BT launches ‘hyper-fast’ 10Gbit/s broadband trial

By Sooraj Shah
27 Nov 2012 View Comments
ZTE XGPON 10Gbits network equipment in Cornwall

BT has started trialling a groundbreaking 10Gbit/s broadband network at Cornwall-based engineering firm Arcol UK.

The proof-of-concept trial uses fibre technology called XGPON (Tens of Gigabits on a Passive Optical Network) that was developed by Chinese firm ZTE and BT's infrastructure arm, Openreach.

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The service runs alongside BT's existing 330Mbit/s service on the same fibre, something that programme director for the Superfast Cornwall programme Ranulf Scarbrough said makes the trial exciting.

"What is exciting about this trial is that these hyper-fast speeds have been obtained over exactly the same fibre that carries BT's fibre broadband services today. All we are doing is changing the electronics at the other end," he said.

Scarbrough added that the trial shows BT is thinking and preparing for the future even though there are no current plans to deploy the technology.

"A lot of this project is about future proofing – making sure that it's not just the fastest speeds today but that we can continue to be at the cutting edge for five, 10, 20 years," he added.

Arcol's technical director, Alun Morgan, said the firm has benefitted greatly from its 330Mbit/s fibre-to-the-premise connection.

"We are still only just discovering the sorts of things we can do with these speeds, such as taking advantage of services like videoconferencing and using a cloud-based ERP system so we can access this information elsewhere, and it has enabled us to be much more efficient and aggressive," Morgan explained.

The 10Gbit/s network is an important innovation, according to Ovum analyst Matthew Howett.

"Maybe in 10 years we will have apps that need 10Gbits but at the moment we do not. It is good that we are in a position to use it when it comes, as it makes the UK an attractive base for start-ups who want to build applications for those speeds," he told Computing.

But while BT is attempting to ensure that its fibre connections are future proof, its current superfast broadband rollout still has ground to cover.

Most recently, the European Commission has given the green light for Surrey County Council to create a high-speed network, in a move that researchers from the World Bank claim could result in a £28m boost to the county's economy.

Surrey County Council will contribute £20m to the superfast broadband rollout, with £11.8m coming from BT and £1.3m from the government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund.

As the project is part funded from national and local government, it needed approval from the European Commission under EU state aid rules.

According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), "superfast" broadband refers to speeds faster than 24Mbit/s. Surrey County Council claims that people within the area will be able to benefit from speeds of up to 80Mbit/s once the superfast network is put into place.

Communications regulator Ofcom says the average broadband speed in the UK is 9Mbit/s.

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