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Openreach to open ‘grey’ fibre to broadband providers

Openreach is proposing to add a new feature to its optical spectrum access product to give broadband communication services providers more control over their networks

National network infrastructure builder Openreach has opened a month-long industry consultation seeking input into a new feature that it is proposing to add to its optical spectrum access (OSA) product to make broadband service provisioning easier for its communication service provider (CSP) customers.

Openreach has used OSA for five years to provide very high bandwidth backhaul services to its CSP customers, traditionally those doing local loop unbundling (LLU) for residential and small to medium-sized enterprise broadband services – although it is also used by parent BT in some enterprise accounts and datacentres.

Dubbed Filter Connect, the new feature will open up what Darren Wallington, Openreach GM of high bandwidth and passive services, described as “virtual dark fibre, or grey fibre” to CSPs.

Essentially, Openreach is proposing to enable CSPs to connect their own active equipment to work alongside Openreach managed wavelengths on its optical fibre network.

If adopted, the proposals will see Openreach provide the bearer and initial wavelengths to light the fibre and manage the service, but for the first time CSPs will be able to access the optical filter in the OSA bearer to connect their own DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) equipment to light up additional wavelengths themselves, while piggybacking on Openreach’s active service.

In theory, once connected over the bearer, CSP customers will have access to a flexible, configurable network service that allows them to innovate and scale as they wish. They will also still be able to order traditional Openreach managed wavelengths if needed.

“The benefit is that CSPs can build networks directly with their equipment and run their own operational support system (OSS) or management stack as if it was dark fibre,” said Wallington. “It’s compelling for CSP customers to have free access to the filter set and free access to 15 channels that could be run to cater for 100 bit coherent wavelengths. That’s potentially 1.5TB of capacity growth for free in the future, ready to scale when the CSP wants at no extra cost to us,” he said.

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Openreach hopes OSA Filter Connect will help CSPs address a number of their most pressing issues around broadband network builds, bringing more competitive high-bandwidth pricing, lowering incremental scaling costs, offering more flexible and configurable services under customer control, improving support for evolving technology, bringing more space and power efficiency, and lowering time to market for new services.

It will also serve to demonstrate to telecoms regulator Ofcom that Openreach is both willing and able to innovate at speed, said Wallington.

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, Openreach hopes to have OSA Filter Connect available to the market in spring 2018.

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