Belfast is to be one of 29 locations that will benefit from BT’s decision to deploy fibre to the cabinet services of up to 40Mbps and potentially 60Mbps.
BT’s local access division Openreach will deploy fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology at 29 exchanges across the UK. This will bring speeds of up to 40Mbps – and potentially 60Mbps – within reach of 500,000 homes and businesses.
Areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Greater Manchester will be amongst the first locations to benefit from this initial deployment.
While the majority of the locations are urban, two of them – Calder Valley (near Halifax) and Taffs Well (near Cardiff) – are not, and BT will be looking to learn lessons from deploying fibre in such environments. The next set of locations, serving a further million homes and businesses, will be announced in the autumn.
While Openreach will deploy the technology, it will be up to communications providers to develop services based on that technology to sell to customers.
The rollout is the next stage in the UK’s biggest-ever investment programme in super-fast broadband. BT has pledged to spend £1.5bn sterling by 2012 to ensure that 40pc of UK homes and businesses – some 10 million premises – can access fibre-based services.
“Super-fast broadband is essential to the UK’s future, and so it is great to announce this initial set of locations,” explained Steve Robertson, CEO of Openreach.
“The wider industry will now be able to plan ahead, as we will be making our services available on a wholesale basis. This approach will benefit customers, as there will undoubtedly be fierce competition for their business.
“We have worked very closely with industry and with local and regional authorities to choose these sites, and I would like to thank everyone who has worked with us to make this happen. We are in discussions with many other authorities, so expect many similar announcements in the months to come.
“The regulatory picture is complex, and while Ofcom has given us a very welcome green light, we will require a few more over the coming months. We remain confident though that Ofcom recognises the need for an environment that encourages investment,” Robertson said.
FTTC technology – which is being piloted this summer in Muswell Hill, London and Whitchurch, Wales in advance of the wider rollout – will offer initial speeds of up to 40Mbps, with the prospect of those rising to up to 60Mbps.
This will give customers enough speed to run multiple bandwidth-hungry applications. For example, some members of a family could be watching different high-definition (HD) movies, while others were gaming or working on complex graphics or video projects.
Openreach will deliver FTTC services by installing fibre between local exchanges and the street cabinets that sit between those exchanges and the premises served by them.
The fibre will transform the speeds available, even though the last link in the chain – from the street cabinet to the premise – will remain copper. Openreach is aware there are some premises that will not be able to be served by this technology, and so they are currently looking at alternative solutions for those.
Openreach already delivers the UK’s fastest broadband speeds at Ebbsfleet in Kent, where speeds of up to 100Mbps are being used by customers.
By John Kennedy