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Fibre Broadband Rollout To Take Six Years

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The boss of BT has predicted it will take up to six years to roll out fibre broadband to 90 percent of the UK

Those anxiously awaiting the arrival of fibre-based broadband in their area may be in for a longer wait than they expected, at least according to the boss of BT.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron and his Cabinet met with BT chief executive Ian Livingston during a visit to BT’s Adastral Park research HQ near Ipswich.

Leading Broadband Nation?

During the meeting, Livingston highlighted the significant funding of a nationwide fibre rollout by BT, after it pledged to spend £2.5 billion to roll out fibre-based broadband to two thirds of UK premises by the end of 2015.

The government in comparison is spending a relatively small sum of money (£530m) into the national rollout of fibre in the UK, via Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Indeed, most of this money has already been allocated, and a further £300 million of government money should be available between 2015 and 2017.

The government has preferred to allow the private sector to do most of the heavy lifting, despite its hugely ambitious goal of making sure that the majority of UK homes get 25Mbps by 2015, and the fact that superfast broadband is (according to the government) vital for ‘economic growth’.

Putting aside the low levels of government funding, Livingston explained how the UK is set to strengthen its position as “one of Europe’s leading broadband nations” thanks to BT’s investment and the BDUK funds. This is despite the fact that some have ranked the UK as low as 33rd for global broadband speeds.

Six Year Wait

According to Livingston however, the BDUK funding should allow for the UK communication’s infrastructure to be transformed. He pointed out that within the next five or six years, fibre based services could be available to more than 90 percent of UK premises, with the majority able to access broadband speeds of up to 100Mbps or above.

Livingston also sought to reassure the cabinet over the vexing rural broadband problem. This is because the number of homes unable to achieve more than 2Mbps currently is set to plummet from 12 percent of homes to less than two percent, presumably down BT’s decision to upgrade rural exchanges to ADSL2+, rather than invest fibre into the area.

“Super-fast broadband can be a catalyst for economic growth,” said Livingston. “We have recently recruited a further 800 engineers to help deploy it but it is what it can do for business that is so impressive. The Government has been a great supporter in recognising that this type of infrastructure investment can drive the UK’s long term growth.”

Yet despite the fine sounding rhetoric, it remains clear that many parts of the UK are set to remain in the broadband slow lane for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile in Milton Keynes, where BT is rolling out fibre using that city’s underground ducting network, businesses are being offered a free trial of superfast broadband.

Businesses served by the town’s Bradwell Abbey exchange are being asked to test drive the latest ‘fibre to the premises’ technology for download speeds of up to 100Mbps and upload speeds of up to 15Mbps.