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BT Ties British Fiber Rollout to Olympics


BT (BT) is aiming to complete its £1.5bn deployment of superfast fibre broadband in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In an interview with the Financial Times last week, CEO Ian Livingston revealed that four million homes are expected to have access to superfast broadband by the end of next year, with the remaining six million homes covered by the fibre rollout connected by 2012.

"2012 will be an important year for the UK given the Olympics and so I'm keen we provide 10 million homes with access to fibre by the time the Games begin," he said.

Livingston also claimed the telco's fibre rollout will be completed sooner than originally planned, telling the paper: "Being a sponsor, we've several big deliverables associated with the Games," adding he is keen to make the £1.5bn fibre deployment another of those deliverables.

"I'm sure we can cross the line [with our fibre rollout] in time, six months ahead of schedule," he said.

BT was announced as the official comms services partner for the Games back in March 2008. The telco is providing and managing all the voice and data networks, Internet access and landlines required across all Olympic venues and facilities. It will also provide the comms services for athletes, Olympic committees and the media. Earlier this year it claimed to be investing 640,000 man hours in the Olympics project.

Livingston also suggested that BT is prepared to expand its fibre rollout beyond its original target of 40 per cent of the UK "if things go well". But he added that "full coverage" to every home in the UK will not be possible without public sector support—and called for politicians to clarify their commitment to next-gen broadband.

"If you look around the world, several governments are proactively supporting the rollout of fibre broadband. There's still a debate in the UK—which is fine—but we need our politicians to decide how much of a priority fibre broadband is," he said. "BT is the only company currently planning to invest large sums in this area but we can only go so far with our shareholder's money."

The government's blueprint for the UK's technological future—the Digital Britain report, released earlier this year—set out a plan for a tax on landlines to help fund fibre in the UK. This Next Generation Levy of 50p per month on landlines is expected to raise around £170m each year—to be used to get fibre broadband to 90 per cent of the UK population by the end of 2017.

The Conservatives have said they will scrap the tax if elected next year.

In separate news, BT Retail—the UK's largest ISP—has announced it clocked up its five millionth broadband customer earlier this month.

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