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BT’s ultrafast broadband plans: G.fast and gigabit fibre for 10 million before 2021

BT plans to bring up to 500Mbps G.fast and gigabit fibre broadband to 10 million UK premises by the end of 2020. 

The new services will build on groundwork started by the rollout of superfast FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) products across BT’s network arm Openreach, which are now available to over 23 million UK homes and businesses. 

BT is proposing that G.fast services, delivering top download speeds of 300Mbps-500Mbps will be made available to the majority of premises, with other customers needing more bandwidth able to sign up for FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) lines, delivering download speeds of up to 1Gbps (1,000Mbps). 

Trials of G.fast are taking place in the wild right now. The technology is similar in many respects to FTTC; it’s a combination of optical fibre and copper telephone wires and the speed you’ll get at home depends greatly on your proximity to the distribution point in the network. 

Related: 4K and 8K video is easily doable on G.fast and Inside BT’s G.fast labThat said, trialists in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire are already enjoying the benefits of an up to 330Mbps service, which is head and shoulders above the theoretical top speed possible – 80Mbps – on a BT VDSL2 FTTC line. 

BT has already stated that it expects these services to be available within the next two years, depending on how the other two trials with eight ISPs (including Zen Internet) go. 

What’s more, it’s expected that the second great coming of FTTP from BT will be faster both in terms of headline speeds and the rate at which it hits the market. 

At a packed press event, CEO of technology, services and operations at BT Group Clive Selley said: “We’re changing the way we plan, build and deploy FTTP. [BT is] trialling new techniques aimed at delivering this. [We can] more than halve the time is takes to deliver detailed planning FTTP networks.”

As well as building new full-fibre networks, it’s expected that customers who want to get gigabit fibre from BT will be able to pay a one-off fee to upgrade the copper last mile between the street cabinet/distribution point and their home or business premises. 

Due to the costs involved in upgrading from FTTP from FTTC under BT’s original Fibre on Demand scheme, it could be that this option will only be offered to those who can get G.fast services, or in areas there the copper last mile is under a certain length. 

This service, quietly canned in January this year, is currently being trialled out again with businesses covered by the Welsh Superfast Cymru scheme

BT Group chief executive Gavin Patterson added that the company is keen to get on with delivering its vision of the future, but added that ‘a collaborative effort across industry and government’ was needed. 

The phrases ‘industry and government’ and ‘the right regulatory framework’ were uttered repeatedly throughout the press event by Patterson, undoubtedly a reference to Ofcom’s forthcoming strategic review.  
 
The UK telecoms regulator has mooted fully separating Openreach from the rest of the BT Group, following complaints from rivals Sky and Vodafone over BT’s dominance of the broadband marketplace and – with the proposed takeover of EE – the mobile marketplace too. 

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