Openreach (BT) has confirmed that their new Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA / SOGFast) product, which enables consumers to buy a standalone FTTC “fibre broadband” (VDSL2 or G.fast) line from an ISP without the voice (phone) service, has now entered Early Market Deployment

The Early Market Deployment Launch (EMDL) usually comes before a full commercial launch, which means that ISPs can start to sell related products to consumers but they have to do so in the knowledge that the new service could still be subject to change. For example, the G.fast ultrafast broadband technology is still in EMD but despite that it’s now being offered by quite a few ISPs, including big players like Sky Broadband, BT and TalkTalk.

In this case Openreach said they expect the new SOGEA / SOGFast products to be in EMD – starting on 18th September 2019 – for around 3-4 months before the full commercial launch. Sky Broadband has already became one of the first major ISPs to sell such packages alongside their new G.fast based ultrafast broadband products (here), which do in fact include a phone service but only via their own VoIP (internet calls by sky) solution.

At this point some of you may be wondering just what the heck I’m talking about, so let’s recap..

What the Heck is SOGEA?

At present most of us connect to a service on Openreach’s national network and as such we must buy their phone service alongside copper line rental (included by default), with broadband being optionally added on top (most ISPs bundle the two together by default so you won’t notice). An exception exists for “full fibre” (FTTP) ultrafast broadband lines (i.e. no copper involved), which can already be purchased in a data-only (no phone) variant.

However the majority of people only keep a fixed line phone (voice calls) today because it’s necessary for their broadband to work and increasingly few bother to use this for making calls, with Mobile handsets and VoIP often proving to be more cost effective. On top of that the nationwide roll-out of “full fibre” networks will eventually make the old phone services irrelevant (old analogue phone services will be withdrawn in 2025).

In response Openreach created the SOGEA product (the G.fast version has a super silly name – SOGFast), which allows you to buy a broadband connection without any analogue phone (voice) service attached. Instead if you want a voice service on a SOGEA line then it will need to be an IP-based solution like VoIP, which in the future will either come optionally from your ISP or a dedicated provider (e.g. I.T Communication’s hosted PBX Service, Soft-Switch PBX).

NOTE: SOGEA does NOT make broadband-only connections significantly cheaper vs broadband and phone bundles because you still need the same copper line, while only a tiny amount of the delivery cost sits with the voice side that goes over the top of this.

The service also introduces a new front plate for the latest NTE5C Master Socket (pictured), which where necessary has been designed to prevent analogue voice being reinjected onto Openreach’s network from the end users premises (SOGEA technical details). All of this will help to support a future direction where voice calling is largely handled by VoIP