Matt Hancock MP who recently replaced Ed Vaizey MP as the Minister of State for Digital and Culture delivered a keynote address at the Broadband World Forum conference today and while up beat about the 91% superfast coverage the UK has was very much putting both feet in the pure fibre is the future camp.
A pure fibre future (i.e. FTTH and FTTP) is something that almost no-one denies, the difference is the journey in how you get there, a new operator with no existing legacy network will always opt for a pure fibre roll-out, some smaller existing operators such as KCom have opted for a FTTH heavy roll-out too, but the BT Group opted for a mixed-fibre approach mainly because of the rapid pace of roll-out this could achieve and it is worth noting that even this roll-out is not fast enough based on the complaints about lack of coverage that outnumber the number of complaints about how VSDL2 performs. Even in BT a pure fibre future is seen as the eventual goal, but pace of roll-outs and costs mean that a path has been adopted that is getting there in incremental stages.
"And the future is fibre.
Interim technologies, yes. Part fibre, great. Satellites, sure, where necessary.
But around the world the evidence increasingly points to fibre roll out as the underpinning of a digital nation.
To those who say it’s been tried and failed, I say go to Hull.
It’s the one part of the country not covered by BT, and full fibre is now available to over half its businesses and homes. I’d like to give praise to Hull’s KCOM, who just last week announced that 25,000 more homes and businesses are to be connected to their full fibre service within the next six months. Between May this year and the end of the next they will have doubled the number of premises that can get full fibre. All this without Government subsidy.
But there is a clear role for Government, and we intend to play it:
In setting the structure. And I am clear that we want a market structure that delivers fibre as widely as possible.
In experimentation and testing.
In reducing the costs.
And above all in leadership, in setting the ambition. In some cases even in stating the obvious.
And believe you me: we will ensure Britain gets connected.Extract of Matt Hancock MP speech to Broadband World Forum
Picking Hull is interesting as while as a local authority it has the highest proportion of FTTH in the UK (41.9% based on our tracking of KCom roll-out), the constituencies comprising the Hull and East Riding area are stuck at the bottom of the league table for superfast coverage alongside areas such as the remote Western Isles. It raises the question where BT would have had a smooth ride with Government and the regulator if it had gone for a pure FTTP roll-out starting in 2009, at #BBWF their speakers suggested that coverage would be about half and costs at least double what has been spent so far.
The existing commercial and BDUK led roll-out of partial fibre solutions is almost communist in its approach, since if the USO and further roll-outs do deliver it will be a case of having given almost everyone something superfast i.e. an equality will exist.
Openreach is planning 10 million G.fast connections and 2 million FTTP by 2020, with more hopefully beyond then, and it will be interesting to see what the public make of G.fast and the demand level for upgrading from VDSL2.
For the minister on the problem he had with his Wi-Fi at the weekend, we hate to point out that if this was a Wi-Fi issue, i.e. a computer connected by Ethernet was still working then the problem would be identical no matter what actual connection delivery method was used. Also locating Wi-Fi hardware under a desk is not ideal due to clutter, best to be higher up and above the height of the humans inhabiting a dwelling.
So yes no denying the UK has around 2% of pure fibre (1.86% we believe) but with ultrafast connectivity at 100 Mbps and faster available to 50.96% of premises and superfast over 24 Mbps to 91.7% (superfast 30 Mbps and faster 91.08%) then things are a long way from a disaster. For those with no superfast option it is still a disaster, but perhaps the question should be are those with no improvements planned yet ready to wait a few years longer for a pure fibre solution?, or will any technology suffice so long as HD video streaming and online gaming work and no usage limits so long as it can be delivered before 2020.
So by all means sweat the copper if it gets something adequate to lots of people very quickly, but in doing so do not do anything that will stop a pure fibre future from being possible.