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Government release plan for UK broadband
Monday 25 October 2010 19:13:41 by Andrew Ferguson

All good things start off with a plan, and Broadband as part of the UK National Infrastructure has been mentioned in the National Infrastructure Plan 2010 released by HM Treasury 2010. Alas what is missing is the detail, i.e. this is a plan that announces we will have a more detailed plan in December 2010.

Digital communications
1.5 The Government aims to have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 and a functional level of broadband access for everybody. Studies, estimating the impact of broadband on output and employment in the UK, suggest that rolling out superfast broadband in the UK could have a significant positive impact both on gross value added in the economy and on employment in the information and communications technology sector and the wider economy. With the right broadband infrastructure, government can:

  • enable improvements in business productivity and growth through more efficient ways of working, and more efficient communication and exchange of information with customers and suppliers;
  • enable better and more efficient ways of delivering public services; e.g. through improvement in the quality and delivery of education services to people in more rural and remote areas or improvement in the quality and delivery of healthcare services; and
  • enable growth and job creation through new business formation and growth in the technology sector.
Extract from National Infrastruture Plan 2010

The wording of the above section is crucial to understanding what we may have in 2015, in that the plan is no guarantee of superfast broadband being available to everyone. There is also no definition of what superfast actually means. Most people are presuming that this means a broadband service offering connection speeds of 25Meg or faster. The amount of work done to be the best network in Europe will depend on what other EU countries do, and what metrics are used to measure best. For example, at the moment the UK generally is one of the cheapest and best covered EU countries for broadband. The choice of services at 100Meg though is severely limited but then its never fully clear what the reality behind the advertising of fibre services is across the EU. League tables will of course be produced, but given the tendency for consumers to seek out the lowest priced product, this means that average connection speed will always be a long way behind what can be purchased. It is often forgotten that close to 50% of UK homes already have the option of 50Meg broadband from Virgin Media and 100Meg is expected to be announced later this week.

Government commitments
4.40 The Government has announced that it is committed to the UK having the best superfast broadband network in Europe by the end of this parliament, and to ensuring that everyone has access to a basic level of broadband on the same timescale. The Government will publish a National Broadband Strategy in December 2010. This will provide more detail on the full range of policy, legislative and funding initiatives that the Government is undertaking in support of its broadband vision.
4.41 A total of £530 million will be invested over the Spending Review period to support the UK’s broadband network, benefiting around two million households, including in some of the most remote areas of the UK. As part of this investment, the Government will also pursue superfast broadband pilot projects in North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Herefordshire, and the Highlands and Islands.
4.42 These public sector funds are in addition to the planned private sector investment in UK broadband infrastructure; as evidenced by the £2.5 billion that BT is investing in the fibre upgrade of its network.

Extract from National Infrastruture Plan 2010

Everything hinges on the content of the report that is due in December, some 18 months after the previous Governments Digital Britain report. The distinct danger here is that as a few months are added for various reports to be commissioned and written, firms looking to invest may be put off by the uncertainty generated.

So what is the likely situation of the UK broadband landscape in 2015? Probably 15 to 20% of homes having access to a fibre to the premises (FTTP / FTTH) product, around another 50% having access to a fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) or fibre/co-ax hybrid product. Perhaps 5 to 10% of homes covered by a variety of wireless/fibre/community solutions, leaving around 20% reliant on the current exchange based solutions of ADSL and ADSL2+. The political way out of the problem of long lines is to offer vouchers for subsidised installs for two-way satellite services, which once KA-band satellites are up and running, should be more affordable and have better usage limits and be available to close to 100% of UK households (listed properties and those without a clear view of Southern sky being the ones missing out).

The oft repeated war-cry of fibre for all, is one the UK cannot afford if the estimates of £29bn for fibre to the premises are correct. Fibre to the cabinet for all UK telephone cabinets has been estimated at £5 billion, so to get a decent solution to perhaps 97% of UK homes we are looking at perhaps £3 billion on top of the money that firms like Virgin Media and Openreach have already spent. The £530m announced recently, may be enough to do something for 2 million homes that currently get nothing or under 2Mbps, but only if spent frugally and is not wasted on expensive reports and trials that do not turn into commercial services.

The competition to be best will be tough. Finland is working to provide 100Meg for everyone by 2015, on which basis we look set to lose. That is unless 'everyone' has a similar definition to what is used in the UK, when we often mean any number above 90% is good enough. The Netherlands is another country that will be hard to beat with cable coverage reaching around 90% of the population now and products providing over 100Meg available from the cable network.


Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Good, we have a plan to have a plan, but we don't know what for...
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
And there's not much money to spend doing it either :)
Posted by opticalgirl over 7 years ago
Nothing new here. But it's nice that broadband is recognised as being part of the national infrastructure.
Posted by timmay over 7 years ago
"I have a cunning plan, a plan so cunning I haven't even thought of it yet!"
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
everyone seems to be aiming for 100Mbps except for us :(
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Maybe everyone else has proper state funding?
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
i think they mostly have tax incentives, i also believe they dont tax fibre like we do...
Posted by spetznaz over 7 years ago
So obvious I will stuck on ADSL in 2015, not happy at all, might even vote Labour next time (lol).
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
I always vote UKIP, i know they wont win, but its my vote.

Does anyone else know what other countries do regarding 100Mbps rollout?
Posted by dparr59 over 7 years ago
Royal mail have to supply a universal to everyone.
Why should Broadband be any different
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
Scotland seems to be taking up the digital village pumps idea. Think the JFDI approach might be the best.

I don't think government have a clue what real internet is. It could be years before they understand how they have been conned by the telcos.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
How have they been conned cyberdoyle? I look forward to seeing how the digital pump works in reality and then another look a few years down the line when it falls into disrepair and the users are calling for a real ISP to come in and take over the running of it.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - what is 'real internet'? Remember the government that would not let BT (a telco) roll out fibre to every home?
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
cd - what's happening in Scotland?
Posted by RepairExpert over 7 years ago
So just what is...
a functional level of broadband access for everybody?
Bit ambiguous, that statement. Could mean 2Mb!

And 50% of the UK has the option of 50Mb broadband from Sky or VirginMedia; what about the other 50% who are struggling on rotting copper and corroding aluminium, and have very little chance of having a fibre upgrade in the next few years?
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
50% are on rotting copper and aluminium? I'd say that's probably a little on the high side :)

As for upgrades well there's £520m to go around for areas outside of what BT is planning... ahem
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
BT FTTC will be 66%.
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
2Mb is fine for now, but by the time they reach their target (2015) then it will have to be 10Mbps minimum.
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
There should just FTTH everything, because its easily upgraded and does not matter the distance between you and the exchange.

Once in the FTTH won't need upgrading for decades, even centuries.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@dparr59:Seriously? You're using Royal Mail as an example of 'How Things Should Be'? What's the weather like on your planet?

Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@Legolash2o "There should just FTTH everything" uh huh. There should also be world peace, infinite energy and budgies with bowel control.

Sadly 'should be's often don't happen.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
They should just FTTH = £29bn :)
Posted by nmg196 over 7 years ago
Re: "should just FTTH everything" - the vast majority of people are not willing to pay the £2000-£30,000 install fee for that, when their telco will give them FTTC install for £50 or less.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
The government don't have any idea what 'real internet' is but someone sharing a 2Mbps burstable to 10Mbps backhaul with several others does.


What's going on in Scotland CD, any specific projects or just noises from activists?
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
I just don't know how anyone can believe these community pumps will work. I'd love to see the working model behind the initial start up costs and delivery to local homes, who pays for maintenance/support/fixes issues. How much a new customer would get connected, how bandwidth would be shared, fix time in the event of a fibre break (doubt they'd be resilience) etc etc. It sounds like a lash up and with all the problems that will come with it
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago

is an example of a community project and what it is involved.
Posted by opticalgirl over 7 years ago
GMAN: The village pump idea works in Sweden, where government funding has been used to build networks that bring fibre to every village with at least 200 people. Not 2000, but 200.

In France they created PPPs to install local backhaul networks. As a result, LLU uptake increased dramatically (it really wasn't working before), and the same PPPs are now installing FTTH in French towns and cities.

I'm sure I could find other examples if I tried, these are just the ones I know off the top of my head.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Somerset, looking at the latest posts on that blog it sounds just like I expected, flakey at best. opticalgirl I'm fine with the backhaul is the bit in the communities hands I can't get my head around. People expect a 24/7 service and I just can't see how a community network can support that, for it to work properly with proper support and costs I would expect to have a business involved who knows networking. You'd also need a ton of cash upfront to lay the fibre/pay for kit, where does that come from?
Posted by opticalgirl over 7 years ago
I agree with you, I wouldn't want to pin my business on a community operation where everyone is still learning the ropes and there is no backup if it goes wrong.

