The BT Group which is under attack from various corners has laid out its wares for all to see today and is promising to take G.fast with speeds of 300 to 500 Mbps to some 10 million homes and businesses across the UK by the end of 2020. More importantly for rural broadband there is a commitment to participate in a Universal Service Obligation once it has been fully defined by Government/Ofcom of 5 to 10 Mbps.
The current wave of BDUK/BT projects are aiming at 90% superfast coverage which is likely to be met at the end of 2015 or in January 2016, then the phase 2 extension contracts will start to deliver in volume and are meant to provide the UK with coverage out to 95% of premises with speeds of 24 Mbps or faster. BT has already demonstrated the clawback mechanism with some £129m being re-invested and has today committed to a plan to take this coverage beyond 95% and this would mean that more premises in the UK will have access to superfast broadband than have access to mains gas.
For the speed freaks, Gigabit broadband will be made available on demand as part of the G.fast roll-out but no information on pricing, other than to say this will be a FTTP based product, it should be highlighted that some areas may actually get native FTTP rather than G.fast this will depend on the precise economics for an area - carefully no estimates have been given for the G.fast to FTTP ratio. The G.fast roll-out will continue once the 10 million premises passed mark has been reached and should reach the majority of UK premises within a decade.
To address some of the complaints over Openreach performance a new "View My Engineer" service will allow the end-user to receive progress updates about any engineer visits and provide information like engineers name and mobile number.
There is a good reason why BT cannot outright declare taking coverage at superfast speeds beyond 95% because the fate of the final 5% is in the hands of the Government and BDUK who are deciding very soon on what will be used for the final 5%. So for rural areas BT is saying it believes it can go further if given the opportunity. So today is about BT saying it is ready to deliver on various targets and is going it alone on the G.fast front to ten million premises.