Next-generation access is a term applied to new broadband technologies being implemented by British Telecommunications. The technology is meant to upgrade the existing infrastructure so that higher download and upload speeds are possible. Availability of the new technology depends on where individuals live in Great Britain. Deployment and updating of the new infrastructure will continue to take place at least through the year 2017, and likely beyond.
The biggest difference in next-generation access is the medium that carries the signal from the home to the various Internet servers. For years, Great Britain has relied on an older system of data transfer over lines basically made of copper. This has limited the speed of data transfer throughout the country, particularly outside of urban areas. Further, some broadband Internet services have consistently overrated the speed of the service, in part due to lack of technology to carry the speeds they are truly capable of throughout a significant portion of the country.
To help, British Telecommunications has put together a replacement plan that includes fiber optic technology as the main centerpiece of the upgrade effort. This technology uses information carried through glass tubes via light to significantly speed up the transfer. The light signal degrades over time and space, so therefore the information is not quite as fast as the speed of light, but is still very quick by comparison to the previous technology. Other factors may also affect the speed of next-generation access.
One of the most significant factors affecting the final speed is how extensively the fiber optics are placed in the country. British Telecommunications uses terminology known as fiber to the premises (FTTP) to describe that part of the upgrade. In this case, fiber optic technology could go from a main service line to a home or building, thus not causing any slowdown at all. FTTP could be available to as many as 40 percent of customers in the United Kingdom through next-generation access. If another connective technology, such as copper lines, transfers the signal into the home or building, speeds will remain limited by the capabilities of that technology.
The next-generation access initiative was started in part due to the United Kingdom's low ranking among nation's which are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Slightly more than half of the United Kingdom's households have a broadband Internet connection. The goal is to increase that number, which could be especially useful for those wanting to stream videos, do audioconferencing or other high-bandwidth applications.