BT has ramped up its plans to bring fibre broadband to the UK, and claims that 1.5 million homes and businesses will have access to the service by early summer 2010.
Initial pilots of the technology, announced back in March, went live this week in Muswell Hill, London and Whitchurch, South Wales, connecting to 31 exchanges covering 500,000 homes and with 16 service providers taking part.
The announcement said that the estimated cost of the project will rise to £1.5bn, and will include a further 69 locations across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
"Fibre is the future, so we are speeding up the pace of our plans," said Steve Robertson, chief executive of BT Openreach.
"We had aimed to get fibre to half a million homes by next March, but we are now being far more ambitious. We have received a tremendous response to date, and we are keen to get on with the job."
BT said that the rollout will consist of a mixture of fibre-to-the-cabinet and fibre-to-the-premises, but that the former will be the most widely deployed.
This means that the link between the cabinet and the home or business will still be based on copper wiring, but BT claims that users will be able to get download speeds of up to 40Mbit/s initially, potentially rising to 60Mbit/s in the future, with upstream speeds between 5Mbit/s and 10Mbit/s, rising to 15Mbit/s.
The project is being rolled out by BT Openreach, and access will therefore be available on an open, wholesale basis, giving other providers access to the infrastructure.
"BT has invested billions in creating Broadband Britain yet it has done so whilst offering others equal access to its network, demonstrating once again that competition does not have to be a barrier to investment," said Robertson.
The announcement confirms a recent report from analyst firm Ovum that highlighted the increased uptake of fibre-to-the-premises outside Asia, which h as been leading the charge in this area.
"Even if we take into account an element of government and vendor hype for these markets, Ovum still forecasts a rapid take-up of advanced broadband services in those countries," said Michael Philpott, practice leader for Ovum's consumer team.
A full list of the new locations can be found on the BT web site. The service should be available to homes and businesses in these areas from March 2010.
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