While the Digital Britain report has nothing set in stone yet with regards to a Universal Service Obligation more people are coming out and backing it. Point Topic a firm well known in the broadband industry for analysis of global broadband markets has issued a press release largely backing the report.
"We believe that investing to deliver 2Mbps could provide the platform for full next-generation broadband in areas where it wouldn't otherwise happen for many years...
At first sight two megabits looks too modest. More than two-thirds of the homes in the UK can already get 2 megabits if they want it and it is far short of what is available in the more favoured areas and in many other countries. Why aim for only 2 megabits when Virgin Media is already offering 50 to cable customers? On the other hand, millions of British homes in the slowband zones cannot get 2Mbps today and have no prospect of doing so in future without major investment by somebody. What's more, a 2 megabit USC will drive investment that can in fact support much higher speeds."Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic.
While we agree a commitment to 2Mbps broadband could drive next generation roll-out, based on our reading of the report this is not a done and dusted deal. ADSL cannot meet this requirement, and while a Fibre to the Cabinet roll-out using VDSL2 would be possible to serve almost all the not-spots and slow areas it may prove costly and unattractive to the regulator. The report and recent noise from Ofcom suggests that a combination of mobile broadband and satellite technology may be used particularly in areas of low population density. One potential solution to avoid running backhaul for miles from a mast would be to use a satellite solution as the backhaul from remote and hilly areas.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are moving on with their own schemes to resolve not-spots, and these have taken a few years to get to where they are now. If the final Digital Britain report does back a 2Mbps minimum speed for all then we will probably have a consultation period by Ofcom and possibly further reports, meaning actual on the ground progress may only start in late 2010. Hopefully the final report will also look into areas like upstream speeds and latency of the connection and as well as defining a minimum download speed.