Openreach has revealed a further 66 exchanges where it will make fibre-based infrastructure available so that communications providers can deliver super-fast broadband.
The new exchange list was announced as the business confirmed it would pass five million premises with its fibre infrastructure by the end of the month.
The 66 new locations are spread across Britain and between them cover nearly one million additional homes and businesses. The majority will be enabled during 2012 with others going live by the end of this year. Openreach will reveal further locations over the coming months.
This phase is the latest chapter in BT’s long-term programme to make super-fast broadband available to two-thirds of UK homes and businesses by the end of 2015. The company has pledged to spend £2.5 billion on this programme, subject to there being an acceptable environment for investment.
Openreach also revealed it has been trialling a new wireless broadband access technology on the Isle of Bute. Working with the University of Strathclyde, BBC Research and Development, Steepest Ascent, Berg Design and Netpropagate, the business is conducting trials to see if “white spaces” in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) TV spectrum can be used to deliver high speed broadband to hard to reach areas. The consortium is backed by funding from the government’s Technology Strategy Board.
“White spaces” are increasingly becoming available due to the switchover to digital TV. They are essentially the unused parts of the digital TV spectrum in a specific geography. Openreach is conducting the trial to see if white space can be used to assist homes that either receive no broadband service or a sub 2 Mb/s service due to the length of their line.
The initial results have been very promising with the technology being tested over long distances and challenging terrain. Further tests are required however and so live trials are due to commence in July with approximately a dozen end users across the island. These end users will have their wireless service linked back to the exchange building at Kilchattan Bay, from where a dedicated radio link to the mainland will provide broadband internet access.
Liv Garfield, CEO for Openreach, said: “Being able to bring faster broadband speeds within reach of more than five million premises is a significant milestone and we are well on our way to passing 10 million in 2012 and two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2015. This is the largest single commercial investment in fibre-based broadband infrastructure ever undertaken in the UK and is one of the biggest civil engineering projects running in the country at this time.”
“We also welcome the government’s recent pledge to free up a further £50m of BDUK funds to stimulate investment in rural broadband networks in Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset. We have made a clear commitment to rolling out fibre to two-thirds of the UK, but we’re keen to go further by working with public sector bodies.
“There will be competition for these funds but we believe that BT is well-placed to compete, given our experience in rolling out networks that are both open to others and sustainable. These are important factors if local consumers and businesses are to benefit from competition and the resulting low prices.
“The final ten per cent of the UK is going to be the hardest to reach with fixed line super-fast broadband and so we are busy trialling other technologies. One of these is based on white space and I’m glad to say the initial results are very encouraging. It’s early days but our hope is that this technology may provide an effective solution for ‘not spots’ and ‘slow spots’”.
Fibre to the cabinet technology (FTTC) offers download speeds of up to 40Mbps and upstream speeds of 10Mbps. Openreach is planning to roughly double speeds across its FTTC footprint during 2012, with the potential to increase speeds still further in the future.
BT’s fibre broadband deployment programme is one of the fastest in the world – passing around 80,000 new premises per week, the equivalent of building the fibre network in Singapore every quarter. No other company in the world is investing as much in fibre without public sector support.
Over the course of the programme Openreach are installing 30,000 cabinets, connecting 200,000 distribution points, enabling over 1,000 exchanges and laying over 50,000km of fibre.