BT Ups Its FTTP Target

Users and vendors set to benefit as BT ramps its FTTP target from 1 million homes and businesses to 2.5 million

October 12, 2009

3 Min Read
BT Ups Its FTTP Target

Encouraging news for the U.K.'s broadband users: BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has announced plans to take fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections to 2.5 million British homes and businesses, 10 percent of the U.K.'s total, by 2012. (See BT Expands FTTH Plans.)

That's a significant increase from the initial target of 1 million announced in July 2008. Then, BT unveiled its £1.5 billion (US$2.4 billion) "super-fast" broadband plan to reach 10 million homes and businesses with a mix of fiber-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) deployments (where VDSL2 over copper is used for the final connection to the customer) and FTTP deployments, using GPON infrastructure. (See BT Unveils $3B FTTx Plan, BT's FTTH Conceit, and BT's Fiber to the Hype.)

Since then, BT has clearly exceeded its own expectations, recently announcing plans to deploy FTTP in existing copper access areas, also known as "brownfield" locations. (See BT Ramps Its FTTx Plans and BT to Trial FTTP.)

Indeed, the carrier notes it has been "making good progress with all aspects of its fibre programme and is commercially ahead of target... the roll out of fibre services has begun and BT has confirmed that 1.5 million homes will have access by next summer."

So the expanded FTTP target is within the same budget and timeline. This suggests a number of things: that the physical deployment of the networks has gone better than BT had originally expected; the required cooperation and support from local authorities for new fiber builds has been forthcoming; the costs of the deployments have been well managed; and the new technology being deployed is able to provide the open-access, fiber-based, broadband services that meet the U.K.'s regulatory requirements.

All of this is good news for British broadband users, who now stand a better chance of getting a GPON connection (up to 100 Mbit/s downstream) rather than a VDSL2 connection (up to 40 Mbit/s).

It's also good news for the access equipment vendors involved.

Those vendors haven't been officially announced, but Light Reading has learned that Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ECI Telecom Ltd. are the companies in question. The involvement of the Israeli vendor appears to be the culmination of a lengthy process: Light Reading heard as long ago as February 2008 that ECI was well placed for some BT GPON action. (See BT Preps GPON Shortlist.)

That Huawei is part of the rollout will come as no surprise, as it's already a supplier of multiservice access nodes for BT's current ADSL2+ rollout and is the vendor partner for the British incumbent's existing brownfield GPON pilot in Ebbsfleet, England. (See BT Goes With Huawei for FTTH .)

The Chinese vendor has confirmed its involvement in the "super-fast" broadband program to Light Reading.

For ECI, this is an important breakthrough, in terms of new business and creating a buzz around its broadband developments. (See ECI Touts GPON Advance.) Open access fiber-based broadband networks, which enable competitive ISPs to use the network owner's access infrastructure on an equal basis, are likely to proliferate in the coming years, and it'll be a boost for privately held ECI if it can prove itself in the BT network.

ECI isn't commenting, though, saying it doesn't talk about any customers that haven't been publicly announced. BT, meanwhile, isn't confirming Huawei or ECI's involvement, as it's keeping the identities of its fiber-access vendor partners to itself for now.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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