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Is UK broadband fast enough?
Friday 11 February 2005 14:53:00 by Andrew Ferguson

BBC News Online features a regular blog by Bill Thompson, and this week he shares his thoughts on the state of the speed of Internet access in the UK. See the full article on BBC News Online.

This last month has seen a rash of announcements that should result in the average broadband speed in the UK increasing, and 2005 should see this rise further as other projects come to fruition. Currently we can hopefully look forward to NTL increasing to 3Mbps on its cable service, Telewest finishing its 4Mbps upgrade, further 8Mbps roll-out from UK Online, more exchanges offering 4Mbps from Bulldog, and HomeChoice with its now 4Mbps Internet service continuing expansion. In theory if these providers carry on as they are now, by the end of 2005, we should see around 50-60% of households with the option for a 3 to 4Mbps broadband service. NTL has made murmurs of a 100Mbps fibre based service, but this would seem some way off, with the amount of work needed to run fibre to the peoples homes. Similarly the BT 21CN project that has started is currently relatively small in scale, though this should increase rapidly in size once BT gets going.

Perhaps the biggest single reason the UK seems to lag behind in both the upstream and downstream speeds of service is the late start we made into the broadband market place, and a very price sensitive public. The year 1999/2000 saw roll-outs starting, but it was not until 2002/2003 that broadband actually started to develop a momentum that would encourage providers to take a few risks. A key issue is that if we want the UK to have very high speed broadband access options, we may well have to accept a patchier level of coverage for these options, rather than badgering providers to get coverage to every shed in the country.

In specific relation to the access options in Japan, one thing that Japan is very good at is developing new access methods and deploying them at an early stage. The UK has been waiting on ratification of standards for things like VDSL and ADSL2+, followed by approval processes for them to be deployed in the UK. Japan it seems follows the 'get the system out into the wild and fix any issues there' methodology.

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