In the French example, once the backhaul connections were in place then commercial companies came along and invested in fibre to start offering services to local people.

In Sweden, the PPP is now advising people on FTTH construction, contracts, everything. The peoople dig their own fibre, but make contracts with telecoms operators for the actual services.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Thanks, I still think even this type of set-up will be expensive, the trouble is in the UK even if you can't get a decent connection you know how much the market charges for broadband and by all accounts its not much. And I'd expect the digital pump customers would only want to pay £20-30 tops which in my eyes won't even cover the shared backhaul rental (depending on bandwidth and how the cost is shared) never mind anything else.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Public money should not go into anything that does not support a properly installed, fully supported 24x7, network.

'People' cannot dig along pavements and across roads. Even when duct and pole sharing comes along this will have to be done by telcos who have knowledge, skills, training, insurance etc.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 7 years ago
for those who asked: (read first two posts)
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Sounds good, but I don't read into it the local community will be providing the connections from the backhaul.

"the local access networks that will use a mixture of wireless, existing copper, and fibre to the home." - Local community won't be allowed or licensed to install wireless masts, nor touch existing copper, fibre to the home well debatable, I know you've done it but when it comes to roads etc I'm not so sure.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
I read it and I'm no clearer unfortunately, no specifics beyond fibre routes and some contention calculations.

Sweden's networks aren't about bandwidth they are delivering dark fibre. These village networks then hook into government owned open access MANs which don't exist in the UK, that's the rub.

That kind of network has to spread out from towns and cities to give scale for service providers and we don't have it here.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
It says:

512 Mb/s backhaul @ 25:1

128M would serve 250 homes, 16M 2,000, 2M 16,000.

So if I have a faster link I use more bandwidth???
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
The leased circuit based design they are discussing here I'd like to see more detail on. They've discussed getting fibre to homes, who builds the new fibre, who pays the rent on the existing fibre and most important.... where does this fibre go to actually get to the Internet?

The fibre diagram has been thrown together, the trunks don't all connect, no clear concept of where the PoPs to backhaul the fibre are and there's no protection in case of failure, no core ring or indeed any structure to the network at all.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
Somerset - that is quite an odd one to me. It doesn't seem to take account of the fact that the bandwidth can be increased as demand goes up. Surely if building the fibre yourself you'd be better off aggregating together many homes on as large a link as possible for statistical contention and scale purposes?

Why the random choice of 512Mbps backhaul? It'll be delivered on a gigabit bearer anyway so... ?

100,000 homes on 10GbE works better than 10,000 on a gig - fact.

Typical politicians / academics. Get some actual ex-SP guys in on this project to be honest.
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
So lots of words, no detail, even some errors...
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
Dixi - Mr Erlang knew about this...
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
To be honest that diagram is probably for the consumption of politicians more than anything else and/or has a very strict cost base. The actual project itself would cost more.
Posted by spetznaz over 7 years ago
Well it sounds like the £530m is going to Scotland, Wales and Cumbria so is of no help to me. Britain is a densely populated country with a large economy so what is the problem?, why do I have a 1.5mbit connection at work when the premises is less than 4 miles from a town of 50,000?. I'm not sure FTTH would be possible because of the massive costs and dreadful state of our finances thanks to Brown/Blair but surely with government help FTTC would be to 95%+?.
Posted by New_Londoner over 7 years ago
@spetznaz "why do I have a 1.5mbit connection at work...?"

Through choice? I can get a 10Gb link between two cities if I want one and am prepared to pay for it, can get a 1Gb internet connection (ditto on price). Equally I can get a broadband connection (almost) anywhere in the country (anywhere if you include satellite), and yet a basic telephone line is cheaper than its equivalent in the US.

Things may not be perfect but don't accept you can't get bandwidth. The issue is many of us want it virtually free.
Posted by New_Londoner over 7 years ago
Digital Pumps
Based on the above, and other discussions when this has popped up in recent months, this sounds increasingly like an idea that is in reality little more than a concept based on a nice sound bite, with no real substance at all.

