BT Fibre Roll Out Falls Short, Says Analyst

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Many UK residents will miss out on high speed internet access because fibre rollout will fall short in crucial areas, says a broadband analyst company

The rollout of BT’s next generation fibre network will fall short in many crucial areas according to broadband analyst company Point Topic.

The company says it has compiled research into where there is likely to be greatest end user demand for BT’s next-generation broadband access (NGA) fibre network. It has been mapping broadband in the UK since 2005.

Point Topic said that it has overlaid its own map of NGA broadband demand over BT’s stated plan for coverage. It found that BT’s rollout falls short by a long way in many urban areas, meaning thousands of business and residential customers may be left with no access to superfast broadband.

“The current plans won’t even cover half of the areas of high demand,” said Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic. Indeed, the company estimates that the deployment announced so far by BT will only reach about 35 percent of the population by 2012.

“BT’s planned NGA rollout, as so far announced, falls a long way short of covering even those areas where NGA should be economically attractive even without subsidy,” said Point Topic. “The contribution from altnets looks quite limited at the moment as well. Thus about 60 percent of the UK population have no prospect of getting NGA before 2012, and maybe for much longer.”

“We had a look at the report, but so far we have only announced that OpenReach will be rolling out NGA to 40 percent of the UK population by 2012,” a BT spokesman told eWEEK Europe. “But we haven’t announced yet all the exchange areas that will be covered in the NGA rollout. That is why there is some confusion here, as they (Point Topic) cannot take into account the exchanges we haven’t announced yet.”

“They rightly highlighted that NGA investment in low population density regions will be challenging and for that, we need government support,” said the BT spokesman. “When we look at exchange areas where we deploy NGA, we go through conversation with communication providers (CPs), and the rollout is based on those discussions (as well as network topography – where the ducting is located etc) as well as level of demand the CP expects in that area. We are consulting with the industry and looking at how to invest in this.”

“BT makes a fair point,” Point Topic’s Johnson told eWEEK Europe. “But that said, there is not many NGA exchanges still to come (i.e. still to be announced) on their 2012 program, and what they are doing at the moment will reach only 35 percent.”

“The fact of the matter is that the world is moving on quickly,” said Johnson. “The regional bodies we are currently speaking to are getting very concerned about the lack of NGA in their area. Another aspect is how will the lack of NGA affect the price of property in certain areas?

“The measure of attractiveness of areas is currently based on the density of potential demand. The single biggest factor in this is the number of subscriber per square kilometre. We are mapping the UK in those terms, and it is clear that BT’s current program through to 2012, covers barely half of the area where demand is strong enough to provide NGA, even without subsidiary,” said Johnson. “I was struck by that, as I expected BT to cover the more attractive areas more thoroughly.”

“The fact is that one can see in that in two years time, a third of the UK will have NGA, which will become more and more attractive because of new applications (i.e. online television),” he said. “A significant divide will develop and it presents quite a striking opportunity for others to get into the areas if they can find the capital to invest in it.”


Author: Tom Jowitt
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