This should be fun: BT bringing 500Mbps to UK consumers in 10 years

2 Feb 2015

BT has announced plans to bring 500Mbps – 1Gb for some – to the UK masses, if the government plays ball.

Piloting a new ‘’ technology in Newcastle and Cambridgeshire in the summer, the communications company envisages “a few hundred Mbps” to millions of homes and business in five years, before an improvement to 500Mbps five years later.

Last week the US telecoms watchdog FCC redefined broadband by raising the minimum download speed from 4Mbps to 25Mbps and the minimum upload speed from 1Mbps to 3Mbps – a wake-up call to telcos worldwide. The current average broadband rate in the UK is 23Mbps, so BT is looking to fairly destroy that and bring you those downloads all the more quickly, however governmental funding may be key to the project.

Evolution, not revolution

That’s because finance has not been divulged just yet, with the current speed increases coming on the back of work on “existing and new fibre street cabinets”, eking out as much as possible from a fibre-copper mix, which is faster and cheaper to do than build an entire fibre-to-household network across the UK.

“We know the technology is capable, so it’s just looking at how we deliver that on a larger scale,” said a BT spokesman.

“[Government money] probably wouldn’t mean it would be faster [to deploy upgrades] as we’re still rolling (out) our fibre program and, as that winds down deployment will wind up hence we believe it will stay in broadly the same capex envelope. It might mean the scope of any program could be larger, however, but it is a significant engineering task,” he said.

Super fast to ultra fast – 1Gb for some

The company currently has 22 million premises within its network and, its hoped that moving from the current ‘super fast’ network to the billed ‘ultra fast’ could see the UK join Japan and South Korea as a world leader.

However given that this will take ten years, presumably more states will see its communications operators roll out similarly optimistic plans.

BT is likely to deploy from various points in the network, with the pilots allowing it to assess various roll out options. It is also planning to develop a premium fibre broadband service for those residential and business customers who want even faster broadband, of up to 1Gbps.

“The UK is ahead of its major European neighbours when it comes to broadband and we need to stay ahead as customer demands evolve,” said BT CEO Gavin Patterson, when announcing this project.

“ will allow us to do that by building on the investment we have made in fibre to date. It will transform the UK broadband landscape from superfast to ultrafast in the quickest possible timeframe.”

Ultra fast internet image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic