Broadband News

Matt Hancock praises Hull for 42% superfast coverage

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 connections and 2 million FTTP by 2020, with more hopefully beyond then, and it will be interesting to see what the public make of 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.


How can a USO of 10Mbps be considered an equality when already more than half have access to speeds more that 10 times that?

  • gerarda
  • over 2 years ago

All depends on what the USO actually delivers, if it is just an up to 10 Mbps product then far from equal. If tech that means affordable options at speeds of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 Mbps are available then equal.

  • andrew
  • thinkbroadband staff
  • over 2 years ago

As I mentioned before...

The ironic thing is that prior to mentioning Hull, Matt went all-in on promotion of "competition" as the saviour of fibre.

So, as well as picking out the area of the UK at the bottom of the SFBB coverage charts, he's also picked the one city in the UK with the least competition present, and the one place with the ability to rely on the margins from the full vertical.

  • WWWombat
  • over 2 years ago

I can see that competition buys us something, but it doesn't seem to be buying us infrastructure in the ground. It barely buys us anything in rural areas.

Perhaps Matt needs to consider offering protection from competition as a carrot instead of using a stick.

I fear Theresa pushed us back a decade with Matt's appointment.

  • WWWombat
  • over 2 years ago

Is it about a comparison with what is available that marks equality? Would it be better to compare to what people actually choose? Or better to choose what people can achieve with it?

  • WWWombat
  • over 2 years ago

"We have set a course to deliver a new broadband Universal Service Obligation by 2020, which will give people the right to broadband of at least 10Mbps. This is the cornerstone of our Digital Economy Bill, currently making its way through Parliament."

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP - Minister of State for Digital and Culture - Broadband World Forum

That is a fundamental step in the right direction and will do for the foreseeable.

  • RuralWire
  • over 2 years ago

@wwwombat. I think usability tends to follow the average capability. Try accessing almost any website, or using a modern browser, on the speeds we had back in 2000 for example. Now 10Mpbs is about half the download average which I think is fine - but if that average has increased to say 50Mpbs I think the USO would still do the basics but would give the same sort of digital divide as the current 2Mbps BDUK minimum gives. You can do the basics but you aren't part of the connected society we now live in.

  • gerarda
  • over 2 years ago

I agree that a lot comes down to usability, so I'm happy that Ofcom seem to use their "quality of experience" as an input to setting USO speed.

If usability follows the average, then I guess it is relative to actual/chosen/paid-for packages, rather than "available". I think I'm OK with setting a USO based on that too.

  • WWWombat
  • over 2 years ago

On the "usability" front, I've noticed some interesting changes...

a) in-page "pop-within" adverts that are videos
b) auto-play videos in news stories, with adverts in-stream.

In watching American websites covering their car-crash of an election, these intrusive/intensive interruptions are all over the place.

Our Akamia-measured speeds are similar to the US ... so I wonder if such intrusions will become more the norm in the UK. If so, then the USO is going to start to feel limited.

  • WWWombat
  • over 2 years ago

A lot depends on what is meant by "at least 10MBPs". Does it means "availability of service that is at least "up to 10Mbps" (using current ASA definitions)or does it mean availablity of a service that will reliably (? 99% or 99.99% or 99.9999%)deliver at least 10 Mbps regardless of time of day

  • PhilipVirgo
  • over 2 years ago

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