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Broadband campaigners in the House of Lords
Monday 24 March 2014 15:14:15 by Andrew Ferguson

Digital Business First is to host its second annual presentation at the House of Lords as it calls for a better fixed and mobile broadband plan for the UK. The short summary of what they feel should be in the UK broadband plan is:

"The ‘What next?’ part of the paper is a demand for a National Broadband Plan (NBP) to truly deliver world-class broadband to the UK. The NBP is outlined in the document and has clear deliverables including:

  • Universal provision of 100Mbps, rolling out from 2017.
  • Regulatory review.
  • All future spectrum consultations and release to be made on the basis of meeting NBP requirements.
  • Minimum coverage for 4G at 98% of population with a universal signal strength of 10Mbps speed to the subscriber and making ‘5G’ a strategic priority for the UK."
Digital Business First, crusaders for better broadband across the UK

The report is very much a summary of what has been done in the UK, along with the perceived mistakes and how other countries around the world are doing better e.g. by 2017 South Korea is planning to have 1 Gbps coverage to 90% of the population, which may surprise some who thought the country was fully fibred up already. There is also the French plan which is aiming for 100 Mbps coverage for all by 2023, and has many more billions assigned to it.

If we were to try and summarise up the current UK situation, for the level of investment and the size of intervention area we are getting basically what the Government was willing to invest. Under the previous Labour Government the sums of money to be spent were looking not dissimilar to what the current coalition wanted to spend.

The big question really is whether the message of doom over the VDSL2 roll-out in rural areas which is described as having a 'target of 24 Mbps' which to many people will sound like the maximum speed and whether having a guaranteed connection speed of 100 Mbps actually means a better return for the economy as a whole.

"After £1 billion of taxpayer money has been spent by BT (implementing government policy), the ‘have nots’, if they are lucky, may have 24Mbps (possibly more, possibly less), if unlucky 2 Mbps, via the BT/Openreach network. They may or may not eventually have some 4G mobile coverage (which is likely to replicate the UK’s poor mobile voice/3G connectivity coverage)."

While we have never said that the VDSL2 services will bring superfast speeds to everyone, the situation is generally a lot better than the pessimism we see from some quarters. One cannot but wonder if sometimes the criticism of the technologies being deployed is not being clouded by a dislike of characters involved in the projects or a dislike of the large PLC that is BT.

Hopefully the presentation to the House of Lords will be able to deliver some positive news, rather than the all too common headline grabbing negative news. What we would say is that if the political will is not there to commit to similar levels of investment of €15 billion or more like France and Germany then what those in power need to do is encourage outside investment and in such a way that it just does not result in more competition and choice in the more lucrative urban areas.

If our aim is to beat South Korea which is the totem that many seek to judge the UK by, then we would do to remember that their investment programme that has brought their broadband connectivity to where it is now was started in the 1990's, a vision for a digital economy upgrade on that scale has never been on the cards for the UK.


Posted by mdar5 over 3 years ago

I'll bet Korea does not spend vast amounts of government money on general welfare, the NHS, income support, child support and various other government assistance programs that the UK Gov' does.

So it probably has a bit more money to spend on BB infrastructure.
Posted by chilting over 3 years ago
BT are installing FTTC in our area at the moment. When completed it looks like it will give most of us decent broadband but not many of us superfast broadband. Our best hope of getting a superfast service seems to be technological improvements such as vectoring. FTTP is just a pipe dream for most of us in rural West Sussex. Demand is low and the problems that BT have with ducting simply make it unfeasible.
Posted by TheEulerID over 3 years ago
South Korea does have, by some considerable margin, the lowest state expenditure as a proportion of GDP (although it's on an upward trend). However, I suspect the real reason is that South Korea has a much bigger tech sector than does the UK.
Posted by ahockings over 3 years ago
It's pretty negative here. My cab is enabled (Totnes, Devon) but I'm 5200 Metres from it so BT say I can't have it and even if I could it would be about 5 Meg at most.
I run an IT business and need the fastest speed I can get (50-100Meg would be nice). I get 1.7Mbps ADSL2!!
I often would like to upload 50GB of data. It's a nightmare. My business would be transformed with a super fast connection.
The final 5-10% should be prioritised. people who already have 25-70 Meg can be upgraded later.
It's creating a huge divide!
Posted by EnglishRob over 3 years ago
@ahockings, one of my work sites is in Littlehempston, we're in a similar boat, we're lucky to get about 3 Meg, no sign of the cabinet being enabled for a while :-(
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Also need to remember that South Korea now has 60% in flats (having 1% only 40 years ago), while we have 18%.

