BT fibre broadband to reach most of UK by 2015BT to invest £2.5 billion in high speed broadband

14 May 2010

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Some BT broadband customers could experience very high broadband speeds sooner than anticipated, following the announcement of BT's plans to expand investment into its super-fast fibre broadband network. 

The proposal to upscale BT's fast broadband network plans were announced by BT chief executive Ian Livingston in his three year vision for the company. 

The aim is to invest £2.5 billion in a programme that could make fibre broadband available to around two-thirds of UK homes by 2015. BT had previously pledged to invest £1.5 billion in bringing fibre broadband to 40% of UK homes by 2012. 

Broadband speed is only one aspect to consider when choosing a broadband provider. Compare broadband customer service, connection reliablity and value for money in the Which? broadband reviews.

BT Vision to profit from fast broadband

BT also plans to invest in improving its TV services, with Livingston saying: 'Television is a potential growth area for the company and one that will benefit from the roll out of faster broadband. 

'BT will offer a range of new television services ranging from a huge choice of on demand programming, free to air HD programmes and new interactive services. In addition, Ofcom’s recent decision on Pay TV should enable BT to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 in time for the 2010/11 football season.'

Find out more about BT's TV service, BT Vision, in the Which? guide to free TV and pay TV services.

Fibre broadband speeds

BT's fibre broadband network is expected to provide maximum speeds of 40 megabits per second (Mbps) to most households. Currently, the maximum speed most BT customers can expect receive is up to 20Mbps, although BT says that four million homes are due to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2010.

Some parts of the UK may get even faster maximum speeds. A BT spokesperson told the BBC that a quarter of those with access to BT's fibre network will receive 'fibre to the home'. This means they will be able to receive impressive-sounding maximum download speeds of 100Mbps. 

Other homes on the fibre broadband network will have 'fibre to the cabinet'. This means the fast fibre cables will only extend to BT cabinets on the street - the wire between the cabinet and homes will not be replaced - which will limit the maximum broadband speed to 40Mbps.

Rival broadband providers to benefit

BT's plans may come as welcome news to most broadband providers in the UK that piggyback on the BT network, such as Orange and TalkTalk. Broadband providers that use BT's wires are limited to BT's maximum speeds unless they install their own broadband equipment in BT telephone exchanges (often called local loop unbundling). 

BT's network enhancement may do away with the need for local loop unbundling, and Orange has already made the switch away from this. 

This would also be good news for consumers wanting to switch between broadband providers - at present, it can be problematic to switch to or from local loop unbundled broadband services. 

BT to challenge Virgin Media

BT's plans to up its fibre broadband coverage will put it in a better position to compete with its main fast broadband rival, Virgin Media. 

Virgin Media does not piggy-back on BT's network. Virgin Media's own fibre cable network covers just over 50% of UK homes and currently offers maximum broadband speeds of up to 50Mbps, though it is currently piloting up to 200Mbps in some areas of the UK.

Superfast broadband speeds sound impressive, but Which? broadband expert Ceri Stanaway warns: 'Don't forget that even with very fast broadband, the advertised speed is only a maximum. As we explain in the Which? broadband speed guide, the speed you'll actually receive at any given time can be affected by a number of factors, such as the number of people online.'

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