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BT Pledge to “Significantly” Boost UK Rollout of Ultrafast FTTP Broadband

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016 (8:29 am) - Score 3,460

The CEO of BT Group, Gavin Patterson, has confirmed to the ‘Media & Telecoms 2016 & Beyond‘ conference in London that he will “significantly … accelerate the deployment” of their ultrafast 330Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology. But the details remain wafer thin.

Strictly speaking this isn’t a new development and indeed the first hints of an expanded FTTP deployment, which is “likely” to be complemented by a new “premium1000Mbps (1Gbps) product variant, came as part of BT’s original G.fast roll-out announcement in January 2015 (here).

We should add that BT intends to begin the commercial roll-out of G.fast during summer 2017 (here), which will follow an expanded pilot this summer, and they’ve pledged to make the new service available to 10 million premises by 2020, with “most of the UK” likely to be done by 2025. Initially G.fast will only offer top speeds of up to 300Mbps, before later increasing to 500Mbps.

Previously BT’s G.fast strategy was in doubt, although the seemingly favourable (to BT) outcome from Ofcom’s Strategic Review (here) appears to be keeping things on-track. But Patterson’s speech is the first time that we’ve heard him make a clear and specific commitment to the wider deployment of FTTP, which is precisely what Ofcom have been trying to encourage.

Gavin Patterson said (here):

“We’re working on improvements to allow Openreach to accelerate the deployment of fibre-to-the-premises significantly.”

Unlike G.fast, which is still a slower speed and cheaper to deploy hybrid-fibre (copper and fibre optic cable) solution, FTTP is a pure fibre optic line and can thus deliver significantly faster and more reliable performance; albeit much more expensive to deploy. The GPON approach adopted by BT has its restrictions, although their 1Gbps FTTP trial confirms that those will be less of a hindrance going forward.

The comments are all the more surprising because those with a long memory will recall that we’ve been here before. Back in 2009/10 BT originally made a commitment to deploy both FTTC and FTTP connections to 40% of the UK and a little later this was pushed to 66%.

The original plan suggested an FTTP coverage aspiration of 2.5 million premises passed, but today they’ve only done over 200,000 and that’s because BT’s original goal was effectively abandoned (here) in order to focus on making the quicker and cheaper to deploy FTTC solution more widely available. It didn’t help that installing FTTP into people’s homes was often tricky.

However the details remain wafer thin and last month Patterson also pledged to invest another £1 billion+ to further improve national broadband connectivity (here), although as we remarked at the time it was still distinctly unclear whether this was truly new money or simply re-announcing an old commitment; much like politicians so often do.

Yesterday’s event confirmed that BT still intends to deploy “a mix of technologies going forward” (i.e. G.fast dominance and a bit of FTTP) and so until we see a clear commitment on the FTTP side then we’ll continue to have our doubts. The language is certainly becoming more favourable, but BT needs to be more specific and set a clear goal.

But for now Patterson may be using this as a bargaining chip with Ofcom’s Strategic Review. “We’re getting close but we’re not there yet – Ofcom’s response has brought us closer to a positive outcome but has still left several unanswered questionsthe destabilising threat of structural separation has to be withdrawn,” said BT’s boss.

Interestingly Patterson also told the conference that Openreach would review their approach to connecting businesses where it “wouldn’t have been economically feasible previously,” which at least sounds positive. Hopefully this will all be fleshed out after a final deal can be reached with Ofcom. In the meantime Ofcom are still keeping the option of an Openreach split on the table.

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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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35 Responses
  1. Keydogg says:

    I heard from a little birdie that there was going to be a FTTP announcement today (actually, it was an FOD announcement) but I’m not sure how true that is.

    I’m eagerly waiting as I’m desperate to order FTTP for my business! (Without forking out for a leased line)

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      There’s certainly an announcement about the G.fast roll-out coming up (don’t think that’s today though), but I will be interested to see if there’s anything about FoD; especially if it’s from BTWholesale.

    2. Ignition says:

      I would suggest it’s pretty accurate.

      I looked into FoD however it’d be more cost effective for me to purchase a microwave based leased line.

      That product needs some work 🙂

  2. liveinhope says:

    Would I be right in saying that G fast will only favour those already served by VDSL and are in close proximity to their cab.

    1. Pete Woods says:

      Probably most of the time, yes. But I think(?) Openreach also plan to use FTTDp style deployment for rural places too, where a full FTTC style cabinet would be too expensive.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      It’s probably a fair assumption, although we don’t yet know the exact specifics of BT’s G.fast deployment model. But in some areas they won’t use street cabinets and will extend its reach via FTTdp and small nodes, which can be installed on nearby telegraph poles, under manhole covers or inside big buildings etc.

