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BT Promises 300 Mbps Broadband And Tests FTTP On Demand

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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FTTC customers can upgrade to FTTP, while the top speed of fibre broadband looks like going up again

BT has promised 300Mbps fibre broadband by spring of 2013 – and added an option where people in areas that have fibre to the street cabinet (FTTC) can upgrade “on demand” to have the fibre directly to their home (fibre to the premises, or FTTP).

The company plans to double the download and upload speeds on its fibre network and provide speeds of up to 300 Mbps (megabits per second) by spring next year. Meanwhile, it has tested its “FTTP on demand” service as part of a superfast broadband trial in  Cornwall, which involved laying 130,000 kilometres of optical fibre cable.

BT currently provides up to 40 Mbps broadband speeds in areas with FTTC coverage, and has officially announced that a faster (up to 80 Mbps download, 20 Mbps upload) FTTC (fibre-to-the-cabinet) service is coming this spring. This has been made possible thanks to BT installing fibre cable between its exchanges and the cabinets, as an upgrade to the existing copper.

Speed of light

A key difference between FTTC and FTTP is that the second totally removes the old, sluggish copper or aluminium cable from the equation, offering virtually unlimited speeds. FTTP already offers a speed of 110 Mbps, and is due this year to support 330 Mbps, with further trials planned of 1 Gbps.

FTTP services have been limited geographically in BT’s fibre-to the-premise trials, but BT is now giving those in FTTC areas the option to ask for a fibre from the cabinet to their home.

However “On-demand” is going to be more expensive than your average broadband connection. ThinkBroadband website speculates that the cost of FTTP will be around £80 per month, plus installation fees of at least £500, which somewhat limits the appeal of the new technology. Still, it is likely to be of particular interest to small and medium size businesses that need to send and receive large amounts of data.

BT has also confirmed it will continue expansion into apartments and flats, since that’s where FTTP can be deployed more easily. The aim is for 25 percent percent of the BT fibre coverage to be FTTP.

“The release of information about a new FTTP On-Demand product for areas of the UK where BT has already deployed its FTTC product is a surprise,” commented Andrew Ferguson, editor of Thinkbroadband.com. “While it was known that the fibre service FTTC could be extended, this was not expected to happen for some years.”

Are we there yet?

The company has also revealed that more than seven million premises can now access fibre broadband over its network. This figure will rise to ten million in 2012 and then to around two thirds of UK premises by the end of 2014. BT wants to go further and believes it is possible to make fibre broadband available to more than 90 percent of UK addresses by working with local councils and devolved governments. BT is bidding for Broadband Delivery UK funds to make that happen.

It’s not just BT clients who will benefit. The telecom giant will share its network with other providers, such as Sky.

“FTTP on demand is a significant development for Broadband Britain. Essentially, it could make our fastest speeds available wherever we deploy fibre. This will be welcome news for small businesses who may wish to benefit from the competitive advantage that such speeds provide,” said Olivia Garfield, Openreach chief executive.