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By: MarkJ - 4 January, 2011 (7:02 AM)
point topicA new study from telecoms analyst Point Topic has predicted that the total number of UK telephone lines carrying "super-fast" Next Generation Access (NGA) style broadband services will leap from "only about 45,000" at the end of 2010 to over 600,000 by the end of 2011.

As a result the analyst believes that about 3% of all broadband lines in the UK will be superfast and able to receive speeds of more than 25Mbps (Megabits per second) using BT's 'up to' 40Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) or 110Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises ( FTTP / FTTH ) technology by the end of 2011.

It's estimated that a further 200,000 or so (about 1%) will be paying for Virgin Media and its 50Mbps service over the cable ( Cable Modem , DOCSIS3 ) network, although there's no specific estimate of how many will take Virgin's new 100Mbps package.

Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic, said:

"BT has to reach numbers like this to show that their investment in superfast broadband is credible. They have to show both that the demand is there and that they have the technology to supply it. It’s going to be very exciting to see if they manage it.

We’re sticking our neck out a bit with this. You have to assume that BT can achieve a big increase in its superfast rollout rate during 2011. There are good reasons for thinking that can be done, [although] our forecast is still very vulnerable to a wide range of potential problems. It could be hit by anything from the weather to a double-dip recession."

It's anticipated that by the end of 2011 BT's FTTC and FTTP "fibre optic" based broadband services will have increased their coverage to 6 Million homes, which is significantly up on the 600,000 footprint figure seen during mid-2010.

At present BT's ISP division, BT Retail, is adding 4,000 new FTTC connections each week and this should rise to 9,000 during the first half of 2011. Point Topic then expects a second jump, as coverage improves, to hit 14,000 per week in the second half of the year.

ISPreview.co.uk notes that BT had 38,000 FTTC based BT-Infinity customers at the end of Q3-2010 (here). Similarly Virgin Media managed to rack 91,600 on its 50Mbps service (here), which actually makes the year-end total more like 129,600 (we still haven't seen their Q4 results, so it's probably a lot higher).

However while Point Topic states that, "the [estimated] rate of growth is within the range of what has been achieved with other broadband technologies in the past", we still believe that superfast broadband prices will need to come down before it can truly take off. That should happen, especially with TalkTalk and Sky Broadband looking to enter the FTTC market.
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