BT today announced it is launching a project that is designed to encourage start-ups to create applications and services that harness the capabilities offered by superfast broadband.
The BT Infinity Lab is a programme that BT has set up with co-working space provider TechHub that aims to find technologies that can help internet users take advantage of “superfast broadband” speeds in excess of 20Mbps.
BT and TechHub are asking entrepreneurs to design and present innovative ideas specifically to be sold alongside BT's existing consumer broadband and Wi-Fi offerings. The move suggests that BT is aiming to find new technologies that it can sell through an app store as opposed to setting up an actual incubator to helps start-ups.
Also, instead of offering the winning entrepreneurs any kind of monetary investment, BT said they will receive six months' support, including R&D, engineering and legal expertise. Winners will also gain membership to TechHub’s co-working space, which is situated just off Old Street Roundabout in East London and at the heart of the Tech City movement.
BT and Virgin Media are the only internet service providers to offer superfast broadband in Britain, which is now available to 73 percent of the country, according to Ofcom.
The government is aiming to roll out superfast broadband to 90 percent of Britain by 2017 at an estimated cost of £1.2bn. However, it has been criticised over its tendering process, which has resulted in BT gaining a virtual monopoly over the contracts to roll it out, and also for running two years behind the initially proposed deadline of 2015.
However, the BT Infinity Lab received the backing of communications minister Ed Vaizey who said broadband in the UK is undergoing a “radical” transformation.
"TechHub and BT are to be congratulated on this brilliant initiative which will result in exciting new products and prototypes, helping all UK internet users to make the most of all the benefits superfast speed has to offer," Vaizey said.
BT said it is not looking to invest in successful companies itself, or buy intellectual property rights, but would market the product to the millions of homes using its superfast broadband service.
Elizabeth Varley, Founder and CEO at TechHub, said: “Partnering with BT gives TechHub an unmissable opportunity to offer to tech start-ups. Working with BT gives entrepreneurs the chance to test their innovations with a major partner, receive specialised help and advice, and take advantage of the huge promotional reach offered by this bastion of British business.
“For UK start-ups or those wanting to enter the UK market, it’s an opportunity that’s usually hard to come by without partnerships like this one between TechHub and BT.”