Some agreement has been reached with regards to next generation broadband in the UK. Stephen Timms has announced an agreement whereby the government will draw together the best practices from the various high-speed pilots around the UK and showcase the business case for investment in UK broadband.
Virgin Media features prominently because of its plans to make a 50Mbps cable broadband service available to some 70% of the 12.5m households its cable network passes. Certainly Virgin Media with its fibre to the street cabinet architecture has a big advantage compared to BT. While Virgin Media will pretty much always win hands down on connection speed reported by the modem, whether the actual consumer experience will meet expectations is another matter. Certainly if after downloading a couple of TV episodes consumers find their connection running at a lot slower speed due to traffic management, they may not be happy paying a price of £37 to £47.
Some may think that the ADSL2+ products that form the Wholesale Broadband Connection range from BT Wholesale are next generation broadband. Perhaps if this was being rolled out three years it could have been considered so, but ADSL2+ is already available to some 50 to 70% of households in the UK from providers utilising the unbundling options.
No one has canvassed the wide spectrum of broadband customers in the UK, but I think many would rather have a product that always connected at 10Mbps downstream and 2Mbps upstream and provided download speeds a lot closer to the advertised figures during the evenings. I think most people do understand that when everyone is online things will slow down, but many do not enjoy the large slow downs that are apparent now.
Removing the wide variability in connection speeds due to xDSL technologies would be welcome, and even with a Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) architecture it should be possible to define a minimum connection speed that is reasonable, for example 10Mbps may not be possible for all, but an obligation to provide 2Mbps as a minimum connection speed would be a massive step forward.
If broadband is as vital to the UK economy as we are told, then the benefits are much more than just being able to download the latest hilarious video from YouTube, and while 50Mbps is more than most people would be able to use currently, the installation of a broadband network both in terms of connections and ability to support much higher usage at a sensible price is a priority. For once it would be nice to see something that was future looking, rather than just catching up to what other countries already offer.