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BT: Not all of the UK needs full fibre broadband

The cost involved in a fibre-to-the-premises rollout for all UK residences is unnecessary as existing technologies can be extended for faster download speeds in the future, the telco says
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Fibre-to-the-premises broadband connections are not necessary for all of the UK because extra performance capacity can be squeezed out of existing copper and fibre-to-the-cabinet technology, BT has said.


BT has said that fibre-to-the-cabinet connections that use copper for the last stretch can meet the UK's broadband needs for the foreseeable future. Image credit: BT

FTTP, where fibre extends from the cabinet as far as a user's premises, can deliver speeds of up to 1Gbps. FTTC, which uses legacy copper for the final connection between the cabinet and the premises, currently delivers speeds of around 80Mbps. However, according to Sean Williams, group strategy director at BT, there are still technological advances that can be made to existing copper and FTTC connections to give them a speed boost.

"FTTP costs five times as much as FTTC and furthermore there is no business case to support it, and technological developments mean there is no need for it. FTTC is a good solution for medium and long term," Williams said.

While FTTP is viewed by some as the UK's only viable approach to broadband in the long term, Williams believes a full fibre rollout is not needed as FTTC and other copper-based technologies have sufficient capacity for the future.

"[FTTC] is far from being at its limit. We will be able to deliver far higher speeds over FTTC," he said at a House of Lords Select Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The ability to generate higher speeds doesn't solely rest with infrastructure providers, Williams added.

"Once you put an 80Mbps FTTC service into the premises the broadband network is no longer the speed bottleneck. The home Wi-Fi or devices can't cope with the speeds, or at the other end, the servers serving communications can't deliver the speed."

FTTP costs five times as much as FTTC and furthermore there is no business case to support it, and technological developments mean there is no need for it.
– Sean Williams, BT

BT also confirmed that there is no end in sight for its rollout of copper broadband services, even as the company continues to expand its fibre offerings. "We are still building out copper broadband networks, we still invest in them and we still connect households to the copper network. We will continue to invest in fibre and copper networks for the foreseeable future," Williams said. "Mass rollout of super-fast broadband is the work of the next decade, I suppose. "

Miles Mandelson, chairman of Great Asby Broadband, a grass-roots project that brought internet connectivity to rural parts of Cumbria that had none, believes that fibre is the only way to future-proof UK networks.

"Anything that delivers just about enough tomorrow is enough [for rural locations] for now, but you have to think longer term," Mandelson said. "We need infrastructure that will work for a long time and be reliable and have a low running cost and you cannot avoid fibre optics for that job."

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