Regional partnerships are expected to drive broadband coverage to 90 per cent of UK communities by this summer, according to BT
Retail chief executive Pierre Danon. Pierre said that, by 2005, BT will have invested around £22 million in setting up a total of 35 public private partnerships across the UK to bring broadband to areas where exchanges had not been enabled. Now the company plans to concentrate on establishing partnerships to create demand and develop innovative solutions to fill in the last ten per cent.
He revealed that trials of an access technology - radio broadband - have gone extremely well, meaning BT is now ready to deploy the solution in remote and rural areas.
But he stressed that the deployment of radio broadband - which he described as an exciting development - would require partnerships with regional development agencies or other public sector partners to deliver. He added that BT aims to create 20 community partnerships to bring radio broadband to challenging areas.
Pointing out that BT has been running trials of radio broadband in Porthleven in Cornwall, Pwllheli in Wales, Ballingry in Scotland and Campsie in Northern Ireland, Pierre said BT is satisfied the technology is now proven, while feedback from trial customers had been very positive.
Speaking at The Broadband Edge Conference in Cornwall, Pierre highlighted the pioneering ‘actnow’ partnership in the region as a superb example of what can be achieved through partnering.
He said: “The uptake of broadband in rural Cornwall is now seven per cent - a full two per cent higher than in other similar rural areas. The project has delivered 1,200 jobs and a £20 million boost to regional gross domestic product (GDP). A total of 14,500 broadband connections have been set up in just 20 months - in an area which previously had low demand for asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL).”
Pierre said he believed BT’s experience with actnow has provided valuable learnings about setting up regional partnerships and the economic impact has demonstrated beyond argument that bringing broadband to rural areas can have crucial beneficial economic effects on regions, especially for their small businesses.
He added that radio broadband will be vital for connecting some of the 573 smallest exchanges - serving 100,000 households - which do not have a broadband trigger level, or in challenging areas more than six kilometres from their exchange.
“BT is absolutely committed to reaching its target of connecting every UK community, even the remote or rural ones, by 2005,” he said.
“But this summer we will have reached 90 per cent coverage by using a range of partnership models that have already delivered 35 successful schemes across the UK. No-one is investing more in making Broadband Britain a reality than BT.”