Next Gen Services - where are the results?
Point Topic has published a new report that attempts to coin the phrase 'Superband' to refer to the Next Generation Broadband services that are appearing across the UK. The report suggests that broadband at 25Mbps and faster will be available to 2 million homes by the end of 2010 - though they are ignoring the DOCSIS 3.0 fibre/coax hybrid network from Virgin Media in this figure, which gives the option of 50Meg to around 45% of UK households now.
The two million households covers around 30 projects such as BT and other alternate network projects, though the issue with pretty much all of these is that so few people are connected to any of these projects. The current numbers will make a lot of people laugh, estimates suggest that these 30 projects had about 3000 lines actually connected at the end of 2009, with BT accounting for 1250 of these.
In short fibre roll-outs are happening, but the actual situation is not unlike that of 1998/1999 when BT was running a very small trial of ADSL that meant only a handful of people had the service. Some of the fibre projects mentioned by Point Topic are Independent Fibre Networks in Corby, Swindon and Andover, IsRightHere in Liverpool and Chelsea and Velocity1 in Wembley. H2O Fibrecity is fibering up Bournemouth with Dundee next on the list.
H2O Networks is a classic example, as we see reports from people in the area of work progressing, and we believe homes are connected, but as yet no positive sign of anyone with Internet access. Last we heard in 2009 was that a retail Internet Service Provider had been signed up, but H2O was unable to say who it was.
Things in theory are set to accelerate. Digital Region in South Yorkshire should have a good chunk of its 600,000 homes connected by 2011, and the BT FTTC wholesale product will be available to around 1.5 million homes by then. While this looks like good progress, if we compare this to Sweden 38% (1.2 million lines) of Swedish broadband connections are over fibre, so we are behind the leading edge.
While not purely a superband issue, adoption of BT Wholesale's WBC product range does seem slow amongst broadband providers, possibly because apart from BT Retail, all the big providers have their own LLU network already offering ADSL2+ in the same areas and the investment needed both in terms of switching networks and training support staff means that many small and medium sized providers are perhaps reluctant to rush into the product. The adoption of WBC is critical to making sure that the Openreach FTTC products are widely available, and the LLU operators who in theory can take an uncontended Ethernet handover from Openreach appear too slow to adopt, possibly due to the lack of control of the actual VDSL2 kit in the cabinet and customers home.