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Photos: BT previews superfast fibre broadband... in Muswell Hill

Telco opens a shop to shout about the benefits of signing up for fibre broadband... 3D TV anyone?
By Natasha Lomas, Contributor on
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1 of 9 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

Telco opens a shop to shout about the benefits of signing up for fibre broadband... 3D TV anyone?

BT has opened a new high street shop to promote fibre broadband in London's Muswell Hill - the location for one of its two fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) pilots, along with Whitchurch in South Wales.

Residents of London's N10 district are being invited to try the FTTC service for free until January 2010, with the telco targeting its existing broadband customers with letters offering a free taste of fibre.

A BT spokesman said thousands of its customers in the two areas have so far requested to be part of the pilot.

Engineers started work on hooking them up at the end of last month.

Pictured above is some of BT's local marketing for the fibre trial in Muswell Hill, just around the corner from its new shop...

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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2 of 9 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

...which is shown above at 328 Muswell Hill Broadway - in a former travel agent's shop.

According to the BT spokesman, the pricing for the forthcoming commercial fibre product will be announced at the end of the pilot, in January.

He said the telco is also in the process of working out the details of what specific terms and conditions customers can expect.

Asked about traffic shaping, the spokesman added that at this point it has not been decided whether users of BT's fibre might have their bandwidth throttled in certain situations or not.

"Part of this trial is to work out how customers use it," he said.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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3 of 9 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

Inside BT's fibre showcase, potential trial customers can be shown a series of demos of what can be done with so-called superfast broadband compared to standard ADSL.

Here Phil Newton, innovation consultant at BT, shows off the faster speeds offered by FTTC by downloading the same game on two separate Xboxes, one connected to fibre getting in the "high 30Mbps", the other on a "normal" ADSL line with speeds up to 8Mbps.

In the demo, 29 per cent of the game was downloaded on the ADSL line in the same time it took to completely download it on the fibre line.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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Here, speed also takes centre stage in a fibre vs ADSL demo - this time the example is uploading files to video-sharing website Vimeo.

The screen on the left is the fibre connection and the green bar means 100 per cent of the upload has been completed. In the same timeframe, the ADSL connection has managed 26 per cent of the upload, represented by the small blue bar.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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5 of 9 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

Upstairs, the shopfloor is set up as a SME demo area where one demonstration aims to flag up how much more can be done simultaneously over a fibre line than an ADSL line.

Here Newton has set off an upload and a download on the ADSL demo machine - to represent the sort of day-to-day software scenario a business might be faced with, such as downloading a software patch and uploading a back-up during the working day. He then starts a video from iPlayer which fails to play without buffering owing to the background demands being put on the line.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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6 of 9 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

Here the two connections can be seen side by side, with the fibre line - on the right - being able to handle the upload and download without degrading the watchability of the video.

"What we're showing here for business is you've got the one line and you're doing all this at the same time but you should be able to do all these applications," he said.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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7 of 9 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

Another SME application improved by fibre, according to BT, is VoIP and videoconferencing, which it is also demoing in the shop.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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And IPCCTV - here BT's Newton shows multiple cameras running on the one fibre line. "I can run this on any bit of kit," he said. "In the past you've had to have almost a dedicated line to run this sort of thing."

"We also look at cloud computing as well," Newton added. "You can start selling these services in a much easier way when you've got the reliable [broadband] service behind it."

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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The telco has an 'if you build it they will come' philosophy when it comes to what kind of next-gen apps to expect in a fibre-enabled world. "You've always got that thing with technology," said Newton. "You enable the speeds and the applications start coming."

But the shop does include a few tasters - including this Telemersion TV which uses footage from a dome-shaped camera that has 13 HD lenses. The end result is a 360-degree view where the user can pick whatever camera angle they like and zoom in on the action - a technology BT is looking to deploy with the Olympics, according to Newton.

Possible business applications for 360-degree Telemersion include virtual tours for estate agents, travel agents and hotels, he added.

Other apps BT envisages making a splash on fibre include HD and 3D streaming of movie content, 3D gaming, and having a more interactive relationship with the TV in general.

Couch potatoes will be able to content share and chat with friend via an IM widget on the TV or even make a video call while simultaneously watching the box, he added. "You could have a conversation while you're watching the football and have [your friend] appear in the top corner."

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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