back to article BT feels the need for 50Mb speed

BT is considering speeding up its broadband service by pushing it to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 50Mb download per second for its customers. BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland told the Financial Times the firm is looking at the possibility of beefing up its fibre optic cable by extending it as far as the street kerb. The …


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  1. JP

    Shock! Horror!

    You mean, a privatised public company is ACTUALLY contemplating an upgrade of infrastructure? Without a government grant/backing/subsidy/paying-for-the-whole-dang-thing?

    Am I awake?

    Next you'll tell me National Rail (or whatever they're called these days) is going to upgrade the track to tilting, non-warping, leaf resistant high speed tracks in the next few years too!

    That'll be the day...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the point

    At the moment their 8Mbs service is only available to a few subscribers so what is the point of spending money on raising it to 50Mbs. I would think it would be better if they just improved their infrastructure so everybody could at least get the same sort of speed.

    Then again, they will be able to use the 50Mbs to enact a campaign of false advertising just like they currently do with the 8Mbs. "You could get up to 8Mbs" means you'll be lucky to scrape 1Mbs!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So They Should...

    Its about time the BT network gets a huge kick up the arse and they start to offer customers a genuine super fast broadband service that does not rely on your distance from the exchange. Especially when all customers pay the same amount yet the difference in speeds in unbelievable!

    Maybe Virgin Media will take advantage of its network, invest in the infrastructure and give all customers on 2MB an upgrade to 4MB and reduce costs from £18 to around £15 and give 4MB customers a free upgrade to 10MB with better upload speeds (at least 2MB) and customers on the 'soon to be fully rolled out 20MB upload speeds of at least 4MB.

    But then that would be asking too much wouldn't it?!

    UK always lags behind the rest of the world, in EVERYTHING!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what limits though

    So that will be 50Mb download with a 2Gb monthly limit then

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  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why only 50Mb/s

    Why only 50Mb/s

    I thought places like Japan, Finland and Sweden get at least 100Mb/s, and there was a report last week of someone getting 40Gb/s?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not alot of point

    Doesn't matter what BT do, ofcom will let them charge a horrendous amount for wholesale services compared to other countries . So no-one, apart from BT, will benefit. oh well, back to square one...

  8. Chris


    Don't worry folks.. they will still give you 56kbs upload speed, and a 15Mb limit before you're throttled to 1Mb download

  9. Dave

    Scope for the future

    This is indeed good news, with fibre to the kerb the then existing fibre lines can be reused with better technology to reach higher and higher speeds.

    Demand coupled with competition (as im sure more and more LLU will be occuring) will push these prices right down.

    If they intend to put TV on demand down these new tubes, the data limit will have to be quite high, although data limits on illegitimate activities may well still be limited - bear in mind that systems such as BItTorrent have a large legitimate uses such as distributing Linux Distros and indeed the Vista RC2 Beta from the MS site used a Torrent as a method of delivery.

    The report of the woman in Sweden (i think) getting 40Gbps was a bit of a misnomer as the womans son worked for Cisco and he was obviously testing out a new technology and to make headlines did it in her home.

    However, if BT managed to backbone the UK with 40Gbps, or even exchange to housing estates a SINGLE 40Gb link will provide 400 people with 1:1 contention 100Mbps lines! or 20,000 people at 50:1 contention - given that normal ADSL is between 20:1 and 50:1 this is still pretty amazing.

    I am very much looking forward to having fibre to the kerb/house, it was highly disappointing to read that BTs plans for ADSL in the 'new' 21CN exchanges was to use the 'new' ADSL2+...ahem, new? With a completion schedule of around 2010 for 21CN this 'new' technology will be extremely out of date.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They're not offering such a thing because they can't, not without bringing down their infastructure in doing so.

    How can you expect such a service that doesn't depend on how far you are from your nearest exchange? What else is it going to rely or depend upon?

