Ofcom has issued a press release detailing its long-term approach to the UK broadband market. In a short summary of the last 4 years of the UK broadband market, Ofcom acknowledge that the focus has heavily been on rollout and coverage. This rollout which is dominated by the BT Wholesale services should by the end of 2005 give the UK one of the most extensive broadband-enabled networks in Europe.
While the UK is going to exceed at coverage levels, it is falling behind in terms of the options available for those willing to pay slightly more per month. Telewests 3Mbps cable broadband is fast, but still not a patch on what people can afford-ably buy in other countries, the BT Wholesale services which top out at 2Mbps fall behind also. The emerging LLU services from say Bulldog, HomeChoice and EasyNet that manage 6Mbps and 8Mbps are welcome, but low coverage results in most people and businesses not even having the option.
Ofcom has stated that Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) "could play an important role in delivering second-generation broadband services over the rest of the decade". Certainly LLU is starting to become more mainstream, it just needs to move out into the major cities and towns of the UK. It is interesting that Ofcom has avoided the mention of a specific speed for what it considers second generation broadband - it is simply defined as "broaderband connections delivering video-quality bandwidth". That will most likely mean speeds in excess of 2Mbps.
The big question is will the moves from Ofcom and the subsequent reaction from LLU operators actually allow us to have a much broader choice of services by the end of the decade. Hopefully the appointment of Peter Black as the independent Telecoms Adjudicator on July 5th will ensure that disputes are solved in weeks, rather than months.
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