Slow broadband? BT promises a speed upgrade for 700,000 customers by next summer

BT signalled the end of older copper-based ADSL networks that 700,000 households and businesses in the UK are still relying on.

Gigabit-capable broadband for the entire UK by 2025? Easier said than done, claim experts

BT has said it will upgrade the 700,000 customers that are still using ADSL broadband to superfast broadband by June 2020 – at no extra charge.

This means that households and businesses that are currently struggling through on average speeds of 10Mbps could soon get 50Mpbs or more broadband, without paying any extra cost upfront or seeing their monthly bills increase.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

It is part of BT's move away from copper-line-based networks and towards fibre networks, as superfast broadband can be delivered through Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) technology or even faster full-fibre networks, also called Fibre To The Premise (FTTP). 

"BT will stop selling standard broadband connections on the legacy BT copper network to 90% of the UK. For the 10% that cannot get superfast connections today, BT will use all-available technologies to provide the fastest connections possible including 4G and 5G broadband, and full fibre," the company said.

BT also promised to bring full fibre to four million premises by March 2021, part of its objective of reaching 15 million households and businesses by the mid 2020s. 

Gerry McQuade, Enterprise CEO at BT, told ZDNet that this will be significant for UK companies: "It is essential for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) more than anyone else to have reliable connectivity. Most SMEs, if they lose on connectivity, ultimately lose on productivity."

BT said it will stop selling broadband connections using its legacy copper network altogether, leaving only fibre broadband available to purchase for customers. IS Preview had already noted last month that older, pure copper line ADSL and ADSL2+ broadband had been removed from BT's catalogue.    

For the 90% of the country where superfast infrastructure is available, the prospect of faster internet for no extra cost will come as good news. But what about the 10% most remote areas that are not yet ready for the upgrade?

BT's answer to that is essentially "other technologies". "In copper-only areas we will look at other options such as 4G and 5G," said McQuade. 

SEE: Broadband future: Why it will take more than billions to make gigabit speeds a reality for everyone

But that is not to say that 5G, nor its predecessor 4G, will be able to reach all of the ADSL-connected areas in the UK – and even if they were, it could come at a great cost. 

"It is costly to provide 100% coverage with fibre services and terrestrial 5G," Zhili Sun, professor of communications networking at the University of Surrey, told ZDNet. He points towards other, more economical, solutions, such as satellite in those areas.