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It's good to talk, but better to act
Monday 29 September 2014 19:12:59 by Andrew Ferguson

Talk is cheap in politics and in the last week we have seen one group of people in the Labour Party suggest that the UK should aim for 1 Gbps to everyone with work starting as soon as possible in the next Parliament. Today has seen Sajid Javid talking at the Conservative Party Conference and he pushes the previous ambition from when Jeremy Hunt was Culture Secretary to be best of the major countries in Europe much further wanting the UK to compete with Japan and South Korea in the global digital economy.

"Since 2010, access to Superfast Broadband has doubled and we already have the best broadband coverage of any large European nation. But beating France and Germany is never enough. We need to compete with the likes of Japan and South Korea. So yes, we’re making progress, but there’s still more to do."

Sajid Javid: Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2014

While many are presuming that this means a fibre to the home or Gigabit future for everyone, it is worth highlighting that the Culture Minister did not actually say that. Competition is not just about who can wave around the fastest speed test result, but also about whether every last corner can get sufficient speed to trade in a digital economy and many other factors. Pushing 100 Mbps downloads to 100% of UK homes and businesses in the term of the next Parliament might be enough, to win the speed crown once you look at average speeds.

The Labour Party comments about broadband were more specific about the 1 Gbps, but the largest caveat is that the paper has not been adopted as party policy and even today's is not formal party policy for the Conservatives. All too often people remember what they want to hear, rather than what was said at the time.

Going head to head in a Gigabit race with South Korea would be interesting to witness given the head start that country has, and it might involve destroying the nascent FTTH/FTTB industry in the UK, since mandated access could simply be creating regional monopolies that mean any chance of value for money from existing superfast spending is wasted. The alternate view is that the BT Group may see this as a chance to sell G.FAST and/or FTTH (depending on the economics of each distribution point), and that would be an unpopular choice for many campaigners. If a policy does arrive after the 2015 General Election meaning the broadband arms race is ramped up, then firms like CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media who are all in the FTTH game to varying extents will be sure to have a lot to say.

At the end of the day ambitions and dreams are great, but forgive us for not getting too excited about the potential for a big leap in speeds just yet.


Posted by Spud2003 over 2 years ago
As someone famously said (OK, I added the "Woohoo") -

"First they ignore gigabit speeds, then they laugh at gigabit speeds, then they fight gigabit speeds, then you have gigabit Internet installed. Woohoo!!"
Posted by ValueforMoney over 2 years ago
There is much he can do;
FTTC will come in at £1.5bn less than the £5bn BSG/Analysis Mason estimated in 2008.
Planning for fibre access at new sites is an easy win.
Tweaking cost recovery - From £87pa x 25 years - it should not be over taxing to use £500 of that to replace our lines where fibre already exists deep on the customer side of the exchanges.
Allowing LA to invest in duct where BT has failed to maintain its own should not be too difficult.
Enhanced PIA will be difficult to refuse given the level of state funding compared to what BT has in fact invested.

Posted by Blackmamba over 2 years ago
Hi Broadband Watchers not wombat.
Openreach has maintained its ducting but has not been pushed to provide fibre because of restrictions from Ofcom so to give a chance for the other providers 500 plus.
Eg ex Cable and Wireless and others .
Posted by WWWombat over 2 years ago
Glad that one wasn't for me to decipher!
Posted by fastman over 2 years ago
developers have option to deploy fibre or not (at developer disrection) there a anumber of developers where copper has been deployed and no fibre and that is continuing .(all that gets you is a new copper cab and no fibre)
Posted by Blackmamba over 2 years ago
I would have thought that developers would have provided sub duct that could have taken fibre or copper to the services in the footpaths as the same as water.
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