Isn't competition a wonderful thing? BT has responded to the gauntlet thrown down by Virgin Media's plans to roll-out 100Mbps broadband next year with a little announcement of its own. BT will begin trials of a 1Gbps service early next year.
It's being called a ‘technical trial', and the stated purpose of it is "...to demonstrate the maximum speed capabilities of BT's Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP) product - namely its ability to deliver downstream speeds of 1Gbps and upstream speeds of 400Mbps." In other words it's a PR stunt - and it's worked.
This trial will happen in Kesgrave, Suffolk, and BT has also announced it will include up to 40 ‘rural market towns' in the next phase of the deployment of its fibre network. The names of the towns will be published in January and they'll be able to start using BT fibre within a year. BT is implying that the generation of FTTP it will launch next year will offer around 100Mbps download speeds.
Of course BT can't talk about broadband these days without making further demands on the tax-payer. To be fair, it's talking state assistance in extending fibre to rural areas, something Virgin Media doesn't seem to have been able to do in the absence of state subsidy, but this still looks like a private company using public money to gain competitive advantage.
"Both of these developments will further advance BT's super-fast broadband vision and will assist the Government in achieving its aim of creating the best super-fast broadband network in Europe," said Olivia Garfield, BT's director of strategy.
The extra money BT expects to get from us is, in theory, not guaranteed yet. Maybe secretary of state for media and stuff - Jeremy Hunt - didn't get that memo. "BT's fantastic range of measures would, on top of the £830 million the Government is investing, go a huge way to delivering our ambition for the UK to have the best broadband system in Europe by 2015," he said.
"I will be setting out on Monday how we can do even more to boost broadband roll-out - by stimulating competition and creating an environment in which business can flourish by removing barriers and cutting costs." Stimulating competition? Does that mean Virgin is getting some cash of us too? That's nice of us.