BT announces 178 additional fibre exchanges


BT has announced a raft of additional fibre exchanges as part of its major rollout initiative in the UK.

The extra exchanges cover a range of locations, with 17 getting a fibre upgrade in Cornwall as part of a major project in the county.

Significant investment is going into Scotland as well, where 34 exchanges will be upgraded.

Superfast broadband is already within reach of more than six million premises today.

BT claimed the exchanges would cover 1.8 million homes and businesses. In some areas, premises will be able to access speeds of up to 300Mbps, the telecoms provider said.

"We continue to make tremendous strides with our fibre programme. Superfast broadband is already within reach of more than six million premises today and we are on track to pass ten million premises next year," said Olivia Garfield, CEO of Openreach.

"Our ambitions do not stop there. We will make fibre available to two thirds of UK premises by the end of 2014 and we want to go even further. It is important that as many premises as possible have access to fibre and so we will bid for the BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) funds that are available."

Despite claims that BT would be able to provide 50 per cent of homes with fibre in 2012, the telecoms giant told IT Pro its target was still 40 per cent.

The company admitted certain premises in the fresh exchanges' areas would not be able to access fibre, due to "the current network topography, and the economics of deployment."

A BT spokesperson suggested these unlucky few could be supplied by other means.

"The alternative solutions would include things like LTE, whitespace and Avanti (satellite) in Cornwall," the spokesperson added.

BT said once the exchanges revealed today have been completed, alongside others recently announced, the company would have completed 80 per cent of its rollout. The provider wants to reach two-thirds of the UK using its own money.

BT believes 90 per cent of the UK could be covered within five to six years if further public and private investment were released.

The UK's fibre rollout has been far from smooth, however. Last month, Geo Networks, which was helping deliver superfast networks in Wales in partnership with the Welsh Assembly, said it was going to withdraw bidding for Government-provided BDUK funds and in all next-generation access sales.

Geo claimed the market was "not contestable." Two key reasons for Geo's decision surrounded BT's pricing for Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) and "heavy restrictions" over what can be done with infrastructure.

Indeed, PIA pricing in rural areas has been the biggest barrier for the rollout, with a host of providers claiming BT is charging too much for the wholesale Openreach product. BT believes its PIA pricing is 38 per cent below the European average for access in rural areas.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.