EXFO forms full-fibre testing initiative with Openreach

BT broadband provision division to deploy permanent full-fibre monitoring technology to assist in programme to deliver broadband across UK homes

As it continues with its Fibre Cities programme, designed to help the UK fulfil the government’s ambition to have gigabit broadband across the UK by 2025, Openreach has embarked on a collaboration on a major initiative with network test, monitoring and analytics expert EXFO.

In its commitment to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, the UK government said such next-generation connectivity has the potential to revolutionise communities and make them more attractive places to live, giving people the freedom to live and work more flexibly and help to develop thriving digital economies.

In the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019, prime minister Boris Johnson’s then newly elected government indicated it would introduce laws to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband across the UK by 2025. However, when announcing his Spending Review in November 2020, the UK government downgraded the 2025 target for roll-out to 85% coverage by 2025, and the original commitment to provide £5bn of public funding for hard-to-reach areas had also been reduced.

Undeterred, Openreach announced in December 2020 a massive job creation programme designed to create 2,500 new roles in its own organisation and about 2,800 with partners to supporting full-fibre network build-out, and a new tranche of build work is scheduled to begin in March in 67 locations across the UK, a time at which it is targeted to have built out a fibre infrastructure to 4.5 million premises.

EXFO describes its project with Openreach as essential for delivering the next-generation fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks, enhancing the quality of build and experience for customers across the UK. Following a competitive tender process, Openreach awarded EXFO a contract to supply optical test heads and test access switching.

With its cloud-based Nova Fibre solution, EXFO says Openreach will be equipped to assure its build and be able to remotely monitor its fibre infrastructure supporting the in-life operations of its Full Fibre service. The result of this would be to accelerate the roll-out programme and avoid costly return visits to fix connection problems. EXFO calculated that additional truck rolls more than double operators’ testing costs.

“Openreach is an early mover in adopting permanent fibre monitoring technology, which will eventually cover all households in the UK,” said Wim te Niet, vice-president of sales for EMEA at EXFO. “Currently, the FTTH/B penetration rate in the UK stands at 18%, and Openreach has an ambitious plan to build out full-fibre to millions of households and businesses. We see a similar wave in other key European markets like Germany. I believe network operators across Europe will soon follow Openreach’s lead to ensure first-time-right installations, reduce turn-up failures, and substantially reduce truck rolls for service calls. As for markets with high FTTH/B penetration rates, telecom operators are finding they need sophisticated automated monitoring tools to ensure superior customer experience.”

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Openreach network technology director Peter Bell added: “We know being connected matters now more than ever.

“We’re convinced that our new full-fibre network can play a crucial role in keeping the nation connected,” he said. “This year, our build has been gathering pace and momentum, and we’re determined to match that rapid speed of deployment with the highest standards of build quality and customer service. EXFO will help us get there.”

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