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BT to fibre up another 98 exchanges, puffs 'FTTP on demand' offer

You have to demand to pay some of the installation bill

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Earlier this week, BT announced the company's latest phased rollout of its fibre optic-cabling technology in the UK. Blighty's national telco has said that BT's Openreach engineers will be upgrading another 98 exchanges. However, the national telco declined to tell The Register the exact split between fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology.

Instead, a BT spokesman offered this explanation:

When we install a 'head-end' in an exchange, we use an FTTX head-end, which can support both FTTC and FTTP. In the majority of cases the bulk of the network deployment will be FTTC, as this allows greater numbers of people to receive fibre speeds and is therefore generally the most economically viable.

However, we would expect that more exchange areas will see a mix of the two technologies being used over the coming couple of years, as we start to roll out FTTP solutions to MDUs [multiple domicile units] (apartment blocks) and then, from next year, to individual premises who request it via FTTP on Demand.

Theoretically, FTTC can deliver download speeds of up to 80Mbit/s and upstream speeds of 20Mbit/s, according to the latest figures from BT. Those cabinets connect to homes and businesses via existing copper and aluminium wiring that is tied to the firm's fibre-optic cables.

FTTP is a much pricier job for BT and the process of rolling it out to homes and businesses during pilot schemes proved much more time-consuming for the telecoms giant.

BT previously indicated that it planned to blow fibre cabling directly into around 2.5 million premises by 2014 - which means around 25 per cent of properties covered by BT in the UK will be able to upgrade their broadband package to the company's superior 100Mbit/s Infinity package.

To date, only 15 exchanges have been upgraded with FTTP tech.

Many other customers will have the option either to access BT's broadband service via FTTC tech, while others (mainly biz punters) will be offered so-called FTTP on demand.

BT's Openreach division said yesterday that it was targeting eight locations where it will test the FTTP on demand product that claims download speeds of up to 330Mbps.

The service will be commercially available from spring 2013, said BT.

It added that the pilots involves two phases to allow Openreach to overcome "challenges in deploying the service" in conjunction with ISP customers.

Phase one, which is intended to test the planning and construction process, will run from July 2012 to early 2013 and allow participating CPs to place orders for a 330Mbps downstream, and either 20 or 30Mbps upstream service in parts of High Wycombe, Bristol South as well as in St Agnes, Cornwall where the service was first trialled. Edinburgh’s Waverley exchange will be added to the pilot in September 2012.

Phase two, which will run from March to May 2013, will test new automated order processes, and focus on the 330Mbps downstream, 30Mbps upstream product. In addition to the first four areas, this phase will see the pilot extended to parts of Watford, Cardiff, Basingstoke, and Manchester Central.

BT's Mike Galvin, who is Openreach's network investment managing director, reiterated that FTTC remained the company's "mass market consumer product for some time yet".

He acknowledged that small businesses wanted faster broadband options, hence the fact that BT has begun punting FTTP on demand – which is expected to be a relatively pricey product.

However, BT isn't willing to pick up the full bill for its FTTP on demand rollout.

It said: "Communication providers will be able to order the service where there is interest and then assist Openreach with the cost of deployment. It will then be up to the communication provider to decide whether to absorb that likely one-off charge, recover it through higher monthly prices or pass it on in full to their customer." ®

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