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Government to spell out UK broadband plans on Monday; BT offers 90% fibre coverage

Ian Grant

Culture minister Jeremy Hunt will set out the government's plans to stimulate investment in UK broadband networks on Monday.

BT said ahead of the meeting that it could "extend fibre to up to 90% of UK premises, assuming no unfavourable changes to the investment or regulatory environment", if it received the £830m grant the government has earmarked for investment in broadband networks, particularly in rural areas.

The telecoms giant also said it will test a 1Gbps broadband service in Kesgrave, Suffolk early in 2011, and include up to 40 rural market towns in the next phase of its fibre deployment.

Commenting on BT's announcement, Hunt said "BT's fantastic range of measures would, on top of the £830m the government is investing, go a huge way to delivering our ambition for the UK to have the best broadband system in Europe by 2015."

BT has said it will contribute its own money to supplement any public money spent on rural broadband.

Hunt said a super-fast broadband network was vital to the country's economic growth and the development of its high-tech and creative industries, as well as the reform of public services.

"I will be setting out on Monday how we can do even more to boost broadband roll-out by stimulating competition and creating an environment in which business can flourish by removing barriers and cutting costs," he said.

Olivia Garfield, BT's director of strategy, said BT intended "to continually push the limits of our superfast broadband programme in terms of the technology and the geography".

She said "everyday consumers" didn't need gigabit speeds today, but it was important to test the fibre broadband product's maximum speed capabilities to ensure that it was "future-proofed".

"By evolving our deployment model for fibre we have been able to push the geographical boundaries of superfast broadband. It allows us to build a commercial case for rolling out fibre to selected towns in rural areas to satisfy the growing appetite for faster broadband speeds," she said.

Last week BT announced it would offer a minimum 5Mbps fibre-based broadband access speed. This would allow it to cover a wider area at the cost of slower speeds on its present £2.5bn fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) programme, which Garfield said runs at 33Mbps to 37Mbps.


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