BT’s quarterly figures show that superfast broadband services from the Openreach network is now available to 23 million premises – roughly 80 per cent of the UK.
Both BT’s own commercial network upgrade and the various BDUK (Broadband Delivery for the UK) projects have seen superfast FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet), rolled out to millions of homes in cities, suburbs, towns and villages.
Take up of superfast broadband services of all ISPs using BT’s Openreach network – including the likes of TalkTalk, Sky, EE, Zen and others – totals 4.6 million. This is roughly 20 per cent of the current superfast catchment area.
Because of this, BT has decided to unlock an extra £129 million of funding to extend the reach of the public-private BDUK partnerships.
Collectively, these aim to see superfast broadband made available to 95 per cent of homes and businesses by the end of 2017. Public money received by BT is now being reinvested to take this further – although it’s currently unclear how high the bar will now be raised.
Culture, media and sport secretary John Whittingdale said: “It’s fantastic to see that the rollout of superfast broadband is delivering for customers and for the taxpayer.
“The Government was clear from the start that as levels of people taking up superfast broadband went beyond our expectations in areas where we invested public money, BT would reimburse the taxpayer for reinvesting into further coverage across the UK. This now means that BT will be providing up to £129m cashback for some of the most hard to reach areas.”
BT CEO Gavin Patterson added: “We’ve hit our original take-up assumption and have rolled out ahead of target and on budget. This is a real success story for the UK.”
“We are delighted to be able to share that success by making up to £129 million available to extend the roll-out to more BDUK homes and businesses, earlier than planned and at no extra cost to the taxpayer.”
Fibre to the People: How many folks can get full-fat BT fibre?
While we’ve now got a more up to date picture on how many UK folks and firms can get FTTC broadband, it’s unclear how wide BT’s faster FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) footprint is.
As of November 2014, BT spokespeople revealed that FTTP was available at 160,000 premises. BT FTTP delivers top download speeds of 330Mbps compared to the theoretical maximum 80Mbps you’d get on an FTTC connection. Furthermore, unlike FTTC, speeds don’t degrade over distance on a FTTP line.
Officially, there’s been no update on how BT’s FTTP footprint may have changed since then, but sources close to BT have said that this the telco hasn’t been sitting on its hands. We’ve contacted sources at BT for clarification and will update in due course.
Until the end of 2017, how else could BT’s superfast reach expand? Under the Superfast Cymru BDUK scheme in Wales, BT is restarting Fibre on Demand, a business-only service that it put on hold back in January this year.
This will see companies pay to upgrade the copper ‘last mile’ of an FTTC line with fibre optic cable, essentially turning it into an FTTP line. While set-up costs for this are expensive, Welsh firms will be able to apply for vouchers worth up to £10,000.
BT is also continiuing to trial G.fast (pronounced ‘gee-fast’) technology, which in lab conditions has delivered download speeds of around 700Mbps. Trials are taking place right now in a variety of real-world locations – Gosforth, Huntingdon and Swansea – and other ISPs have been invited to take part.
In other parts of the country, rural fibre ISP Gigaclear has won contracts to connect disparate and remote rural communities in Berkshire, Essex, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire to gigabit (1,000Mbps) FTTP.