The 2008 year has certainly been eventful with the global credit crisis taking grip and affecting every single industry, but what has it meant for broadband? What new innovative applications will be developed in the next twelve months? These are the questions we ask as each year draws to a close.
The broadband provider consolidation has continued over 2008 with Tiscali still touting itself for sale, a conglomerate of ex-Pipex brands as part of it. Only as recently as three months ago, Cable & Wireless finalised their purchase of Thus Group Plc, and Demon Internet with it. We expect some takeovers in the first half of 2009 with the pressures of BT price increases announced in November, putting more pressure on some business models.
Ofcom launched the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice which took effect earlier this month, a voluntary scheme which expects providers to do what to be quite honest, they should have been doing long ago; being open and honest with their customers. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of the scheme, although we are starting to see some improvements in how service providers are structuring their processes.
After lengthy trials, Virgin Media finally launched its 50 meg broadband service only last week in what can best be described as challenging market conditions, setting a new bar for broadband connections. We certainly expect this to be the market leader for the next six months in terms of speed with the vague possibility that Be/O2 might offer something in that region through their bonded broadband solution, although the real loser is likely to be Sky because of the attractiveness of Virgin Media's television, broadband and phone bundles, especially when they get some more HD channels onto their service. We think (and hope) VM's 50 meg service is likely to perform very well and we'll be keeping a close eye on it over the next few months to let you know; if you want to help us, why not carry out a speed test and download our bandwidth meter (tbbMeter) application.
The state of broadband in terms of proper fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) is still disappointing with only signs of deployments in Ebbsfleet and some H20 Networks rollouts in a few areas. No matter what services we come up with, it's fairly certain that fibre optic cables will be the future of our communications infrastructure and the sooner this goes in, the quicker we can get the next generation of communications services from an increased number of high definition television channels, other entertainment services, to high definition video conferencing and super-fast broadband where the idea of waiting for downloads is a historical concept. Even with the proposed BT fibre rollouts bundled with VDSL technology, the ultimate solution is still likely to be end-to-end fibre. The problem of course, is the investment required which no commercial company with shareholders to please is going to do lightly without a clear sign of significant returns on investment. This is likely to require some involvement by the government in one form or another at some point.
Our focus for 2009 is going to be on updating our site to really change the focus to you, the user. We're going to be trying to ensure, more so than ever, that we don't just provide you with information that may be technically of the highest calibre, but which not all our users understand. Over the last couple of years we have made significant efforts to try and speak in 'plain english' but we think the tools on our site aren't quite up to scratch in this respect. We will however assure you that we will continue in making sure we give you information which is 'technically right'.
We're going to continue to build on tbbMeter, our bandwidth monitoring application to help you understand your broadband usage both in terms of levels and quality so you can make the best decision on which package and supplier is right for you as well as adjusting your usage patterns to avoid being slowed down because you download too much at peak times.
We'll also be publishing more videos which discuss broadband issues as well as instructional videos to help you make the most out of your broadband connection. We have so many ideas we can't wait to share with you, but there are only so many hours in a day, more so given most of us produce all this whilst maintaining full time jobs elsewhere. We do this because we're passionate about giving you the best information and doing the 'right' thing.
Over the next year, we will continue to help users solve their problems as the broadband experts in a market filled with so many suppliers of broadband services and probably even more sites trying to advise you as to which service provider is right for you (along with which credit card, insurance or energy supplier you should use it would seem). We'll leave it to the other sites to tell you what electricity company to go for and focus on what we know best; broadband.
We often get called a 'comparison site' in the media in the same way as we were labelled a consumer campaign site in the days of campaigns for broadband coverage or unmetered telecoms—Our focus has never been on persuading you to change broadband suppliers. We want to be the definitive source of broadband related information and analysis, respected for the knowledge we have built up and on which our advice is based, as well as being able to help you with your broadband problems. Our staff and volunteers are very dedicated and have a wide ranging knowledge base from the underlying intricacies of the IP protocol on which the Internet runs, to the commercial experience of broadband services & pricing and the problems users come across trying to access support services. We hope that this complements rather than duplicates existing sources of information on the Internet.
We'd like to thank everyone on the team without whom none of this would be possible, and the users who make this site such an interesting project for us to work on. We appreciate all the e-mails of support we regularly get from users who find a solution to their problems on our site.
Happy New Year!
Sebastien & John