BT trials new tech that makes FTTP ’40 times faster’ and its core network have record wavelengths of 400Gbps. It’s also using AI to deploy network
BT is trialling new technologies that will boost the performance of its core network and assist plans to rollout ‘ultrafast’ broadband of 100Mbps and above to the majority of the UK within a decade.
This will be achieved through a combination of fibre to the premise (FTTP) and G.Fast, which speeds up copper connections.
At the company’s Innovation Day, held at the Adastral Park R&D facility, BT said it was doing everything it could to increase bandwidth on low cost equipment and showcased a new piece of kit from Huawei which only arrived last week.
Speeding up broadband
Using this tech, Openreach and Huawei were able to achieve 100Gbps over passive optical networks (PON) – a first – although commercial deployment is a few years away.
“We’ve been trialling a tech that can increase the speed of our FTTP network by 40 times,” explained Mark Lam, Openreach CEO, adding that a 10Tbps data centre back up could take just 13 minutes, down from 9 hours, thanks to symmetrical 25Gbps speeds.
BT is also working on new installation methods that can reduce the amount of time and money spent on an engineer visit for FTTP.
The plan is to get this down to a single four hour appointment using AI-assisted network design that speeds up the process from a matter of weeks to minutes as well as image recognition technology that lets Openreach see how much free space is in a cabinet for new equipment.
Lam told Silicon that it is because of these AI technologies that BT has been able to target 12 million G.Fast or FTTP premises by 2020.
Engineers can also 3D print components, such as a cable needle, and 3D printers could be installed in Openreach vans. Lam said the idea actually came from one of the engineers and would be particularly useful in areas like the Scottish Islands where it might not be apparent what equipment is needed until the visit is made.
BT also plans to futureproof its core network to cope with ever increasing amounts of data being transmitted across its network. A new terabit ‘superchannel’ allows for a record 400Gbps wavelengths on a single fibre through more efficient use of the spectrum.
This has allowed it to smash the previous record speed of 5.6Tbps on a commercial network and BT says there is the potential for 13Tbps in the future. Indeed, the rate of 6.25bits/ps/per Hz of spectrum is “unmatched”.
BT said the added capacity wasn’t yet necessary but it wanted to make sure the core network was ready for the anticipated growth caused by applications like 4K video and virtual reality (VR).
“It’s almost like we have to rebuild the network each year,” noted Howard Watson, CEO of BT’s Technology and Service Operations (TSO).