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Want to shape Digital UK, then respond to a DCMS report
Thursday 06 February 2014 17:42:07 by Andrew Ferguson

Last summer saw a lengthy report emerge from the current Government entitled "Connectivity, Content and Consumers - Britain's digital platform for growth" and while this report mentions connectivity due to the lobbying pressure from various corners the discussion invariably revolved around ensuring a safe Internet for children.

Jump forward seven months and the DCMS is now asking for people or businesses as to what they consider are important issues to ensure that UK infrastructure is capable of being world leading over the next ten to fifteen years.

Consumers, businesses and public bodies have until 28th March 2014 to submit their comments. The original report is actually pretty Spartan in terms of discussion of what may be needed in terms of broadband connection speed, and the BSG research into median and peak demand for bandwidth which has been widely mis-quoted and hotly contested is likely to feature in the interim report published in July 2014. So for those who think that the BSG figures are wrong, here is your chance to make a presentation.

In terms of broadband connectivity, by 2025, the FTTC network will be starting to reach the end of its life (remember roll-out started in 2009) and whether BT opt for (Fibre to the drop point) or a full FTTH roll-out is going to depend on how demand for FTTC pans out in the next couple of years. While almost everyone in the broadband industry sees FTTH/FTTP as the end-game in terms of broadband connectivity, there is the hurdle of convincing the accountants to release the capital to pay for the labour and materials to build the networks.

So rather than just rant and rave in comments, we urge people to put forward sensible arguments for why broadband connectivity needs to grow substantially beyond current projections that give a UK average speed of 23 Mbps in 2015. Given how the UK has stuck to the letter of the EU State Aid rules, we should in theory all have 30 Mbps or faster connections by 2020 (or at least the option to buy one), the option for half of us to have access to a 100 Mbps connection or faster is pretty much reality now, due to the 48% household coverage from Virgin Media and the growing number of FTTH deployments in the UK. The hope of 30 Mbps for all assumes that the 99% with access to superfast in 2018 is just a stepping stone to really pushing into the final 1%, rather than relying on statistics to mask the final few hundred thousand properties.


Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
The first question that comes to my mind is are we discussing a content distribution network for the idiot's lantern, or a national data infrastructure. The report commissioned by the BSG looked rationally at data demands but we seem to end up discussing how many parallel 4K video channels are needed into a household.

The design of a national fixed speed TV / Video network would not necessarily be the same as a national high speed internet access network. See Virgin Media for example.
Posted by michael-scott over 3 years ago
There is only ONE solution! FTTP to every address that has a phone line and WANTS FTTH/FTTP.
Any other system is like saying do you want 230 Volts AC or 115 Volts AC to your property?

The present system is the result of privatising our Telecom utility,i.e.ideological stupidity!

The politics of all our public utilities is both a joke and a disgrace.
Posted by csimon over 3 years ago
@michael-scott: I agree. The focus at the moment appears to be making it available to the vast majority of people who don't want it.
Posted by camieabz over 3 years ago
"we urge people to put forward sensible arguments for why broadband connectivity needs to grow substantially beyond current projections that give a UK average speed of 23 Mbps in 2015."

Personally, I don't believe households need 4K resolution, massive bandwidth and all the rest. I feel that widening the roads and increasing the speed limit won't make the world any more happy or efficient.
Posted by camieabz over 3 years ago

We need to start managing the networks with thought. Caching of things at regional, and local hubs (be it exchanges, or even at cabs) is more efficient. A simple size v demand ratio could decide on what is prioritised.

Additionally, the bloatware of Internet design could be addressed, reducing many sites by 50% or more and creating some tech jobs into the bargain.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Quote "There is only ONE solution! FTTP to every address that has a phone line and WANTS FTTH/FTTP".

Really? You omit to mention why this is true or indeed how it might be paid for! Let's not confuse "wants" with "needs" or indeed "can afford" please. And as for international comparisons, presumably you are up to date on progress with the Australian FTTP network?

Delete FTTP and insert Ferrari in your statement to illustrate why it is so wrong.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
The mad thing is we are dealing here with multiple yet still yesterday's network infrastructures. Fibre should REPLACE, copper, not add to it!
Posted by finaldest over 3 years ago
A national FTTH network for all is needed and legacy technologies are only a short term fix.
The British economy would benefit massively and boost employment. Online productivity is booming and the future high tech industries will need high speed networks to be able to compete.

Data usage is rising at a rapid pace even for home users. 4K/8K is coming and IP tv is rapidly growing.It would be foolish to deny that FTTH is not needed.

