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Ed Vaizey suggests USO will be more than a piddling 5 Mbps
Tuesday 13 October 2015 12:12:28 by Andrew Ferguson

The current Universal Service Obligation for Internet access only requires BT and KC to supply a connection capable of supporting 0.028 Mbps connections and in the first Budget of 2015 a USO was mooted and Ofcom is working towards this with figures of 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps being thrown around. Monday 12th October saw broadband courtesy of Matt Warman MP secure an important debate that had over 40 MPs raising concerns over the roll-out of superfast broadband and what was going to happen to the final 5% who look set to have to wait until 2017 and beyond for any major improvements.

"It is no secret that we are looking at a universal service obligation, and we will not be tied to some piddling European target of 5 megabits. No, when we look at a universal service obligation we will look at a British universal service obligation to deliver the kind of British broadband speeds that British citizens and businesses require. Over the last four years we have delivered that to more than 3 million homes and businesses, and we are fast approaching 4 million. We are hitting our targets time and again. We may not be able to beat the Australians at Twickenham, but when it comes to broadband we beat them hands down!"

Ed Vaizey MP - Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy

The debate ran for some three hours and provided a snapshot of the correspondence that MPs have been receiving and while we can argue about the technology used the fairest summary is that people want something faster now and if they have to wait they want to know when something better than what they have now will be delivered. Interestingly some examples of badly served business parks were mentioned, but the time lag due to people contacting their MP and debates like this not happening every day meant that in some cases the superfast roll-out had beaten the debate to the game; thus highlighting the need for people to check what is and is not available to them and to check with several retailers as some may not operate in all areas particularly as many providers do not take a pro-active stance in letting people know about faster options.

The closing minutes of the debate produced the most interesting snippet in that the Government is not looking at just a 5 Mbps but is considering something with higher speeds, exactly what speed remains to be seen and more importantly how will this operate as since the original dial-up USO there is now many more operators in place and the obligations if placed with just Openreach (outside the Hull area) it would potentially green light more over building with rural competitors than is already alleged to take place.

The pace of the roll-out appears to be such that the claim of fast approaching 4 million coverage is on track, as since May 2015 when the 2.5 million premises passed by superfast broadband availability was reached a further 1.2 to 1.3 million premises have been added to the roll-out. The extra 1.2m premises is based on our own tracking and excludes premises we believe would not receive a service at 30 Mbps or faster.


Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
10mbps has always struck me as a reasonable speed for essential domestic use. Yes, it won't allow 4K streaming and so on, but as this will require some sort of subsidisation, then I'd say it's a reasonable USO target.

What Ofcom now need to do is establish some sort of mechanism by which the market can finance it internally as I think there are other calls on public money. Either split the market into market A/B type areas for broadband and charge differential rates or some sort of modest levy on BB connections.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi TheEuler.
I think Surrey tried to drop there 15 meg target to 10 meg so to get in the 99.7% but was turned down.
Posted by Michael_Chare about 1 year ago
So would BT have to meet some USO target in areas where there is a competitive service which does meet the target?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
That is the more complex question now, e.g. in areas where Gigaclear is rolled out do they have the Broadband USO for that area or does BT.
Posted by craski about 1 year ago
This hit the nail on the head for me ...
"the fairest summary is that people want something faster now and if they have to wait they want to know when something better than what they have now will be delivered".

Being told nothing other than "Exploring Solutions" for years is so very frustrating. It suggests to me there is NO plan.

I would welcome a speed increase of anything more than my current "piddling" 2.5Mbps service but fear any new USO will simply be met by offering a crappy satellite connection voucher. Its not all about the headline download speed.

Posted by AndrueC about 1 year ago
Good point about satellite solutions. Perhaps the USO should also mention latency. And while we're heading into fantasy land I wonder if they could sneak in some kind of peak throughput figure?

