BT Plots 500Mbps ‘Ultrafast’ Broadband With G.Fast Trials

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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G.Fast could provide boost to speeds without need to lay new fibre cables

The majority of the UK could receive Internet speeds of 500Mbps within a decade if trials of G.Fast technology are successful, according to BT.

The company plans to hold two pilots of the technology this summer and claims the rollout would keep the UK ahead of its European neighbours in terms of superfast broadband adoption and takeup and promote the country to a ‘world leader’ alongside the likes of Japan and South Korea.

Around 4,000 homes and businesses will participate in the trials held in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and Gosforh, Newcastle from this Summer, and if successful, a wider rollout could begin as early as 2016.

BT G.Fast trials

Virgin Media fibre optic broadband map“BT is a world leader when it comes to fibre innovation and we are excited about the next stage in our story,” Patterson said today. “We believe G.fast is the key to unlocking ultrafast speeds and we are prepared to upgrade large parts of our network should the pilots prove successful.

“The UK is ahead of its major European neighbours when it comes to broadband and we need to stay ahead as customer demands evolve. G.fast will allow us to do that by building on the investment we have made in fibre to date. It will transform the UK broadband landscape from superfast to ultrafast in the quickest possible timeframe.”

The majority of the 22 million connections to the Openreach fibre network are made through Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology, which uses copper for the final hundred or so metres, meaning speeds can slow down the further the connection is from the cabinet.

The G.Fast standard uses existing copper cables to maintain speeds of up to 1Gbps as far as 400 metres from the cabinet, making it a far more cost effective technology to boost speeds than Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), which involves the laying of more fibre.

1Gbps premium

BT has so far achieved speeds of up to 800Mbps at its R&D centre at Adastral Park R&D centre in Suffolk and says it can reach 700Mbps on a 66 metre long cable – the same maximum distance from an exchange as 80 percent of properties connected to the Openreach network.

The company says it expects a commercial G.Fast network to initially offer speeds of ‘hundreds of megabits’ before edging up to 500Mbps as the technology becomes standardised and more advanced equipment becomes available. BT has also confirmed it is working on the creation of a ‘premium’ G.Fast service that could achieve the maximum theoretical speeds of 1Gbps.

There are a number of providers in the UK who can offer 1Gbps connections to businesses, but these involve FTTP connections. FTTC typically delivers around 80Mbps and the current average UK broadband speed is 23Mbps, according to regulator Ofcom.

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