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UPDATE11 £50m BT Plan to Upgrade Broadband in UK Cities Starts in London

Thursday, Sep 10th, 2015 (8:10 am) - Score 2,636

After 20 months of waiting BT finally appears to be progressing its pledge to spend £50m on expanding the commercial roll-out of superfast “fibre broadband” (FTTC/P/B + FTTrN) services to 400,000 extra premises in UK cities, with the first to benefit being in London (Kensington, Chelsea and Tech City etc.).

Today most of BTOpenreach’s network expansion beyond their original 66% UK commercial coverage footprint has predominantly been conducted through the state aid fuelled Broadband Delivery UK programme. But the operators commercial roll-out has continued, albeit at a seemingly reduced pace and with a tighter focus on specific areas.

One key example of this surfaced in January 2014 when the operator announced a £50m plan to expand their “fibre broadband” service to another 30 cities (here), although as we reported in June 2015 this particular 3-year roll-out project appeared to have been announced and forgotten (here). The 30 cities aspect has since been replaced by a focus on London.

At the time BT told ISPreview.co.uk that their commitment still stood, with some of the money having recently been spent on trials of new broadband technologies in London (e.g. FTTrN and Fibre-to-the-Basement etc.). In addition, they promised to “update people on specific roll-out locations in due course“.

The good news is that the first 30,503 homes and businesses of the 400,000 goal have today been announced and few will be surprised to learn that they’re all in London. Over the next two years some 20,213 are expected to benefit in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (total coverage of 80,000 premises in the borough), while another 10,290 will benefit in Greenwich (total coverage of 100,000 premises in the borough). We’ll also be able to confirm more areas later (scroll to the bottom).

BT claims that its full roll-out will increase overall fibre availability across London, pushing upwards from around 90% to roughly 95% of premises (Openreach’s network alone will hit 90% in two years, while the remainder will be covered by alternative networks like Virgin Media). It should be said that Virgin Media also overlaps with a lot of BT’s urban network.

Joe Garner, CEO of Openreach, said:

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.

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.”

Good news then and indeed this also marks the first confirmation of both the commercial FTTrN and FTT-Basement roll-outs having started, although we note that BT’s investment focus appears to have changed a bit from the original plan.

BT’s New Investment is Focusing on 3 Areas:

• Upgrading city cabinets that weren’t part of the original commercial plans due to technical challenges or local planning restrictions.

• Rolling out ‘fibre to the remote node’ (FTTRN) and to fibre broadband cabinets that serve multi-dwelling units, such as apartment blocks.

• Continuing to ensure the new fibre network is available on an ‘equivalent’ basis to all internet service providers that use the Openreach network. That means companies competing with BT Consumer and BT Business can deliver faster broadband to their customers, paying Openreach the same as BT’s own divisions.

Broadly speaking the above “focus” is similar to the original announcement, except the original’s third commitment seems to have vanished: “Laying further fibre – including ‘Fibre-to-the-Premises’ [FTTP] technology – to new build sites in cities.”

Instead BT appears to have opted for a cheaper, faster to deploy and more hybrid-fibre dominated approach through their FTTrN and FTT-Basement solutions, with ultrafast FTTP getting no mention. This perhaps isn’t surprising given the forthcoming deployment of 500Mbps G.fast tech, which will be easier to upgrade into an FTTrN/B style setup.

At launch the theoretical peak service speeds will thus mirror the up to 80Mbps offered by their popular FTTC solutions, since both FTTrN and FTT-Basement will initially use the same underlying VDSL2 technology over copper lines (the line that runs between cabinets and homes/businesses).

On top of that BT also claims that “London is already one of the best connected cities in the world, with every business in the capital able to access speeds of 1Gb/s and above through special high capacity ultrafast dedicated lines“, although leased-lines are generally far too expensive for the bulk of smaller businesses to even consider.

The big question now is what about the other 29 cities where BT pledged to spend part of that £50m? London was an obvious first choice, but the 30 cities figure isn’t even mentioned in the latest update. Likewise today’s news also makes no mention of the original commitment to enable another 400,000 premises.

UPDATE 3:26pm

BT has just confirmed several other areas in London that will benefit from the above project, starting with an additional 2,187 in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (brings the local total to 72,000 premises). On top of that 9,368 will benefit in Croydon (total 140,000) and we expect more to be announced over the coming days / weeks.

UPDATE 11th September 2015 (6:40am)

An additional 19,106 premises will also receive the service in Bexley, which should take the local total to 98,000 premises passed. Similarly London’s Tech City area, which spans parts of a number of London boroughs from Hackney to the City of Westminster, will overall see upgrades for an additional 32,000 premises (taking the local total to 82,000 premises).

Finally there’s a mention of Barnet, which will see expansion to another 7,779 premises (total 145,000).

UPDATE 15th September 2015

As expected BT has announced some additional areas. Firstly, some 12,000 premises in Wandsworth (total coverage after completion of 130,000), then 4,200 extra in Hillingdon (total 105,000 premises) and finally 7,200 in Hounslow (total 96,000).

UPDATE 16th September 2015

Some 12,790 premises in Hackney (total coverage of nearly of 100,000) have also just been added to the list.

UPDATE 17th September 2015

Another day and yet more upgrade announcements for London. Some 8,000 additional premises will be reached in Waltham Forest (total of 100,000), while another 1,000 are to benefit in Havering (total of 100,000 premises again). Kind of wish BT would have just given us a general summary.

UPDATE 18th September 2015

Some more upgrades have been confirmed.

Hammersmith and Fulham – 6,629 extra premises (77,000 total)
Ealing – 4,275 (127,000 total)
Enfield – 2,706 (118,000 total)
Brent – 7,276 (115,000 total)
Haringey – 7,276 (115,000 total)
Harrow – 3,467 (87,000 total)
Islington – 16,300 (82,000 total)
Lambeth – 12,200 (123,000 total)
Richmond – 18,000 (83,000 total)
Kingston upon Thames – 2,000 (65,000 total)
Merton – 7,700 (82,000 total)
Sutton – 5,000 (81,000 total)
Tower Hamlets – 25,000 (98,000 total)

UPDATE 21st September 2015

Today it’s the turn of the London Borough of Newham, which will see an additional 4,000 premises connected (total of 106,000).

UPDATE 23rd September 2015

Today BT has added Camden to the list with an extra 17,165 premises set to benefit (total of 88,000). It’s starting to look as if most or all of that £50m is being spent in London, with the other 29 cities likely to be conveniently forgotten about (that’s probably why they weren’t mentioned in the PR, just as we feared).

UPDATE 24th September 2015

Finally, BT has now announced that it will also bring “fibre broadband” to more premises in the central City of London area, although they don’t say how many will be added.. except that the total will come to just 5,000.

UPDATE 25th September 2015

Some 18,000 extra premises in Southwark will also be reached (total of 101,000).

UPDATE 15th October 2015

After a long pause BT has today confirmed that they will also make the service available to an additional 39,874 premises in Westminster (total of 106,000), although it’s not clear if these additions cross over with the previous ‘Tech City’ expansion mentioned earlier as that area extends into the same location.

Separately Bromley will see another 9,444 premises being put within reach of the service, which takes the total for that area to 130,000.

At this point more or less all of the 400,000 planned premises have been announced.

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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