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BT Looks To Give London A Speed Boost With “Fibre To The Basement” Trial

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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‘Fibre to the basement’ technology could provide faster network speeds to homes and businesses in built-up areas

BT has announced a trial of new networking technology which could greatly increase the potential download speeds seen on its network.

The ‘fibre to the basement’ trials are the first to ever happen in the UK, and could prove invaluable for companies situated in hard-to-reach areas.

The trial, being conducted across the City of London,  will see 225 homes in the Middlesex Street Estate and around 50 SMEs based at 65 London Wall getting access to download speeds of up to 80Mbps from more than 130 different service providers for the first time.

rutlandcabinet2Up to speed

London is one of the best-connected cities in the world, but due to the crowded nature of the buildings across much of the city, often suffers from slow internet access.

BT says that more than 90 per cent of London’s homes and businesses can currently access lower-priced fibre broadband which is aimed at consumers, home workers and the very smallest SMEs, but a small minority of inner city buildings are served by ‘exchange-only’ lines, which make deployment of these networks extremely challenging.

As there is often no physical space for BT to install street cabinets which house faster fibre broadband kit, ‘fibre to the basement’ connections instead build the necessary connections directly into a building.

This means less time concerned with road closures, moving street furniture, local government regulation, and crucially, cuts down on the time and costs needed to deploy new fibre networks.

“We’re constantly exploring new ways to deliver fibre broadband to residential customers into city-centres, so we are excited to announce the launch of this trial,” said Joe Garner, CEO, Openreach.

“City-centre locations present unique challenges when it comes to upgrading consumer broadband. For example, there is less room for us to install a fibre cabinet on the pavement, and it is often harder to get permission to close roads to do the work.  We also need to secure permission from multiple landlords to run new cables across their land and properties.

“That’s why we are being innovative with new technology solutions like this one. We optimistic that this new solution will prove that fibre broadband can be installed into building basements quickly, smoothly and economically. It could also have the added benefit of being less disruptive for our customers and the general public.”

A recent Ofcom report highlighted that London, like many UK major cities, suffers from a number of urban ‘not-spots’ caused by an absence of telephone exchanges to upgrade to fibre because so many buildings have direct connections. This means many businesses are unable to upgrade and so suffer slower downloads, with a recent study by Hyperoptic finding that the average speed in London was a mere 26.3Mbps, far behind many other European capitals.

“All businesses are keener than ever to be well-connected and this ‘Fibre-to-Basement’ pilot is a welcome step forwards, especially for smaller SMEs, who are critical to London’s commercial dynamism,” said Graham Bell, chief information officer of the City of London Corporation. “We hope the trials will lead to further expansion of fibre broadband across the Square Mile for residents and SMEs, complementing the Ethernet infrastructure already available to larger firms.”

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