While Openreach is heavily criticised for its heavy focus on FTTC services, for those who must have full fibre (FTTP) there has been the promise of Fibre on Demand. The announcement today of two pilot phases provides evidence that Openreach is steadily moving towards the launch of its on demand product.
"FTTP on Demand has great potential and so we are proceeding with these pilots. Whilst we believe FTTC will be our mass market consumer product for some time yet, FTTP may be of interest to small and medium sized businesses and so we want to make it accessible throughout our fibre footprint. This development can potentially help SMEs to compete both at home and abroad as well as maintain and create jobs across the UK."Mike Galvin, Openreach’s MD Network Investment
The pilot will run in two phases, phase one will start in July 2012 and cover parts of High Wycombe, Bristol South and St Agnes, Cornwall. In September the Edinburgh Waverley exchange will be added to the pilot. The first phase aims to test the various planning and construction processes.
The second phase expands to more areas and will run from March 2013 to May 2013 in parts of Watford, Cardiff, Basingstoke and Manchester Central. The automated order processes being the focus of this part of the pilot.
In both pilot phases the focus will be on the faster 330 Mbps downstream service, but a variety of 20 Mbps and 30 Mbps upstream variants will be used. Currently FTTP is only available from Openreach in parts of some 15 exchange areas, though the original £2.5bn investment plan suggested a target coverage of 10 to 15% of the UK, the extra civil work involved means Openreach may have opted to roll its FTTC services first to assess demand and meet political goals quicker.
While the FTTP on Demand is likely to cost around £1000 to £1500 for installation, broadband providers may decide to let customers spread the cost over a number of months. The price means the service is likely to only appeal to the SME and home worker market initially, but it could also be looked on as an investment in a property, giving a home a unique selling point that is a lot more useful than an ornamental fish pond.