BT expands super-fast broadband network

Fibre optic cable The fibre rollout can begin in earnest says Ofcom

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BT has announced that it will expand its roll-out of next-generation broadband to bring super-fast services to two-thirds of the UK.

Originally its fibre services, offering speeds of up to 40 megabits per second (Mbps), were due to reach around 40% of the population by 2012.

A £1bn investment will see the project roll out to a further 20% of the population by 2015.

The first four million people will be connected by the end of the year.

"It's an exciting situation," said Liv Garfield of the firm.

The firm has also announced a deal with the Onlive video games service to offer streaming games to BT Vision customers.

"You'll have many games from many different providers and you'll be able to play them wherever you are," said Ms Garfield.

Long climb

The expansion of fibre services has been enabled by the firm's return to profit.

OnLive screenshot

BT announced a profit of just over £1bn ($1.49bn) in the year to 31 March, compared with a loss of £244m during the previous 12 months.

The telco had previously committed to spend £1.5bn on its fibre network by 2012 but is now able to invest a further £1bn, said Ms Garfield.

She said of the 66% of the population who will have access to the fibre network, one quarter will have fibre to the home.

"That will have download speeds of 100 Mbps and uploads of 30 Mbps," she told BBC News.

The rest will have "fibre to the cabinet", meaning that the fast cables will reach street side cabinets. This will offer download speeds of 40Mbps, said Ms Garfield.

The roll out will be "evenly distributed" across England, Scotland and Wales, she said.

Adrian Wooster at the Independent Networks Cooperative Association, which co-ordinates community broadband efforts, said it was only the start of the journey towards faster broadband for all.

Start Quote

It seems BT is not interested in delivering a rural solution but at the same time is trying to stop anyone else from doing so”

End Quote Dr David Lewis Managing director, Rutland Telecom

"This announcement to deliver up to 40 Mbps to much of the population provides the UK with an opportunity to re-camp and seriously consider how we as nation will be able to invest on the levels required to match the broadband programmes seen in other countries," he said.

"We have left base camp and are making good progress but mustn't lose sight of the summit," he added.

The Conservatives have made it clear that they do not support immediate government intervention in the broadband market.

Before the election it said that if commercial firms have not provided super-fast broadband to everyone by 2012, it will consider offering some financial help.

Data needed

Many communities have become frustrated by the slow roll-out of fibre services and have begun to offer their own.

Midlands village Lyddington broke away from BT after the telco said it was too expensive to offer fibre services.

Lyddington

After successfully "unbundling" the Lyddington telephone cabinet, locally-based Rutland Telecom has had enquiries from 200 other villages keen to do the same thing.

But, in order to establish how much it would cost each village to break away from BT it needs access to some crucial information about how homes are connected to its network.

"BT has consistently refused to release the data Rutland Telecom needs to tell which premises are connected to which green cabinet," said Dr David Lewis.

"It seems BT is not interested in delivering a rural solution but at the same time is trying to stop anyone else from doing so," he added.

Ms Garfield said that she was unaware of any problems.

"It's news to me I'm afraid. I thought we had provided everything we were required to provide."

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