- With full fibre the established main priority, an increasingly gaping hole is building in BT’s plans to provide ultrafast services to ten million homes by early‑2021, as G.fast stood down.
Openreach told communication providers in September 2019 that further updates on planned G.fast delivery have been suspended until March 2020, raising the prospect of the access services business calling a halt to a large-scale G.fast programme.
Should the suspension become permanent, it would suggest a final G.fast footprint with around 2.7 million premises passed, compared to recent indications that 5.7 million homes would be covered.
Initial G.fast plans, thrown into turmoil by an early government backlash against the copper‑based technology, and called into question as market enthusiasm for full fibre grew, had projected that ten million homes would be passed with G.fast by the end of 2020 (BTwatch, #264, #276, #281, passim).
With Openreach already changing its targets for fibre‑to‑the‑premise (FTTP) rollout, reports noted that areas are already emerging where Openreach is overbuilding G.fast with full fibre connectivity. This contradicts earlier expectations that G.fast deployment would send an exchange to the back of the queue for FTTP deployment to avoid wasteful spending on installing multiple ultrafast technologies in single locations.
Earlier in summer 2019, BT reaffirmed an intention of reaching ten million premises with ultrafast services by April 2021. However, with G.fast looking likely to be substantially curtailed, and current expectations that FTTP targets will reach four million homes, there could be a substantial shortfall unless yet another full fibre acceleration is on the cards, or the rumours of G.fast’s demise are exaggerated.
While G.fast is being increasingly being left on the shelf, Openreach is continuing to finesse the product to secure the highest possible speeds over the longest distances. The access services business recently confirmed that it has started lowering the size of the gap between spectrum used for VDSL services and G.fast, which is already giving a modest boost in connection speeds. The latest modification is part of spectrum-refarming plans at Openreach expected to improve ultrafast network performance (BTwatch, #305).
BT and Openreach are also continuing to protect research in the G.fast field. A September 2019 US patent application is seeking to secure intellectual property rights for a system that is said to improve the efficacy of G.fast for on‑premise deployments through a reduction in interference with services operating on other bandwidths.