BT gets fibre rollout underway

UK incumbent BT said this week that it will deploy fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology at 29 exchanges across the UK, ahead of a commercial launch of super fast broadband in 2010.

BT’s local access division Openreach will deploy the fibre, which promises to bring speeds of up to 40Mbps – and potentially 60Mbps – within reach of 500,000 homes and businesses.

Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Greater Manchester will be among the first locations to benefit from this initial deployment.

Whilst the majority of the locations are urban, Calder Valley and Taffs Well are not and BT will be looking to learn lessons from deploying fibre in rural environments. The next set of locations, serving a further million homes and businesses, will be announced in the autumn.

BT has pledged to spend £1.5bn by 2012 to ensure that 40 per cent of UK homes and businesses can access fibre-based services.

According to statistics released by industry analyst Informa Telecoms & Media recently, fibre is making good headway on the global stage. The analyst said that global fixed broadband subscriptions stood at 422 million at the end of 2008, adding nearly 68 million subscriptions in the year and 16 million in the final quarter.

The biggest access technology remains DSL, with 65 per cent of the total market, but FTTx, with 11 per cent of the market, registered its biggest in year gain to date, adding over 11 million subscriptions – almost exactly the same number as cable broadband at 21 per cent market share.

Informa notes that the performance of FTTx is part explained by robust growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which added 20 per cent more subscriptions in 2008 than in 2007. In addition, nine of the world’s 10 largest FTTx operators are in the region.

Western Europe has seen broadband growth stagnate, as all but five of its 30 countries now exceed a household penetration level of 50 per cent and 20 countries enjoy penetration of over 60 per cent.

China, where broadband subscriptions grew by 21 per cent over 2008 to reach 82 million subscriptions, passed the US mid-year to become the world’s largest fixed broadband market, though it still has a household penetration level of below 20 per cent.

As for IPTV, one of the main drivers of high speed broadband, the total subscriber base stood at 19.96 million at the end of 2008. Even by the standard of its own past record, growth was steady but not spectacular, registering net additions of 7.5 million.

What is significant, according to Informa, is the fact that of the four main multichannel TV platforms, IPTV and digital terrestrial (DTT) are increasing their share of the market and now hold 10 per cent and 3 per cent of the global market, respectively.

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