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April 15, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 11:25am

As it offers new 52 Mbps broadband, is BT really doing enough with fibre for Gigabit Britain?

News: BT is embracing fibre-to-the-cabinet to deliver higher speeds as Vaizey outlines his vision of 1 Gbps connectivity in the UK.

By Alexander Sword

BT has upgraded its BT Infinity 1 service to 52 Mbps in signs that the operator is using fibre to move away from lower-speed offerings.

BT claims that this new standard fibre service, which has increased from 38 Mbps, is faster than those offered by Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin.

"We want to give them a faster speed as standard so that everyone in a household can be online at the same time and still enjoy watching their favourite YouTube or HD content without buffering or bickering over whose turn it is," said David McDonald, director of broadband, TV and sport bundles, BT Consumer.

"The new, faster BT Infinity 1 service is about giving consumers a premium broadband experience as standard, allowing them to enjoy all the digital world has to offer."

Supported by an advertising campaign featuring Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, the move comes in the same week that Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey told a select committee that he expected to see gigabit broadband in the UK from 2020-25.

"I think Gigabit Britain trips off the tongue more easily than a 100 meg to 300 meg (sic) Britain," Vaizey said.

He also said that he believed that the 10 Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) would be in force towards the end of 2017 or in 2018.

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BT’s embracing of fibre to offer higher speeds shows a partial acceptance of Ofcom’s desire to place fibre at the centre of the UK’s broadband networks, expressed in the Digital Communications Review.

However, BT does not universally provide fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services, which would be necessary to deliver the gigabit speeds that Vaizey emphasises above.

BT has invested heavily in copper-based technologies such as G.Fast which is being trialled in Cambridgeshire.

G.Fast allows BT to extend the range of frequencies available through existing copper networks without having to roll out fibre to buildings from the cabinet.

BT claims it delivers speeds of up to 330 Mbps, over ten times the current UK average, but still only a third of 1 Gbps.

Providers such as Hyperoptic, which on 11 April announced that Brighton would be its newest ‘hyper-city’, do provide fibre-to-the-premises.

Hyperoptic already provides such services in Greater London, Cardiff, Bristol, Reading, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle and Nottingham.

BT offers fibre-to-the-premises if the availability checker (available on a dedicated website) gives the customer estimated speeds of up to 300Mb.

However, this is likely to be a rarity and probably only applicable to customers situated near exchanges.

For businesses and consumers, as well as remote workers, that require very high speeds, Vaizey’s ‘Gigabit Britain’ is far enough away that a choice of location will need to take into account the availability of fibre in the area for some time.

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