The UK is at risk of being left behind if we don't rapidly increase our fibre broadband rollout according the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. The UK has only 5,000 homes connected to directly with fibre connections to the home, rising to 2.5 million in Europe, whilst the Far East steams ahead with 38 million connections.
"The Digital Agenda for Europe document goes some way to addressing this by setting targets for the future, but there are still many issues that we feel are being glossed over that FTTH could solve.
Often upload speeds are not factored into targets. For home workers or businesses, the need to upload files is vital in order to offer services, while many firms promise 'up to' speeds that rarely reach anywhere near their upper limit.
We want to see clearer targets set out to ensure symmetrical speeds for upload and download, and to make sure that people are aware of the difference and the fact that most fibre networks run only to the cabinet."Chris Holden, (President) FTTH Council Europe
Many people are frustrated by the way new next-generation products are marketed as 'fibre optic broadband' when homes are actually connected by copper cables. The ASA ruled back in 2008 that this was an acceptable use of the term as only a small portion of the connection was using copper cable. The non-use of fibre also brings about the 'up to' part of speed definitions, as speeds will vary depending on distance from the exchange or cabinet where your line connects. Even on a fibre only network we are likely to see similar terms used as broadband providers cannot guarantee (or afford) that you will get 100Mbps speeds continuously.
New applications are likely to be developed that will make greater use of the bandwidth available to fibre connections. Education and tele-medicine are often offered as such applications, but high-definition (HD) movie downloads and teleconferencing in HD could also become popular and stretch the limits of VDSL technology.
"The applications that people will want in the future, such as being able to download HD movies, will need faster speeds. An HD video of 20GB would take five hours to download on VDSL speeds of 10Mbit/s, but just 30 minutes on fibre of 100Mbit/s."Hartwig Tauber, (Director general) FTTH Council Europe
Funding is hampering our ability to deploy fibre everywhere. BT are spending £2.5 billion on the roll out of fibre-to-the-cabinet, and to deploy fibre across the country has been estimated at around ten times this cost. Tauber, talking to IT Pro, says that government needs to play a key role in this.
"It just illustrates in the decision making process that [the Government] has not realised the potential of telecoms, both economically and for society.
If there is positive investment from the Government side, we see operators follow, but also if there is good competition in the last mile, this will drive it too."Hartwig Tauber, (Director General) FTTH Council Europe
With our government not willing to help deploy this, we will be playing catch-up for some time before we can lead the way in high-speed broadband services.