Fujitsu has lit a bonfire under BT's FTTC plans

Bold FTTH plan will be making former incumbent feel the heat...

Fujitsu's proposed high-speed fibre network for rural UK makes BT's broadband strategy look embarrassingly feeble, says's Natasha Lomas.

Fujitsu has lobbed a firecracker at BT's fibre broadband plans. The Japanese networking company has announced a scheme to build a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network covering five million homes in rural areas - in other words, the very areas BT has been studiously avoiding.

Indeed, Fujitsu's plan to use FTTH - rather than the slower fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology that BT has pegged for most of its next-gen rollout - could give rural parts of the UK some of the fastest fat pipes in the land.

Truly, this scenario is the broadband world turned upside down. The government's fear has been that urban areas will increasingly enjoy superfast broadband, leaving rural locations to become the nation's digital backwaters.

Fibre: The story of BT and broadband is a tale of a company opting for half measures instead of next-gen leaps

The story of BT and broadband is a tale of a company opting for half measures instead of next-gen leapsPhoto: Shutterstock

BT's £2.5bn next-generation broadband strategy aims to extend fibre-based broadband to two-thirds of the country by 2015 - the most populous two-thirds, where the company can be most confident of a return on investment. BT has consistently said the final third of the country can't be fibred up without the sweetener of some government cash.

And that's certainly true. Fujitsu's FTTH plans are predicated on getting its hands on the whole £530m pot of government money that the coalition set aside to help push faster broadband to rural areas. The company says they will contribute between £1.5bn and £2bn of their own money to build this rural network - assuming the government hands over the whole rural kitty.

But FTTH broadband is a more expensive technology than FTTC. When BT's access division, Openreach, talked about it being possible for BT to extend "superfast broadband" to 90 per cent of the country with the help of the government cash - and it has said this - you can bet your life it was talking about fibre to the cabinet, not full fibre to the home.

FTTH vs FTTC is the difference between a future-proofed next-generation broadband and a compromise that is capped - more half gen, than next gen.

Fujitsu says its rural FTTH network would be "1Gbps symmetric capable from day one with potential to go to 10Gbps and beyond". Compare that with...