Broadband News

Ofcom proposes BT and KCOM as USO providers

The latest news on the broadband universal service obligation from Ofcom is that a consultation is running until 13th February 2019 so those who object to the proposal that BT holds the USO outside of Hull and KCom within Hull have until then to make their case for Ofcom to change its mind.

For those who have forget what the broadband USO is, it is a legal obligation to provider a minimum 10 Mbps download connection with 1 Mbps upload connection speed at a reasonable price, relatively low latency and support a level of usage of 100GB per month. The USO will not be a roll-out like the previous BDUK, FTTC or FTTP roll-outs but be something that you have to request, i.e. you will need to exercise your legal right. The technology for the delivery of the service will vary, it could be 4G service, extra VDSL2 cabinets or a lucky few might see FTTP rolled out.

The broadband USO is meant to be up and running in 2020.

The decision on assigning the obligation to the two encumbents was based on three criteria:

  1. Can they finance the delivery of the service?
  2. Would they cover more than 5,000 eligible premises in each chosen local authority?
  3. Would their proposed technology meet the technical specification?

Apparently BT, KCOM and Hyperoptic satified these criteria but Hyperoptic withdrew its interest in the USO. Others such as Airband, Bentley Walker, Broadway Partners, Quickline and Viasat apparently did not meet all the criteria. Some of the names are best known as satellite broadband services and until low earth orbit satellites are available, the standard geo-stationary services fail the latency criteria.

The Broadband Universal Service Obligation still has a long way to go, particularly how people will show that a service provider present in an area is not able to deliver a 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up service i.e. we are thinking about areas where a fixed wireless service is nominally available but due to geography or things like trees, service is not available for a specific property. Other issues may arise when Openreach claims speeds of over 10 Mbps are available via FTTC but once people connect equipment the best connection speed is 9.8 Mbps, or worse starts out at 11 Mbps but drops due to DLM intervention to a more stable 9 Mbps after a period of time. More complex is the issue of ADSL2+ which when close to the exchange clearly can deliver the download speeds, but upload sync speeds are more complex we would like to see Ofcom declare that standard ADSL2+ services are not USO compliant.

The USO 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up are meant to be minimums, rather than target up to speeds, so the hope is that many will get services delivered via the USO that are significantly faster the basic 10/1.

If a service such as a fixed wireless service is already available to someone where the speeds, latency and allowances meet the criteria you will not be able to invoke the broadband USO, this should in theory stop fixed wireless providers being overbuilt by BT using the industry levy fund.


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