Arqiva has reacted to the announcement from Fujitsu that it is pulling out of the tendering process for superfast broadband in Wales. Arqiva while not running for any of the tenders who own around 20% of mobile masts in the UK are in a position to comment on the BDUK processes, and how it appears to be going.
"The Government should heed this announcement from Fujitsu and recognise that the planned series of separate, devolved broadband procurements are clearly economically and commercially challenging for the private sector to deliver.
This means there is a serious risk that the key public policy goal of offering broadband to all may not be achieved.
It is now clearer than ever that wireless broadband must be offered to all consumers who aren't going to be offered fibre. What's more, if the Government is serious about achieving broadband for all before the next election, then they need to take a leadership position and directly procure a national, commercially viable, wholesale solution to ensure that the 'last 10%' of consumers - mostly rural - are reached."Comments from Arqiva
The BDUK process has not been a very fast moving process, and perhaps that is why the deadline for submission of local authority plans to the BDUK was brought forward to the end of February 2012, originally it was set for April 2012.
It should be noted that some BDUK plans already have talked of using 4G mobile broadband to provide infill for areas where fibre solutions are not cost effective, and Suffolk went further wanting blanket 4G coverage of the county as part of its plan. Of the alternatives for people living in this final 10% where the BDUK money is inadequate to provide even the more basic FTTC solution, wireless either fixed or mobile is perhaps the most future proofed, and others reasonable downstream, upstream speeds and decent latency.
There is the £20m rural broadband fund, but if that is divided out and handled piecemeal it will not go far, and may just end being used to subsidies KA-band satellite services, which while they provide a solution are well above what most people are willing to for each GB of usage, and also exclude one big success story in the UK economy, the gaming industry.
Some may take comments like those made today as a death knell for the broadband for all by 2015 target, but with some positive direction and some actions to reduce the risk to private investors may re-introduce tough competition and drive innovation, rather than the approach that we seem to have of patch and make do so that the May 2015 target is met if one uses the right metrics. The worst thing that can happen is if every one gives up and rolls over, thus allowing whatever forms the path of least resistance to roll-out a patchy mediocre solution.