Another day and a little more fibre for UK broadband diet to digest. Openreach which has had a relatively small scale fibre to the flat pilot running on the Isle of Dogs is looking to expand this pilot. The aim now looks impressive with 1,000 buildings sought in the next pilot, with buildings being partly chosen via a registration scheme, the main pre-requisite is that the building is in an area where the Openreach fibre services are already available. Co-operation of the landlord and the cost of deployment are of course important factors.
"We are keen to extend the benefits of our fastest broadband services to those living in apartments. Through our registration scheme customers are clearly showing us they now seek these higher speeds and see the provision of super-fast broadband as a significant benefit. We are factoring customer demand into our future deployment plans but are also keen to partner with landlords and involve them in our plans."Mike Galvin, Openreach Managing Director for Next Generation Access
The BT press release, confirms that the deployment will be full Fibre to the Premises via the speeds available on the service, which is 100 Mbps currently, rising to an optional 300 Mbps in spring of 2012. There is some debate as to whether this is the fastest commercially available speed in the UK, due to the presence of Hyperoptic who already offer 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps), we presume that Openreach is referring to that wholesale access that exists on their network. In terms of upload speeds, Hyperoptic has an even bigger lead since it offers a symmetric service.
We did some checking on various postcodes where fibre to the cabinet is available, and the Openreach fibre to apartments registration checker tells us that the postcodes we checker were outside the trial area. Therefore it seems likely the trials apply to areas where Openreach is deploying its Fibre to the Premises product, which currently is Bradwell Abbey, Highams Park, Chester South, York, Ashford (Middlesex), Ilford Central, St Austell, Forest Hill, Leytonstone or Exeter. Residents should register at www.superfast-openreach.co.uk/resident/ if you are a landlord then this alternative registration page should be used.
For those with a flat not in these areas, it is a case of waiting to see how the trials go. The alternative of chasing Hyperoptic to come to your area is feasible, though at present their roll-out is concentrating on London and again co-operation from the landlord is crucial.
UK cities are slowly starting to take on the look of others around Europe, with DOCSIS 3.0 available to many, and fibre from various sources across a city. The key to even wider roll-outs will be if landlords see tenants turning down flats due to a lack of superfast broadband. The ramping up of Openreach's interest in apartments is not surprising after Hyperoptic and Metro Ethernet providers like Ask4 have paved the way. Small providers showing these is a demand mean that the larger operators have an easier job convincing those holding the purse strings that it is an area they need to operate in.