But the USO will have to be carefully worded to protect the Altnets.
Posted by craski about 1 year ago
With the complex distribution of Alt Net providers and BT it is very hard to see how a broadband USO could be imposed on any one provider. It will no doubt end up being a government sponsored scheme which IMHO is pretty much guaranteed to be satellite as it is currently the only platform that can be deployed anywhere in the UK at a known cost and provide (at times) the rumored download speeds. Its got cop out written all over it!
Posted by themanstan about 1 year ago
Not protect, but not unfairly bias against... protection of altnets (Telewest/NTL/VM) resulted in the situation we are in now where the incumbent started rolling out fibre almost a decade after everyone else...
Posted by mikejp about 1 year ago
Grief! Can he say 'piddling'?? Makes 'Jeremy *unt' seem far less bad :-)
Posted by godsell4 about 1 year ago
I thought the EU 2020 target was for 'all citizens' to have 30Mb connections by 2020?

Is going to come out and state how that target will be reached?
Posted by AndrueC about 1 year ago
"Is going to come out and state how that target will be reached?"

No, but they'll probably set up a comittee to discuss the issue and come with possible ways it might be achieved. That's usually how it goes.
Posted by mikejp about 1 year ago
If I may keep 'piddling'? is Mr V hallucinating?

Re godsell4 - Where did Mr V's '5Mbps' USO come from? Why no mention of the EU USO of 30Mbps by 2020 referred to by g4? I thought Mr V was shooting for a 2Mbps USO anyway, not 5?
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The EU targets have been relegated to "nice to have" goals, since the EU budget cuts took away something like 8bn euros.

That means the EU has really been removed from the list of do-ers and pushed back into the role of mere observers. It has been left to national governments to do what they see fit.

For us, that looks like satellite will take a role - for covering "basic white" areas and, later, "NGA white" areas.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
Interesting presentation from Avanti:

Two new Hylas satellites in 2017.

And an interesting proposal on LEO satellites, with launches in 2017-2019.

30ms latency reported there. 900 satellites!
Posted by mikejp about 1 year ago
So, the question still remains - which speechwriter fed him a (piddling) '5Mbps' target and why?
Posted by craski about 1 year ago
LEO Satellite certainly appears to be a potential solution for a lot of people but I'm sceptical they can get the vast number of satellites in their system operational in ~2 to 4 years. I would however loved to be proved wrong on that.

O3b's Medium Earth Orbit looks considerably better than Geostationary systems too. Not as low latency at LEO but still way quicker than Geo and far less satellites required in orbit to achieve coverage.
Posted by Saurus about 1 year ago
@TheEulerID "...Either split the market into market A/B type areas for broadband and charge differential rates or some sort of modest levy on BB connections."
I think you will find this is already the case, I pay £17+ for an up to 8meg connection yet if I lived in Ipswich/Norwich e.g. at my previous address in Norwich I can get a much faster service at a significantly lower price with the same ISP.
Posted by themanstan about 1 year ago
I think he means return to full monopoly, no wholesale so time on ROI infrastructure roll-out is more reasonable.
Posted by Septuagent about 1 year ago
I do not know exactly what is meant by premises. ONS says that there were 26.7 million households in 2014. 4 million "premises", which presumably includes offices and non "household" places, seems to me to be a pretty poor figure and in dire need of substantial increase, and that right soon.
Posted by MobiusPizza about 1 year ago
One think the government can do to help people and potential save a lot of time and money is if they require all new homes to be equipped for FTTC/P that is paid for by the housing developer, who earn thousand time more profit per development than the cost of upgrading the local cabinet any way.

I live in a new build of 300 homes and the broadband speed here is <3Mbps, that is right within Coventry city urban area with the exchange enabled for FTTC. The new cabinet they put up to serve the new estate is not FTTC enabled, and as such result in a broad band not-spot anti-oasis!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@Septuagent the four million is for just those delivered by the BDUK process and not the almost 20 million premises delivered via the commercial roll-outs.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
The makeup of the UK rollout:

That's nearly 22m premises done commercially (between BT and VM), 4m due to be done by BDUK phase 1, another 1m+ to be done by BDUK phase 2.

BT's recent re-evaluation of takeup might add another 250,000 premises to the total. VM's project lightning might catch some extra areas too.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago

Though you'd think prospective buyers would check before they handed over the cash ... buyers that walk away would incentivise the developers.
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