BT's 'bogus' FTTH stance is short-changing UK consumers and economy, says lobby group

By Sooraj Shah
21 Jan 2013 View Comments
Fibre broadband image

BT is wrong to claim that the UK does not have the demand to justify rolling out a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) product nationally, according to the director general of the non-profit organisation FTTH Council Europe, Hartwig Tauber.

The government aims to make the UK's broadband network the fastest of any major European country by 2015. To achieve this, it is relying on BT using its existing copper lines to give homes broadband speeds of between 80Mbit/s and 1Gbit/s. In addition, BT aims to make FTTH available on demand to over two-thirds of the UK by 2016.

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BT's FTTH product will be available to those located in fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) areas from spring 2013.

But Tauber has slammed BT for continuing to insist that FTTC is a good enough product for the majority of its customers.

"[The lack of a demand] is a standard argument we hear from incumbents. They always use this and say they have piloted it somewhere and they don't see demand, but the FTTH Council did a study where we looked at ‘real' fibre operators in Europe that have been going for more than four years and found that they had no issues with demand - in fact they have take-up rates of 40 to 60 per cent," he told Computing.

Tauber suggested that operators like BT misuse the term "fibre" in selling their products, which helps to ensure that customers are satisfied with the product that they are currently using.

"The word 'fibre' is used in BT's FTTC product, which gives the end user the feeling it's a fibre connection, but it is a misuse of the term," he said.

"People don't know what they are really getting," he added.

Tauber said FTTH would benefit workers in certain sectors more than others, and cited those employed by the film, gaming and entertainment industry as having a lot to gain from the technology.

"Film executives and London producers along with online gaming firms like EDOS have told us that they are having issues on distributing content," Tauber said.

"Meanwhile, Sony have this great idea to offer 4K films [to watch on 4K resolution TVs] for download but one film is between 100GB and 150GB and they realise that this is an issue. We get into a situation where end users simply can't access the content they want," he added.

But 4K TVs are a very long way from becoming mainstream, and Tauber conceded that it's difficult to envisage the kind of household systems and services that will require FTTH. But this is a vicious cycle, according to Tauber, who said that without the investment in fibre, there will be no innovation to drive these services.

The FTTH Council's Nadia Babaali said that investment in fibre would create jobs, services and innovation and that delaying the rollout of FTTH is likely to have a detrimental effect on the economy.

"What is the cost of not doing it today? It is the cost of waiting against the cost of deploying," she said.

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