VONGA is dead – long live FVA? – Openreach

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Tuesday, 13 July, 2010

BT has killed off VoNGA. Bit of a shame really because I was kinda fonda VoNGA. Voice over Next Generation Access or VoNGA was BT Openreach’s initial stab at voice over fibre and initially at least notionally aimed at new developments where it didn’t make sense to put legacy voice infrastructure into an exchange.

Now BT has strangled VoNGA in the womb. We never really heard it’s first cry.

Don’t get me wrong. It was only the acronym I liked – I thought it sounded good. The product itself, a reduced feature set Plain Old Telephone Service (if such a thing is possible), did not impress, partly because of its total lack of ambition but also its complexity. My biggest concern was that BT would replace such an obviously good acronym with some fancy marketing lingo.

Instead we now have Fibre Voice Access (FVA). Not nearly such a good acronym and though the product is simpler than VONGA I’m not sure that is is anything other than a fibre based POTS service. CPs will now just buy the basic service from Openreach – just like they now rent a copper cable.

The two diagrams below show the kit you would have in your premises and how this notionally connects to the phone network using the Communications Provider’s VoIP platform (both carry the usual Openreach disclaimers about being subject to change).

The one thing that annoys me is that the pricing for this product looks just like that Openreach charges for a copper line and that is despite the fact that fibre should not cost anything near as much to operate. I guess if I was the operator with Significant Market Power I’d be looking to squeeze as much out of the punters as I could get.

Moreover it remains to be seen what value users will get for this money. In my mind there should be nothing to stop CPs selling voice over broadband services to people without the involvement of Openreach as long as the basic Fibre To The Premises capability is there.

The Openreach pitch is that this product provides PATS (Publicly Accessible Telephone System) compatibility, a legal requirement. However most ITSPA members will attest to already being PATS compliant.

Before getting too animated here we should remind ourselves that this is in anycase a long term play for Openreach. Based on the FTTP planned footprint, which will be available to 25% of people in Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) areas. This means that by Summer of 2012 there will be roughly 2.5m premises that might be able to get FVA rising to roughly 66% of all UK premises by 2015 (15 millions or so premises).

Not exactly numbers to excite. Even the acronym is boring. I think the UK’s stable of Alternate Operators will have to take the lead here in providing VoIP over broadband based services that offer 21st century features. Openreach does claim to have interested CP partners.

Fibre Voice Access kit from Openreach

Fibre Voice Access kit from Openreach

The BBU in the picture is Battery Backup Unit which is likely to cause problems – who changes the battery when it no longer works?  The Communications Provider? If the CP choses not to do this does this mean they are liable  in the event of non-functioning of the telephone if there is a power cut – an analogue telephone takes its power off the copper line – this is not the case for fibre. Openreach is, I believe still in discussions re the best approach here.

This product is initially only being considered for brownfield sites.  Greenfield sites will also be available for voice only as BT is obliged to provide a service under their Universal Service Obligation.  It is expensive though. Also FTTC is not in the frame initially.

schematic FVA system

schematic Fibre Voice Access (FVA) system

Trefor Davies

This article was written by Trefor Davies
on Tuesday, 13 July, 2010

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