Rather easier to get FTTB coverage into flats than FTTP into separate houses.

It also implies that SK has rebuilt most of its housing stock in those 40 years - making it more likely to have decent ducted comms infrastructure in the streets too.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
Which "people who already have 25-70 Meg" had it before being upgraded?
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
If you need it for your business why not look at bonded solutions or fibre on demand?
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago

If there is clearly no long term solution available then your business plan should be revised to include a relocation to where appropriate infrastructure is available.

"If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain."
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Let's not forget that there is a "final 10%" equivalent in rural South Korea too, not everyone lives in those big apartment blocks in cities.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
"If you need it for your business why not look at bonded solutions or fibre on demand?"

What a stupid suggestion! Shows you have no business sense! FoD is a dead product, so is line bonding. If we were to have a decent landline connection, we'd need 10 to 15 copper wires bonded, in most rural areas you'd be lucky to have one spare copper wire at all!

For many small businesses, moving premises often makes more sense than FoD or leased lines.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Actually I make sure I have the facilities I need at my location. It's a simple calculation to determine whether the cost of acquiring say fibre on demand outweighs moving premises or vice versa.

Of course many people completely underestimate the cost of moving premises, which can be significant. But no doubt you know that already with your extensive business experience.
Posted by FTTH over 3 years ago
You don't have to be Rural to have awful Broadband. Many towns are equally bad. You can't be suggesting we all create Ghost towns?

As for South Korea, they started their Broadband initiative over 17 Years ago. They have investment not just in the network but also R&D into Photonics etc, it's still happening.

Korea supports not just Big companies like LG, Samsung etc they also support smaller companies with grants and incentive to develop new technologies. It's not all about politicians and shareholders.
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Actually it was @JNeuhoff that suggested relocating.

As for South Korea, FTTB has delivered good speeds in urban areas, although nothing beyond the scope of FTTC when you look at actual speeds at the individual apartment level. I don't believe the picture is that great in rural areas.
Posted by JNeuhoff over 3 years ago
FTTB: New_Londoner has no proper knowledge when it comes to broadband solutions, he has been praising BTs copper VDSL on various forums for ages, and to this very day believes that fibre broadband can't be financed without taxpayer's money like BDUK or other dubious gap-funding schemes.
Posted by Gadget over 3 years ago
I think everyone would welcome a workable and funded solution to roll out fibre everywhere. Currently I've not seen one on the table.
I'm sure there were other schemes for fibre broadband but BDUK and gap-funding is what the people who are putting tax-payers money in have chosen. Not to say it couldn't change for the final percent, and if you have a good alternative I'm sure the Government would consider it.
Posted by WWWombat over 3 years ago
If fibre broadband (of any variety) could be funded "without taxpayer's money like BDUK" where were the companies willing to do so when the various open market reviews were carried out?

If those companies had poked their heads up and said something, then the BDUK funds wouldn't (indeed couldn't) have been spent. No matter how flawed the BDUK procurement might have been, it wouldn't apply at all if the commercial investment would have been there.

So where was it?
Posted by New_Londoner over 3 years ago
Quote "and to this very day believes that fibre broadband can't be financed without taxpayer's money like BDUK or other dubious gap-funding schemes."

Sources? Don't believe I've ever said that.

Remember it was the government that proposed the BDUK scheme to deliver fibre broadband where the market had no intention of delivering it anytime soon. As you disagree with the scheme, what would you have done instead?
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