I just hope we don't get politicians jumping on the bandwagon and wasting a lot of time and engery on something that isn't going anywhere but that could divert the relatively limited funds that are available away from initiatives that could actually work.
Posted by New_Londoner over 7 years ago
Before anyone leaps to the defence of digital pumps, worth researching how many community wi-fi projects started up, how many are still operating and with how many users? And how many of those are business users?
Posted by cf492bcc over 7 years ago
Can't we just do similar to what Australia is doing with the NBN? They actually appear to have something good going over there, almost as if common sense has prevailed. An Open Access Network, laid out by the government, a solid investment in what's increasingly perceived to be a critical national infrastruture for the future. And they're doing it; they're building it now.

So, are we too poor for that now then? Too many entrenched interests to satisfy; too scared to rock the boat? This country seems to need a good kick up its...
Posted by Somerset over 7 years ago
NL - and at what speed would be interesting, both the link and to the users.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
cf492bcc , yep too poor, we've got a bit of debt to pay back at the mo.
Posted by spetznaz over 7 years ago
New_Londoner :

Post code SP2 0QW tell me please about the amazing services on offer in that area, also where did I mention wanting it for free?, but obviously it has to be sensible - leased lines at £1000pm don't count.
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
cf492bcc, i've been reading on Austrlia's NBN too, would be great to implement here.

The government could became a reseller like BT Openreach but cheaper and make a return on their investment and add another source of income :)
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
We are going to have a community wifi in our town soon, supports upto 150 in both directions.

They have 5down/5up, 10down/10up and upto 50down/50up packages. The first 2 packages are not upto but the 50Mbps is. They will be installing multiple wireless masts. I think they are Ubiquiti Airmax products (Point to Multipoint), i think.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
spetznaz, you get what you pay for, pay little get little. The bandwidth is out there if you pay for it.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@cf492bcc:Heh, first we have the Royal Mail put forward as the ideal business model now Australia's internet policy is being suggested:

No thanks.

Imagine that world. Internet connections run by the Royal Mail and filtered by a government firewall.

I must get me some of that. Not.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 7 years ago
@Legolash2o - suggesting that we ought to split Openreach away from BT to solve the conflict of interest and other issues that have stifled any progress for a very long time.. :-) I've always thought that, although I'd want it at arms length from the Government (e.g. a Network Rail type setup). FTTC only now, in 2010 and only 66% by 2015 - yawn. VM must wonder where they went wrong with developing a decent product when any old tat will clearly suffice for the UK for another 5 years+. Another year, another "plan"... just can't get around the central issue without confronting it.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
But that's exactly the point, isn't it? Where /did/ VM go wrong? Everyone is clammering for faster connectivity and yet the company that's been providing it the longest isn't gaining many customers, hasn't for many years and is still mired in debt.

There's a lesson to be learnt there and I have a feeling BT learnt it a long time ago.
Posted by warweezil over 6 years ago
Virgins main problem may be that they have spent money developing ever faster services which not everyone will take - so a slower ROI coupled with the problem of having harvested the bulk of potential subscribers in the cabled areas there is no further expansion to bring more income/turnover into the network and so increase the economy of scale.

Simply put they have stagnated. Cant afford to go forward, but much slower growth likely through a lower take up of the more expensive services they are developing.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
^ Which is why they are chomping at the bit to get into BT ducts and on poles so they can expand more cheaply.
Posted by spetznaz over 6 years ago

The bandwidth is out there if you want to pay £1000's a month otherwise forget it. Ultimately the only option is BT's rusty 19th century lines. You say its out there but please be more specific on costs?, we're talking small business with a turnover between £500k-1m.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
You'd have to get a quote mate, from Cable & Wireless/BT/Anyone else that can provide Ethernet to your premises. BT's rusty copper lines aren't designed for data, which is why I'm saying you get what you pay for, a premium fit for purpose data delivery or a low cost over the old telephone network solution.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
@AndrueC - I think largely because Virgin Media's marketing department, if they have one, are completely useless and fail to exploit what they have - watching BT claim that fibre is "coming" is hilarious, it has been here for over a decade.
Posted by MarkHampshire over 6 years ago
@warweezil and others: but that's the point of infrastucture. It isn't about developing what we need. By then, it's too late. It's about developing what we *will* need. Which is why it's hard to stomach from a commercial perspective because the initial ROI is so poor and why the "market" won't solve this.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
"we're talking small business with a turnover between £500k-1m"

should be able to afford £1k per month then for conenctivity, the cost of a single employee ?
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