BT has announced trials of a pioneering technique which could deliver superfast broadband to hard-to-access locations in cities across the UK. The new form of “fibre to the basement” technology – developed and funded by BT – is the first deployment of its kind anywhere in the country and will be piloted in two City of London buildings from next month.
As a result of the trial, 225 homes in the Middlesex Street Estate and around 50 SMEs based at 65 London Wall will have access to download speeds of up to 80Mbps from more than 130 different service providersi for the first time.
London is already one of the best connected cities in the world – something recognised in a recent independent report by PWCii – and some 14,000 businesses of all sizes within the Square Mile currently have access to world-leading business-grade services. More than 90 per cent of London’s homes and businesses can also access lower-priced fibre broadband which is aimed at consumers, home workers and the very smallest SMEs, but a small minority of inner city buildings are served by ‘exchange-only’ linesiii and present a much bigger challenge to serve with this technology.
In these cases, consumers do have access to broadband at speeds of up to 20Mbps but there is often no physical space for BT to install street cabinets which house faster fibre broadband kit. There is also a huge cost and complexity involved in connecting a power supply, closing and digging up roads, and securing wayleaves for access to private land – all of which can prove prohibitive. Local planning restrictions can also make new cabinets tricky to install, but BT hopes these latest trials could offer a solution to many of these issues.
By integrating fibre broadband kit into a building basement or comms room, the need for street furniture, public civil engineering works and road closures will be drastically reduced – and so will the time it takes for an installation to be carried out.
Graham Bell, Chief Information Officer of the City of London Corporation, said: “All businesses are keener than ever to be well-connected and this ‘Fibre-to-Basement’ pilot is a welcome step forwards, especially for smaller SMEs, who are critical to London’s commercial dynamism. We hope the trials will lead to further expansion of fibre broadband across the Square Mile for residents and SMEs, complementing the Ethernet infrastructure already available to larger firms.”
Joe Garner, CEO, Openreach said: “We’re constantly exploring new ways to deliver fibre broadband to residential customers into city-centres, so we are excited to announce the launch of this trial.
“City-centre locations present unique challenges when it comes to upgrading consumer broadband. For example, there is less room for us to install a fibre cabinet on the pavement, and it is often harder to get permission to close roads to do the work. We also need to secure permission from multiple landlords to run new cables across their land and properties.
“That’s why we are being innovative with new technology solutions like this one. We optimistic that this new solution will prove that fibre broadband can be installed into building basements quickly, smoothly and economically. It could also have the added benefit of being less disruptive for our customers and the general public.”
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