Business internet

Ethernet in the First Mile – EFM

I’m happy to say that Ethernet in the First Mile is starting to get customers excited. EFM?  Yet another !”£#@ acronym do I hear you say?

Yes and actually EFM is quite an exciting proposition in 21CN enabled exchanges around the country. That’s around 600 now with notionally 1,100 by the time BT has finished the rollout.

EFM is a copper based Ethernet service to the customer, capable of carrying high bandwidth connections without the need for fibre into the customer premises. It provides “up to” 10Mbps (<3km from the exchange).

The beauty of the technology is that it bundles up to 5 copper pairs from the exchange to the premises to attain the bandwidth throughput. If any of these pairs “go down” then the service will rate adjust to a lower speed based on the remaining circuits rather than failing completely.

Whilst customers don’t necessarily get the reliability and uptime of a fibre leased the EFM circuits are considerably cheaper with much faster installation lead times (and don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying EFM is unreliable – it’s basically the same as ADSL).

What’s more we can incorporate EFM connections into an MPLS VPN/PWAN.  EFM gives businesses far more flexibility in the type of circuits they can build into a network design.

It does strike me that anyone thinking of getting into the ISP business these days is onto a loser.  Timico has its own direct connection to BT for EFM.  This is in addition to circuits for SDH, framestream, Ethernet, SDSL/ADSL, ADSL2+ and 3G (wireless). 

We also have direct connectivity with BT Wholesale, BT Openreach, Telewest/NTL/Virgin (whatever you are used to calling them), Global Crossing, Claranet, Tiscali (ahem) and Cable and Wireless, notwithstanding our links to transit providers and peering exchanges such as LINX.

I’m not saying that the situation is different to what it was like 5 years ago when Timico started. At that time our decision was to buy Atlas Internet to get into the game and since then we have added two further acquisitions.  The complexities and the scale required to be competitive have however changed.

Our first BT central pipe (ie wholesale ADSL connection) was a single 34Mbps link.  Now we are into multiple 622Mbps and multiple Gigabit fibre.  These represent large cost commitments that new entrants should balk at or at least recognise that they would have to have very deep pockets.

Note 1  !”£#@  = “bloomin”

Note 2 apologies to friend and blog reader Dan Ellin who has made some comments on Facebook regarding the number and incomprehensibility of acronyms in this industry 🙂

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

4 replies on “Ethernet in the First Mile – EFM”

Intresting article Trefor. I especially appreciate the point about the differences relating to the sector now, and 5 years ago. I guess even though the initial outlay would be fairly similar, the market is a lot more mature to how it was back then, and the opportunities are not as wide reaching as they were back in the ‘good’ol days’.

About EFM. It’s interesting to see the talk of it increase. When clients are asking you about a potential solution, you know that it has caught the attention of the public. I must admit though, it’s hard to see where it may fit into BT’s product suite. With them bringing forward the provision of VDSL and still rolling out AnnexM via 21CN, it will be interesting to see where their focus lies, and which market they see being attracted by it.

I was recently talking to colleagues at both Opal and C&W, and both networks are actively trialling EFM, with a view to have a marketable product by the start of Q3 this year. It will be interesting to see how this fairs against bonded AnnexM, as according to both, EFM is almost being groomed by both to superseed their AnnexM portfolio due to issues they are experiencing.

Thanks Carl. Certainly Annexe M isn’t available yet – not from BT at least. Also it isn’t going to give you anything like the symmetrical performance of EFM.

VDSL is potentially a competing technology although we don’t yet have firmed up pricing. Also VDSL will only do up to 5meg up so there is potentially still room for EFM.

Actually if you already have the infrastructure in place it isn’t going to involve much delta investment to offer both and let the customers decide.


It’s over a year old, but I found this blog post about EFM very interesting.

I have a question, which you may be able to help me with. I’m doing some research into EFM copper service availability in UK, but it strikes me that the EFM services being rolled out are based on 2BASE-TL (based on SHDSL), which if Wikipedia is correct is supposed to support up to 6 mbps over voice-grade copper (telephone line) at distances 3km from nearest exchange, with bundling an option to increase overall bandwidth.

However, if my research is right, EFM Copper services also are supposed to include 10PASS-TS (based on VDSL), apparently capable of supporting up to 100 mbps over voice-grade copper (telephone line) at distances 750m..

Is this right? Does BT offer the VDSL based option for EFM services?

Is this widely available? Or is still a way off?

Appreciate any clarity you can offer…

BT does indeed offer the VDSL based option. In fact that is the option – not SDSL. There is a list of exchanges here It doesn’t give as much detail as I would like but it is all I have at the moment without putting some dev effort into accessing BT systems.

When I wrote that blog post EFM was just being launched. Since then Timico has sold a lot of ccts and the footprint is growing. The ultimate plan is, I envisage, for this footprint to be the same as FTTC although I anticipate that the fibre product will eventually mean that he copper product is phased out. For the moment it is quite successful.

Hope this helps


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