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Battle plan to be drawn up for next generation broadband
Wednesday 28 November 2007 13:12:27 by Andrew Ferguson

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.

Comments

Posted by mcbazza over 9 years ago
Virgin Media want to hold-fire on the 50Mbps plan. At least until they've worked out a way to provide people with low latency, low loss, 0.5Mbps 24/7.
Posted by semo1 over 9 years ago
i hate the way virgin is now used as a showcase for high cost, high speed internet provider.they do charge a lot for their high speed package but they do not provide what they should for the price.

1st: there should be no traffic shaping for a premium priced package.

2nd: customers are unhappy about virgin's premium pricing because they are getting a broken product. some rarely see anything close to 20mbps or get dial up speeds at certain periods. there is an assumption that if you are getting fast internet, that even at its worst (ex. peak time) it would still be relatively fast.
Posted by semo1 over 9 years ago
also, i don't mind "up to" as long as there is an "as low as" figure. i.e. a guarantee of some sort. you can't just ask for a 12 month contract that only favours you.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
one comment on the BBC website in response to this story mentions nationalising the fibres and leasing them back to BT along with everyone else. Although that's probably a step too far, perhaps there's some sort of reverse-pfi arrangement that could be used to persuade BT that a universal rollout is a good idea.

If the government really thinks this is so critical to the future of the UK, then perhaps they ought to be prepared to help BT see things their way.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
A very nicely written story andrew, well done, ultimately though atleast for now this bit says it all "...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."
In other words it will be nothing more than an adult show and tell exercise, still atleast the pressure now seems to be mounting and maybe within 5 years the UK will have caught up to other parts of the world.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
"Mr Timms....welcomed Virgin Media's announcement that it will be launching a 50Mbps (megabits per second) broadband service in the UK in 2008. "

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7114728.stm

With Virgin Media leading the way I'm wondering if we're all just better off just going back to dial up now.

Although with Virgin Media involved I guess even dial up would be subject to secret FUP rules and only run at full speed between 2 and 3am each morning....
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
[q]Although with Virgin Media involved I guess even dial up would be subject to secret FUP rules and only run at full speed between 2 and 3am each morning....[/q]

Nah it would be like their support..... Premium rate charged by the second LOL
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
VM's plans to supply 50M to 70% of 45% = 31.5% of households is a start but its less than a third of the country in population terms.
Posted by bosie over 9 years ago
Just want to say I concur with the comment made by ChrisRedpath. Actually i'd like to see the Government build fibre then sell it off as a private entity [not entities] similar to BT, British Gas etc...
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
Would the Government be allowed to make a huge loss on this hypothetical investment ie spend £15bn building it then sell it for £5bn ?

Governments don't build anything anyway, they pay the private sector to do it - usually at inflated prices. Would it be better for the private sector to just build it for less, if nothing else it would save millions of consultants / bankers fees on a sell-off.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
I'd rather have a *1* MBit connection as long as it was gaming suitable. Download speed is not the primary obsession of all users.

The best thing VM could do is add UBR's in heavily overloaded areas. The worst thing they could do is introduce 50MBit. Guess what they're doing?
Posted by Guzzo over 9 years ago
just a thought but all this talk about Government investment. Er isn't this OUR money they are, Er "investing". Since when was this or any other Government competent to invest our money wisely?
One read of the Taxpayers allience website shows the daily plundering of our sweat labour and the squandering of the booty obtained.
This whole debate seems to forget there is only one real issue who pays. My bet is it will be us.
Posted by muymalestado over 9 years ago
Guzzo writes "...there is only one real issue who pays. My bet is it will be us."

But, of course. Who else?

Do we want to pay a supplier within the industry or do we want to pay a government who pays a department who pays a consultant who pays a procurement office who pays a collaborative venture who pays contractors who ask what it is all about and do very little very slowly?
Posted by KarlAustin over 9 years ago
I'd much rather pay a supplier - but most people don't see it that way and won't, then won't realise when the govt. does it under pressure from the public, that they've paid 4x as much as they would have by paying the supplier - and it's only half as good as advertised and 7 years late.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
Paying a supplier has brought us to where we are today. So the evidence is that it ain't working.

Evidence > Your Theories
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
Herdwick said: "VM's plans to supply 50M to 70% of 45% = 31.5% of households is a start but its less than a third of the country in population terms"

50 Meg from Virgin isn't 50 Meg in real terms so I don't believe its even worth doing the maths.

If we were talking about a trustworthy LLU provder it might be worth thinking about but with Virgin you need to divide the number by 100 to get anywhere near the real speed people see when they use it.
Posted by bosie over 9 years ago
Herdwick it's a valid point whatever the sale value although the availability of a high speed framework would i hope bring about quite a few changes to the economy. I'm all for the private sector generally but they're not showing any sign of interest in the near future. But it will come, just in time for the Government to hand over.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
Once again bosie we agree. In the ideal scenario, BT (or some other company..) would be able to make a case for the investment. Their reluctance so far suggests that they are not confident of that case as put by the government. I'm sure they have carefully evaluated the options internally although their priorities will be different.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
The figure of £15bn is probably predicated on backhaul upgrades and rollout from existing exchanges - most of which have acres of free floor space these days since they were built for switching and now have one or more 'large fridge' sized digital exchanges in them. For anyone other than BT to do it would certainly change the estimate.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
I don't think there's enough confidence in OFCOM as a regulator to allow the long term thinking which would be required on such an investment. My suggestion was simply an attempt to make the business case easier which would not be necessary in an ideal world.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
There are around 25m households in the UK, £15bn works out around £600 per home. With line rental under £10 per month this is equivalent to 5 years line rental for each home. No doubt there are overheads to come out along with finance costs, so you're probably looking at a ten year payback.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
What the government needs to do is work out how it can both guarantee that BT will be able to get a return in the next 10 years or so and also guarantee to the consumer that BT will not be left with a monopoly grip on telecoms. It's not an easy balance, and I would expect there to be European laws preventing a direct subsidy.
Posted by ChrisRedpath over 9 years ago
Apologies for the flood. 600 characters is small :-)
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
herdwick and others obviously its cheaper for someone private like BT to take up the cost and invest themselves however this clearly isnt happening so the next best option is government lead rollout. Some people want nothing done as they just want more cash in their pockets. The 15billions cost is already inflated where is this assumption that ftth must be 100% coverage come from.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
in terms of the eu stance on this there is already a story about ofcom and the eu regulator coming to a disagreement with ofcom simply wanting to wait for BT to do when willing and the eu saying this isnt good enough BT need pushing.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
When Mr. Hate the English, EU Frenchie regulator comes along they are gonna look at BTs mass profits, look at whats invested back in the network, look at what service they are providing, slap ofcom about the head and tell BT oi no... Normally im not in favour of outside influence coming in but if it means a swift kick to BTs nuts i cant wait. Expect ofcom in the mean time to act whiter than whiter and more meaningless investment figures from both them and BT to try and keep Mr EU man away.
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