/ Technology

We’re edging closer to universal superfast broadband

Orange optical fibres

Sometimes it’s difficult to share, but now BT has no choice. Ofcom has told the company to open up its fibre network to all of its competitors. So are we finally getting closer to superfast broadband for all?

Like most of us, Ofcom is eager to speed up the move towards universal superfast broadband in the UK. So rather than just kindly asking, Ofcom has ordered BT to open its fibre network up to its broadband competitors (like Sky and TalkTalk).

Not only will this give us a genuine choice of providers, it should spur competitive pricing of broadband packages that offer speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second. That’ll let you download (legally, of course) the umpteenth Pirates of the Caribbean film in the blink of an eye.

You’d think BT would be feeling just a little bit bitter about all this, but actually its apparently welcomed Ofcom’s announcement – likely because the regulator hasn’t put a cap on what BT can charge for its network.

The race to infinity

BT’s already started to roll-out its own fibre broadband, called BT Infinity, which it hopes will be available to two-thirds of the UK by 2015. This is being fuelled by a new campaign, imaginatively called ‘the race to infinity’, which is trying to find out who wants superfast broadband the most.

The five exchange points that get the most demand will have fibres installed by 2012. It’s a pretty high-profile campaign that, in practice, will map out where and when BT will install fibres across the country in the coming years.

Though it’s important to note that the results won’t just impact where BT’s own service goes. They’ll also influence the UK’s superfast networks as a whole.

However, Ofcom has also ruled that other providers can use BT’s infrastructure to lay down their own cables. That means they won’t have to wait for the big bad BT to get there first. So, fingers crossed, this should mean that even rural areas will get a look in on eye-watering broadband speeds. We can only hope.

John says:
12 October 2010

As a Virgin customer I’m not impressed. I use broadband to work from home on a permanent basis and have done for 10 years. Whilst its got faster the provision is much worse, my service will go down randomly anything up to 3 or 4 times a day, 3 or 4 days a week or it could stay up uninterupted for several weeks. Result is I have a second broadband provider, provided over a BT line which is slower but very rarely fails.

Telecoms provision in this country is poor, the supposed competition is none existant or at least only in one direction. When my service started with Telewest, they were miles cheaper than BT, now Virgin’s phone charges mirror BT’s exactly at every change.

I’ll never get superfast broadband from BT as they won’t provide it as the area already has cable and no one will force the cable companies to open up their networks, OFCOM aren’t even interested in complaints from private consumers, I’ve tried.

Nick says:
12 October 2010

Looks like Which? is listening to the BT (and Virgin) propaganda. Neither of these is really fibre broadband. You don’t get a fibre to your house with these services. You get fibre to a street cabinet which does increase the speed to your house but the delivery is still over the same copper based delivery systems as before. So call it Fibre to the Cabinet if you want to be exact or call it Fibre + Copper Broadband, but it definitely is not Fibre to the Home which would be real fibre broadband

I agree with Nick, theres a major weakness in it all, the 25 year old copper twisted pair cable to my house.

I use Virgin (NTL) coaxial DSL cable and its been 100% reliable for near on 10 years.
I asked BT about their infinity – it would cost me 3 times as much to match the bandwidth I currently pay for and they want £80+ to consider hooking me up and charge me for a router and then there’s the phone line.

No thank you.

James Harrison says:
13 October 2010

The subscriber-winning battle has gone on since the beginning, but one’s line speed is still governed by the post-war piece of wire. I’m sick of having to pay BT at all as they just can’t compete and seemingly don’t really care. The whole network needs a good new system by which ANY ‘provider’ can control their own bundles. Move aside BT.