The reaction across wide swathes of the UK press is not unexpected given the large amount of interest people have in getting faster broadband connections these days. The reaction of the various broadband providers and competitors to BT will be interesting and may influence the view Ofcom takes on things.
Virgin Media has understandably emphasised its previously announced move to DOCSIS 3.0 for its higher speed products, that should see 50Mbps available as an option to some 50% of UK households for around £40 to £50 sometime in 2009. Techradar.co.uk posted some comments from the Virgin Media MD of Marketing.
"We've long believed that super-fast broadband is what people want and we're not surprised some of our competitors are now trying to play catch up
We've already invested £13 billion in a fibre-optic network and the launch of our 50Mb product later this year will mean 12 million UK consumers won't have to wait to get access to next generation broadband.
Our 50Mb trialists have already experienced the power of super-fast broadband and we're excited that we will soon be able to offer this to millions of UK homes."James Kydd, MD of Marketing and Brand at Virgin Media
We don't have figures for the amount of money BT has already invested in its nationwide fibre network, but suffice to say that this fibre network links almost 5500 telephone exchanges already, and is morphing under the 21st Century Network programme to reduce running costs and make it easier to expand services in the future. Certainly Virgin Media in the guise of NTL and Telewest has spent a lot of money getting its cable network into its current state, but the question is what money is it going to invest to ensure things like the 50Mbps upgrades happen in a reasonable time frame, and upgrade analogue links so that all customers with cable TV have access to cable broadband.
Be Broadband has also reacted to today's news and if the wholesale model is right they see a chance for increasing the coverage of broadband speeds above 20Mbps.
"For an ISP like Be it will all depend on the regulatory framework that goes around the investment. If BT follows the same model as we have in place now it will allow Be to offer more than 20meg broadband to far more than the existing 6% of the population. This is really exciting for people who really depend on and don’t know life without broadband, like Be members. But if BT is allowed to take advantage of its monopolistic position and prevent ISPs like Be from delivering an exceptional service to customers, it will be a missed opportunity."Oli White, Head of Marketing at Be Broadband
The 6% figure refers to the number of households Be estimates can currently connect at 20Mbps or faster under ADSL2+. As the dust settles more will emerge on the FTTC and FTTP products, one certainty is that there is a lot of discussion needed between the various parts of BT and other broadband providers to produce a product that is attractive at both the wholesale and retail level. A worry for some is that BT may address the needs of the mass market, ignoring the legions of pro-sumers who are keen for significantly higher upload speeds for devices like webcams, Slingboxes and better VPN access into the office, although BT has indicated faster upstream speeds are on the cards.