Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

New broadband '10 times faster'

Fibre-optic cables
By 2012, 40% of UK homes should have access to super-fast broadband

Thousands of people in south Wales will be among the first in the UK to have access to super-fast broadband.

BT has announced that it will be installing fibre-based broadband in parts of Cardiff and nearby Taffs Well in early 2010.

It means speeds of up to 40 megabits per second (Mbps) - and potentially 60 Mbps - will be available to over 16,000 homes and businesses in the area.

That is more than 10 times faster than those experienced in most UK homes.

BT said it was spending £1.5bn on the project - the largest investment in super-fast broadband ever seen in the UK.

The technology behind the broadband - the so-called Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) - is being piloted in Whitchurch, Cardiff, along with Muswell Hill, north London, this summer, in advance of the wider roll-out.

It gives customers enough speed to watch films, play games or work with complex graphics at the same time.

Urban areas

The company hopes that by 2012, 40% of UK homes and businesses - around 10 million premises - can access the fibre-based broadband.

Across the UK, 500,000 customers will benefit from the first phase of the scheme.

Along with Cardiff, they will mostly be in urban areas, including Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Greater Manchester.

But two locations - Taffs Well and Calder Valley, near Halifax, West Yorkshire - are smaller and BT said it will be looking to learn lessons from deploying fibre technology in such environments.

The next set of locations - serving a million homes and businesses - will be announced in the autumn.

Steve Robertson, chief executive of Openreach, the division of BT responsible for the delivery of the plans, said super-fast broadband is "essential to the UK's future".

"The wider industry will now be able to plan ahead as we will be making our services available on a wholesale basis," he said.

Wales has been stuck in the slow lane of the information super highway for far too long
David Melding AM

"This approach will benefit customers as there will undoubtedly be fierce competition for their business."

Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly Government's Deputy First Minister said there was a recognition that "access to broadband is important to businesses and citizens across Wales."

He added: "It is important that the telecommunications infrastructure in Wales is able to meet this challenge and this announcement is a further demonstration of the important role that Wales wants to play at the forefront of the development of next-generation broadband services across the UK."

But the Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy David Melding AM said: "While we welcome proposals to link the Cardiff area to a super-fast broadband network there are still parts of Wales struggling to get any broadband connection at all.

"Wales has been stuck in the slow lane of the information super highway for far too long, with the average broadband speed here slower than in London and Scotland.

"The internet is a vital part of everyday life for businesses and individuals - and developing infrastructure such as this is crucial to helping the Welsh economy emerge in a strong position from the recession.

"The assembly government needs to work with broadband providers to make sure all areas of the country have access to broadband and then increase the basic speed of downloading here."

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