BT is launching a gigabit reseidential internet service in the United Kingdom. It will be available to more than two million households initially. The full-fibre offering will support average speeds up to 25 times faster than the BT Superfast fibre service, which is not really fibre as the final connection is over a telephone line. BT says that it will provide a future-proof connection to enable homes to use new services such as 8K video. It will also offer a faster upstream connection, which will benefit things like home working. Pricing has yet to be announced.
The new gigabit service will roll out across Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, London and Manchester.
With coverage of more than two million households, it will give BT the biggest full-fibre network reach of any provide in the United Kingdom. Beyond that, BT now has the ambition to reach around half of homes in the United Kingdom by the end of 2025.
The interest in full-fibre services has come rather late in the day for BT, which has been exploiting its legacy copper access network of telephone lines. It now faces competition from new entrants like CityFibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear, which are putting in their own fibre connections directly to households. Virgin Media has also started rolling out gigabit services and is upgrading its cable network to offer gigabit services.
The BT retail service will be based on the full fibre service of its wholesale provider Openreach. Until now, Openreach has only offered consumers services up to 330 Mbps downstream and 50 Mbps upstream. It will offer two new tiers, of 500 Mbps downstream and 75 Mbps upstream, and 1000 Mbps downstream with 115 Mbps upstream.
The communications regulator Ofcom reported in December 2019 that three million homes and businesses had access to full-fibre broadband connections. That is over 1.5 million more premises than the year before. It means that around 10% of residential properties have access to such services, rather than the number that are actually connected or subscribe.
Just under 80% of homes in rural areas have access to a minimum download rate of at least 30 Mbps, which implies that a fifth do not. A universal service obligation means that customers now have the right to demand a connection with a download rate of at least 10 Mbps.