CWC are rather poor at telling people what they're doing, which is a shame as there is a big and tremendously ambitious network upgrade ongoing. It doesn't involve laying more fibre-optic cables: rather, it involves some state-of-the-art multiplexing and switching techniques to get a lot more out of existing fibre.
The upgrade is called Network 2000, and is in collaboration with Nortel: the February 1998 press release is here.
Some quotes from the information I've amassed:
A top official says the network upgrade is expected to help the company double its current 10% share of the market.
The investment will increase the capacity of some fibre optic links by a factor of 24 times, compared with those used elsewhere in Europe. This would, for example, allow the entire population of Britain to talk on the telephone at the same time over a single cable. Alternatively, in data terms, the equivalent of 200,000 novels per second could be transmitted.
This increased capacity will enable Cable and Wireless Communications to meet the fast growing demand for services such as the Internet, advanced data applications, digital television and voice mailboxes.
Further cost savings will be achieved through substantially reduced maintenance cost. The major increase in capacity per fibre will mean that less construction and investment is required in the future.
An optical fibre without DWDM technology [which Network 2000 is introducing] carries a single colour of laser light, or a single wavelength, on which travels approximately 32,000 voice or data transmissions. DWDM technology divides the single colour into multiple colours or channels, thereby multiplying the capacity of the fibre by the number of channels. This enables service providers to expand bandwidth without the expensive process of adding more fibres. With CIENA's new MultiWave Firefly, existing capacity of a fibre will increase by 24 times, which equates to 768,000 voice or data transmissions.
I have seen it quoted that, with this technology, regenerators (which, essentially, are boxes placed every so often to boost the electromagnetic radiation travelling along the fibre) are no longer required - thus simplifying things hugely - and that CWC will be close to optical switching. 'Bandwidth will no longer be a problem' indeed!