BT steps up super-fast fibre roll-out in London

Almost nine in 10 homes and businesses in the capital will be able to get super-fast broadband services by the spring of 2011, BT has promised

BT has announced plans to rapidly increase its deployment of super-fast broadband to homes and businesses in Greater London.

The telco said on Monday it will roll out fibre broadband to exchanges covering 87 percent of London homes and businesses by the spring of 2011. The current figure is just over three percent. To reach its goal, 114 exchanges will need to be upgraded to support super-fast broadband, BT said.

"London is already one of the best connected cities in the world, and our investment plan will ensure that it stays ahead of the pack," Ian Livingston, BT's chief executive, said in a statement.

The company will roll out a combination of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fibre-to-the-home (FTTH). Though it did not specify a ratio, the telco suggested to ZDNet UK that just over one-quarter of the homes covered would receive FTTH.

FTTC means fibre is provided to a street cabinet, with a copper line connecting the cabinet to the home or business. FTTC will typically provide up to 40Mbps downstream. FTTH, where fibre is provided all the way to the home, will allow BT to provide 100Mbps services.

The fibre deployment is being ramped up "to give people the opportunity and choice, and because we can," a BT spokesman told ZDNet UK.

The BT spokesman said the stepped-up deployment is not being undertaken in response to competitive pressure from the likes of cable operator Virgin Media, which has promised to offer 100Mbps to some homes by the end of 2010, nor in response to delays by the Conservative Party in clarifying their plans for the public funding of next-generation broadband. However, he did say users can expect to see a similarity in the installation plans of Virgin and BT.

In its announcement, BT also said that it will also undertake a limited expansion of its ADSL2+ network, which already reaches 90 percent of London homes and businesses.

Super-fast broadband fibre has already been laid by BT in Muswell Hill, Canonbury, Chingford, Edmonton, Enfield, Thamesmead and Tottenham. Residents of Muswell Hill have already expressed their discontent with the size of the cabinets required for FTTC, causing delays to roll-out in the area.

Boris Johnson, London's mayor, welcomed BT's move and noted the benefit it could have for the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in the capital. "We are the home of so much technological innovation," Johnson said in a statement."The illustrious progenitor of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, was born in this great city and it would be the ultimate tribute to him if London had the best 'digital games' ever, not to mention the lifetime legacy of stronger internet infrastructure."

BT has committed to rolling out super-fast broadband to 65 per cent of the population nationwide by 2015, with 40 percent to be connected by 2012. However, the so-called 'final third' of the population, mainly resident in rural areas, is thought to be unviable for market forces alone to provide super-fast broadband. Most larger businesses in urban parts of the country are able to affordably procure their own dedicated fibre broadband connection.


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