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BT bets on business broadband for rural consumers

BT is aiming to reach distant customers with multiple 1Mbps broadband to fulfil the Digital Britain 2Mbps promise
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor on

BT is testing fixed-line broadband technology which it says could help achieve government targets laid out in the recent Digital Britain report. Those aim to provide universal high-speed internet access across the UK of at least 2Mbps.

The system under trial, known as Broadband Enabling Technology (BET), is based on existing technology used for business-class broadband services. That technology provides relatively high-speed internet access that can be extended further from exchanges than was previously possible.

"We're really excited about the potential of BET to extend broadband to the remaining not-spots," said John Small, managing director of service delivery, BT Openreach. "By rolling out BET, we can help customers and assist the government to realise its aim for a universal 2Mbps broadband service."

BT says BET can deliver broadband up to 12km, compared to the standard 5km limit of ADSL, to speeds of 1Mbps in both directions. Higher speeds will rely on bonding together multiple lines, with two lines needed for 2Mbps. The service is based on existing Single-Pair High-speed Digital Subscriber Line (SHDSL technology) which has been proposed as an alternative to ADSL since 2001.

Openreach is currently trialling BET in Inverness and Dingwall in Scotland and plans to roll out the technology to another eight sites across the UK: Twyford in Berkshire, Badsey in Worcestershire, Llanfyllin in Powys, Leyland in Lancashire, Ponteland in Northumberland, Wigton in Cumbria, Horsham in West Sussex and Wymondham in Norfolk.

BT's competitors argue that wireless, mobile or satellite services make more sense for remote areas. Mobile provider 3 told an conference in July that mobile broadband could fill the gaps in the government's proposed 2Mbps universal broadband commitment without state funding, but only if outstanding spectrum issues were resolved. "If we can come to an agreement on the spectrum issues, we can fund the rollout," said Hugh Davies, 3's director of corporate affairs.

BT said customers using such services would have to share bandwidth and would see their services degraded as a result.

"Wireless-based broadband services such as mobile and satellite deliver a defined data rate into a specific area," the company said in a statement. "Any customer using broadband in that area will have to share the available capacity with all other users and will suffer further degradation in broadband speeds as a result of environmental factors."

BT added that its BET technology is not affected by weather, atmospheric conditions or other environmental effects that cause problems with wireless and satellite services.

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