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BT is accelerating broadband speeds with high-bandwidth optical fibre to bring a welcome boost to British business
Offered the opportunity to participate in BT trials of Superfast access to BT IP Connect, companies as diverse as Mears Group, Northgate Information Systems, and Housing 21 jumped at the chance.
Their acclaim was universal. Projects long on the back burner for lack of local line speed, like server consolidation, suddenly seemed within reach. High-bandwidth unified communications and collaboration technologies, such as HD video conferencing, were now financially viable.
People like Chris Page, Richard Shaw, and Christophe Mailhe who took part in the trials were excited at what they saw. So much so that they adopted the service at the end of the trial, and plan to expand usage as the Superfast rollout accelerates. With coverage reaching two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2014, they’ll be in great company.
The upload speed is what we’re really excited about, because higher bandwidth means we can deliver more vital calls. The Superfast access service is good for the price, and it’s great having a new broadband alternative.”
- Christophe Mailhe, ICT Systems Engineer, Housing 21
At home or in the office, the demand for more bandwidth is relentless. Across the country, speed limitations reduce the competitiveness of UK industry. A new way of delivering broadband was sought. Optical fibre, able to carry virtually limitless bandwidths over long distances, provided the answer.
BT is providing the vision and leadership to make this step change a reality. A £2.5 billion investment in Superfast access will put two-thirds of UK consumers and businesses within reach of high-speed broadband by end-2014. That’s one year earlier than originally planned.
Two flavours of Superfast access are being rolled out: fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) offers speeds of up to 40Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream today (soon to be increased to 80Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream); or fibre to the premises (FTTP) offering speeds of up to 100Mbps downstream and up to 30Mbps upstream, with speeds of 300Mbps on the roadmap.
With FTTC, optical fibre is used between the exchange and the local street cabinet, reducing the length of the final copper connection, thereby increasing achievable speeds. FTTP uses optical fibre all the way to the customer’s premises.
That technology makes possible high-speed broadband products like BT Infinity. And Superfast access to BT IP Connect is an enterprise-grade version. It offers the same Superfast speeds, but as access to a virtual private network rather than the internet. The support wrap is also fine-tuned to meet the needs of enterprise customers.
As with any new technology, pre-launch service trials were essential, and customers were recruited to put Superfast access to BT IP Connect through its paces using real life applications.
As triallists have found, Superfast access is unleashing opportunities to run valuable, bandwidth-hungry applications. Unified communications and collaboration services such as HD video conferencing are no longer the sole preserve of the largest companies. Other IP-enabled technologies like centralised CCTV are coming within reach too. Also smaller firms can now take advantage of cloud-based services including hosted IP telephony and virtual data centres.
Beyond the trials, high street retailers are taking full advantage of Superfast access for in-store applications like e-learning and digital signage, running alongside point of sale applications. New Superfast access customers are seeing real improvements in productivity and employee satisfaction as teams at remote sites are no longer held back by restricted connections to central servers and corporate resources.
Soon, Superfast access will be an option for the broader BT network services portfolio, with Ethernet Connect and Enterprise Broadband being readied for launch.
Triallists’ experience: brand new solutions to age-old problems
Early adopters provided invaluable insights and gained first mover advantage in return. With no exception, feedback was positive. As bottlenecks evaporated and application response times accelerated, they were able to increase efficiency, improve productivity, and offer better customer service.
A leading provider of maintenance services to the social housing market, Mears Group had over 2,000 users competing for capacity and causing congestion. The Superfast trial sites saw remote workers regularly uploading massive image files with vastly improved performance.
Chris Page, Infrastructure Manager at Mears Group, says: “I’m keen to use Superfast access at other sites as soon as it’s available. With no bandwidth bottleneck, we can start to centralise applications, and solve the cost and complexity of local servers spread around the network.”
Northgate Information Solutions
By contrast, Northgate Information Solutions (NIS) is a leading provider of IT services. Employing over 10,000 people across the globe, it would be sure to put Superfast through its paces. At two engineering offices, Superfast solved problems previously experienced with overnight batch jobs and data backups.
Richard Shaw, Network Services Lead at NIS, is highly enthusiastic about the results: “Superfast access is commercially attractive compared to many of the alternatives, and is ideally suited to key sites that don’t justify a full 100Mbps connection,” he says. “Also very useful for providing resilience and overflow, it’s certainly an option for our new installs in the future.”
Another customer impressed by Superfast performance, Housing 21 is the largest provider of housing and care for the elderly in the UK. The company needs assured high-speed internet availability 24 hours a day.
Christophe Mailhe, ICT Systems Engineer at Housing 21, was sceptical that Superfast technology could meet such stretching performance targets. The trial changed his thinking. “Superfast access has been very reliable and supports more calls,” he confirms, “enabling us to provide a better service. It works very well and it does exactly what it says on the tin.”
With the success of such trials, and the experience gained, it’s no wonder BT is accelerating the Superfast rollout, for businesses adoption right across the UK.
- BT IP Connect with Superfast access offering FTTC speeds of up to 40Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream (increasing to 80Mbps and 20Mbps upstream); and FTTP speeds of up to 100Mbps downstream and up to 30Mbps upstream on FTTP (with 300Mbps planned).