Copper crucial to telcos' broadband goals

Michael Carroll
30 Sep 2011

There aint no gold in them there copper wires, executives at BT and Deutsche Telekom say, despite a rash of recent thefts in the UK.

Sean Williams, group strategy director at BT, told Broadband World Forum delegates there is little benefit to selling the telco’s current copper lines to fund rollout of fiber, adding that the cables are a key part of its broadband strategy.

“There is a lot that can be done on copper,” he said, adding that BT’s business case will see “20% of broadband customers [on] fiber and 80% on copper.”

His view was echoed by Olivier Baujard, chief technology officer of Deutsche Telekom. “Operationally it will still take several years [to deploy fiber] and you won’t have the benefit of copper,” if all lines are sold, he told attendees during a keynote question and answer session.

Williams dismissed reports pricing the scrap value of BT’s copper network at £50 billion ($77.9 billion) or more, and revealed the telco is focused on deploying fiber to the cabinet rather than to the home. The operator is spending equal amounts on fiber and upgrading current copper lines to ADSL2+, which Williams says will be a key element in offering high-speed services to 90% of UK homes by 2013.

However, uptake of fiber services to date suggests carriers can’t roll the stuff out quickly enough. Williams notes that at least half of BT subscribers sign up to the firm’s Infinity high-speed service when it comes online in their area, stating that the carrier is “not finding it hard to sell.”

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