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BT's fibre-to-the-premises trials hit duct roadblock

Rollout pushed back as 7-hour job turns into 2-day hassle for some customers

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BT has been forced to delay the rollout of its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology, after roughly a quarter of its trials found engineers taking two days to blow cables into customers' homes.

The telco's "superfast" broadband programme director Johnny McQuoid told The Register that some of the trials were taking twice as long as anticipated due to duct blockages that needed to be cleared. Some people who had dug up their gardens presented headaches for BT engineers, who have found the infrastructure troublesome.

He said that during trials involving around 1,000 premises, about 5 per cent of test customers refused BT's offer to carry out the first stage of the work on the outside of their properties while they were absent from home.

BT is hoping to get its so-called "mixed economy exchange" – which includes fibre-to-the-cabinet – rolled out to two-thirds of households and businesses in the UK by 2015, having spent £2.5bn on its 100Mbit/s downstream broadband fibre optic tech.

However, the FTTP trials are lagging behind. The company was planning to have 12 exchanges built that are kitted out for the new fibre network by September this year.

But McQuoid admitted that the duct blockages BT engineers had encountered so far during trials meant that the plan has been pushed back to a December time frame.

As we previously reported, BT said it was taking seven hours on average for two of its engineers to complete one "managed install" of the new FTTP kit at a customer's home. The company told us in March at a demo of its trials at its Bradwell Abbey site in Milton Keynes that it was trying to push the work down to around four hours.

However, the telco is having to revise that plan given that up to a quarter of its trials have individually taken the best part of two days to complete.

"FTTP is a complex technology which we are currently trialling at scale. We are pleased with how the trials are going, but have always been very clear that we will only launch it on a commercial basis once it has been fully tested and is ready for the market," said a BT spokesman. ®

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