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BT is to expand its fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) broadband roll-out across the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Croydon, Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, as well as Tech City in central London, as part of a city-wide programme to take its coverage in the capital from 90% to 95%.
Having already passed around many hundreds of thousands premises in London, BT’s infrastructure arm Openreach has now said it will aim to hit an additional 101,000 in the next two years.
The money for the extended roll-out will come from an additional tranche of £50m worth of funding BT previously earmarked broadband in UK cities. This is on top of the £3bn it is currently spending on its commercial fibre roll-out.
BT claims London is already one of the best connected cities in the world, with every business theoretically having access to 1Gbps and above through dedicated leased lines, although many businesses in London in fact use much slower services.
“Openreach engineers have been working flat out to bring fibre to more than 23 million homes and businesses across the country in record time – and the number is continuing to grow rapidly. Our investment has helped make the UK’s broadband infrastructure among the best in Europe,” said Openreach chief executive Joe Garner.
“Installing fibre in urban areas can be challenging, but thanks to new techniques and extra investment we will now be able to reach hundreds of thousands of additional homes and businesses across London,” he said.
Croydon Council leader Tony Newman said: “Fast connectivity is increasingly important to many in the borough, especially the burgeoning Croydon Tech City community, and this announcement will help support our ambitious plans for the growth of the borough.”
Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City, which spans a number of central London boroughs said: “For London to maintain its standing as a global centre of business, it’s crucial that our digital companies have access to the best possible connectivity.
“Tech City UK has been working with BT Group and other service providers to help identify where additional coverage would be of most benefit to the tech community. This investment represents a step in the right direction for digital businesses across the capital. There is a collective responsibility for property developers, service providers and industry bodies to ensure high-speed broadband is available to all.”
Openreach’s investment will focus on upgrading cabinets that it had missed previously due to technical challenges or planning issues, adding new cabinets to serve multiple-occupancy blocks, and installing more fibre to the remote node (FTTRN) technology.
The issue of broadband expansion in London – which is almost entirely covered by BT’s commercial roll-out – has taken a backseat in the past to the more controversial BDUK rural roll-out. However, speeds in parts of the capital are comparably slow to some rural areas.
However, it was recently announced that Wandsworth Council plan to bring gigabit connectivity to public housing in Battersea, Putney and Wandsworth after teaming up with altnet Community Fibre. It also began a public consultation to encourage borough residents to help it build a business case to attract further investment.