeds to a larger number of people, quicker.

G.fast has already been launched in Switzerland and BT Openreach are trialling it across the UK next month. In much the same way as FTTC, it is a product that isn’t as superior as FTTP, but delivers faster internet speeds and can be rolled out quickly and at scale. Most importantly, apart from a device (or node) installed in a street cabinet, G.fast uses all the same infrastructure that’s already in place for FTTC (Exchange – over fibre – to street cabinet, and then street cabinet – over copper – to the building). The only difference is that signals travel over a different frequency over that final copper (phone line) stage.

 

Why don’t you have FTTP or G.fast yet?

Why isn’t FTTP available to everyone? Cost and resources. It costs a huge amount of money to dig up roads, lay ducting and install fibre cabling. It also takes a long time and a lot of people. Openreach have the largest slice of the pie when it comes to fibre in the ground, but they’re a business. Why would they deliver fibre cabling directly to premises that they won’t get a financial return on that investment?

Although some FTTP has been delivered, over the last few years Openreach have set about installing FTTC, or fibre to the cabinet. This means replacing the copper connection from the exchange to street cabinets with fibre, but not all the way to the premises. Each street cabinet will then serve a large number of premises via legacy copper phone lines. In April 2016, BT Openreach announced that 86% of the UK could get FTTC (also known as fibre broadband). It’s cheaper to do this and it’ll deliver improvements in internet speeds to a larger number of people, quicker.

Not many people have G.fast is it’s still in the trial phase. If you live in Huntingdon or Gosforth, applications have closed and the trial there runs until 30 March 2017. Swansea has a technical trial to see how G.fast delivers to large multi-tenant buildings. In January 2017 though, the following locations will be included in the trials. Bolton, Cherry Hinton, Cheltenham, Derby,Donaldson, Gillingham, Gosforth, Huntingdon, Langside, Luton, Rusholme, St. Austell, Swansea, Swindon, Sheffield, Balham and Upton Park.

Who will benefit from FTTP and/or G.fast?

If you move into a new multi-tenanted building in an urban area you may well be able to purchase FTTP. If you live in a remote location, I wouldn’t expect it anytime soon (or not at all). As mentioned, it’s an expensive task to deliver fibre cabling into every building in the UK. Therefore companies benefiting from FTTP will be those in urban areas. If there is already fibre to the cabinet, then extending this to the premises would be easier than delivering a full fibre solution to those who are currently unable to receive fibre broadband.

There are a couple of factors that suggest G.fast will benefit more that the roll out of FTTP will. Firstly, it utilises existing copper cabling into premises. So by using that existing phone line, you are removing the cost (and effort) of replacing infrastructure. Secondly, although the best G.fast speeds can only be achieved if a building is in close proximity to a street cabinet, it’s possible to ‘move’ this element closer to premises. A G.fast node can be installed on telegraph poles or even underground. Fibre will then need to be installed to that node, before it passes over copper to each building. This could be good news for those in small villages or based out of town, but those in really remote areas might not see any benefit.

 

 

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £400m funding for full fibre-to-the-property broadband. FTTP is currently only available to 2% of the UK.

Which one will be faster?

If you are looking for faster download speeds, then fibre is your best bet. In 2014, 43Tbps was achieved over a single fibre, by a research group at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). That would let you download a movie in 0.2 seconds. This gives you a glimpse of what the future has in store, although there’s very little requirement for it now. When FTTP is available to you, it will be offering up to 330Mbps download and up to 30Mbps upload speeds.

G.fast, once commercially available will vary in speeds, but it is expected to offer download speeds of up to 300Mbps. But there’s scope for improvements in G.fast. In the future it looks like XG.fast will be available. 1.8Gbps over 100 metres of copper cable has been achieved.

G.fast will no doubt be cheaper (at least initially) but don’t forget to consider your own business requirements. Do you really need 300Mbps download speeds? Make sure you’re only paying for what you require.

 

 

I’m determined to roll out ultrafast broadband, and G.fast technology is the best way to deliver that to the majority of the UK as quickly as possible. We also plan to roll out significantly more fibre-to-the-premises.

Clive Selley

CEO, Openreach

In conclusion, which is better?

If both were available right now across the UK, you would probably prefer to have FTTP over G.fast. Information doesn’t travel very well over copper and although G.fast offers some hope, it will never be as good as a fibre cable all the way to your property. That is why businesses across the country have paid to get their own leased line connection installed. Leased lines are fibre circuits from the exchange to the office, not shared with anyone else. With FTTP you will still share with other internet users (to keep costs down) but performance should be better than G.fast.

It will come down to a few different factors; how much do you want to pay, how fast do you need your internet and more importantly, what will be available to you.

Speak with a member of the team about FTTP or G.fast

+44 (0)1273 646 600