    As some of you may know BT is, well I'd like to say currenty - but apparently not, in the process of starting to make a MAJOR overhaul of the countrys infastructure. Namely 21CN, 21st Century Network. Now I don't agree with what they are planning to do just yet, I'm very much a 'If it's got to be done do it properly and to go far over any standards that are needed' person, when it comes to such a thing like this. But nevertheless they are still taking a huge step in the right sort of direction.

    Bringing me onto the subject of this article. If you are going to go do this major 21CN upgrade, which is much needed, then you should aswell upgrade everything i.e. up-to-the-door cabling too. Sure, go upgrade your main lines and then come back to this, but it NEEDS to be done.

    Now if we go and look back at the whole thing in context. This news article is evidence that they *are* considering making a FULL upgrade, including the up-to-the-door stoof. So agan they are taking another step in the right direction.

    Let them be, or form your own country-wide infastructure.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    beating the 8MB

    To the poster wondering about BT ramping it to 50Mb when most can't get 8Mb; the reason most can't get 8Mb currently is due to their distance from the exchange. xDSL currently takes place over copper from house to exchange, and its that distance that is stopping most from getting up to 8Mbps. With Cable services you've got a Fiberoptic line going to your house, hence the faster speeds they're able to offer without worry where you are in relation to the exchange.

    What BT is proposing is essentially making their backbone rather like your cable provider, by putting FiberOptic hubs on each street, think of it as a mini-exchange. This way your limitation is just from the copper going to your house down to the nearest hub, a distance far far shorter than that to your exchange. Out of the two possiblities, 8Mbps to every house or 50Mbps to every house, the latter is probably the most (relatively) easily achieved.

    Still.. unless they do fiber optics to the house its a little hard to see how they're offering better than any of the cable companies.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Non event - no new information ?

    In the early 1990s I went to several IEE (since renamed IET) lectures given by BT Research personnel (from their R&D facility in Martlesham Heath, Ipswich). They had experimented with Fibre To The Kerb (FTTK) and Firbe To The Home (FTTH), conducting real-world investigations. BT seemed up with the rest of the world then.

    So nothing here is new, BT know all about the economics of laying and maintaining the infrastructure. Someone just needs to make a decision and this all seems a bit late since their 21CN project is underway looking at upgrading the core infrastructure.

    So what exactly are BT after? Some form of Government assurance on allowing them to keen the investment in infrastructure closed - like Deutsche Telekom did not get from the German regulator or the EU? See

  13. Andrew

    Reverse Installation

    I'm all up for a bit of fibre. Let's start in the areas with NO broadband of any kind, then move onto areas where 500kb/s is considered good going (too much alluminium in the local diet) then, once all the ally has been bypassed, to those areas where true 8Mb/s is still just a pipedream and then finally to the populous metropolitan areas. In the interests of fair play, fibre bandwidths could be throttled to 8Mb/s until everyone has it and only then uncapped. That should at least stop johnny Londoner complaining about unfair treatment and still leave the cable operators feeling smug.

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  15. JPA

    Irony of ironies

    BT is spending GBP10 billion for a backbone whereas I patented a design of telecoms backbone which would have a much higher capacity, would enable fiberoptic to homes and businesses and would guarantee bandwidth from one customer to another with extremely low contention, would be much cheaper to maintain and upgrade and would cost GBP250-400 million tops.

    But no-one is interested in engineering a backbone properly - after all, how could BT possibly be wrong?

  16. Duncan E

    UK lags behind the world?

    Hah, over in NZ here we have a similar situation. Except we don't have LLU yet. Or anything halfway decent in terms of internet access - it costs more over here with smaller data caps. Count yourselves lucky.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Private investment? You have to be kidding.

    JP said it all: a privatised company investing in its own infrastructure, and without taking its begging bowl to the taxpayer? You've got to be kidding me. I'm certainly not going to hold my breath in anticipation.

    If there's one thing the investors hate, it's investment.

