Political speeches with ambitions and visions are great and while not every promise by politicians seeking election becomes reality it is good to see broadband appearing in the latest speech from Jeremy Corbyn as part of his Labour leadership contest. A copy of the speech and the pledges is over at uk.businessinsider.com.
That’s why we have announced a National Investment Bank to help channel £500 billion of investment over the next decade …
We’ll invest in housing … to secure homes for people
We will invest in the high speed broadband businesses need … and stop languishing behind Bulgaria and Romania
We will invest in renewable energy … to transition to a low carbon economy and keep the lights onLabour Leader Jeremy Corbyn MP
The National Investment Bank (NIB) with £500 billion available for infrastructure projects is not a new idea it was mooted before in July 2016 and the phrasing around the broadband element is a bit worrying. Why worrying? Well generally high speed broadband is considered below superfast broadband, or put another way we know of at least one hotel that has promised high speed broadband since 1998 for visitors, i.e. without some qualifying technical figures it is largely meaningless. The EU, which we are in the slow process of now leaving, already has a European Investment Bank and recently we covered how Hyperoptic was benefiting from that arrangement, so a new NIB would be a replacement we presume operating on similar lines.
Broadband for business that is better than Bulgaria and Romania sounds like a perfect idea as everyone in the old Eastern Bloc has full FTTP, but a look at the EU Digital Market site suggests that Romania is aiming for 80% coverage at 30 Mbps or faster for 2020 (the FTTP coverage level at 58% is clearly many times higher than the UK, but there is a lot smaller DOCSIS footprint). Looking at Bulgaria they appear to be aiming for 100% NGA coverage and this is set to mean 50% have access to 100 Mbps and 80% of businesses can get connections exceeding 100 Mbps. Bulgaria while having lots more FTTP at 28% versus the 1.7% in the UK, has no VDSL2 but a high level of DOCSIS cable at 61% at the end of 2014.
Given existing plans and direction we are seeing broadband coverage move in the UK, one can only assume that the speech writer really meant to say we will invest in more Fibre to the Premises to catch up with other European countries. Though this raises important questions over what can you NOT DO with a 300 Mbps DOCSIS or G.fast connection that you cannot do with a similar speed Fibre to the Premises service? We should say we would love to report on UK FTTP coverage rising a lot more rapidly than it is, but beyond lots of talking very few are putting the money where it matters so that in the next five to ten years we can catch up and surpass other countries.