How do we pay for it???
1.A broadband tax could be the answer.
2.Private investors.
3.Fully state funded.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
Yes, FTTH is the only way to go. It's common bloody sense. We only need about 20 Billion for god's sake. We are a rich nation with a 1 Trillion Debt. Can't see how another 20 Billion is going to make much difference. Plus once it's done it would immediately start paying back in a big way.
Once the fibres are in the sky is the limit with only the kit at either end limiting speed which is then easy to upgrade.
No more major work would have to be carried out for over 100 years. Think of the savings.
Why can so many people not see this. it's beyond me.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
Well I've sent my email.
Won't make a difference but I did it living in hope!
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Sensible argument in 600 chars?

So, in a 2020 world where we have ubiquitous 30Mbps, and around 60-65% capable of getting 100Mbps, where do we go next? And when?

Most people argue for FTTH, because it is fastest. But it is still too expensive to leap all the way in one go, even from FTTC.

John Cioffi, in an interesting talk last year, argued that we will hit gigabit access speeds by using multiple chunks of 100Mbps; each of these supplied, for example, from a DSL line and a WiFi access point on it. Or 4G.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Devices nowadays, smartphones & tablets, are already capable of dealing with multiple wifi signals intelligently. We are one step away from load-sharing. There is little from putting the same tech into smart TVs, STBs etc.

There is no killer app that requires a single gigabit stream. The killer usage appears to be multiple HD+ video streams across a family. Multiple links can provide this adequately - at least post-2020.

Deutsche telecom are going for hybrid VDSL2 + 4G LTE as a way of sharing two chunks of 100Mbps to total 200Mbps.
Posted by chilting over 3 years ago
Is Vectoring another alternative to FTTP? If copper carries speeds of 100Mbps with vectoring, why install fibre?
Posted by michaels_perry over 3 years ago
With Ofcom looking at closing all Freeview transmitters so TV services at home and while mobile will only be available via the internet is become far more important to fill in the slower areas with decent broadband services at speeds that can only be achieved using fibre or 4G/5G. Current speeds for areas off fibre are not quoted so the 23 Mbps is misleading as those with fibre will get better and those without get far worse service delivery.
Imagine what will happen if TV was only on broadband now?
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Vectoring is not only possible, but kinda assumed to be in widespread deployment by 2020 - to make the 100Mbps more possible.

Swisscom start deploying vectoring in early 2014, in their "FTTS" rollout; they're aiming at getting copper down to 200m length by deploying boxes deeper in the network than their existing FTTC rollout.

200m also brings the possibility of using FTTdp and vectored, with speeds in the 500Mbps - 1Gbps region.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Isn't the second EU objective to have 50% actually subscribed to 100Mbps connection - not just that it is "available"?
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
A total transition to FTTP would be too expensive, however questions should definitely be asked with regards to why BT cut back their commercial deployment of FTTP in favour of a totally non-viable FTTPoD product.

Deutsche Telekom are spending E6bln on vectored VDSL2 and vectoring, with FTTP in 'profitable areas'. Concerning that BT are delivering a fraction of the mooted proportion of FTTP.

Areas with very high take up of FTTC would've been good candidates for FTTP, but BT went for cheaper build rather than higher take up, hence relatively low take up overall so far.
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
Of course, Ofcom could help by allowing BT to retire copper when they provision FTTP to a property. Not being able to do so really harms the business case.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
That 50% "objective" strikes me as really odd given it depends on what us end users decide to buy. Suppose we still have say 60% on slow ADSL connections through choice, is that a failure, and by whom if so?
Posted by gerarda over 3 years ago
@New_Londoner I would not worry about that. The EU will simply change the definitions so that the target is met as the did with the 2013 basic broadband target.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@WWWombat Correct, but with the 'free' upgrades from Virgin Media and the amount of Gigabit growth then again I see no real problem hitting that point.

152 Mbps Virgin in 2014, with 30 Meg minimum. So seeing minimum hitting 100 Mbps in 6 years is not too hard to expect.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
Do OFCOM prevent BT retiring copper when FTTP is installed ? Pricing doesn't encourage it, but is it prevented ?
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
I think the thing making the retirement of copper impossible is the need to make MPF LLU available to Sky et al; this is probably governed by the commitments that BT has made to Ofcom.

I guess the trial at Deddington is meant to bring such issues to the fore.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@herdwick The issues of USO and emergency backup may be an issue add to the costs of FTTP as pure copper replacement.
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
Yes herdwick. Even 'Fibre Only' Deddington's fibre sits alongside the copper loop, and that copper remains available. If a Deddington premises took FTTP then that resident moved the next resident would be able to order ADSL.

The only situations where there is no copper are those where there never was any copper, greenfield FTTP such as Ebbsfleet.
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