Economies of scale mean that densely populated cities have generally been the ones to benefit from the roll out of superfast broadband networks, while those in rural areas have missed out. Following Google's recent announcement that it will build and test 1Gbps fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in selected cities with between 50,000 to 500,000 residents in the U.S. starting with Kansas City, Kansas, Fujitsu has unveiled plans to create a similar superfast FTTH broadband network for five million homes and businesses in rural Britain to bridge the digital divide between city and country.
The network, which is being built using Cisco hardware and in collaboration with Virgin Media and TalkTalk, will offer 1Gbps symmetrical bandwidth from day one, with the potential to go to 10Gbps and beyond in the future. Positioning the network as a direct competitor to BT Openreach, the network will also be open to all ISPs on a wholesale basis, not just Virgin Media and TalkTalk, who have already announced their intention to access wholesale products via the new network to provide next generation services to customers in remote parts of the UK.
Fujistsu says the network will provide a future-proof infrastructure whose superfast download and upload speeds will enable entertainment, remote healthcare, education and future government services without the need to travel.
To be deployed using a range of underground and overhead infrastructure, the network will be entirely independent of existing street cabinets, with Fujistsu saying it will run fiber optic cabling directly to the home rather than just the street cabinet in the vast majority of areas. However, the plan is dependent on BT Openreach meeting the conditions imposed by the independent communications regulator Ofcom that it provide access to its underground ducts and telegraph poles "on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms."
The network is expected to cost under GBP2 billion (approx. US$3.6 billion), with the UK government expected to provide around GBP500 million (approx. US$813 million) in subsidies.
"Superfast broadband is already helping businesses grow and improving the lives of those able to access it," said Communication Minister Ed Vaizey. "But many rural and hard to reach areas are missing out. The whole of the UK should be able to share in the benefits of broadband and we are determined to make that happen by the end of the Parliament. That is why the Government is investing over £500m in taking superfast broadband to everyone."
"I am delighted that Fujitsu along with Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Cisco share the Government's vision. The collaboration between these companies was exactly the sort of ambition and innovation the Government wanted to stimulate by removing barriers to broadband rollout," Vaizey added.