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BT ultrafast broadband hopes ‘not viable’ says industry

Friday, September 26th 2014 by Hannah Langston

BT’s experiment to utilise the existing copper network to deliver broadband speeds up to 1Gbps have been criticised as expensive and wasteful by gigabit broadband providers.

The tests of a system called “G.fast” are designed to show that broadband speeds of up to 1Gbps can be achieved using a mix of the existing copper network and some fibre optic cables.

However, gigabit broadband providers Hyperoptic and Cityfibre have both criticised the move as an attempt to maximise the old network without investing in essential upgrades to fibre optic technology.

Mark Collins, director of strategy and public affairs at CityFibre, told Cable.co.uk: “The UK is still far too reliant on Victorian-era copper connections, which are simply not viable for the kind of speeds the country needs to be economically successful.

“Thanks to the dependency on this geriatric infrastructure thousands of UK businesses are struggling to grow and compete, suffocated by a lack of bandwidth.

“We remain unconvinced by G.fast. It feels like a temporary fix deployed to maximise value from legacy copper networks.

“While G.fast may be able to deliver ultrafast speeds over short distances it begs the question as to whether is it really worth the huge cost and complexity of deploying and maintaining active electronics so close to the home. Why not drop fibre off at the premises while you're there?” he added.

Dana Tobak, managing director of Hyperoptic, agreed that rolling out a nationwide service would be problematic: "While G.fast technology is impressive in a test environment, bringing it to reality will require significant investment in street cabinets and will be limited to high density areas.”

"The future of broadband is fibre-to-the-premises, extending the life of copper is a costly exercise that is just delaying the inevitable.”

Responding to the criticism, a BT spokesperson told us: “BT has rolled out fibre to tens of millions of properties in record time. We were able to achieve that by focusing on the technology that could be rolled out the quickest and that was the most cost effective. This has enabled millions of customers to benefit from low prices and great value superfast broadband.

“It has been estimated that rolling out FTTP to every UK home would have cost up to £30 billion, and would have taken an awfully long time. We have taken exactly the right approach.

“Meanwhile industry experts believe the average home will require 19Mbps by 2023, so our FTTC service – which delivers speeds of up to 80Mbps – has plenty of life left in it yet. We wish the altnets well and will watch with interest to see what demand there is from consumers for much faster speeds.”

G.fast technology involves connecting fibre cables to telephone poles or junction boxes located near to homes and businesses and using copper lines to take the connections inside premises.

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