BT begins fiber to the basement trial in London to enhance broadband coverage

BT (NYSE: BT) has launched a trial of fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) technology in London as part of a broader initiative that it says will help it bring higher speed broadband service to harder-to-access locations in UK-based cities.

Developed and funded by BT, the service provider will pilot the new FTTB technology in two London-based buildings beginning in January.

During the trial, 225 homes in the Middlesex Street Estate and around 50 small to medium enterprises (SMEs) based at 65 London Wall will be able to get up to 80 Mbps speed from over 130 different service providers for the first time. 

BT said that while over 90 percent of London's homes and businesses can access lower-priced fiber broadband which is aimed at consumers, home workers and the very smallest SMEs, a small minority of inner city buildings are served by "exchange-only" lines and present a much bigger challenge to serve with this technology. What this means is that consumers can get access of up to 20 Mbps, but BT can often not deliver anything beyond that point because there isn't any space for it to install necessary street cabinets that house the equipment to deliver the higher speeds.

In building out more street cabinets, BT has to incur large costs of connecting a power supply, digging up and repaving roads, and securing rights of way to access private property to lay cable and house equipment, not to mention local planning restrictions.

"City-centre locations present unique challenges when it comes to upgrading consumer broadband," said Joe Garner, CEO of Openreach, in a release. "For example, there is less room for us to install a fibre cabinet on the pavement, and it is often harder to get permission to close roads to do the work. We also need to secure permission from multiple landlords to run new cables across their land and properties."

Because the FTTB program allows BT to house fiber-based broadband equipment into a building's basement or communications room, BT said it could alleviate many of these issues and thus reduce installation times.

FTTB is just one of many methods that BT is examining to expand and enhance its broadband service reach. Earlier this year, the service provider conducted trials of G.Fast, technology that can theoretically deliver up to 1 Gbps of bandwidth over very short copper loops. It also conducted the second phase of its ongoing trials of VDSL2 with vectoring.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
BT achieves 1 Gig rates with G.Fast copper trial, creates new broadband lab standard gets final ITU approval
BT Openreach begins latest VDSL vectoring field trial
BT enters into exclusive talks on £12.5B deal to buy EE
BT serves up Black Friday broadband package discounts