BT has set a deadline of summer 2005 to upgrade 1,128 local phone exchanges to handle ADSL broadband internet connections, promising 99.6 per cent population coverage.
The news marks the end of BT's controversial policy of setting registration trigger levels for individual phone exchanges, introduced in July 2002.
BT claimed that the registration scheme has served its purpose, allowing the telco to match investment levels to areas where broadband was in demand and cost-effective to deliver.
Details of the new roll-out will emerge in June. BT Wholesale is working with service providers to enable businesses and homes to place an order for an ADSL service as soon as the go-live date for their exchange is fixed.
Alison Ritchie, chief broadband officer at BT, said in a statement: "Together with our plans to extend the reach of broadband from local exchanges, this takes us significantly closer to universal availability."
But Mark Blowers, senior research analyst at Butler Group, suggested that competition pushing down the price of services, and lower equipment upgrade costs, were key factors in BT's change of policy.
"The demand is there and ADSL take-up is gaining momentum in the home and small business," he said.
"It's a bit of a no-brainer really. And there is also government pressure to upgrade these exchanges so that ADSL can be made it available to everybody."
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