  18. Brett Brennan

    Fiber to the neighborhood in rural areas works

    Where I live in rural Arizona, USA, the encumbent Telco teamed up with the cable provider to jointly run fibre to the neighborhood. The reason for this was manifold: the existing copper infrastructure was deteriorating and needed replacement, the cost for fibre was equal or less than the cost for a copper replacement, neither the cable operator or the telco could afford the infratructure upgrade on their own, an increacing residency density required infrastructure upgrades in existing (ie, paid-for infrastructure) neighborhoods - AND - most importantly, the cost of doing the entire city (with, at the time, 25,000 residents) was something that could be amatorized with some premium rates and a lot of only slightly more expensive base rates.

    The fibre end loop was installed back in 2001, and we immediately got ADSL at 3X1.5Mb out of the deal for US$40/mo. This also allowed us to get full support for 5 analog voice lines (this was before VoIP): prior to this the lack of copper pairs to the EO prevented us from getting all of our required land lines installed.

    So the economics for performing this type of upgrade were there 6 years ago, even in a relatively "orphaned" technology area.

    Now, the bad news. With the ubiquity of cheap cellco plans and expanded coverage, the revenue to underwirte this type of investment has seriously declined. The same companies could not do this today, as there is no possible way for them to recover the investment through normal revenue channels. Raise the phone bill, people drop their land-line. New development, where levies and surcharges can be built into the developer's costs, may get this type of infrastructure, but only if it is truly included as part of the pre-build infrastructure.

    So the dirty little secret of deregulation is that customers DO get more choice - but only for the lowest common denominator service. Anything that requires significant investment against future revenue will be ignored, as you can certainly bet that the competition will use a later, cheaper product to compete with you, and, if you can't increace revenue or justify the cost against maintenance, there is no incentive to be the first to drop the cash, knowing that there is a percentage that will never be recoverable.

    If BT can seriously consider funding this type of installation, especially in existing infrastructure areas, my hat is off to them. Goes to show that Europeans in general are more willing to pay for this than us Colonists.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah right

    And no doubt if you actually make use of the connection and download more than a megabyte they'll accuse you of abusing the system and cut your bandwidth to 200kb during the hours of 4pm-midnight.

    Until providers can reliably backup their current offerings with sufficient bandwidth to cope with todays internet users, they have no business offering more speed.

    I guarantee you there will be bandwidth throttling as soon as they realise they actually need to invest in infrastructure as well as sending out large bills to their customers.

  20. Morely Dotes

    UK not lagging

    "UK always lags behind the rest of the world, in EVERYTHING!"

    Not true! Here in the USA, there are vast areas with nothing except dialup available - and many of those don't even have local (e.g., no extra per-minute surcharge) Internet access at all. My day job offers only a maximum 33 kbps for our users on dialup. Those with BYOI are limited to 348 kbps.

    Personally, I have 15 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up, which is adequate for my own small business. Having it on fibre means no interference caused by RF or electrical storms (barring what comes in over the power lines), and that's nice, too.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...when is OFCOM finally going to force BT to spin off Openreach???

    The sooner OFCOM forces BT to physically separate from Openreach the better. If Openreach was a pure B2B business focused on providing LLU providers equal access to the last mile, and earnt revenue through supplying bandwidth - then the last mile infrastructure might actually recieve investment.

    BT will not make this investment if it has to provide the end result to all other ISPs at the same price.

  23. Andrew Fenton


    Been obvious for ages that this sort of FTTK/VDSL2 combo was the next step. We don't have the urban population densities for broadband fibre to the home (unlike Sweden, Japan, HK etc), so this is the only solution. It also has advantages for the telco, in that they can junk most of their old garbage quality copper thus saving on maintenance, sell the exchange buildings, and thus nuke the LLU providers into the bargain, as they'd have no connection unless they ran their own fibre to every street cabinet.

