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BT mulls a fibre diet

UK incumbent telco BT may be considering a U turn on its decision not to roll out fibre, or at least taking it to the kerb, according to reports.

BT chairman, Christopher Bland, who steps down in September, this week revealed that the carrier is considering installing fibre to the cabinets (FTTx), typically found on street kerbs.

Such a move could help BT push its consumer broadband speeds past the 24Mbps limit currently set by its 21 Century Network deployment up towards a more attractive 50Mbps.

In April, the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), the government’s advisory body on broadband and digital convergence, warned that the UK faces being left behind in terms of next generation broadband.

While BT is looking at delivering just 24Mbps under its next generation network initiative, other European carriers are blazing a trail with much higher speeds.

From this year, France Telecom will offer Fibre to the Home (FTTH), delivering symmetrical broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps, while Deutsche Telekom in Germany is sinking Eur3bn into a VDSL network capable of delivering speeds of 50Mbps.

Earlier this year, BT revealed that it had mothballed its FTTH strategy in favour of investment in 21CN. Cost is one of the main sticking points when it comes to investment in fibre. With some estimations reckoning that fibre to the home costs around Eur200 per urban home passed, plus the costs of the user equipment, any such investment by BT, even to the cabinet, could still run into billions of pounds.

Although more than half the UK’s adult population has a broadband connection at home, the vast majority connect at narrowband broadband speeds. The BSG is now calling on the government to establish a target to ensure that by 2012, the UK remains in the top quartile of nations involved in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initiative in terms of reach and quality of broadband.

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