Openreach Extend 2.5Gbps ONT Trial for Slower FTTP Broadband Tiers

Network access provider Openreach (BT) has extended their already nearly year-long trial of 2.5Gbps Optical Network Terminals (ONT) for installations of specified bandwidths on Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based broadband ISP lines. The trial, which was due to end next month, will now run for another year.

Just to recap. ONTs (aka – Optical Network Unit) are usually installed inside your home (wall hung), near to where the fibre optic cable physically enters the property. The primary job of such kit is simply to take that optical signal and convert it into an electrical one, so you can connect it to a broadband router via a standard Local Area Network (Ethernet) port.

NOTE: Openreach’s average FTTP build rate is 78,000 premises per week and they’re investing £15bn to cover 25 million UK premises by Dec 2026 (14m have already been covered). Some 6.2m of those will be in rural or semi-rural areas. The ambition then exists to reach up to 30 million premises by 2030.

Openreach first began offering a 2.5Gbps (Gigabits per second) capable ONT in 2022 (here) – the Nokia G-010G-T and an ADTRAN SDX 611Q – alongside their 1Gbps+ FTTP broadband tiers (1.2Gbps and 1.8Gbps), which only recently became commercially available to the market after a very lengthy pilot phase.

However, the network operator has also been running a separate 12-month trial of the same hardware (here), which began on 1st July 2023 and specifically allowed ISPs to optionally specify that 2.5Gbps ONTs should be installed – by default – instead of the standard 1Gbps ONT for specified FTTP downstream bandwidths lower than 1Gbps (i.e. down to tiers as slow as 55Mbps).

The trial could be seen as a useful way of future proofing (within reason) new installations, thus avoiding situations where somebody might opt for a 1Gbps or slower tier and then later decide to upgrade (this would currently necessitate another engineer visit to install the 2.5Gbps ONT). In an ideal world, Openreach would already be doing this by default (they probably will at some point), but for now the trial gave the option to ISPs and for a small additional cost.

The terms shall apply to [Communication Providers] that opt-in to the trial, and CPs will be charged an additional £10 per connection for the speed tiers they have selected. [Openreach] will rebate CPs participating in the trial £10 for each bandwidth upgrade from the selected speed tiers to bandwidths above 1Gb made within 24 months from the end of the trial, or from when a CP exits the trial if sooner. Rebates will not be made for box swaps,” said the original trial document.

The latest development is that this trial has just been extended, although the public briefing included no useful information. But we’ve since been informed that it will now run for another 12 months in order to allow time for new systems to be implemented.

An Openreach spokesperson told ISPreview:

“Getting it right first time, every time – with minimal effort needed from end customers – is what we’re always striving to achieve. After an initial trial period, we’ve learned that in order to offer a 2.5G ONT upgrade option, we’ll need to implement new systems which offer an even better service for industry, and therefore the end customer. We hope to complete that testing over the next 12 months.”

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