UK government to evaluate future of broadband

UK government to evaluate future of broadband

February 26, 2016

Today sees the UK government announce an assessment of the outlook of broadband internet in the UK. The review is set to be lead by Francesco Caio who is the previous chief executive of Cable & Wireless.

To intimate that France is just testing broadband services using real next generation technologies like fibre is an understatement, the feeling one gets is that they are far from trials and are real products. Admittedly the reporting is inconsistent in most countries embracing fibre or other different connection methods that have a lifespan you can actually call next generation. Optimistically any UK review will look at the different cases that exist across the UK.

A case can be made for the UK government to support a private company or create a publically owned one that minimally installs and maintains a new fibre based local loop throughout the UK. Providers can then lease capacity to give what ever services they desire and with government backing possibly a longer term view can be taken predominantly in respect to the fact that whereas the need for the network is not gripping currently if work is not in progress very soon the UK will risk becoming an Internet backwater.

Ian Watt, head of fixed-line research at Enders Analysis stated “The business case for next generation access is weak, Virgin Media already has a high speed network and Sky has a strong hold of the premium content that users might actually pay for,”

Although Virgin Media has its high speed network, investment is required to get the 50Mbps products that are designed to keep them ahead in the space race, and there is the subject of what levels of bandwidth people can anticipate. Coverage with the Virgin Media network is such that it passes approximately half the UK households. The demands from the public and businesses is such that products necessitate true UK coverage.

Even with additional advances in speed. if congestion (due to low bandwidth allocation) causes usage levels remain static, ground-breaking new applications may not be able to prosper.

The UK government has stepped in to assist one company and nationalised it to shield taxpayers’ best interests, perhaps a nationalised fibre local loop is also in our best interests.

Tim Yeo

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