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By: MarkJ - 5 October, 2011 (11:02 AM)
BT UK superfast fibre optic broadband cable rolloutbt openreach logoBTOpenreach, which manages access to BT Group's national UK telecoms infrastructure, has today announced that it will boost the top performance of its forthcoming and truly fibre optic based Fibre-to-the-Premises ( FTTP ) broadband ISP service speeds from 110Mbps to 300Mbps (Megabits per second) during Spring 2012.

The surprising news follows a day after BT confirmed the official "early market deployment launch" of FTTP for 31st October 2011 (here), which will initially deliver a maximum stable download speed of 110Mbps and uploads of 30Mbps. However, if necessary, FTTP technology can reach speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabits per second); currently being trialled in Kesgrave (Suffolk).

Furthermore BT also confirmed that it had been granted "approval from the relevant authorities" to start boosting the maximum download speed of its more prevalent Fibre-to-the-Cabinet ( FTTC ) service up to 80Mbps (20Mbps uploads). The 80Mbps upgrade was first announced during May 2011 (full details) and related products ( BT-Infinity ) currently only offer a maximum of 40Mbps (10-15Mbps uploads). Work on this will begin in Q4-2011 and continue throughout 2012.

BTOpenreach's CEO, Liv Garfield, said:

"Today is a significant step in the UK’s broadband journey. These developments will transform broadband speeds across the country and propel the UK up the broadband league tables.

All our fibre products are fit for the future and these developments show that to be the case. As always, we want to go further and faster and so our journey doesn’t end here. We can turn up the dial should there be demand and so we can look to the future with confidence.

No-one is keener than us to extend these super-fast speeds to rural areas and so we will be bidding for public funds to help extend these services even further. The challenge is a tough one but by working with the public sector it is within our reach."

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, added:

"These are significant announcements and good news for the UK. High-speed broadband is essential for economic growth, which is why we want the UK to have the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015.

Improving the UK’s broadband infrastructure will help our high-tech, digital industries grow. It will ensure the UK is an attractive place to start-up and base the businesses of tomorrow."

At present BT's slower FTTC service can already reach 5 million UK homes and should hit 10 Million in 2012 (40% of the country), which will rise again to 66% by 2015; possibly more if the operator wins funding from local councils and the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office (its current £2.5bn investment isn't enough to go beyond 66%). By contrast BT's faster FTTP service will only reach about 2.5 million homes and businesses.

Cable operator Virgin Media UK, which is busy rolling out its 100Mbps service to almost 50% of the country (due to finish next summer), already looks set to respond with a new 200Mbps (20Mbps uploads) product (currently in trial). At this stage it's not yet clear when Virgin's 200Mbps packages will surface, although 2012 remains the likely window.

It's worth pointing out that headline speeds of 100Mbps+ tend to be more useful for bragging rights and marketing departments than consumers. Demand and internet content will eventually catch up but at present the vast majority of online services cannot take advantage of such performance.
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