BT Group's Openreach says the speed of its mainstream fibre connection -- currently the "up to 40Mbps" sold as BT Infinity -- "will roughly double in 2012". However, some users could do even better. Openreach says: "The business has also launched a much faster variant in certain locations that will offer speeds of up to 300Mbps in Spring 2012."
Openreach's website at superfast-openreach.co.uk is now promoting speeds of "up to 100Mbps" and says: "It won't be long until people are demanding even faster speeds and we're already testing a 1Gbps fibre service."
The current average downstream speed is 6.8Mbps, and many users complain of getting much lower speeds. ADSL broadband rates drop with distance from the telephone exchange, and are also reduced by other factors such as the type of connection (aluminium rather than copper, for example) and the number of joints in the wiring. This makes it impossible to guarantee any particular user will get a specific speed.
Openreach says it has added 178 exchanges to its fibre deployment programme, to reach another 1.8 million homes and businesses. Many of these are in Scotland and Wales, and a full list is included with Openreach's announcement. "Once these and previously announced exchanges have been upgraded, Openreach will have completed around 80 per cent of its commercial fibre footprint," says the company.
The initial roll-out is based on installing Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) on the street, then using the existing copper connection to the home or business. Higher speeds can be obtained at much higher cost by installing Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) instead. However, since the roll-out depends on the service's commercial viability, not all cabinets are being upgraded, even when the local exchange is enabled. (Look for larger, brighter green cabinets to appear next to the current cabinets.)
Openreach was separated from the main part of BT to satisfy the UK regulator, Ofcom. It offers network access to all internet service providers on an equivalent wholesale basis, not just to BT.