There could be over four million British homes and businesses on high-speed fibre broadband within five years. Forecasts by broadband analysts Point Topic suggest that a fifth of the 22 million broadband lines expected in the United Kingdom by then could be directly fed by fibre optics. However, most of these connection will only use fibre as far as the street cabinet. The last few hundred yards will still use copper telephone lines.

The Point Topic projections suggest that over a million homes will be within reach of fibre by the end of 2010, increasing to well over 11 million three years later.

The proportion using basic DSL, the telephone line technology which is the mainstay of today’s broadband, will have dropped from over 78% today to only 57%.

“This is probably the first moment when it has been possible to make a plausible forecast for fibre in the UK, based on some real plans and activity,” said Tim Johnson of Point Topic. BT has announced a provisional plan to roll-out fibre to 10 million homes by 2012. “It’ll probably take a bit longer than that but there are lot of other players coming into the market too,” he points out. “So we estimate there will be over 4.4 million fibre lines by the end of 2013.”

The cable television network is expected to retain around a fifth of the broadband market.

Although Virgin Media currently touts its broadband service as being fibre-optic, the connection to the home is provided over a coaxial cable.

In many other countries, fibre-optic connections are already being provided directly to the premises.