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UK ISP BE and O2 Warn of Delayed Superfast Broadband Service Launch

Posted: 29th Sep, 2011 By: MarkJ
be broadband uk isp logoThe aspirations of popular ISP Be Broadband UK, and its parent O2 (Telefonica), to launch a new generation of "unlimited" UK superfast broadband packages "later this year" have been dealt a serious blow after the provider warned customers that its goal "might not be possible".

BE's Managing Director (MD), Chris Stening, hinted during the summer that the providers "plans for fibre have to be something unlimited and unshaped too, otherwise it simply defeats the object of having greater speed". Sadly achieving this has now proven to be far from easy.

A BE Broadband Spokesperson said:

"Since Chris last posted about fibre, thousands have pre-registered to let us know where the demand is. We learned that there’s demand across the whole country rather than a small number of city-centre hotspots.

Our priority has been to work with a partner that has an existing fibre network, as this would be quicker and better value for our customers than starting from scratch to lay down a new network. Frustratingly, for both us and for you, it’s taking us longer than we originally thought to find a solution that meets the expectations of BE and our customers.

Chris explained that we’d like to launch our fibre service this year but it’s now likely to be longer than hoped. For this reason, we are looking to trial a solution where we create more of the network for BE by installing more of our own equipment into the local exchange. Although it’s more complex it could work better in the long run. This will be a single-exchange trial to start with, using BE staff as guinea pigs."

It's unclear exactly what BE is proposing, although the description could hint at some form of Sub-Loop Unbundling (SLU) or Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) based superfast FTTC or FTTP (40-100Mbps) product. Both would be quite costly and take a long time to deploy.

SLU based services allow ISPs to build and control their own street cabinet, often right next door to one of BT's. By contrast PIA would allow a rival to install their own fibre optic cable through BT's existing cable ducts and telegraph poles. Neither method precisely matches BE's description.

We had assumed that BE would seek to use a more restrictive FTTC alternative called Virtual Unbundled Local Access (VULA), although this doesn't give ISPs the same level of price flexibility or service control as BE's LLU service currently enjoys.
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