Broadband minister Ed Vaizey opened a fibre-to-the-cabinet project in Birch Green, Hertfordshire on Tuesday that will see some 200 homes in the former "not spot" enjoy the fastest home broadband connections in the UK.
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Aidan Paul, CEO of Vtesse Networks, which supplied the fibre link, said the cost of the project was viable only because there was a short distance between Birch Green and Vtesse's national fibre network. "It was relatively cheap and easy to add a spur," he said.
The £20,000 cost of the Vtesse street cabinet, which could serve 600 homes, was "not viable" at the present subscriber levels, Paul told Vaizey. However, the cost could be halved if BT connection charges were brought into line with actual costs, and "unnecessary" technical requirements removed, making it more viable, he said.
Paul said Birch Green and the surrounding villages formed part of the "final third" of UK homes. These premises were not part of either BT or Virgin Media's broadband plans as they were too far (more than 3km) from an exchange. "That means they were not going to get a high-speed broadband connection in the foreseeable future," he said.
Until Vtesse provided the fibre link, villagers' broadband access was 2Mbps at best, and usually much worse, he said. This was below the government's target of a 2Mbps broadband service across the UK.
Vtesse's fibre enters the back of its street cabinet where it is split to connect with copper pair cables linked to the BT cabinet alongside. From there signals are distributed to subscribers' homes using BT copper pairs.
Paul said subscribers could choose between three "domestic" rates starting at £20 per month and two "business" rates. Rates were differentiated by speed and quality of service, he said.
Sue Williamson, who lives several kilometres from the Birch Green cabinet, said she was getting access at up to10Mbps, whereas she could get nothing before. "It is making a huge difference to my life," she told Vaizey.
Paul said Vtesse was still investigating why there was such volatility in speed. He added that Vtesse was looking to expand coverage to nearby Letty Green next year.