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MP calls for redefining of what is called broadband
Wednesday 05 April 2006 16:07:00 by Andrew Ferguson

What is broadband? Currently Ofcom in the UK defines a broadband service as an Internet connection with a connection speed in excess of 128 Kilo bits per second. The MP Roger Williams who represents Brecon & Radnorshire is calling for this to be altered, and the government to encourage the industry to ensure a universal provision at a much higher speed than this 128Kbps level of broadband. For more detail visit ITWales.com.

The issue of what is broadband has been open to debate ever since the word was first used, some maintain that a broadband service is one which supports downloads of over 2Mbps (2 Mega bits per second), others want the definition to make this a symmetric definition. Certainly while a 0.5Mbps ADSL service is the broadband service most readily available in the UK, many will dispute that this is a standard for an ADSL service. Though a requirement for providers to provide a 0.5Mbps service may be an acceptable starting point, but if going to spend time and money on a universal provision, perhaps better to take a longer term view. The long term is something like looking at rolling out technologies like fibre optics into the local loop over a number of years, supporting speeds vastly above what is possible now.

In terms of universal service provision, the provider that this phrase commonly targets is the BT Group, and currently Ofcom only requires BT to provide a functional Internet service of 28 kilo bits per second, which as time marches on is beginning to look more outdated than ever. BT Wholesale with its commercial roll-out and the joint partnerships with development agencies and other groups is nearing a point of 100% provision. Alas even once every exchange is ADSL enabled there will still be a small number who cannot get an ADSL service. To date though from the around eight million ADSL lines that are in use in the UK, BT Wholesale has deemed 32,241 who have ordered ADSL as not being able to support ADSL.

Having a line marked as not supporting ADSL (sometimes called a red market) can seem like the end of the story, but BT is still monitoring these lines, and once clusters of red lines show up it is re-evaluating the economics of getting an ADSL service to the area. So while a failed ADSL activation may be the end of the road in the short term, there is still a small glimmer of hope in the long term.

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