    Oops, cat out of the bag. The latter point is what Telstra (ultra anti-competitive Australian incumbent telco) wanted to do. Their regulator was smart enough to tell them where to get off, let's hope ours is also.

  24. Dennis


    This is just BT panicking that they can only just get BT Vision SD working on standard POTS. Sky and Virgin and (almost) DVB are near enough offering (some, expensive) HD, BT can't get near unless they seriously up their game.

    50MBit/s is for BT Vision HD and for nothing else, which to me sounds like fairly savvy investment.

    Even with 21CN the backbone wouldn't support every joe downloading hours of 720p from a torrent.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is just BT panicking that they can only just get BT Vision SD working on standard POTS. Sky and Virgin and (almost) DVB are near enough offering (some, expensive) HD, BT can't get near unless they seriously up their game.

    50MBit/s is for BT Vision HD and for nothing else, which to me sounds like fairly savvy investment.

    Even with 21CN the backbone wouldn't support every joe downloading hours of 720p from a torrent.

  26. JPA

    Andrew Crystall

    I don't have a link. I have two patents (one for UK and one for Eire) for a unique design of ultrahigh capacity fibreoptic network for the UK and Eire markets. (I suppose unique is redundant since its a requirement for patents) that would cost a fraction of the ludicrous cost that BT was then proposing. And still proposing now.

    I costed the proposal based on information from a leading company specialising in laying fibre-optic cable and on (what was then) the highest capacity routers then available (10 TB)

    The key part of the design is that it addresses the fact that mesh networks don't scale and are hideously expensive to setup and maintain, and why telecoms networks based on them don't deliver guaranteed bandwidth.

    When it was last discussed (I made it to New York just as the telecoms sector cratered in 2001) I said 7.5%. I suppose 5% is still reasonable. Or a few million for me to walk away into the sunset, as I don't have many delusions of Bransonian grandeur.

    No, I'm not kidding about any of this.

  27. Adam C

    8MB In selected Areas

    "At the moment their 8Mbs service is only available to a few subscribers so what is the point of spending money on raising it to 50Mbs."

    - What a load of rubbish! I live on an Island* in the middle of nowhere and pretty much everywhere on the Island, and in Town has 8Mbit readily available. (And stays sync'd etc fine too!) - You must live in Nomansland :)

    * Technically it's a peninsula, but blah.

  28. mrs doyle

    (You must live in Nomansland)

    I don't live in No mans land

    I live in a rural area, close to a city and lots of people round here can't get even half a meg through the obsolete copper.

    there are many people in this country like us, read the notspot survey to see how many.

    BT is letting the network go to the dogs. FTTH can be done for less than a fiver per home.

    They would rather milk the obsolete copper network for a few more years then they will hand it over to the government and say 'you upgrade it' and the shareholders will be very amused.

    and very rich

    what passes for broadband in this country should be free as it doesn't cost them much to provide, so once we have paid our line rental that should cover it.

    Fibre is worth paying for, because that is real broadband.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But ...

    "At the moment their 8Mbs service is only available to a few subscribers so what is the point of spending money on raising it to 50Mbs."

    Yeah, why don't they waste money getting existing infra-structure to remote places then rip it all out when they want to upgrade. That is much fairer.

    It amuses me to see all the BT moaners come out every time we see a story like this. Most of the complainants have only recently got into the "internet" and now they are complaining about speeds.

    I had ISDN in around 1999/2000 and when you linked both channels you could get 128Kbps - woohoo !

    I visited the US in 2001/2002 and found I could get broadband (ADSL) at speeds of around 2Mbps, and so I missed it when I returned to the UK. Within 6 months of returning, BT were offering broadband of 512Kbps, then within another few months I could get 1Mbps. Less than 5 years later, I have got a home connection of (up to) 8Mbps, which, due to the exchange distance, actually gives me 6Mbps.

    and the great part about all this is I am paying less than a quarter the price of the ISDN back in '99.

