Ofcom (www.ofcom.org.uk) has this morning published a consultation document on the future of broadband regulation in next generation access networks in light of the increasing interest in new technologies requiring significant investment to meet the increasing demands for bandwidth.
'Next Generation' access networks include configurations such as 'Fibre-to-the-cabinet' (FTTC) and 'Fibre-to-the-Home' (FTTH) which make use of the vastly greater availability of potential bandwidth that can be delivered over a fibre optic cable which uses light rather than electrical signals to transmit data. Fibre is already widely used in the backhaul and core networks of service providers. FTTC technology is also used within the cable network operated by Virgin Media and BT already made its intentions clear in regards to using fibre in the local loop between the exchange and the customer premises.
The problem with investment into fibre has always been concern by shareholders on the level of return on investment, particularly taking into consideration regulation issues. Indeed, there is an important question of at which point in the physical network should the competition be enforced?
"Investment in Next Generation Access will represent a substantial commercial risk and the market should decide where and when it will be made. We want to ensure there are no barriers to investment and provide a clear regulatory environment which will help encourage investment. But we also want to ensure that the benefits of competition which consumers have enjoyed with current generation broadband can also be achieved as we move to higher speed next generation access."Ed Richards (CEO), Ofcom
A fibre optic network will be excellent news for those currently receiving limited broadband speeds, particularly in rural areas since fibre signals can traverse much further with far less signal loss or those lines affected by electrical interference since fibre is immune to this.
The consultation which will run for just over two months asks respondents five key questions: