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BT’s “Fibre Broadband” Network Reaches 86 Percent of UK Premises

Monday, April 11th, 2016 (12:03 am) - Score 4,420

Openreach, which maintains and manages access to BT’s national UK telecoms network, has today confirmed that their ‘up to’ 40-80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL) dominated “fibre broadband” network is now within reach of 25 million homes and businesses (86%+ UK coverage).

At this point it’s worth reminding readers that Openreach’s first 19 million premises (c.66% of the United Kingdom) were delivered as part of BT’s separate £2.5bn commercial roll-out by 2014 and the progress since then has been primarily supported by the Government’s state aid gobbling Broadband Delivery UK project (note: the commercial roll-out is on-going, but at a slower pace).

The operator has also made their ultrafast 330Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network available to over 200,000+ UK premises and recent reports have suggested that we could see a much greater focus on pure fibre optic FTTP connections going forward (here and here), although we’ve yet to be told of any solid targets.

Obviously the above effort is a large part of the reason why the Government were last month able to confirm that 90% of UK premises had been put within reach of a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) network (here), which also includes coverage from other operators like Virgin Media and Gigaclear etc.

Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said:

“The UK is making great progress with fibre broadband. Availability and take up are well ahead of most European countries and I’d like to thank the thousands of Openreach engineers who have worked so tirelessly to make this happen.

The job isn’t finished however and we are working hard to get coverage to 95 per cent and above. We are also exploring how we can improve speeds for the million or so premises in the final few per cent of the country.

Our approach has delivered affordable superfast services to the vast majority of the country in the fastest possible time. We want to build upon that by making ultrafast broadband available to most of the UK. We will do this using a mix of G.fast technology and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP), with the latter focused mainly on new developments and small businesses in high streets and business parks.”

As for the future, Openreach has made no secret of the fact that their primary focus will be on rolling out the next generation of hybrid-fibre broadband technology called G.fast. They intend to begin the commercial roll-out of G.fast next summer 2017 (here), which will follow an expanded pilot this summer with 25,000 premises in Cambridgeshire and Kent.

The operator has pledged to make the new G.fast service available to 10 million premises by 2020, with “most of the UK” likely to be done by 2025 (we’d guess that “most” will equate to around 60% UK coverage). Initially G.fast will only offer top download speeds of ‘up to’ 300Mbps (50Mbps upload), before later increasing to 500Mbps. FTTP will also get a speed boost to 1Gbps, albeit mostly for business customers.

However one of the key questions for BT’s G.fast technology is what tolerance for distance the operator will opt to maintain. Lines longer than 350 metres (copper run) are likely to deliver significantly slower speeds than the headline rate and we still don’t know if BT will stick to a specific limit or relax their expectations in order to reach more people, albeit at slower speeds.

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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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11 Responses
  1. New_Londoner says:

    It’s good to see the number of UK premises that can access fibre broadband continues to rise. Whilst it’s frustrating for those that can’t yet get service, this number has reduced considerably, let’s hope that continues.

  2. Al says:

    It’s just a shame that those still waiting are most likely those on the slowest connections. Many of whom haven’t seen a speed improvement in a decade.

  3. DTMark says:

    “we still don’t know if BT will stick to a specific limit or relax their expectations in order to reach more people, albeit at slower speeds.”

    I think we do.

    Let’s consider for a moment.. do we think it likely that BT will deploy fibre (ducting, digging) and nodes (climbing up poles, lifting man-covers) to within 350m (and even nearer, where the cable quality is poor) of ~60% of all the premises in the UK on a purely commercial basis within our lifetimes?

    1. Steve Jones says:

      Very probably. There will be a very large overlap with VM areas and I think they will need to respond with some “ultrafast” options of there will be a gradual bleeding away of customers. Then there will be Ofcom on their backs (who will want some stats to justify their own existence).

      Of course it will start with the easier bits. Upgrades to existing cabinets and/or co-locating new ones (I think they’d strongly favour the first) and then we might see some extensions with new nodes over a longer period and where the logistics are favourable. It will be much easier to do in some places than others (duct space, pole capacity, availability of power, SCPs and so on). Also, the g.fast manufacturers will be producing new options which could radically change the roll-out costs. A workable reverse power system would revolutionise the whole exercise.

  4. M says:

    My exchange has been fibre enabled for a couple of years now, but my cabinet which I live next to has still not been upgraded. The Superfast South Yorkshire project page has said, since the site was made public – that my cabinet falls under BT commerical rollout in which there has been zero activity to this day (status ‘exploring solutions’ on BTOR site) and the thing that annoys me the most about this is that a connecting cabinet a few meters up the road is enabled and serving FTTC to properties adjacent to it. Unfortunately for me, this means I have no choice but to be tortured by the tyranny of Virgin Media, which is diabolical (as bad as 1mbit in the evening on a 200mbit connection), they refuse to fix it and I am paying through the nose for it, especially being out of contract just incase by chance my cabinet does get activated. All the telecoms companies seem to be holding us hostage nowadays and no one seems to care.

  5. liveinhope says:

    Do we know what percentage of FTTC customers receive below 24Meg?

    1. MikeW says:

      This graph was in the Ofcom 2014 infrastructure report.

      That suggests around 8% of FTTC subscribers get sync speeds below 24Mbps.

      The deployment since then has focussed on BDUK-subsidised areas, probably with a slightly higher proportion of longer D-side lines. That 8% might drift upwards another 1-2%.

    2. karl says:

      I make it 19% looking at that chart which cant get over 24Mb

  6. gerarda says:

    Under BTs Humpty Dumpty type language “reach” includes out of reach, so 86% is certainly more than the percentage that have seen any improvement over ADSL.

    In relation to the BDUL rollout we do know that 12-15% of the premises “reached” so far cannot get “superfast” speeds.

    1. Rupert Smith says:

      This is what I have been told by our local BDUK team for our Exchange that has 2 cabinets that have just been upgraded to FTTC.
      “Between the two cabinets upgraded in your area, roughly 36% have access to infrastructure capable of delivering speeds between 2 and sub 24mbps, a further 25% at 24mbps+. ”

      So from our exchange only 25% can access 24Mbps + and 39% absolutely nothing….

    2. NGA for all says:

      @Rupert can identify the location of your cabs as examples? Is there planned provision for FTTdp?

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