The Race To Infinity was a high profile campaign to try and gauge interest in fibre based broadband outside the areas that Openreach thought were commercially viable back in 2010. As with almost any competition there was a strong PR angle to it, but another area has popped its head up to highlight that the work in an exchange area is not complete. Back in 2013 we covered Madingley where work on the FTTP areas is still ongoing.
Whitchurch, Hampshire is the latest of the six winners to reveal that the roll-out has not been completed yet, and with Spring 2014 just a few months away the concern that some cabinets may be missed out is obviously a concern.
It is difficult to follow up on what the exact promises made through the competition were some four years later, as is the same with many corporate websites, BT moves content around and removes pages. While we have not found anything giving an absolute promise that every premise in a winning exchange area would have access to a FTTC or FTTP service, the winners do appear to feel this was promised.
Looking at the Ofcom data from 2013 for the main part of Whitchurch we find some 140 postcodes covering an estimated 1528 premises, and some 81 postcodes are able to order a service at 30 Mbps or faster. The Ofcom data also has 20 postcodes that are too small to have reliable data, or data is just missing, but it is possible that some of these are able to order a fibre based service.
Update Wednesday 15th January 2013 We have received a statement from BT on the roll-out in Whitchurch, which is believed to be the same as supplied to the BBC, we have reproduced it in full below:
"The vast majority of premises in the Whitchurch exchange area do have access to super-fast broadband as a result of the Race to Infinity Programme. The deployment in Whitchurch is at the cutting edge of our technology development and residents will benefit from a higher percentage of coverage and faster speeds than anywhere else in the country. Our Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) activity is also well under way, delivering the ultrafast speeds of up to 300Mb to residents. Work is nearly complete and we expect residents to be able to place orders within weeks.
There is one more fibre cabinet to deploy in Freefolk and this is well under way too, we expect this to be live in early March. We are aware that we have one cabinet that has already reached its capacity in the Whitchurch area, due to high take up. We are now looking at the options available to us to deploy more capacity in this area as soon as possible. There are no super-fast cabinets in Laverstoke, however, Overton exchange is being activated this quarter and some Laverstoke residents bordering Overton will be able to access this service, although these are not live at present."Openreach/BT statement on Race To Infinity in Whitchurch
The next few months are likely to see a similar pattern across the UK, as there are other small areas of FTTP roll-out that have seen partial builds and are waiting on the final completion. In areas where native FTTP is rolled out, people have the choice of 40 Mbps, 80 Mbps at the same price as standard FTTC areas, but extra speed points of 110 Mbps, 220 Mbps and 330 Mbps will be available at a higher price. Alas the choice of retail providers for Openreach FTTP is still relatively spartan, with BT Infinity being the only big name provider, generally PlusNet will offer service but this may require a telephone call. Other providers generally seem to be stuck in a loop of calling FTTP a trial product, with Claranet SOHO being an exception.