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What is “Fibre” Broadband? UK ISPs Respond to Ofcom’s Call for Clarity

A few months ago Ofcom launched a new consultation that proposed to only allow broadband ISPs to use the terms “fibre” and “full-fibre” on their sites and in contracts “if their network uses fibre-optic cables all the way from the exchange to the home” (FTTP). But feedback suggests that the biggest providers are not supportive.

Over the years’ there have been various attempts to correct this, such as a review conducted by the ASA / Advertising Standards Authority (here) and a failed court challenge by CityFibre (here). Back in 2021 the Gigabit Take-Up Advisory Group (GigaTAG) also proposed several changes (here), including clearer labelling of broadband packages, but so far nothing has really succeeded.

The Regulator Takes a Stand

Back in May 2023 (here) the regulator, Ofcom, pointed out that pure Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) lines were due to become the dominant broadband delivery technology in the UK, and thus they felt it was finally time to address how the term “fibre” was still being “used inconsistently” by internet providers. The biggest ISPs, with a legacy of FTTC/HFC style solutions, have historically been the worst offenders on this front.

The regulator isn’t due to publish the outcome of this consultation until sometime in the coming Autumn, but they have recently published a summary of the responses they’ve had from various ISPs (credits to GreenLantern22 on our forum for spotting), which makes for interestingly reading.

Overall, the alternative networks (e.g. CityFibre, CommunityFibre, Gigaclear, Fern Group, Ogi and toob), most of which are building FTTP, were almost universally in favour of Ofcom’s proposals. The exception was Hyperoptic, which agreed with Ofcom’s push, but they also wanted it extended to include Fibre-to-the-Basement (FTTB) connections (they’ve built a lot of those) because, they said, such connections deliver “comparable services” (there’s usually only a little bit of Ethernet/LAN style cable involved); it will be interesting to see which way Ofcom goes on that one.

The debate over what should and should not be considered a “fibre” service has been going on for well over a decade. Hopefully by now most people should already know that fibre optic cables are made of glass (silica) or plastic, which allow information to be transmitted in the form of laser light. This makes them significantly more capable (speed, reliability etc.) than traditional metal (copper, aluminium etc.) based cables, which transmit data using electrical signs and are more prone to significant signal degradation over distance.

Despite this unavoidable fact, numerous ISPs have spent over a decade selling slower “part-fibre” or “hybrid-fibre” (e.g. FTTC / VDSL2,, Hybrid Fibre Coax) solutions as “fibre broadband” products, which is one of the reasons why so many people continue to be confused about the terminology today (i.e. if you think you’ve got a “fibre” service already, then you may be less likely to contemplate an upgrade to true FTTP).

Read the full story here.


Infinera and LightRiver Successfully Demonstrate Multi-Vendor Interoperability Technology

Infinera and LightRiver have announced the successful completion of a multi-vendor interoperability technology demonstration. According to the joint statement, this collaboration showcases the capabilities of their respective solutions, focusing on coherent pluggable solutions, network orchestration, and automation.

Technology Demonstration

The demonstration involved Infinera, a company known for its intelligent coherent pluggable technology (ICE-X), and LightRiver, a provider of netFLEX Transport Domain Orchestration and Control Software.

The demonstration highlighted the successful integration of Infinera’s ICE-X coherent pluggable technology with LightRiver’s netFLEX software, showing how these technologies can work seamlessly together.

The demonstration includes Infinera’s ICE-X line of intelligent coherent pluggables deployed in third-party host devices, including routers from Juniper Networks operating over a Smartoptics open ROADM system and the leading FTTX PON solution, said the official release.

Network Efficiency

The main focus was on how network orchestration, combined with intelligent coherent pluggable solutions, can significantly enhance network efficiency. This includes improvements in operation, management, and capacity expansion.

The demonstration illustrated the ability of Infinera’s Intelligent Pluggables Manager (IPM) software to enable multi-vendor network automation. This allows different vendor solutions to work together harmoniously, potentially reducing operational complexities.

Read the full story here.

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Full fibre now covers 52% of UK

UK Regulator Ofcom has released its Summer 2023 Study, based on mobile coverage and fixed broadband availability in the UK, as of April and May this year 

According to the ‘Connected Nations’ report, “Full fibre” (FTTP) now reaches 52% of the UK, equalling 15.4 million households. This is up from 48% in January this year. The report notes that this growth has been predominately driven by deployments from larger fibre operators, but has been supported by a number of smaller altnets, serving individual regions and communities. 

However, the UK’s coverage of fixed “superfast broadband”, remains unchanged at 97%, but Northern Ireland saw an increase of 1%, up to 97%. The 3% unable to access this are likely to be in hard-to-reach areas. The study found that the ‘vast majority’ of the UK can access what is described as ‘decent broadband’, meaning download speeds of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbit/s) and upload speeds of 1 Mbit/s. 

Gigabit-capable broadband availability has reached 75% of homes, or 22.4 million, up from 21.9 million (73%) in January this year, when their last report was published. 

Regarding mobile coverage, there were no notable increases since the January report, however coverage remains stable, with 93% of the UK predicted to have good outdoor 4G coverage from one operator at least.  

5G coverage continues to expand, with 85% of premises able to access outdoor 5G coverage. 

The usage of 3G continues to decline, with its switch off already underway. Virgin Media O2 confirmed this week that its 3G switch off will begin in 2025, becoming the final major UK operator to do so. 

Read the full story here.

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