Recent months have seen an increase in the amount of talk about fibre based networks getting closer to homes and businesses. From October 2007 a new product from Openreach will be available called Street Access that may bring true next generation broadband services closer.
Street Access is not a full end-user product, so it will not mean the immediate ability to connect to a fibre network, but it will provide the ability for a communications provider such as BT Wholesale or one of the existing LLU providers to have 100Mbps symmetrical connectivity to a street lamp or street cabinet, from where they could deploy a wireless network, metro ethernet or sub loop unbundling with VDSL2 to offer high speed broadband.
So what exactly does Street Access provide? Simply put a piece of fibre providing uncontended 100Mbps speeds back to a providers hardware in the exchange from a secure location like a lamp post or street cabinet. The fibre is pretty small and is blown down a conduit just 30mm wide making it easy to link to a lamp post. The kit that sits on the end of the fibre is designed to be rugged and compact to fit into a wide variety of locations.
At present there has been no information about any providers looking to use this product. The pricing obviously depends greatly on variables like the amount of fibre that will be installed, but a quick and dirty quote suggests a 2.5km link would cost £3,350 a year to rent with £4,750 install costs. While this is not cheap (and doesn't include rental of space needed in the BT Exchange), if you were to share this between 30 consumers the rental works out at £9.50 per consumer per month. The product certainly makes an attractive proposition for providing very fast connectivity to businesses, who may already be paying £200 a month for a SDSL connection running at just 2Mbps.
Gazing into the crystal ball, could this product, which is available to all communications providers, be the first step towards BT Wholesale unleashing a VDSL2 solution running from street cabinets starting in 2008?