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Move along nothing new to see on Government Ultrafast targets
Saturday 11 July 2015 22:03:59 by Andrew Ferguson

While the Summer 2015 Budget was a bit of a non starter in terms of broadband infrastructure a new HM Treasury document suggests a lot with its 'Fixing The Foundations' title, but a read of the index page alone which shows the 77 pages cover digital economy, tax, universities and the Northern Powerhouse should tell everyone that any single area is only going to get minimal mention.

"Productivity is the challenge of our time. It is what makes nations stronger, and families richer. Growth comes either from more employment, or higher productivity. We have been exceptionally successful in recent times in growing employment. We are proud of that. But now in the work we do across government we need to focus on world-beating productivity, to drive the next phase of our growth and raise living standards."

Extract from HM Treasury paper foreword

The specifics of broadband are that the 90% superfast target gets no mention, with the 95% target being the main mention, a key thing is that it is says 'ensure superfast broadband (at least 24Mbps) is available to 95% of UK households and businesses by 2017;'. We are expecting the UK to hit 90% in Dec 2015 or January 2016, so hitting 95% before the start of 2017 would be surprising.

We had really hoped the Budget would expand on previously announced USO intentions or the ultrafast help for broadband providers, but be prepared to be disappointed, while there is talk of near universal 4G and ultrafast broadband there is almost no substance. While dissapointing it should be pointed out this is very similar to the situation exactly 5 years ago when the original superfast targets were being talked about and so it may be that if the political machine follows the same pattern we will see ultrafast projects starting in 2017 to 2018. In theory commercial coverage due to expansion plans from Virgin Media, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear should mean we have ultrafast available to two thirds of premises by then, i.e. exactly same scenario as superfast went through.

"7: World-class digital infrastructure in every part of the UK

Our digital infrastructure is improving fast, but there are still too many businesses hampered by slow connections, and households who cannot play their full part in the digital economy. The government will:

  • ensure superfast broadband (at least 24Mbps) is available to 95% of UK households and businesses by 2017; the government’s superfast broadband programme is passing an additional 40,000 premises every week
  • support the market to deliver near universal 4G and ultrafast (at least 100Mbps) broadband coverage
  • make it easier for the market to roll out the fixed and mobile infrastructure the UK needs, including through proposals to reform planning rules on taller mobile masts
HM Treasury on broadband

In terms of the FTTH/FTTP future for the UK, as things stand around 1% of UK premises have access to Openreach native FTTP and Hyperoptic is close to covering 0.5% of UK premises. KC in Hull contribute around 45,000 premises and then Gigaclear with a good few thousand premises is the next largest. The unknown quantity that may be the game changer is CityFibre and the Sky/TalkTalk joint venture if that can go from zero to 20,000 premises passed in York in 2015 and then expand further we might see the commercial appetite for FTTH pick up.

The policy question is really will simpler red tape and planning be enough to stimulate firms, or will the key driver be an attempt to gain larger shares of the pay TV market by Sky and TalkTalk. Sky is already dominate in the pay TV market, but by being involved in FTTH it ensures that if satellite TV does start to fade they will be in a good position still. The Virgin Media cable expansion plans have the investment underwritten by the UK Government, will others now be able to get the same advantages and how far will they go and what will the Government believe to be a near universal coverage amount.

Update Tuesday 14th July KC has been in touch with an updated coverage figure for their Lightstream product of 45,000 premises passed. We are now just waiting on a set of postcode data so we can update our availability tracking.


Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
Policies to promote "ultra-fast" by network providers is one thing (and the way Ofcom regulates the market doesn't help; there's really little incentive to invest lots of money), but I think we can (rightly) forget large dollops of public money.

In that there is money available, it should surely be spent on filling in gaps for functional broadband for social reasons. I doubt there's a national business case for spending public money on universal "ultra-fast".
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Euler.
In Surrey the OMR is planning to do the in filling from the requests from the Customers that are not receiving 15 meg down the list is long and may require extra money from the Goverment I have a feeling that fibre will be used where it is cost effective see report on Ewhurst Web/page and read between the lines.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Whilst the lack of substance might be disappointing, the document makes one thing *very* clear: the government is leaving it to "the market" to do the investment; they have no plans to be spending any money themselves.

I suspect that USO/USC matters will have moved into the remit of Ofcom's latest review.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
A figure of 15 mbps as a functionally useful speed has a lot of merit. It's enough for (maybe) two HD channels, although personally I don't see HD is as a social need.

Ad for providing it via a USO, Ofcom seems to have given precisely no thought (at least any published thought) on how it could ever be imposed as there model doesn't really allow any operator to have excess profits to do the required level of cross-subsidisation. The same might be said of policians too of course.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Euler.
Surrey CC is trying to get every customer 500k to be over this 15 meg target with the money that is in the POT where OFcom will be be very contented for the target to be 8 meg. If customers require above this speed it is up to them to pay for Fibre on Demand and not to be Subserdised by the Tax payer.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
So Surrey has a contract that states 100% of Surrey premises WILL be over 15 Mbps?
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
Trying isn't the same thing as a commitment.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
If there is no commercial company that a USO can be foisted onto, is it better to direct future USO's as a social need, to be governed by an LA?

If so, then Surrey is probably the LA that is currently closest to being in a position to say how that might work - in a real practical sense.
Posted by Dixinormous about 1 year ago
I'm sure the 63 million of us resident in the UK who don't live in Surrey are deeply concerned by the minutae of the Surrey BDUK deployment.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
The USO most off the time is in the hands of the customer to which service they order and not controlled by any other department (LA).
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
@blackmamba - please post a link where a customer can order a service capped at below 2Mbps (or even 5Mbps if you consider that the USO)?
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Gerarda
I am refering to customers that have a service that is below 2Meg ( Goverment target USO) when a higher service is available on the post code. The 5 meg target I think is for Spain not for UK yet . When you have customers stating they are only getting 2 meg when very close to a Cab or the Exchange you have a problem for BTs image when it is not there service provided.
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