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BT wins Black Country BDUK bid: Superfast broadband to 98 per cent by 2017

BT has picked up the contract to deliver superfast broadband to 98 per cent of Black Country homes and firms by June 2017. 

The Black Country Broadband Broadband Partnership will see properties across Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton able to connect to superfast broadband, delivering speeds of at least 24Mbps. The scheme, annoucned earlier this month, was originally planned to roll out superfast to 95 per cent of premises. 

The area is already well served by ISPs – superfast broadband is already available to 92 per cent – so the project will see those in hard to reach areas able to order better broadband over the next three years. 

Fibre to the Canals: BT promises to deliver the most significant infrastructure upgrade since the railways came
Fibre to the Canals: BT promises to deliver the most significant infrastructure upgrade since the railways came

Bill Murphy, Managing Director of Next Generation Access for BT said: “Combined investments by BT and other communications providers means high-speed fibre broadband is already available to around 92 per cent of the area – more than 468,000 homes and businesses.” 

As usual, BT isn’t specifying exactly where it’ll be installing new equipment, but once its upgraded its postcode checker, residents should be able to get a better idea of where and when superfast broadband will arrive. 

Over 400 street cabinets will be set up under the Black Country Broadband Project umbrella, so once these are set up, BT’s site should pinpoint exactly where they are. 

The £12.2 million project has been co-funded by cash from the UK Government’s BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) pot, the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and BT. 

BT has thrown £6.4 million into the ring while the remaining £5.8 million has come from BDUK and the Black Country LEP’s Growing Places Fund, which have contributed £2.9 million each. 

Ninder Johal, Chair Black Country Broadband Group, LEP Board member said: “Today’s launch is an important step in delivering our ambition of a minimum 98 per cent high-speed fibre broadband availability by the end of June 2017. Small businesses across the Black Country identified slow broadband speeds as a barrier to growth so this partnership is great news for businesses in our area.

“The Black Country LEP is the first LEP to contribute funding under the new BDUK programme, which has made this project possible.”

Properties in the remaining 2 per cent will be able to get a basic service delivering speeds of at least 2Mbps by the end of the project. 

Should additional funding become available, or surplus cash be leftover once BT starts setting up cabinets, it can be clawed back and reinvested into the scheme. This could see superfast broadband pushed out to those final areas, although there’s no guarantee this will happen. 

The project will begin with several months of planning and survey work before the first services become available towards the end of 2015.

The majority of places will likely get connected to FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet), which delivers download speeds of up to 80Mbps. A smaller number of properties should be able to order FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) which currently provides download speeds of up to 330Mbps. 

Trials have shown that download speeds on both types of connection can be cranked up to 700Mbps and 10Gbps (10,000Mbps) in the future, but it could be a number of years before BT and other ISPs using the Openreach network offers these kinds of services to customers. 

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