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BT fiber trial to start in August

Further details have emerged of BT's upcoming fiber-to-the-home trials in Kent, which could see businesses and residents enjoying data speeds of up to 100Mbps.
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Written by David Meyer on

Further details have emerged of BT's upcoming fiber-to-the-home trials in Kent, which could see businesses and residents enjoying data speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Openreach, BT's local access network business, is currently deploying fiber to Ebbsfleet Valley, where 10,000 new homes are being built.

On Thursday BT announced that, from August, "industry" in that area will be offered a fiber-based broadband product. According to the company, this will be a boost for high-definition TV and gaming, as well as downloading material at a much greater speed than that offered by copper cabling.

BT already supplies fiber connections to around 120,000 businesses in the United Kingdom, but Ebbsfleet marks the company's first foray into the residential market.

"This is our first deployment of fiber rather than copper to residential customers on a new-build site," said the head of Openreach, Steve Robertson, on Thursday. "It will enable communication providers to gauge what demand exists for very high-speed broadband, and to assess what commercial models may be appropriate in the future."

Many have been keen to see BT roll out fiber across the country, but the regulatory aspects of such a scenario remain a contentious matter, as does the question of who will pay for it, and for what return. BT will, in the meantime, be squeezing more out of the nation's copper-based infrastructure with a 24Mbps service, available from this spring.

"In the future BT would like to make greater use of fiber in suitable new build sites, and a significant opportunity is presented by the government's plan to build three million new houses by 2020," read a statement from the company. "But this investment critically depends upon an agreement with Ofcom, which is currently engaged in consultation about how best to extend the regulatory framework to accommodate future fiber deployment. All current regulation is based upon BT offering wholesale products over copper."

Ofcom's consultation on the matter, which was launched in September 2007, followed pressure from the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) and the government minister Stephen Timms to get the ball rolling.

Last year Timms and the BSG warned that failure to start a fiber rollout within the next two years could see the U.K. falling behind other countries in terms of broadband access.

However, BT has suggested that there may not be sufficient demand for fiber access, and one analyst has claimed that the investment needed for such a deployment may only follow the clamor for a "killer app" that requires it.

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