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ABC conference was it a gathering of the faithful?
Thursday 18 November 2004 10:36:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Peter Cochrane has an interesting piece on the recent ABC Conference in Aviemore over on Silicon.com. His piece raises the debate of whether the common ADSL and cable modem speeds in the UK of under 2Mbps are actually broadband at all.

There is no denying that at a 0.5Mbps speed the UK has very good coverage of ADSL, it is about as close to universal as possible on a commercial basis, or will be once BT finish rolling out in 2005. The cable companies are still patching up some of their old analogue networks, and wireless is patchy, with no coherent national provider. So while it is in fashion to attack BT, and at times it is deserved, we believe that the UK has covered a large amount of ground in the last 2 years. For sometime you have not really been able to say that the UK has 2Mbps has a broadband limit for consumers, Telewest are to upgrade their 3Mbps customers to 4Mbps, NTL are to start a 3Mbps service. Bulldog have been providing 4Mbps for some months, UK Online is set to provide 8Mbps ADSL. HomeChoice are running 6Mbps to its custoemrs, 2Mbps for the Internet and the rest for TV services.

When looking abroad it is easy to see the headlines, and invariably these are much nicer than what we know. A massive danger is if the press start to put down the achievements and progress in the UK with relation to broadband, another trait we seem to enjoy in the UK. Yes, things are not perfect, but we are a long way from where we started in 2000.

2005 should be an interesting year, we should see Internet services with speeds exceeding 2Mbps available to perhaps 40 to 50% of households in the UK. The question is will the UK actually pay for these services, or prefer to stick to what seems to be the popular price point of £15-25 per month. The price point is illustrated by the fact that 2Mbps services have been available for around 60% of households on ADSL enabled exchanges for some time, but take is still low.

While we dream of the 2Mbps to 100Mbps, that Scandinavia, Japan, North America have, do please remember that it is far from the majority of households that have these. If the UK is to see speeds like the dream of 10Gbps some countries are talking of, then it needs a single coherent push. The largest UK teleco BT, is under pressure from Ofcom to ensure fair and equal access to all companies who want to use its services. Which may result in the BT group, deploying resources to ensure this can happen, rather than pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible. UK R&D is generally very good, BTs own labs are world renowned, but it is getting products out beyond the trial stages that are the problem.

To summarise a lengthy item, Ofcom is in the danger of making the UK telecoms market highly competitive, but of little technical relevance in five or six years time.

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