BBC News Online has a number of interesting broadband related pieces on its website currently. One item features a number of industry figures who feel that it may be premature to roll-out a next generation broadband network now.
Certainly during 2008 it is probably too early, but unless the issues of fair access to all providers and technology trials are resolved now once it comes to around 2010 we may find that we are a long way behind. Two years is not a long period of time if talking about planning a nationwide roll-out of something.
Online gaming is often cited as a reason for needing 50Mbps or faster connections, but it is often not the speed of the downloads that are an issue but the reduced latency that services with a good proportion of fibre in them can provide. Certainly a Virgin Media 50Mbps connection should perform for gamers the same as a Virgin Media 10Mbps connection.
The areas where true next generation broadband make the most sense are projects looking to connect people in broadband not-spots, if spending good money to get a basic broadband service it would be wise to future proof it and provide people with something that they will be happy to use for ten or more years. Another area widely ignored is the small business area, many small businesses are starting to embrace things like home working and if the company office can have an affordable fat connection this may inspire more companies to let people work from home, which can mean companies retain staff who would otherwise leave due to family commitments and help to reduce the number of commuter miles driven every week.
The hard fact seems to be that many of the benefits of a highly connected society will not appear on the bank balance of the company running the network, but overall could boost the economy and maybe make it easier to compete in a global market place. The size of the online economy can be seen in the fact that £5.6 billion is expected to be spent online during December 2007.