In answer to the question does copper sweat – yes, BT will be sweating the UK’s copper network infrastructure for all it’s worth – the 21CN project will see to that. However, BT’s local access network business, Openreach, has announced further details of the fibre rollout at Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent. Just south of the Thames near Gravesend. The area is larger than the City of London central area and has Ebbsfleet International station close by.
From August 2008 optical fibre will be used to connect residences on Land Securities 1,000 acre new build project. Around 10,000 homes will be built in the Ebsfleet Valley and it looks like they’ll all be getting 100Mbit/s.
Why the government hasn’t said that all new homes must have fibre is a great example of short term thinking to my mind. Short term normally translates to “it’s too expensive”, in these debates, but if you’re building new houses I would’ve thought, a tiny bit extra on the mortgage wouldn’t make that much difference. Also, if the house gets sold, having an optical fibre connection looks like a great selling point to me.
Until then I suppose having a house next door to a BT exchange looks like the next best thing, since even when 24Mbit/s is eventually rolled out across the country, there’ll not be many having those headline speeds.
At the minute, fibre isn’t being pulled in Ebbsfleet, but come August it looks like I may be having a wander down there to see how things are going.
I did have a chat on the phone with Land Securities head of project management Andy Freeman about what’s happening. The first properties are being built now and will be available late August and September, all things going to plan. The fibre will be pulled through a standard BT duct and Openreach will make it available to comms providers, including BT retail, who’ll be providing the services to users, although on day one you won’t have the full range of providers you’ll have on copper.
Freeman said that where the houses are being built, it’s been a chalk quarry for the past 100 years, so the first decision Land Securities made was not to put legacy infrastructure in. Freeman pointed out that it didn’t make any sense over a 25-30 year development to put anything other than optical fibre in and added that if nobody had stepped up to the mark like BT did, they would have brought in the expertise themselves. However, BT would not have stepped up if “we hadn’t pushed them for four years to do it,” commented Freeman.
“There’s probably a snowball at the top of the hill now and this will be a quantum leap above what’s obtainable on copper and you’ll be able to turn up the speed as and when there’s a demand,” Freeman added.
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