Broadband campaigners in the House of Lords
Digital Business First is to host its second annual presentation at the House of Lords as it calls for a better fixed and mobile broadband plan for the UK. The short summary of what they feel should be in the UK broadband plan is:
"The ‘What next?’ part of the paper is a demand for a National Broadband Plan (NBP) to truly deliver world-class broadband to the UK. The NBP is outlined in the document and has clear deliverables including:
- Universal provision of 100Mbps, rolling out from 2017.
- Regulatory review.
- All future spectrum consultations and release to be made on the basis of meeting NBP requirements.
- Minimum coverage for 4G at 98% of population with a universal signal strength of 10Mbps speed to the subscriber and making ‘5G’ a strategic priority for the UK."Digital Business First, crusaders for better broadband across the UK
The report is very much a summary of what has been done in the UK, along with the perceived mistakes and how other countries around the world are doing better e.g. by 2017 South Korea is planning to have 1 Gbps coverage to 90% of the population, which may surprise some who thought the country was fully fibred up already. There is also the French plan which is aiming for 100 Mbps coverage for all by 2023, and has many more billions assigned to it.
If we were to try and summarise up the current UK situation, for the level of investment and the size of intervention area we are getting basically what the Government was willing to invest. Under the previous Labour Government the sums of money to be spent were looking not dissimilar to what the current coalition wanted to spend.
The big question really is whether the message of doom over the VDSL2 roll-out in rural areas which is described as having a 'target of 24 Mbps' which to many people will sound like the maximum speed and whether having a guaranteed connection speed of 100 Mbps actually means a better return for the economy as a whole.
"After £1 billion of taxpayer money has been spent by BT (implementing government policy), the ‘have nots’, if they are lucky, may have 24Mbps (possibly more, possibly less), if unlucky 2 Mbps, via the BT/Openreach network. They may or may not eventually have some 4G mobile coverage (which is likely to replicate the UK’s poor mobile voice/3G connectivity coverage)."
While we have never said that the VDSL2 services will bring superfast speeds to everyone, the situation is generally a lot better than the pessimism we see from some quarters. One cannot but wonder if sometimes the criticism of the technologies being deployed is not being clouded by a dislike of characters involved in the projects or a dislike of the large PLC that is BT.
Hopefully the presentation to the House of Lords will be able to deliver some positive news, rather than the all too common headline grabbing negative news. What we would say is that if the political will is not there to commit to similar levels of investment of €15 billion or more like France and Germany then what those in power need to do is encourage outside investment and in such a way that it just does not result in more competition and choice in the more lucrative urban areas.
If our aim is to beat South Korea which is the totem that many seek to judge the UK by, then we would do to remember that their investment programme that has brought their broadband connectivity to where it is now was started in the 1990's, a vision for a digital economy upgrade on that scale has never been on the cards for the UK.