Point Topic is well known for its analysis of the UK and overseas broadband market, and has issued a press release showing the proportions of people that will have next generation access (NGA) by various dates up until the end of 2012. Interestingly the Virgin Media DOCSIS 3.0 roll-out is not mapped, even though it will have as much fibre in it as the BT Fibre to the cabinet solution. Previous announcements from Openreach stated that the firm is looking at 2.5 million homes having the option of full fibre to the home (FTTH) by 2012.
|Population covered||Coverage as % of UK population|
The map is a population density map of the UK, showing where most of us live, the red areas representing the BT NGA roll-out and pink various 'altnets'. The altnets are where various other fibre projects are known about. If one accepts the 50Meg product from Virgin Media as being next generation then of course the map will look different, but in reality the Virgin Media footprint will overlay that of the BT NGA, and should exceed it as Virgin Media claim around the 50% of UK homes passed mark.
This data puts out into the public domain the oft quoted figures that 50 to 60% will still not have next generation access by 2012, and in theory is where the pot of 50p per month from telephone lines comes in. The plan as it stands this week is for this money to be used to push next generation access up to something above 90% of UK households. Next week, when the Digital Economy Bill is announced, the current governments plans should become clearer, and we may even see the opposition parties put their plans out into the open, particularly as we are just some six to seven months away from a General Election.
The biggest debate is whether public money (from a specific levy or general tax pot) should be used prior to what is normally deemed as market failure. Certainly if by 2011 Openreach and Virgin Media are seeing strong take-up for the faster products they may commit to further spending. Remember that while we complain about the speed of roll-out from commercial companies, the time-scales for publicly funded projects are even slower, and the perception is that a lot of money is wasted within these schemes.