BT promises a new broadband exchange a day

e-Summit: One hundred and fifty more local exchanges will be upgraded to offer ADSL by March next year, as the broadband divide slowly closes

BT has committed to broadband-enable one British telephone exchange every day between now and March next year.

The pledge is part of the company's target of making ADSL available to 90 percent of UK households by the middle of 2005.

Pierre Danon, chief executive at BT Retail, told the e-Summit on London on Tuesday that the company's broadband pre-registration scheme was helping the rollout of broadband networks across the UK.

Over 200,000 people across Britain's broadband divide have already submitted their details in the hope of showing BT that there is enough demand for broadband in their area for the local exchange to be upgraded.

"That interest is helping to push our broadband exchange-enabling scheme, which kicked into action with Todmorden," explained Danon.

"Seventeen others are currently being enabled and we now expect to upgrade exchanges to broadband at the equivalent rate of one a day between now and March -- all thanks to public demand," Danon added. This commitment means that 150 exchanges should be ADSL-enabled over the next four months.

Todmorden, in North Yorkshire, was the first place in Britain to hit the trigger level of interest set by BT after 200 local residents expressed their interest via BT's broadband registration scheme. As ZDNet UK has reported, broadband has been available from the Todmorden local exchange since earlier this month.

Seventeen other areas have also hit their trigger levels and achieved enough advance broadband orders for BT to decide to upgrade their exchange.

A BT spokesman told ZDNet UK that the telco is hoping that the upgrade rate of one exchange per day will continue after March 2003. "The pre-registration scheme is likely to be more successful once it is more widely known," he told ZDNet UK News.

To that end, BT will urge regional development agencies, businesses and local media to promote the pre-registration scheme as being the way for people to bring broadband to their area. BT Wholesale ran a four-week advertising campaign to promote the scheme in August and September this year.

Danon also told the e-Summit that BT was launching a new product called "Midband", designed for the 10 percent of households who will never get ADSL. Midband will offer Internet surfing at up to 128Kbps, and although it will not be a true always-on service it will give instant notification when a user receives new email.

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