BT has announced plans to make its fibre optic network available to a further 1.2 million premises in the UK, with 99 exchanges set to be upgraded by Spring 2014.
These exchanges serve approximately 600,000 premises which are mostly spread across Scotland, the Midlands, the North East and North West of England – Beamish, Castle Donington, Darlington, Grimsby and Tipton are just some of the places where upgrades have been announced.
BT said that an additional 600,000 premises will also gain access to fibre broadband as a result of additional ‘infill’ work in previously announced areas.
“The UK is making great progress with super-fast broadband and this latest phase of work will keep up the momentum,” said Mike Galvin, Managing Director, NGA, Openreach.
“I am sure that communities across the UK will be pleased to see that they are factored into our commercial plans and I now look forward to working with councils to identify further areas that we can enable with their support.”
This phase of BT's fibre roll-out will bring the company's total fibre footprint to around 19 million homes and businesses in the UK. The plans form part of a £2.5 billion campaign to reach two thirds of UK premises with fibre, offering download speeds of at least 80Mbps.
BT is deploying a mix of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, where the fibre runs from the exchange to a local roadside cabinet, and Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology, where the fibre runs all the way to the home or business.
From Spring 2013, the company will also start to make FTTP commercially available on demand in areas where FTTC has been deployed. Commenting on the news, Nadia Babaali, communications director at the FTTH Council Europe said that BT's 'real' fibre offer will not arrive until then.
“Since this is 'on demand' in BT's offer, the difference between FTTC and FTTP would need to be explained clearly to customers, to ensure they have the information they need to make a choice – so far we have not seen such information from BT,” said Babaali.
“The so-called two-step approach from BT only pushes back the time when homes in the UK will benefit from FTTP, because in the meantime money is being spent on short term solutions (FTTC).”
The news follows the announcement last week that US cable giant Liberty Global will buy rival fibre optic broadband provider Virgin Media in a stock and cash merger valued at $23.3 billion (£14.9 billion).
The deal, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, will also put Liberty's chairman – US billionaire John Malone – in direct competition with his former partner and long-time rival Rupert Murdoch, whose company News Corp owns 39% of pay-TV company BSkyB.