BT is the UK's largest internet service provider, as well as owning much of the network infrastructure used by other providers to deliver their services. Today, the company outlined its vision for rolling out 'ultrafast' speeds across the entire country.
For home users, today's top BT Infinity 2 fibre connections offer speeds of up to 76Mbps, while rival Virgin Media leads the way with speeds of up to 152Mbps. But BT says that it will "deliver ultrafast speeds of up to 500Mbps to most of the UK within a decade."
New 'G.fast' technology will be capable of offering a range of speeds, depending on the distance to a customer's premises. BT plans to offer speeds of "a few hundred megabits per second to millions of homes and businesses by 2020". Beyond that, the company will gradually ramp up speeds to 500Mbps as the technology is developed further - and it is already planning to offer a "premium fibre broadband service for those residential and business customers who want up to 1Gbps."
BT CEO Gavin Patterson said today: "We believe G.fast is the key to unlocking ultrafast speeds and we are prepared to upgrade large parts of our network should the pilots prove successful."
The company will begin public trials of G.fast technology this summer in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, and Gosforth, Newcastle. Around 4,000 homes and businesses will be able to take part, following on from similar hyperlocal trials that have already been conducted on campus around BT's innovation centre in Suffolk.
BT says that its vision for ultrafast connections "will ensure the UK stays ahead and joins the ranks of world leaders [in broadband] such as Japan and South Korea."
Assuming the trials are successful, BT plans to begin rolling out G.fast upgrades across its network in 2016/17. The company's fibre optic network currently reaches around 75% of UK premises, but this is expected to increase to 95% "within the next few years".
BT is also preparing to re-enter the mobile market, with a takeover bid for the UK's largest carrier, EE, which includes the T-Mobile and Orange brands. But it may face even greater competition if Three's proposed takeover of O2 is approved - the combined company would leapfrog BT-EE to become the nation's new largest mobile network.