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BT to pilot fibre to the kerb broadband next summer

Ian Grant

BT will start rolling out fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) in summer as part of the £1.5bn network upgrade it announced in July.

The first two pilot exchanges to be upgraded will be Muswell Hill, London, and Whitchurch, South Glamorgan. The exchanges serve about 15,000 customers each. BT plans to run a technical trial of FTTC in the Foxhall exchange area of Kesgrave, Suffolk early next year.

David Campbell, Openreach's director of next generation access, said BT will sell fibre-based services to all UK communication providers on a wholesale basis.

Indicative pricing for the FTTC service is £5-£10 plus VAT above present telephone services. This will buy transmission speeds of up to 40mbps for downloads and 15mbps for uploads.

BT earlier installed fibre to the premises (FTTP) as part of the new-build development at Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent. Pricing there is £230 per premises plus £36/y rental for a nominal 10mbps download and 2mbps upload speed.

Virgin Media is presently upgrading its cable TV network to handle data speeds up to 50mbps. ntl-Telewest, Virgin Media's business arm, currently offers fibre and copper connections that range from 4-20mbps for downloads and 0.5-1.0mbps for uploads for up to £50/month.

Geo, a network operator, is building a £30m fibre network in north Wales for the Welsh Assembly. It should go live early in the new year and offer 10mbps speeds upstream and down.

A BT spokesman said the trials of 15,000 customers each in different parts of the country would give the telco "good data" on the likely interest and uptake among bandwidth resellers such as BT Retail and internet service providers, and their customers. He said there was no idea yet of what the average number of end-users per exchange was likely to be for a national FTTC service.

Campbell said the sites were chosen in consultation with communications providers and took into account feedback from regional development agencies, devolved authorities and similar organisations.

"We also had to take into account current network topology and our ability to run testing procedures in the chosen areas," he said. We have a good mix of areas, allowing us to test our products in both urban and semi-rural environments."

Campbell said BT expected to announce detailed plans for the initial market deployment of the Openreach product in early 2010.


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