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Ofcom to Approve BTs 1.5bn Next Gen Broadband Network
By: MarkJ - 01 March, 2009 (9:32 AM)

Ofcom is widely expected to approve BT's 1.5 billion programme to rollout fibre-based (Fibre to the Premise/Cabinet), super-fast broadband to as many as 10 million homes by 2012 (Bt Reveals Major 1.5bn Next-Gen Fibre Broadband Plans) on Tuesday of this coming week. The move will outline a new set of regulations, effectively allowing BT to make a return on its investment without fear of aggressive pro-competition measures.

The proposals will mark a change of stance for Ofcom, which has in the past pushed BT to be more open and flexible, often to the point of giving its rivals a potentially stronger market advantage. However the huge costs involved with rolling out a new generation of fibre optic broadband services make such a stance impossible to maintain without public funding, the latter of which does not appear to be forthcoming.

The operator will use a mix of both Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) and Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) fibre optic (FTTx) technology to deliver the service. FTTP is expected to see speeds of up to 100Mbps (possibly 1000Mbps in the more distant future) and will most likely only be used at newer development / building sites.

FTTC is more likely to be used as an enhancement for existing infrastructure, with VDSL2 technology being implemented to solve the last-mile copper wire run to homes. This will initially result in speeds of up to 40Mbps becoming available, potentially rising to 60Mbps with future enhancements.

However rival ISPs will not be left out in the cold, with BT making provisions to offer its new services via the wholesale channel. Precisely how flexible this will be is still open to debate, although providers should probably expect even less choice and higher costs than they may be use to.

Meanwhile Virgin Media is already busy rolling out its FTTC style up to 50Mbps cable broadband product, which should cover a significant proportion of the country by this summer. BT's service will take considerably longer to arrive and it's yet to even complete the significantly delayed rollout of existing old-style up to 24Mbps (ADSL2+) services.

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