      I suspect the aim is to keep G.fast distance over the copper run to 350 metres or less, which will maintain a higher level of performance than the more variable distance VDSL approach. But as I say, the final model is as yet unconfirmed. The more they do to target faster speeds, the greater its cost to deploy.

  3. Pete Woods says:

    I’d just be happy to get more than 5 mbit, never mind 300. I’d even be tempted to get ripped off for FTTPoD if it were available.

    1. Keydogg says:

      Same here. I’m sat here waiting with a blank cheque which I’d be prepared to put £2-3000 on for FTTP, but no one to give it to!

    2. fastman says:

      keydogg and how many people in your community / village in the same boat — a community funded gap on FTTC would be significantly less that that per premise

    3. Keydogg says:

      Only two businesses I’m afraid. Less than 300m from us there is a business park covered by KC and they all have Lightstream FTTP but they won’t bring it to us 🙁

    4. Gavin Mason says:

      FTTP on demand is dead. FTTP for free is here and I’ve just ordered it to be installed. BT Infinity 1,2,3 or 4, take your pick. £20/£30/£45/£52 per month respectively.(plus line rental and calls of course). They even install Fibre Voice Access (FVA) so I can have two numbers on one line. How good is that. And what does it cost to subscribe/get it installed? Just £7.95 for delivery of the BT Smart Hub. Plus being in the right area where standard broadband runs at 1Meg down/0.3Meg up. Thanks EU for your funding to make this possible.

  4. Martin Lane says:

    Well I’m still getting by on the 1.25Mbit ADSL I got when they first installed it. Still 6.5km from the exchange even though my cabinet is now FTTC and only 3.5km away. This in theory would give me 5meg but all the BT tracker reports is “exploring solutions”. It’s all very well talking about 300meg and 1gig but you seem to have left some of us behind!

  5. gerarda says:

    We are still waiting for BT to fulfill their promise of broadband to every community by 2005.

  6. GNewton says:

    In 2009, BT announced it would connect 2.5 million British homes to ultra-fast FTTP by 2012 and 25% of the UK. However, by the end of September 2015 only 250,000 homes were connected. Also, BT has stopped taking orders for its FTTP-on-demand product.

    Hence, would you really trust them when they another announcement?

    1. Ignition says:

      Openreach never stopped taking orders for FTTPoD, Wholesale did, and I have a sneaky suspicion an announcement regarding that is due in the very near future.

    2. GNewton says:

      @Ignition: “Openreach never stopped taking orders for FTTPoD, Wholesale did”

      So why then hasn’t any other ISP ordered FTTPoD directly from Opoenreach?

  7. Bob2002 says:

    Nobody has the intention to do anything significant with FTTP nationwide, the prevailing view is it costs too much money – so in that context I doubt the reality of this comment is going to affect many people. Nice publicity though.

    1. Ignition says:

      Appreciate this is something you’ve a precarious relationship with, but evidence please Bob?

    2. FibreFred says:

      Doesn’t really matter what is announced tbh, it wouldn’t be significant enough for some posters on here anyway.

    3. Bob2002 says:


      Which part are you disagreeing with – that nobody has announced a nationwide rollout of FTTP or that the reason we don’t already have it is essentially a matter of economics?

    4. Ignition says:

      Evidence nobody has the intention to do anything significant with regards to FTTP despite this announcement.

      I’m sure you’ve your finger on the pulse in the industry and can elaborate on your sources to show that this is FTTPR and that there are no other plans from any other players.

    5. Bob2002 says:


      This announcement is evidence? The comments are essentially debating the phrase “significantly accelerate” – because that’s all we have. Do you have the specific facts and figures detailing exactly what “significantly accelerate” means? If so do post them and we can talk about that.

      If you have any detailed press releases announcing a comprehensive nationwide FTTP rollout from other companies feel free to post them(something a bit more detailed than “significantly” please).

      Finally, it’s also nice to see that you maintain the condescension and snottiness that is an undercurrent in your posting style across the many forums you frequent.

    6. Ignition says:

      Regarding my posting style you’re very welcome.

      For a few reasons I don’t suffer fools well and it gets boring hearing the same baseless nonsense over and over again. Your dogmatic, repetitive posts wanting to see Openreach separated from BT Group despite being unable to elucidate any coherent argument for it fell into that category.

      I have heard some really good arguments for such that were treated quite differently, even if I did disagree.

      You are the one who made the assertion that ‘Nobody has the intention to do anything significant with FTTP nationwide’

      Asking me to prove otherwise falls squarely into the category of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

      Hence won’t be entertained.

      On the matter of why I feel more encouraged, and that’s all I said I said absolutely nothing definite, I’ll pass on discussing the details of private conversations to win Internet points.

    7. Bob2002 says:


      Can you point me to my dogmatic posts asking for Openreach to be separated? Because the funny thing is I don’t, and have never, had a definite position on the issue so I’m not sure why I would be spending my time making “dogmatic, repetitive posts” about something that I’m not invested in.

