Openreach, the infrastructure arm of BT, has named eight locations for a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) pilot.
Parts of High Wycombe, Bristol South and St Agnes in Cornwall, where the service was first trialled, will take part in the first phase, which is intended to test the planning and construction process. It will run from July 2012 to early 2013 and allow participating communication providers to place orders for a 330Mbit/s downstream and either a 20 or 30Mbit/s upstream service.
The Waverley exchange in Edinburgh will be added to the pilot in September 2012.
The second phase will run from March next year to May 2013 and is intended to test new automated order processes. Parts of Watford, Cardiff, Basingstoke and Manchester Central will gain access to the pilot at that stage.
Openreach has deployed FTTH technology in 15 exchange areas to date and it says it is exploring the option of deploying the service to apartment blocks, where the fibre can support multiple connections.
The pilots intend to make FTTH available on demand in fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) areas for the first time, and Openreach hopes to make FTTH available commercially by spring 2013.
Openreach's managing director of network investment, Mike Galvin, said that the FTTH on-demand product has great potential, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
"While we believe FTTC will be our mass-market consumer product for some time yet, FTTH may be of interest to SMEs and so we want to make it accessible throughout our fibre footprint. This development can potentially help SMEs to compete both at home and abroad as well as maintain and create jobs in the UK," he said.
Last month, the president of the FTTH Council Europe, Karin Ahl, told Computing that without FTTH, the UK may be creating a bottleneck for digital content, while certain services, such as videoconferencing, educational virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and e-health applications, would suffer as a consequence.
But Galvin responded by saying that the FTTC product was good enough for its customers.
"Our FTTC delivers 80Mbit/s downstream and 20Mbit/s upstream and FTTH currently delivers 100Mbit/s downstream and 10Mbit/s upstream. I don't think customers see it as a huge step between FTTC and FTTH.
"There is a subset of people who believe that FTTH is a pure answer and that it is ‘engineeringly elegant' and something that everyone should go forward with.
"Our view is that we will be led by our customers and what we think best meets their needs," he said.
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