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BT earmarks 66 more exchanges for fibre-to-the-cabinet upgrade

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BT's Openreach wholesale division announced this morning the next 66 exchanges that it plans to upgrade as part of its fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband rollout.

Most of the locations, which are spattered all over the UK, will get the FTTC technology at some point in 2012.

BT said that a few of the exchanges will "go live" by the end of this year. It didn't pinpoint which locations the rollout would reach first, however.

In April the telco said it had earmarked 156 exchanges for its faster broadband upgrade, but admitted that none of those locations would benefit from BT's 100Mbit/s downstream service.

That upgrade targeted areas in Yorkshire, the Midlands and Greater Manchester, with work taking place over the next 20 months. BT said at the time that only around 50 of those exchanges would be fully upgraded by the end of this summer.

The latest list includes locations in central London, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Norwich, Brighton and other large seaside spots such as Eastborne, Folkestone, Bournemouth and Hastings.

In the same statement BT added that it was trialling a new wireless broadband access tech, with backing from the government's Technology Strategy Board, on the Isle of Bute. The company is working on the project in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde, BBC Research and Development, Steepest Ascent, Berg Design and Netpropagate.

"The final 10 per cent of the UK is going to be the hardest to reach with fixed line super-fast broadband and so we are busy trialling other technologies," said Openreach boss Liv Garfield.

"One of these is based on white space and I'm glad to say the initial results are very encouraging. It's early days but our hope is that this technology may provide an effective solution for 'not spots' and 'slow spots'."

Garfield also repeated BT's plans to push faster broadband speeds to two-thirds of Blighty by the end of 2015.

She also reaffirmed Openreach's desire to snap up procurement contracts with local councils that recently were given a portion of the £530m rural broadband cash set aside by the government.

"We also welcome the government's recent pledge to free up a further £50m of BDUK funds to stimulate investment in rural broadband networks in Wiltshire, Norfolk, Devon and Somerset," she said.

"We have made a clear commitment to rolling out fibre to two-thirds of the UK, but we're keen to go further by working with public sector bodies.

"There will be competition for these funds but we believe that BT is well-placed to compete, given our experience in rolling out networks that are both open to others and sustainable. These are important factors if local consumers and businesses are to benefit from competition and the resulting low prices."

The FTTC install, which could face opposition in some local areas given reactions to the tech rollout in the past, should eventually offer download speeds of up to 40Mbit/s and upstream speeds of 10Mbit/s.

Exchanges in previous lists issued by BT are to be upgraded to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), completely replacing old metal lines. Customers connected to them will receive about 100Mbit/s downstream.

As we revealed last month, BT's FTTP rollout has been pushed back after trials of the tech proved cumbersome for the firm's engineers. BT was planning to have 12 exchanges built that are kitted out for the new fibre network by September this year.

But duct blockages encountered by BT workers so far during trials meant that the planned rollout has been delayed to a December time frame. ®

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