BT accelerates fibre plans as revenues fall

The telecoms provider plans to allow premises to choose whether they want full-speed fibre connections that support downloads up to 300Mbps

Telecoms provider BT plans to accelerate the rate at which full-speed fibre-to-the-premises connections are implemented using a new technology it calls 'FTTP on demand'.

The company made the announcement on Friday, following the successful completion of a trial FTTP-on-demand scheme in St. Agnes, Cornwall.

The product uses BT's existing — and still ongoing — rollout of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, but instead of using copper cable for the final link between the cabinet and the premises it will use fibre to connect them.

Previously, FTTP speeds weren't possible in FTTC-enabled areas, but BT has developed a solution that takes advantage of the fibre it has already deployed between the exchange and the street cabinet, the company said in a statement on Friday. "The technological development has the potential to transform the UK broadband landscape. This is because FTTP — which will soon offer end users speeds of up to 300Mbps — could be made available anywhere in BT's fibre footprint where a customer requires it."

BT aims to carry out further trials of the technology during the summer, with the aim of making it commercially available to business or residential customers by the spring of 2013. The company said the service will also deliver "fast" upstream speeds, making it an attractive prospect for small businesses needing to download and upload large amounts of data.

"The release of information about a new FTTP-on-demand product for areas of the UK where BT has already deployed its FTTC product is a surprise. While it was known that the fibre service FTTC could be extended, this was not expected to happen for some years," Andrew Ferguson, editor of Thinkbroadband said.

However, according to Rupert Wood, principal analyst at Analysys Mason, FTTP on demand will mainly be of interest to small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

"This is realistically going to be for the odd SME that won't pay for a dedicated fibre or EFM connection," said Wood. "However, I would be very cautious about assuming that 25 percent of the super-fast roll-out — or at least the purely commercial bit — would be FTTP. Cost and speed of roll-out hold this back, and the emergence of 100Mbps FTTC makes the case weaker."

BT did not say how much the FTTP-on-demand service would cost on a monthly basis, or indicate the connection cost. 

Alongside the announcement of  FTTP on demand, BT reaffrimed its commitment to doubling the speed of its Infinity FTTC packages to around 80Mbps in spring 2012. By the end of the year it said more than 10 million homes and businesses will be able to access the fibre-based services, with two-thirds of the country getting access to them before the end of 2014.

BT's announcements came alongside its third-quarter 2011 financials, in which it revealed revenue was down five percent in a year-on-year comparison,. However, profits showed an increase of 48 percent, before adjustments, up to £652m for the three-month period ending 31 December 2011 .