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Beyond Infinity: BT plots 500Mbps and gigabit premium fibre future

BT is planning to launch services delivering download speeds of up to 500Mbps in the next two years. 

The next-gen technology, which greatly increases speeds possible over last-gen copper lines, is being piloted this summer in the leafy Cambridgeshire town of Huntingdon and the slightly less leafy suburb of Gosforth, Newcastle. 

If the pilots prove successful BT expects that products will start hitting the market by late 2016 or early 2017. 

BT’s CEO Gavin Patterson said: “We believe is the key to unlocking ultrafast speeds and we are prepared to upgrade large parts of our network should the pilot prove successful. 

“The UK is ahead of its major European neighbours when it comes to broadband and we need to stay ahead as customer demands evolve. will allow us to do that by building on the investment we have made in fibre to date. It will transform the UK broadband landscape from superfast to ultrafast in the quickest possible timeframe.” 

Beyond Infinity: BT plots 500Mbps and gigabit premium fibre future
BT’s test facility simulates real-life conditions of the access network

Inside the lab – take a tour of BT’s next-gen test bedEarly trials of technology have yielded download and upload speeds of around 700Mbps and 200Mbps

As with ADSL and FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) broadband, the speeds possible with technology is limited by the length of the copper last mile. 

This is likely the reason why BT has picked a built-up urban area and a market town to test Copper lines, or ‘loops’ in industry-speak, are typically longer in rural areas. Previous trials have shown that the differences in speed can vary over distances of less than 50 metres. 

Over 4,000 premises will be involved in the trials which should give BT staff plenty of data to play with. 

While results will vary depending on where you live, industry experts reckon that will provide enough bandwidth to allow for 4K and 8K video streaming

For those hankering after some pure fibre from BT, there’s some good news. The UK’s biggest ISP is also (finally) talking about plans for a 1Gbps (1,000Mbps) fibre broadband service. 

Details are thin on the ground right now but it’s expected that this will be an FTTP (Fibre to the Premises)-based service, which means that speeds won’t degrade over long distances. 

Interestingly, BT says that this service would be available to home customers as well as business customers. This news comes after BT announced it was putting its expensive and business customer-only Fibre on Demand service on hold. 

The revelations come as BT announces that the Openreach network now offers superfast FTTC broadband to roughly 22 million customers. In total, 3.7 million customers take superfast services from ISPs using BT’s network, 2.7 million of which are BT punters.