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ShareWhat’s better than superfast broadband? Why, ultrafast broadband of course!

BT’s Chief Executive Gavin Patterson has announced in laudable if vague terms “”We want to forge an ultrafast future for Britain and stand ready to help government deliver the broadband speeds necessary for every property to enjoy modern day internet services, such as high definition TV streaming and cloud computing,”

“Ultrafast” broadband means using the company’s new G.Fast technology which they have been trialling in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

What is G.Fast?

G.Fast is similar to FTTC but requires more spectrum and therefore only works over shorter copper cables, ideally less than 350m. The service is mainly installed within the existing fibre cabinets although where the premises are too far away it can utilise remote nodes or distribution points which are often located on top of existing telegraph poles or potentially put underground. This service reportedly delivers speeds of 300Mbps+ download and 50Mbps upload with plans to increase this through further trials.

The commercials of G.Fast based ultrafast broadband services are yet to be released but BT will also be delivering an even faster service of up to 1Gbps for those that want it. It’s expected this will be achieved by extending the existing roll out of FTTP and reintroducing their previous Fibre on Demand (FoD2) solution which they are currently trialling alongside G.Fast.

Extended superfast rollout plans

Perhaps before we get carried away with the potential of ‘ultrafast’ broadband we should complete the existing ‘superfast’ rollout!

The Government’s BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) programme currently aims to deliver superfast broadband (24Mbps+) to 95% of UK premises by 2017/18. Connecting the final 5% remains a tricky problem to solve with the Government reportedly already looking into the possibility of using satellite solutions.

Within BT’s latest announcement they plan to be able to extend the fibre broadband footprint to 96% of UK premises by using new technologies such as Extended Reach VDSL2 and Wireless to the Cabinet (WTTC). This will reportedly be funded by the ‘success dividend’ clause in BT’s contracts for the BDUK which means it will need to reinvest money if take-up exceeds agreed levels in certain areas where public funds have been used – currently BT is reinvesting £130 million.

Whilst a good start to solving the 5% not-spot issue it far from solves the problem with 4% still unable to receive adequate service. However, within this announcement BT also mentioned they will be introducing their own satellite based service by the end of the year which could be focused on the final 1-2% that can’t be reached by fibre based solutions.

Whilst no details have been confirmed yet as to how the Government plans to solve the final 5% issue, we expect it may be through a mix of alt-net fibre solutions and satellite services to reach the most remote locations. Further details are expected in the Autumn Statement at the end of November, but this is an interesting move by BT.

Is this latest announcement going to take the heat off BT with regards to the ongoing calls for them to be split from Openreach?

They probably hoped so and the introduction of new, faster services is obviously good news for customers and the channel as is proposed solutions for the final 5%, but it doesn’t look like BT’s critics are easing up just yet. If anything it appears to have fuelled more anger from them who are now arguing this just highlights the fact that BT have been underinvesting for several years.

Sky stated: “For years, BT has been under-investing and delivering poor quality service for customers. What the British broadband market urgently needs is radical reform, not calculated manoeuvring and caveats to protect BT’s self-interest. Only a truly independent Openreach will unlock the investment, innovation and competition required to deliver the digital connectivity of the future.”

TalkTalk agreed stating: “Of course we welcome any plans for investment to improve broadband service and speed. However it has taken an Ofcom review and the threat of serious regulatory intervention to win even these modest commitments. BT Openreach has been letting down customers and businesses across the UK for so long that, for many, these plans will come as too little and too late.

It’s entirely proper that Openreach is innovating and investing, but it’s far likelier to go further, faster as an independent player in a competitive market than as hostage to a large corporate more interested in profit than progress.”

It doesn’t look like BT’s managed to win over the channel just yet and to be honest it’s unlikely they ever will. Poor service has been delivered for far too long and now the only solution seems to be an Openreach split but whether or not that happens is yet to be seen. However, the innovation and extended rollouts etc. can only be good news for the channel.

Have your say!

Do you have customers located within the 5% not-spots? How do you think the final 5% will be serviced? Are you pleased with the introduction of ultrafast services and the potential opportunities they could bring? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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