    So, 48 x the speed, for 25 % of the cost, achieved from scratch, in 7 years, and available to more than 70% of the population. Oooh BT are so tight !

    Yes there are better technologies available, but you would be the first to complain if BT hiked the bills to cover the installation costs. I prefer them to steadily improve the service, not make knee jerk reactions to the publics uninformed wants.

    Of course, if any of the newbies wanted to go back to the old dial up days, with a 14.4Kbps modem (or 9.6 !) then you would be less spoiled now.

  30. Fenwar

    Think of a number... and double it. And do that again.

    JPA - "BT is spending GBP10 billion for a backbone whereas I patented a design of telecoms backbone which would have a much higher capacity, would enable fiberoptic to homes and businesses and would guarantee bandwidth from one customer to another with extremely low contention, would be much cheaper to maintain and upgrade and would cost GBP250-400 million tops."

    But would anyone be shocked if the actual engineering costs of the upgrade turned out to be around £400m, with the rest spent on "planning" junkets, a massive rebranding/media campaign to tell us we've finally arrived in the 21st century, and big fat bonuses for the suits who "thought of" the whole idea...

  31. Simon Day

    Unlimited bandwidth - it exists

    Some people scoff when I tell them this

    But its really quite easy to get unlimited bandwidth with no fair usage, caps or contentions applied.

    However those same people have a mild shock when I tell them what I pay for my home ADSL - 79 quid a month - plus vat from zen. If you want to use the bandwidth then be prepared to pay for it - I do and I am.

    I will also say this about zen - you can use terms like linux, pppd and /var/log/messages to their first line support and they will actually know what you are talking about and be able to help!

  32. Simon Day


    Nomansland is a rural area,-1.6393|16|32&loc=GB:50.95367:-1.6393:14|nomansland|Nomansland, Bramshaw, SP5 2

    (oh and its just a few miles away from Canada too),-1.58912|14|32&loc=GB:50.9609:-1.58912:14|canada|Canada, Wellow, SO51 6

    I think there are 2 other villages with the name Nomansland in the uk - though I'veno idea of the ADSL coverage there

  33. Mike F


    I bet you they will advertize this 50Mbit service as "50Mb" convincing the non-geeks that they get 50Meg a second... At least Virgin Media tell the truth about their services

  34. Adam

    Would be nice for "free", but I'm willing to pay

    This fibre to kerb, or even better, fibre to home, would be great if they do the upgrade for "free" (i.e. we'll end up paying for it over the next few years), but if that £4Bn is divided between the 50-million or so people connected to the BT network (assuming around 10-millon are with cable or unconnected), that is about £80 per person. Assuming an average of 3 people per household, that's only £240.

    To the Telco, bandwidth is cheap... effectively free. The expense is building infrastructure.

    Now, if BT came along and said "For £500, we'll bring fibre to your house and throw in a year's subscription, £30/month thereafter for phone and 100mbps broadband" I'd leap at the chance. If enough people did, then BT would still make a profit, and I'd get my superfast and scaleable internet connection. That's the problem though... most people want a superfast internet connection, but few are willing to pay for it.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To the Poster of "beating the 8MB"


    With Cable services you've got a Fiberoptic line going to your house, hence the faster speeds they're able to offer without worry where you are in relation to the exchange.


    Both NTL and Telewest Networks don't do Fibre to the home (FTTH) as the last length from the local exchange box is actually a single copper co-axial wire.

  36. Keith Turner

    If the cable network is fibre in the street then why not LLU?

    If there is already an existing fibre network in the streets why shouldn't it undergo the same change as copper and be forced to take any carrier?

    A lot of cable network stuff went in the ground several years ago as the new revolution in media was about to be sprung upon us. only to have all the small operators falter and get swallowed up by companies who, in turn, were taken over by even bigger fish. There ain't many of them left - it's almost a monopoly.

    Sod that lot - I never went in for the miracle of cable and the promises of a new era -- but the fibre is still in the pavement just outside my house.

