The market for fibre-to-the-premises services in the UK is set to become much more competitive, after BT Openreach formally began offering other ISPs access to its full-fibre network.
The vast majority of BT's fibre services are fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services, which still use the old copper connection between the street cabinet and the premises and are therefore slower than fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP). BT's FTTC currently has a maximum speed of 80Mbps, while its somewhat-delayed FTTP can go up to 330Mbps.
As of Monday, rival ISPs can now properly launch their own FTTP services, based on BT Openreach's infrastructure. Those ISPs had already been able to offer the services to their customers on a pilot basis, but the official launch means they can offer them with BT-backed service levels agreements and support — albeit only in 15 areas around the country for now.
"The commercial launch of FTTP is a major milestone," Openreach managing director Mike Galvin said in a statement. "Whilst we believe that FTTC will provide speeds that are suitable for consumers for some time, these FTTP products will allow CPs to offer SMEs and other bandwidth-hungry users the option of even higher speeds — some of the fastest in the world — and build propositions which help to grow the market for these higher-speed services."
BT's own retail arm does already offer FTTP, but only up to 110Mbps and only in Ashford, Bradwell Abbey, Highams Park, Chester South, St Austell and York.
The launch of up-to-330Mbps FTTP should be coming in the next week or two. Again, that will be a limited rollout for now, but BT is also piloting a scheme called 'fibre on demand' that will let customers in FTTC-enabled areas have fibre run to their premises for a cost.
Fibre-on-demand is set for a full launch in Spring 2013, but until then it will be trialled in St Agnes, High Wycombe, Bristol South, Edinburgh, Watford, Cardiff, Basingstoke, and Manchester.
The Openreach products launched on Monday will let ISPs offer services ranging up to 330Mbps on the downlink and 30Mbps on the uplink. There is a range of tiers leading up to those speeds, so the move should lead to a broad portfolio of different commercial products.
The 15 sites where BT's rivals can now roll out FTTP based on its infrastructure are:
- Bradwell Abbey
- Chester South
- Forest Hill
- Highams Park
- St Austell
- St Agnes