BT Fibre ‘Leaves Out Up To 60 Percent Of Cabinets’

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BT is accused of misrepresenting the actual coverage of fibre-based broadband in enabled exchange areas

A leading reseller of BT’s broadband services has accused the telco of misrepresenting its fibre-based broadband coverage, charging that as many as 60 percent of the street-level cabinets are being missed out in broadband-enabled exchange areas.

Stuart Watson, broadband product manager at BT reseller Zen Internet, said in a Monday report by IT industry journal PC Pro that BT needed to be clearer about the real-world coverage of broadband.

Schedules said to be unclear

BT publishes schedules of when it is enabling particular exchanges for fibre-based broadband, but real-world availability of services depends on an area’s cabinet also being enabled, and BT doesn’t indicate cabinet-level upgrades, Watson pointed out.

“Customers are seeing when their exchange is enabled but not when their cabinet is going to be, or even if it’s going to be upgraded, because only about 40 percent or 50 percent of cabinets in a given area are scheduled or are likely to be upgraded,” Watson said in the report.

BT downplayed the issue, arguing that the exchanges where only 40 to 50 percent of cabinets would be upgraded only represented a “handful” of cases, and even then, in “many” of those cases, the actual coverage would amount to “up to 70 percent” of homes and businesses in the exchange area.

On average “well over 70 percent” of cabinets would be enabled in an exchange area, covering around 85 percent of homes and businesses, BT said. In some cases cabinets that aren’t upgraded right away might be revisited later, the company said.

Transparency

However, BT didn’t indicate any plans to make the actual availability of fibre services more transparent for customers.

The telco said a “range of commercial and technical criteria” are used to decide whether to enable a specific cabinet, including whether the cabinet supports enough premises to make it financially viable.

BT has also announced a major investment into Northern Ireland fibre-based broadband, with the number of lines connected to a fibre broadband street cabinet rising to 88 percent from the current coverage of 54 percent by March 2012. BT pointed out that this coverage level is higher than most European countries are planning to deploy by 2015.

The rollout is part of BT’s planned £2.5bn investment into its rollout of fibre across the UK, which will also bring the technology to about 300,000 premises in 41 market towns across the UK by the spring of next year.

“High-speed fibre broadband is transformational – it changes how we live, how we educate, how our businesses send their products and ideas around the world,” said BT Northern Ireland chief executive Graham Sutherland, in a statement.

The telecoms giant is also aiming to bring the technology to approximately 300,000 properties in 41 market towns across Britain by spring 2012.

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