Openreach – BT’s local access network business – today announced further details of its deployment of fibre at Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent. From August 2008, fibre-optic cable will be used instead of traditional copper to connect homes on Land Securities’ 1,000 acre new build project. Approximately 10,000 homes will be built at Ebbsfleet Valley, along with six million sq. ft of commercial space and three million sq ft of retail, leisure and community facilities.
From August, Openreach will offer industry a fibre based broadband product at Ebbsfleet Valley that can support data at speeds of up to 100Mbit/s – the fastest headline speed available to residential customers in the UK. This would allow multiple HDTV channels to be watched simultaneously, HDTV gaming, and near instant music downloads. Openreach will offer all its products on a wholesale basis to all UK communication providers allowing for competition at a retail level. BT already provides some 120,000 businesses across the country with fibre connections.
Steve Robertson, chief executive of Openreach, said: “This is our first deployment of fibre rather than copper to residential customers on a new build site. It will enable communication providers to gauge what demand exists for very high speed broadband, and to assess what commercial models may be appropriate in the future. Unlike many other countries, in the UK we offer all our products on a fully equivalent wholesale basis. We are very proud of that commitment, and its clear and positive effect on the overall market.”
Andy Freeman, head of project management at Land Securities commented: “Ebbsfleet Valley, which has been identified by the Government as one of four key ‘transformational’ projects in the Thames Gateway, is the first development site in the UK to initiate fibre to the premises technology to all new homes. It demonstrates our commitment to innovation and forward thinking; which are paramount when creating a development on the scale of Ebbsfleet Valley with a build period of 25 years.”
In the future BT would like to make greater use of fibre in suitable new build sites, and a significant opportunity is presented by the Government’s plan to build 3 million new houses by 2020. But this investment critically depends upon an agreement with Ofcom which is currently engaged in consultation about how best to extend the regulatory framework to accommodate future fibre deployment. All current regulation is based upon BT offering wholesale products over copper.
BT is also committed to increasing broadband speeds over copper, introducing services of up to 24 Megabits from Spring 2008.