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Copper-obsessed BT means UK misses out on ultrafast fibre gold

New research finds Blighty languishing at bottom of FTTH pile

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BT has once again been blamed for Britain's failure to penetrate the Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) market, leaving the country lagging behind its European neighbours.

New research shows that, as of June 2012, only 0.05 per cent of households in the UK were connected to the superior technology. But the figure is hardly surprising given that national telco BT is committed, for cost reasons, to rolling out most of its fibre cabling to its existing infrastructure.

As we have previously reported, pumping fibre optic cabling directly into people's homes is an arduous task involving intensive man hours. It's no wonder, then, that BT's upgrade is heavily concentrated on deploying the fibre to street cabinets (FTTC) with traditional copper cables then being fed to the home.

The company told The Register earlier this year that it planned to roll out FTTC tech to around 75 per cent of homes and businesses over the next few years.

In July, a House of Lords committee report also cautioned against the over-emphasis on broadband speed over national reach.

Members of the FTTH Council Europe - which has just released its latest research about the current fibre state-of-play on the continent - lobby hard for ultra-high-speed broadband networks.

It found that Britain was in good company with Germany with both countries having failed once again to make the FTTH rankings scoreboard. The council said:

The UK has the lowest FTTH subscriber penetration rate of EU27+9 [Andorra, Croatia, Iceland, Israel, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey], with only 0.05 per cent of households connected. Despite the fact that the government has announced plans to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, the UK is clearly lagging and has no large scale FTTH deployment plans.

It seems the Broadband Delivery (BDUK) Project has missed the opportunity to bring the country real broadband. Community-driven projects demonstrate a real demand for FTTH, but are reliant on the incumbent.

The European Union's vice president Neelie Kroes said earlier this year, in a notable U-turn, that telecoms incumbents would not be reprimanded for using copper pricing as a barrier to rolling out fibre networks.

She had proposed in October 2011, when public consultation on the pricing of access to broadband networks was announced, that the likes of BT should lower the costs for what she described at the time as "largely depreciated copper networks". ®

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