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Telco weighs up broadband options

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BT is considering speeding up its broadband service by pushing it to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 50Mb download per second for its customers.

BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland told the Financial Times the firm is looking at the possibility of beefing up its fibre optic cable by extending it as far as the street kerb.

The telecoms behemoth claimed that such a roll-out could push download speeds to between the 40-50Mbs mark, compared to the current top-end offering of 8Mbs coughed up by most UK firms.

According to the FT, analysts think if BT delivered on such a promise it could be slapped with a hefty £4bn bill, which could be hard for investors to swallow.

Bland stressed that no decisions had yet been made by the firm, but told the FT that it was a "likely development going forward".

According to a new study carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), however, upping the broadband speed ante could offer long-term value to telecoms' firms brave enough to invest in fibre optic cabling.

It found, in its Communications Outlook 2007 report, that customers in countries that were already taking advantage of higher-speeds such as Japan and Sweden were benefiting in terms of pricing and service.

Senior analyst Mark Main at Ovum told The Register that BT could be looking to gain a foothold in the high-definition television (HDTV) marketplace, competing with the likes of Virgin and Sky by offering faster speeds.

But he said such an investment was not without its potential "sticking points", including regulation and cost.

He said if BT was to go ahead it would need to "make a viable case for the delivery of that for UK consumers".

Main added that if the firm was positioning itself in the HDTV market, BT would need to "make significant in-roads in a short enough period of time".

He pointed out that broadband speeds would, for the forseeable future, vary for many potential BT subscribers and that there was no way of guaranteeing 50Mb for everyone.

BT already has broadband speed offers of up to 24Mbs in the, er, pipeline for next year. This follows the firm's sizeable £10bn outlay for a "backbone" network, as well as its planned implementation of ADSL2+. ®

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