BT broadband rollout is too patchy, says IT chief

By Derek du Preez
29 Jul 2011 View Comments
fibre-optic-cable

The IT supremo of development company Berkeley Group Holdings has slammed BT's broadband rollout, complaining that it picks areas that are easy for deployment and will see a quick return.

Doug Legge was responding to a comment made by Martin Saunders, marketing manager for integrated cloud provider Claranet, at a Computing roundtable yesterday who said that the UK is "leading most of Europe in terms of speed of connectivity".

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"It is reasonably easy to see that the UK is doing well in metropolitan areas, but BT's next generation access (NGA) has been running for a long time now and the results haven't been great," argued Legge.

"They are deploying in areas that they perceive as easy and areas where they will see a quick return," he added.

Legge went on to suggest that the UK could end up with "walled garden" areas where companies will only have certain capabilities due to bandwidth restrictions.

Saunders agreed and said that the broadband rollout did seem a bit like a "postcode lottery".

"This is a problem that enterprises are not considering enough at the moment. We have seen organisations who will set up a new office in a new location without having spent any time looking into what connectivity options there are in the area," said Saunders.

"Companies also then do not check with the landlord to see if they can put fibre access into the property before signing the contract and handing over the money. The landlord could then end up charging them a fortune to allow the company to dig into the side of the office to ensure that they get the right connectivity," he added.

BT has responded to the criticism by insisting that its deployments are neither cheap nor easy.

"Any business making a substantial infrastructure investment would expect to be able to make a return on that investment. In the areas to which we're rolling out fibre, we're actually looking at double-digit payback in terms of the number of years it will take us to realise a return," said a BT spokesperson.

"We're continually evaluating our fibre deployment model as the economics evolve over time. For example, we adapted our model slightly to enable us to roll out fibre to a number of rural market towns (41) where homes are suitably clustered. These areas are not easy to do," they added.

"We've also stressed that we're keen to extend fibre broadband beyond our commercial rollout of two-thirds of UK premises to the "final third" of UK homes.

"We aim to do this by working with local, regional and devolved authorities that have public funds available to help bridge the commercial funding gap. Our partnerships with the authorities in Northern Ireland and Cornwall are good examples of this."

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