Openreach launches dark fibre alternative

By:
Natalie Bannerman
Published on:

A consultation on Openreach's OSA Filter Connect, the alternative to dark fibre, will run for a month

Openreach has today opened a public consultation on its Optical Spectrum Access (OSA) product.

The new offering - called OSA Filter Connect - is an enhancement of its current OSA product and is being touted as an alternative to dark fibre. 

It comes as no surprise given that back in August, Openreach scrapped its plans to trial Dark Fibre Access (DFA) following a ruling from the Competition Appeals Tribunal that stopped Ofcom’s plans to open up dark fibre access. At the time Openreach hinted at an alternative, saying: “We’ve been working closely with our Communications Provider customers for over a year to develop this product, and we remain keen to discuss alternatives that could meet their needs.”

Speaking to GTB, Darren Wallington, general manager for high bandwidth and passive services at Openreach, said: “Dark fibre would’ve been offered by Openreach if mandated to do so. Prior to the Competition Appeals Tribunal decision, our subsequent decision not to launch DFA on 1 October, if we’d gone ahead would’ve been launched with an 18 hours repair time because we wouldn’t have any monitoring capabilities on the dark fibre service and we’d be beholden on the Communications Provider (CP) to tell us when it was broken. On an active service, which Openreach currently offers on OSA and its Ethernet portfolio, we offer a five hour repair time nationally plus SLG (service level guarantee) and SLA’s (service level agreement) against that fix time. OSA Filter Connect will be offered with the five hour repair time as a well as 24/7 monitoring which is a key differentiator to an all fibre/dark fibre service.”

OSA Filter Connect was announced during the company’s monthly industry meeting called the Ethernet Product & Commercial Group (EPCG) chaired by the office of telecoms adjudicator. The OSA product itself was launched back in 2009 and has been commercially available since January 2012, OSA Filter Connect enable customers to use the service to directly connect their own equipment over the top of the existing OSA service. 

He went on to explain how OSA Filter Connect would work saying “you could look at it as virtual fibre or grey fibre” adding “It’s built using WDMP (wavelength division multiplexing) which enables communications providers to stack different coloured wavelengths of infrared light to deliver very large payloads of data. Typically these wavelengths can be 10G, 100G and beyond.”

Essentially Filter Connect aims to extend the channel filter configuration and combine one managed wavelength while the other wavelengths are managed by the customer. “Our current OSA portfolio is available in a 4 channel filter or 32 channel filter configuration and what we’re looking to do is create two new filters of 8 channels and 16 channels. Then there would be 15 additional channels for the customer to directly connect their equipment to our filter and transport their data over our service,” said Wallington. 

OSA Filter Connect 680 width

The consultation, which opened this morning, will run for a month, till the 18th November and Openreach is requesting feedback from all interested parties and communications providers in the UK to respond. “We thought it was right and proper to consult and obtain feedback,” said Wallington.

When questioned on how soon the offering will go to trial stage, Wallington said: “We’ve given ourselves a target of Q1 2018/2019. I’ve laid down a target of April, but I’ve been told to temper my enthusiasm," he added jokingly.

Wallington says the pricing of the new solution is “very competitive in the current market place” and as a result of discussions and conversations with its customers. In the consultation document Openreach has priced the offering in the range of £12,233 to £15,550 for connection and £6,275 to £7,485 for rental. Wallington adds: “If it’s not commercially attractive then it’s only meeting part of the need and that’s a bit of dead duck”.

During those conversations with customers, Wallington says that the question of distance and the potential to add OSA connect to its sister products like OSEA (optical spectrum extended access) has come up, he replies: It’s something we would consider, and we would work with that feedback in a consultation response.”

He ends saying, Openreach customers have presented the company with a challenge, they’ve asked them to “decouple the connectivity from the capacity and allow the CP’s to grow in their own time, in their own space and at their own cost when they need to.” Wallington says, OSA Filter Connect does that.