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Year in Review: 2011
Friday 30 December 2011 14:06:18 by John Hunt

With another year over, we look back at the events and revelations within broadband over the last year, and look to 2012 to see what we might be looking forward to in the industry.

In rural areas, the announcement of broadband funding to provide a basic level of broadband in some areas, as well as speed boosts in others, was a major affirmation that helped shape the broadband future of the UK for several years to come. Different regions received a funding allocation from BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK), the body set up to help ensure that much of the country can get online at super-fast broadband speeds (above 24Mbps). The funds were allocated from a £530 million pot in areas where the government deems that the private sector would fail to deliver next-generation services to enough premises. This should mean that the most rural areas get more funding than urban. Accordingly, the Greater London region was not awarded any funding, even though there may be some people who can't get broadband and some stuck with painfully slow broadband speeds. It is now down to local regions and councils to devise a plan, with matched funding from industry, to make best use of the available funds. Councils should have draft plans submitted by February and government approval by the end of April - a tight deadline for some, but it may give a much needed boost to the process which had been dragging.

Whilst the government has worked to try and help specific regions get online, some are continuing to take things in to their own hands. We have seen this year the announcement of the 'B4RN' project, to deliver fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband to the rural north. Within a short time frame, the group plan to enable gigabit fibre connections to peoples homes and businesses for £30 a month. Based in the north of Lancashire, B4RN will use a do-it-yourself approach. Funding will be gained from community investors through a share issuing and through the use of local people offering time to do some of the work in return for shares. 1,451 properties are projected to be connected for a cost of £1.86 million with work to begin in January / February and a hope of all properties connected during 2013.

One potential aid to rural areas is LTE, long term evolution, a 4G mobile technology which will increase the speeds which users can get through the mobile phone networks. Plans had been set for an auction of spectrum in early 2012 which will be used to enable the technology, but these have been pushed back to later in 2012 due to legal battles from the mobile phone networks. With this in mind, it's unlikely that we will see wide spread deployments of the technology until perhaps even 2015 now. This sets us back far behind other countries who are already deploying networks now, and means we can't use this as an alternative to fixed-line next generation services yet. Here in the UK, we have seen some LTE trials, and there is a possibility that services might be made available on existing mobile frequencies, but we will not get the full benefits of the technology until the auctions have completed, and existing users of the 800MHz spectrum have been cleared.

Elsewhere, there have been continued announcements of fibre deployments from BT. The majority of these are fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) which currently offer speeds of up to 40meg to homes and businesses, but these are to be increased to 80meg early in 2012 which will enable people to gain the most possible from their broadband connections. Plans are still under-way to deliver full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connections to some areas, and this can achieve speeds of up to 110meg. Around 25% of the UK is expected to receive coverage of this, with a large chunk of this being concentrated in Cornwall (around 50% of the area) through the European investment to deliver super-fast broadband to the region.

Speed wars between BT and Virgin have continued with Virgin demonstrating blistering fast broadband speeds to a small business community in East London, with four businesses there being able to connected at 1.5Gbps using the same cable network that Virgin uses to provide services to its residential customers. Whilst this is just a taster of things to come in future years, it is promising to see that the network they are deploying now has the potential to be expanded to support faster speeds. To counter, BT will be increasing their fibre-to-the-home speeds to 300Mbps in the Spring, and this will be available on a wider scale than the Virgin test.

2011 was a key year in the deployment of IPv6, the next generation of Internet technology used for addressing. IPv4, the existing address allocation system, ran out of unused IP address blocks in February which saw the final five address blocks being allocated to regional registries. ISPs will now find it difficult to get new IP address blocks and they will be encouraged to roll out IPv6 instead. Some have already started this, and you can read more about the differences, and who supports IPv6 in our IPv6 guide.

2012 holds some interesting challenges for broadband. The Olympics being hosted in London will spark the interest of many people in the country, and watching online may become the de facto option with the BBC offering up to 24 simultaneous live streams. Whilst we obviously can't watch all of these at once at home, businesses may find that their broadband connections grind to a halt whilst employees keep up with the live video of their favourite events.