      It’s probably a bad idea to start a reply talking about “suffering fools” when you get the identity of posters mixed up.

      I stated nobody has the intention because economic constraints have produced the situation we are in today, those constraints remain, and “significantly accelerate” doesn’t tell us what is specifically proposed, or that anything has fundamentally changed.

      I asked you to prove otherwise because you implied other companies may have nationwide FTTP rollout plans – I would be very happy if there were publicly available official documents supporting your position(rather than rumours or gossip).

    8. Ignition says:

      If I’ve mistaken you for someone else I apologise unreservedly for that and the tone I adopted.

      I’m still waiting for some evidence for your assertion that there are no significant plans for FTTP.

      As far as I’m aware Virgin Media have significant FTTP plans and have FTTP builds ongoing, a large Far Eastern company is planning, and as this announcement hints Openreach plan significant FTTP build to try and pre-empt competition and avoid losing market share.

      Finally there are signs that FTTP is required for competitive reasons.

    9. Bob2002 says:


      Apology accepted.

      Essentially we will have to see the officially released details of the plans(Openreach and anybody else) before we can personally conclude whether they are “significant” or not. We haven’t seen the detail(or at least I haven’t).

      I suppose we could argue about how you define what “significant” is – a decent year on year percentage increase in households connected to FTTP, or is it, for instance, the percentage of the country covered?

      Given that there has not been huge enthusiasm from companies for rolling out expensive FTTP I’m assuming any improvement in coverage from new plans will be somewhat limited – and to me that may not qualify as “significant”.

    10. FibreFred says:

      Yep, which is what I said earlier. Significant can mean different things to different people. And may even be meaningless to people who can’t get it even if 90%** of the country could

      ** No I don’t know its going to be 90% 🙂

  8. Cliff says:

    Pictures man on podium shouting “Snake oil here… Get your snake oil” 🙂

  9. Ignition says:

    I’m hearing encouraging sounds coming from a few quarters. We may, finally, be nearing critical mass in the UK and FTTP may be nearing the stage where Openreach will have the competitive incentive to deploy it.

    The trials in Swindon along with the trials of FoD 2 are all a part of this package – making it faster and more cost-effective to deploy FTTP.

    We’ll see what comes of this. For a change I’m actually quietly optimistic that some good things may happen if Ofcom don’t mess them up.

    On that note back to the ill/un-informed prophecies of doom everyone.

    1. AndyH says:

      A few weeks back, OR announced further FTTP trials in Campton and Meppershall (http://www.ultrafast-openreach.co.uk/Download/Meppershall-Campton-FTTP-FAQs.pdf)

      Openreach have announced that they are running small scale technical trials of a revised design for Fibre to Premises (FTTP) network build. As part of the proactive stage of network build Openreach will rod & rope the ductwork between fibre DP and the customer premises. Where this involves work on an end customers land the Openreach team will contact the end customer to ask for permission.

      Neither end customers or CPs need to take any action. CPs may like to be aware that this is happening in case they get queries from end users. It is hoped that this technique will allow shorter lead times for those customers who eventually order FTTP services. If the trials are successful the technique may be extended to future FTTP deployments.

    2. Ignition says:

      Hah, I definitely need to move to a rural area to stand a chance of getting FTTP any time soon.

    3. TheManStan says:

      Deddington in Oxfordshire is the best place to move to, 100% FTTP.

    4. Ignition says:

      For less over the 3 years than the fully managed, SLA’d leased line I compared yesterday too.

      That it’s cheaper for me to buy a microwave-based, symmetrical leased line, the same ones that the high frequency trading crew covet, than best effort FTTPoD is nuts.

      If I don’t mind leaving the home fully managed office space with 100Mb SLA’d is less than 1/4 the total cost of FoD.

      Genuinely a product for businesses that have no other options.

  10. Terry Barnaby says:

    Unfortunately BT seem still wedded to FTTC even for rural areas where it just doesn’t work at all well (property distances, interference, reliability etc). A local village has been presented with ridiculous community scheme estimate (no info on them apart from the price) for an FTTC implementation that just doesn’t make any sense. The high costs of UK wide FTTP rollout, as far as I am aware, is mainly due to underground works as needed in urban areas. In most rural locations there is a large, if not 100% usage of overhead cables to individual properties and these properties are spread often over wide areas in small clumps. From just basic costings it looks like FTTP should be much cheaper than FTTC to deploy in these situations especially when you consider that a lot of these overhead cables are probably over 75% into their life time and so will need to be replaced within the next 10 years anyway. Anyone have any idea why BT-Openreach considers FTTP to more expensive that FTTC in these situations ? Asking them directly just hits brick walls with no information at all.

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