By Josh White
Date: Tuesday 14 Mar 2017
(ShareCast News) - Days after one big broadband shake-up, BT flicked the switch on another on Tuesday morning, successfully connecting the first customer to its G.fast broadband technology.
The telco's infrastructure arm Openreach has been working to implement G.fast in certain test areas, in a bid to boost superfast broadband speeds and connection stability beyond that offered by the company's existing fibre-to-the-cabinet products.
Kent-based accounting firm Temiz Bookkeeping was successfully hooked up to G.fast in the town of Gillingham - one of Openreach's trial areas, along with the London areas of Balham and Upton Park.
On a theoretical level, G.fast could support speeds of up to 5 Gbps (gigabits per second), rivalling even the best full fibre-optic connections, although BT has limited the technology to a top speed of 330 Mbps (megabits per second) at this stage.
"All our client data is stored in the cloud," said Temiz owner-operator Mehmet Uzum.
"Having ultrafast speeds means we can download and upload that data instantly - however many client accounts we are working on at the same time."
Uzum said uploading large files could take "a couple of hours" on their previous ADSL connection, but it could now be achieved in a matter of minutes.
"It is a new and exciting time for us and having ultrafast broadband provides the platform to do all this on.
"It has given us the confidence to go ahead and invest in the future of the business."
Almost all superfast broadband connections in the UK are not true fibre optic, but rather fibre-to-the-cabinet, which then uses an existing copper telephone or television cable to reach the customer's premises.
Users on the Openreach network - which is used by service providers including BT, TalkTalk, Sky, Plusnet and EE - can theoretically achieve maximum speeds of around 80 Mbps at present, while users on Virgin Media's owned-and-operated cable network can achieve download speeds of up to 200 Mbps.
Virgin Media is the UK division of international cable broadband and entertainment operator Liberty Global.
Thus far, BT has resisted pressure from its retail customers to start building more fibre-to-the-premises connections, which would see glass fibre cables laid all the way to a customer's wall, with download speeds more than ten times those available on its existing fastest fibre-to-the-cabinet product.
That has led to some retailers building their own fibre optic networks on a trial basis, with TalkTalk teaming up with the AIM-traded CityFibre in York to run fibre optic past 40,000 homes.
But the ex-state monopoly will be hoping that with G.fast, it can achieve the superfast speeds demanded by its retail customers and users, without having to lay glass cable down every street.
On Friday, it was confirmed that BT would split Openreach off as a nominally-separate company, allowing it autonomy in its operations but still retaining full ownership.
The regulator Ofcom had put pressure on BT to do something about the links between its retail division and Openreach, which was seen as a hindrance to competition as third-party retailers did not necessarily enjoy the same access to the infrastructure provider as BT Retail did.
It was not immediately clear what sort of access to G.fast other retailers would enjoy at the trial stage - Digital Look reached out to TalkTalk, Sky and Plusnet on Tuesday afternoon, but none had responded in time for publication.
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