Faster broadband will be available to 90 per cent of Birmingham by spring next year.
Seven BT exchanges serving 50,000 homes and businesses will be upgraded within nine months – bringing the total number of lines in the city able to access speeds of 20 megabit per second (Mbps) to 273,000.
Running alongside this project is a £2.5 billion investment in super-fast fibre broadband – with speeds of up to 100Mbps which could become available to two-thirds of UK premises by 2015.
BT says it wants to work with private investors to improve access for the “final third”.
Details of the exchange improvements for Birmingham and its surrounding areas, were announced by Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director, Next Generation Access (Broadband) during his appearance at the Beyond 2010 conference at the ICC in Birmingham – part of Hello Digital week.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, Mr Murphy said: “By spring 2011, for about 90 per cent of Birmingham we will have up to 20 Mbps available.
“In addition to that and we haven’t announced everywhere we’re going yet but we have announced two exchange areas in Birmingham where we are going to deploy fibre broadband so 90 per cent by spring will have 20Mbps and two areas in the city over the next nine to 12 months will get services of between 40Mbps and 100Mbps – superfast.”
BT said Birmingham is one of the UK’s ‘‘leading digital city areas’’.
Several areas are already served by copper lines including Acocks Green, Kings Norton, Erdington, Sutton Coldfield, Edgbaston and Bearwood. Birmingham south, Birchfield, Druids Heath and Four Oaks will be upgraded within months.
Alongside this BT announced last month that Birmingham central, Four Oaks, Shirley and Streetly will be among the next batch of local exchanges to be upgraded by autumn 2011.
They follow Birmingham city centre, Tamworth, Walsall and Great Barr which are now taking orders. Other areas, including Lichfield and Solihull, will follow.
Mr Murphy said businesses are demanding faster speeds.
He said: “We started this journey 10 years ago when broadband was five to 12 kilobits per second – over 70 per cent of premises now use first or second generation broadband so up to 20 Mbps. We are huge consumers, 25,000 people buy first and second generation broadband each week. The experience of the internet continues to evolve and in order to get the best out of it faster upload and download speeds are critical. The business market in particular is saying more speed, please, and even though Birmingham has a lot of fibre access today they want more.
‘‘We understand that, that’s why we are making a big investment, we see this as critical to individuals, businesses and government.
“The Government has already said that by 2015 they want the best broad band infrastructure in Europe and we have a real chance to attain that by working together.”
The roll-out of BT’s programmes comes as the Government confirmed it will hold back from cuts to broadband investment.
Around £230 million will still be invested into upgrading connections and a separate body called Broadband Delivery UK, which will oversee the plan, has been created within the Business, Innovation and Skills department.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he wants the UK to have the most competitive and fastest broadband services within Europe.
The social impact of being online was also a main topic of debate at the Beyond 2010 conference.
Helen Milner, managing director of UK Online Centres which helps people to get online with free courses, said 9.2 million have never used the internet.
She said: “I am passionate about equality – that people should have equal experiences and opportunities and some people haven’t had the opportunities to use the internet. We should be working on getting people online. But also I am not shy to say to government and public bodies they should be striving to put their services online.”