UK broadband networks could be set for a huge speed boost sooner than expected

(Image credit: Openreach)

Openreach and Nokia have successfully completed a lab trial of a new fibre technology that will allow broadband providers to offer speed upgrades and new services easily and quickly to businesses and consumers.

The aim of the tests was to see if a new type of Passive Optical Network (PON) technology that offers speeds of 25Gbps over a single optical fibre could integrate and work alongside the existing PON tech deployed in the Openreach fibre network.

PON is used for the last mile of a broadband connection, linking businesses and households (along with mobile infrastructure) to the wider internet. This essentially describes the fibre connection between a house, cabinet, and exchange.

Openreach Nokia

The pilot at BT’s Adastral Park facility near Ipswich proved that ‘25G-PON’ could work with the ‘GPON’ and ‘XGS-PON’ technology deployed in Openreach’s infrastructure. The next step will be to conduct field trials later in 2021.

If widely deployed, 25G PON could deliver a wider range of speeds and services for Openreach’s communications service provider (CSP) customers like BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone. It could also provide more advanced backhaul service for mobile operators looking to densify their 5G networks with small cells.

“As the country’s largest digital infrastructure provider, it’s crucial that we continue to plan, innovate and evolve our network, to make sure we have the capacity and capabilities that the UK needs in the future,” declared Peter Bell, Director, Network Technology at Openreach.

“The Full Fibre network we’re building today is going to be the platform for the UK’s economic, social and environmental prosperity, and these trials prove that we can keep upgrading the speeds and services our customers experience over that network for decades to come.”

“The key to unlock the virtually unlimited capacity that fibre offers is to develop new generations of fibre technology – and faster chips,” added Sandy Motley, President Nokia Fixed Networks. “Nokia’s Quillion chip allows us to have a solution that supports three generations of PON technology from a single platform that is already in the Openreach network.

“Having GPON, XGS-PON and 25GS-PON all on the same fibre means Openreach can efficiently evolve the network capabilities, address new opportunities and connect more consumers, businesses and 5G cell sites.”

Openreach has committed to connecting 25 million homes and businesses across the UK to fibre by 2026.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.