​BT to pilot 'fibre to the basement' tech in London

BT is looking at delivering fibre into basements as a way to fix up slow broadband in cramped parts of London.

UK telecoms operator BT is piloting a new, less obtrusive method of delivering high-speed broadband in tightly packed London - via connections to basements.

BT will deploy its first "fibre to the basement" network in the UK for select residents in the Square Mile of London as part of its effort to provide high speed broadband to locations in the city where it's been too cramped to install street cabinets or too costly to dig up roads and lay cables.

Residents, small business and home workers in these areas have been stuck on "exchange-only line" connections with speeds of up to 20 Mbps. Locations where the trial reaches will be bumped up to 80 Mbps.

The technology, developed by BT, will replicate the function of the operator's street cabinets but inside the basements of buildings or comms rooms.

The pilot network will be deployed to 225 homes in the Middlesex Street Estate and around 50 SMEs based at 65 London Wall from January, which will be able to choose between 130 different service providers.

The benefits are reduced costs from public civil engineering works and fewer road closures as well as a faster delivery of fibre speeds to residents and businesses.

"City-centre locations present unique challenges when it comes to upgrading consumer broadband," said Openreach CEO Joe Garner. "For example, there is less room for us to install a fibre cabinet on the pavement, and it is often harder to get permission to close roads to do the work. We also need to secure permission from multiple landlords to run new cables across their land and properties."

BT cites a recent PWC report which calculates that 14,000 businesses in the Square Mile have access to business grade broadband services while 90 percent of residents can access fibre broadband already.

Still, that leaves 10 percent of residents and workers in a densely populated city without decent broadband. Graham Bell, CIO of the City of London Corporation, welcomed the pilot and hopes for an expanded roll out.

"We hope the trials will lead to further expansion of fibre broadband across the Square Mile for residents and SMEs, complementing the Ethernet infrastructure already available to larger firms," he said.

As UK broadband site ISPreview reported recently the City of London Corporation had criticised BT over a lack of high speed broadband in the Square Mile, with the corporation planning a wireless alternative to address the issue.