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ADSL roll-out hits top speed, thanks to campaigners hardwork
Tuesday 27 April 2004 21:41:00 by Andrew Ferguson

BT Wholesale has put the cat amongst the pigeons with it's latest press release that can be read here. The plan now is to roll-out ADSL services to a further 1,128 exchanges by no later than 2005. These exchanges combined with all the currently enabled exchanges, will mean that the coverage rises to 99.6% of UK homes and businesses. Of course on the exchanges there may still be a few premises unable to receive an ADSL service, but the trials in Milton Keynes should almost totally solve that problem.

Enough praise cannot be given to the members of the public who have tirelessly campaigned for broadband in their area since the start of the registration scheme in July 2002. The scheme itself though really exploded when BT assigned a small dedicated team of staff to assist the campaigners in 2003. This BT Broadband Campaign team have set unprecedented levels of communication within BT for talking with actual real end-users of their service. Without these two groups of dedicated individuals there would have being a lot less pressure on BT to speed up its roll-out.

Many column inches will have being expended on todays news from BT already, but there is still a bit of waiting to be done for the release of RFS dates. To summarise some of the points:

  1. The broadband registration scheme will cease with immediate effect.
  2. If your echange has already triggered, an RFS date will be released as soon as possible.
  3. BT also plans to set RFS dates for those exchanges within 10% of their trigger level, so that these will go into the build phase immediately. The 10% mark is the level that the exchange was sat at on Monday 26th April 2004 at 7am (BST).
  4. The phasing of the remaining exchanges will be announced by the end of June 2004.
  5. The current plan is that by June 2004, if an RFS date has been released for an exchange, an ISP will be able to place an order.
  6. BT is not guaranteeing that all 1,128 exchanges will be enabled by summer 2005, there is a risk that a few may miss this date. This will not be known until full surveys of the work needed at each exchange has been done. For example, where planning permission, way leaves, exceptional amounts of building work are required.
  7. This planned approach should allow BT Wholesale to reach its 99.6% coverage figure faster than the defunct registration scheme.

Of course 99.6% is not 100% of exchanges, so what of the remaining 565 smallest exchanges which serve less than 100,000 households? BT is going to continue to work with the public sector and other organisations to find broadband solutions for these areas. Systems like the BT Exchange Activate, Wireless or Satellite based services may offer solutions more suited to these households. For people wanting more information on the partnerships then have a look here.

Today's news does not mark the end of broadband campaigning, it merely marks a shift in its emphasis. The UK now must look at ways of driving broadband demand up and that is something that needs to happen whether it is a BT, LLU, NTL, Telewest or other broadband service. BT's ADSL service has a 9.6% average UK take-up, but it is as low as 6.3% in one un-named RDA region.

A lot more is going to be said about where broadband is to go next in the UK. By summer 2005, we will have a nice base-line broadband service. The next key thing is to get a service available to the majority of people that will meet a globally accepted broadband defintion, i.e. of being able to run multiple applications at the same time without interference. BT Wholesale is believed to be looking at new limits for its 1Mbps and 2Mbps services, which along with the Telewest and NTL news of Monday should bring the UK more in line with other countries in terms of quality/speed of service. The UK by summer 2005 is going to exceed a lot of other contries coverage figures, but may well be lacking in the number of service options available in the cities and larger towns.


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