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BT Abandons Original Rollout Target for Native UK FTTP Broadband

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 (1:53 pm) - Score 7,654

BT has unsurprisingly abandoned their original 2009 commitment to make ultrafast fibre optic FTTP broadband ISP services available to 2.5 million premises in the United Kingdom and will instead focus on the more economical but slower FTTC solution and the expensive new FTTP-on-Demand (FTTPoD) service.

Originally BT committed £1.5 billion to help make its new superfast broadband (FTTC and FTTP) services available to 40% of the UK by 2012 (around 10 million premises). At the time the operator promised that 1 million premises would be covered by their ultrafast (330Mbps) fibre optic based Fibre-to-the-Premises service, which was even revised upwards to 2.5m in October 2009 (here).

Since then the investment has increased (£2.5bn) and the commercial target set at 66% of the UK by spring 2014 but most of this has gone towards their up to 80Mbps FTTC service. In reality it’s somewhat well known that the FTTP project didn’t go quite according to plan, which is reflected by the fact that, at the end of 2012, the service had passed just 100,000 premises.

Aside from being costly to roll-out, which wasn’t helped by a lack of pro-broadband legislation (the government’s Growth and Infrastructure Bill is only now being debated), the service was also challenging to setup. Several 2011 trials showed that it could take 7 hours and two engineers to install the service (here), or sometimes longer, into a single home (the target was supposedly around 2 hours).

A BTOpenreach Spokeswoman told ISPreview.co.uk:

This figure was provided many years ago and was always an estimate as opposed to a firm target. It is far less relevant today given we’ve doubled the speeds available via FTTC and from the end of this month we’re starting to make FTTP available on demand. This will allow more customers to upgrade to the ultra-fast speeds offered by FTTP should they wish to. The reality is that by focusing on FTTC, we’ve been able to bring the benefits of fibre to a far bigger footprint over a much shorter period of time.”

However BT does point out that their 2.5 million FTTP target was for the commercial roll-out and apparently work to expand the native coverage of its FTTP service will still continue through the state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme. Sadly it’s too early to know how far beyond the current 100k figure this will take FTTP.

Similarly BT’s new FTTP-on-Demand service, which will make FTTP available to all existing FTTC supporting lines, is due to go live on Monday 29th April 2013 next week. But this is more of a “premium” / business focused service that would cost some home owners thousands of pounds to install (full details).

In short nobody should be surprised by the fact that BT’s 2.5 million target has been tippexed out. The writing has been on the wall for quite a few years, albeit unofficially. Likewise the heavy focus on improving FTTC’s coverage and performance (e.g. vectoring) is now clearly BT’s primary direction for the foreseeable future (here). Credits to PC Pro for pointing us towards this development.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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