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BT Targets 100% Broadband Coverage
By: MarkJ - 17 November, 2003 (8:59 AM)

BT has today set triggers (number of pre-registrations needed to upgrade an exchange to ADSL) for 2,300 more UK local exchanges and claimed a target of 100% broadband coverage by 2005:


BT today declared that 100 per cent broadband coverage of every UK community is achievable by 2005 if industry and government pull together. This would put the UK in a position to lead the world.

BT currently makes mass market broadband available to more than 80 per cent of households – more houses than are connected to mains gas – and the company is set to upgrade exchanges serving 90 per cent during next year. That achievement already puts the UK at the leading edge of G7 economies.

Today BT announced that it was extending its demand registration scheme for ADSL broadband by setting triggers for a further 2,300 exchanges, serving two million homes and businesses. The scheme drives BT's roll out programme by matching supply to demand: BT sets trigger levels for communities to aim for and upgrades the exchange when registrations for demand hit the trigger. Today's development means 32 exchanges will be upgraded immediately.

Ben Verwaayen, BT Group chief executive, said: "BT's registration scheme has been a world-leading success in focusing new investment where there is demand. We have clear momentum and this, together with our latest understanding of technology and costs and the growing enthusiasm for regional partnerships, means we can take a new approach to broadband investment. We are now in a position to extend trigger levels into the furthest parts of the UK.

When all these exchanges are enabled more than 991 per cent of UK homes and businesses would be connected to broadband exchanges.

There's no doubt however that many of these trigger levels are very challenging to hit. In some areas, market stimulation alone will not be sufficient to deliver broadband. We are critically dependent on public partnerships to stimulate demand and to intervene with support to get the exchanges enabled early and even to help reduce the triggers. This will be essential to deliver the benefits of broadband to every community.

We are enormously encouraged by initiatives already under way to achieve 100 per cent availability at a local, regional or country level.

Today's announcement still leaves 600 of the very smallest exchanges without a trigger level, each serving fewer than 300 customers. Ten of these serve fewer than ten customers each. These areas, serving around 100,000 households, will also require different partnership investment approaches to receive broadband. There is then the issue of how to address the small percentage of people who live in already enabled areas but who are currently unable to get DSL broadband.

BT is currently trialling encouraging new wireless solutions and is working to extend the physical reach of DSL from enabled exchanges.

Ben Verwaayen said: "One hundred per cent broadband availability must be the goal because of business demand for ICT, the imperative to share knowledge and information quickly and the need to create a genuine knowledge economy.

The important message is that we ask ourselves 'How can we do this?' and not 'Why should we do this?'. Setting out this clear and achievable goal for the industry will energise the market to the benefit of everyone. Our industry, along with government at all levels, has a huge role to play to accelerate broadband availability, demand and take-up. Working together we can roll out broadband to 100% of communities by 2005.

This would put the UK at the head of the pack with all that means for our economic success.

Our announcement today creates great opportunities to extend the regional and local partnership models already demonstrated to such effect in Cornwall, Caerphilly and in our ground breaking approach with THUS and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Government plans to aggregate public sector demand in rural areas and as a major purchaser of broadband for schools, hospitals and all public services, will play a key role.

Setting triggers does not by itself deliver broadband, and we should all be impatient to speed the process up. Partnerships will do this and ensure that the UK leads the world's large economies in becoming 100% broadband-enabled with rapid take-up of broadband by citizens and business.

For information about broadband and availability go to http://www.bt.com/broadband

It remains to be seen whether the 2005 target is a feasible one, although setting such a large number of new trigger levels is a definite step in the right direction.

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