Want faster broadband soon? Move to Kent, says BT

A little piece of South Korea in the garden of England


BT will dip its toe in the rapid waters of fibre-to-the-home broadband this year, when it'll run optic cables to 10,000 new homes being built at Ebbsfleet in Kent.

The pilot will offer a maximum 100Mbit/s connection (not 100MB per second as The Guardian has reported) from August, BT's Openreach division said today.

Wholesale prices will run from £100+VAT per year for basic access and up to £530+VAT for speeds rivalling those available across South Korea, which leads the world in broadband provision.

That makes the most expensive connections about £44 per month wholesale. The current retail markup on IPStream max Premium (standard up to 8Mbit/s ADSL) is about 30 per cent, so rough estimates of the cost to consumers are getting on for £60 per month.

Unlike the current generation of ADSL products that only offer "up to" 8Mbit/s, the residents of Ebbsfleet will be "assured" bitrates. Guaranteed 2Mbit/s upstream with 10Mbit/s downloads will rent at £230+VAT annually. Full details of the pricing structure are here.

BT's service plans for the network include multiple HDTV streams.

As dictated by regulators on the standard network, Ebbsfleet's next generation lines will be sold to customers by third party ISPs, as well as BT's own retail division.

Meanwhile, the rest of the UK is being gradually upgraded to a contended ADSL service offering theoretical maximum downstream speeds of 24Mbit/s over copper wires. Ofcom's current estimate of average speeds is 4.6Mbit/s.

The government only began discussions with ISPs and watchdogs on how to bring the rest of us up to speed in the final months of last year. The Department for Business, Employment and Regulatory Reform has yet to dream up a policy, but the EU wants subsidies to be made available to tempt national investments in fibre from providers. Ofcom prefers to let market forces dictate when upgrades happen.

For now, Kent seems to have become the testbed for network improvements. Virgin Media is trialling its 50Mbit/s DOCSIS 3 cable service there, too.

There's more information on the broader Ebbsfleet development here. ®

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