One missed launch of 2011 is YouView that we were expecting to see offer on demand television using services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD, direct on to your television. This is possible through the use of a broadband connection to stream the on-demand services to a set-top box that connects to your TV and partners including BT and TalkTalk are keen to be able to offer this as a bolt on option to their existing broadband services. YouView is now thought to be launching in early 2012.

Over here at thinkbroadband it's been a busy year for us and we've been beavering away on a new version of our website. It features lots of great new tools which will help you find a new broadband provider or get the most from your existing broadband connection and we can't wait to have you guys using it.

As usual, we'd like to thank all our staff, moderators and contributors for their tireless work on the website, and of course our visitors, who make all the hard work worthwhile.

Happy new year to all!

Sebastien & John


Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
Happy New Year to you all too, and lets hope for more connectivity for more people in 2012 and health and happiness for everyone. Can't wait to see what youview and the olympics do to everyone's connections, it will finally prove the point that copper is so yesterday. Bring on the trolls...
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
2012 should be a good year for many. With BT having announced extra exchanges to be updated not so long ago and delayed ones due to be enabled. Might also see movement from the LLU operaters such as Sky and Be. BDUK schemes should progress and whilst an olympic effect is inevitable there is much cause for positivity.
Posted by TavistockSFB01822 over 5 years ago
The Olympic effect - just a few percent of the monies spent on this would have meant superfast broadband for all in the UK. 16 Days - then some other Country can waste billions and get into more debt.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Olympic effect? Most people will watch it on their TV's like normal, some in the office I doubt it will have the same effect as the World Cup which wasn't a problem with copper anyway
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Tavistock a few percent of £10billion would be no where near meet the financial requirements for full UK superfast...
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
Indeed CD, here's to B4RN successfully financing their project.
BT catching up with their roll-out plans and making real progress on FTTP plans.
VM becoming profitable and rolling out nationwide.
And Fujitsu successfully adding competition to the market.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
cyberdoyle - please explain, in detail, what your issue is with copper as a means of delivering a service at an acceptable price. Copper provides the local end and, as you now know, fiber provides the connectivity from cabinets and exchanges to servers across the world.
Posted by Somerset over 5 years ago
What happened to the VM trial in 2 places in Cornwall? FTTC based.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago
She's practising for the 5th...

copper has no influence on the network backbones of the ISPs CD... lack of capacity on the fibre networks and it's hardware (bits of copper in that). Mostly down to people not working when they are being paid to and surfing the internet instead.
Posted by rizla over 5 years ago

"Tavistock a few percent of £10billion..."

If you think the Olympics are going to cost only 10 billion then I have a bridge to sell you. Probably comes with a missile frigate and 16,000 private "security" plus 8000 army/police - and counting.

The legal bills after the games you can deal with yourself.

Bargain or what?

Happy 2012 peeps.
Posted by themanstan over 5 years ago

It's certainly not £37billion that he's been saying... That the defence budget for a year!

And £10b is £500m more than the stated budget.

T45 costs ~£10m a year to run....

24,000 people at £6000 each is £120m...

So where are these huge extra costs?

Posted by huntyz over 5 years ago
Thanks to European investment i will be getting FTTC in a few days rather than never.
Posted by rickw over 5 years ago
Would be very nice if those of us within sight of the Olympic Park would get more than 1Meg download.

BT continue to have nothing to offer and also the LLUs of course.

Maybe I should write to that cheerful chappie Dave and tell him!!

Happy New Year

Posted by otester over 5 years ago

Tried 3G?
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
otester you can't trust wireless, never have never will, unless you enjoy watching buffering symbol.
Posted by mike41 over 5 years ago
Thank you Sebastien & John for another year of the best BB website I know.
Posted by otester over 5 years ago

I haven't had any issues watching iPlayer on Three/Vodafone.
Posted by drtobak over 5 years ago
Happy New Year to all.

2011 also saw the launch of 1 Gig fibre to the home by Hyperoptic in Wandsworth in London. A more substantial roll-out in 2012 will see meaningful speeds for many of the Greater London not-spots.

Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
gmann have you checked openreach list, your exchange is on it.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Wow! It really is as well, thanks for the heads up creaky :)
Posted by zeppy over 5 years ago
Let's not forget about Hyperoptic....
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