    I'd rather that some outfit used it for a faster broadband than the erratic rates from only over 1km of copper.

    Yup - even give BT a chance to compete - why not? they've had the copper given to everyone else.

  37. Edd

    Wooo upgrades.

    Woo 50Mb.

    Well lets see now, my upgrade from 2 Meg to 8meg unlimited meant my line speed "increased" from bang on 2Mbps to 135kbps...

    so following that trend, 8Mb to 50Mb should see my connection being increased to around -56kps so as long as i broadcast a constant dial up stream of data, theyll let me keep paying them stupid amounts of cash for a useless connection.

    Seriously BT, sort out the problems you have with a huge number of existing customers before blowing money on upgrading your service. For most of those (myself included) affected by broken bRAS profiles, all it would take is an actual english technician who isnt working off a script to take our calls for minimum wage and push a bRAS profile reset through the system for each of us to correct the problem...... or even better, get a web consultant in, and build a site for "advanced" users where they can request it themselves.

  38. Tom Evans

    Everyone moans about ADSL in the UK

    Here in London, I get a quite lovely 18Mb/1.5Mb ADSL from Be There, which is nice.

    Whats better, is that my old man living in the Styx (literally, rural Suffolk, 3 miles from nearest village, 5 miles (crow flies) from the exchange) gets a totally adequate 4Mb/0.5Mb ADSL line.

    ADSL is more ubiquitous than cable (I can't get cable where I am in London) in the cities, and plain doesnt exist in rural areas.

  39. Sarah Davis


    BT had ADSL technology 5 years before they made it publicly available and only because they were loosing so many customers to cable.

    If they have 50Mbit technology now then the public won't see it for at least 4 years unless cable start doing reasonable speeds and BT loose more customers.

    And when BT do make it public it will be ridiculously over priced copared to any other country or other UK options -

    I love my BE connection, ADSL2+ (up to 24Mbit) for £20/month - ok, i only get 16Mbit, but thats due to problems with BT not BE.

    simple rule - never trust BT

  40. Jeremy Lloyd

    What about us poor mugs in the country?

    I live 3 miles from a good-sized city (Chichester) but can't get more than 512kbps. My other phone line, nothing at all.


  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Everyone moans about ADSL in the UK

    I used to have ISDN 2 which gave me a blindingly fast 128K, but BT in their wisdom withdrew this service and now I have been returned to the dark ages of 56K dialup.

    Mind you, I can always use my mobile data card and get 384K on one PC.

    And yes before you ask I do live in a rural area but, even though I am within range of an ADSL enabled exchange, the copper infrastructure is so bad that we can't get broadband at any speed.

    Lets see money invested in rural infrastructure before increases in speed in conurbations, or is this just another example of the rural communities being left to fend for themselves

  42. Andy Bright

    I have unlimited bandwidth too..

    I know this because my phone company says so. It's just not as fast as I would like .. ;)

    Actually for about $50 a month tacked on to my cable/mobile/telephone bill I do get unlimited downloads with a 7MB connection. I wouldn't swap my unlimited downloads for a Gbit connection, and I won't sign up with any provider that can't give me the advertised bandwidth during peak hours - without limits or throttle backs.

  43. Maynard

    Stupid Headline Speeds means Jack

    The general public is so clueless as to how fast 8Mbit realy is... ITS MEGA FAST

    You can get a very decent HDTV signal at 6Mbit and then have 2mbit of leg room? So whats realy happening... well there is something called contention ratio which basically means you share your internet with other people and they can only guarantee 8mbit shared between 50 people....yes thats correct 8/50= 0.16Mbit guaranteed! OK so in real life they are doing better than that but not much i can tell you 1Mbit if any. This means that nobody is streaming HDTV because its still Light years away..yes we need light to make it happen and sadly its not gona happen over night... were looking at 5 years if they open their eyes.

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