Fujitsu plans 1Gbit/s superfast rural broadband

Fujitsu has unveiled plans to offer a superfast fibre-optic broadband network in rural parts of the UK, offering speeds of up to 1Gbit/s.

Other providers have already announced they will use the network to go head-to-head with BT. Virgin Media and TalkTalk say they plan to offer internet services using the new network, which will also be accessible to local government.

Fujitsu's system will take Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) right up to individual users' doorsteps. The network will take advantage of existing BT infrastructure, including underground ducts and telegraph poles, which BT has been forced to open up to rival operators.

In theory, FTTH could bring speeds of up to 1Gbit/s to up to five million rural users. BT's rival next-gen network relies mostly on Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology, which only takes fibre-optic cables as far as the local exchange, and offers maximum speeds of around 40Mbit/s.

But there's a catch. Fujitsu wants the government to stump up £500 million funding for the project - the vast majority of the £530 million budget the coalition put aside for rural broadban. An additional £300 million will become available by 2015, thanks to a levy on BBC licence payers.

The rural broadband money will be dished out area-by-area, with Fujitsu bidding for the cash from individual local authorities.

Without public cash, Fujitsu's Andy Stevenson, managing director of network solutions warned the BBC, the network would not be built - who hopes local councils will band together in consortia to get the project up and running.

"We don't want to end up with 40 fragmented networks so it makes sense for regions to come together. That is not mandated but it is what we expect to happen," he said.

"Assuming we are successful we would hope to add our first retail customer in 2012 and reach 5 million in three to five years," Stevenson added.

At the moment, just one per cent of UK homes currently benefit from access to 'superfast' broadband speeds of 25Mbit/s or more.