Investing in the Future?
Is this something UK PLC should be doing? Or should the UK remain a country playing catch up in technology terms for the next ten to twenty years.
BBC News Online has an interesting interview with Martin Thurman, CEO of PacketFront. That company is involved in the cutting edge of broadband rollout in Sweden by installing fibre access direct to homes. Note this is actual deployment to residential users not research parks or similar. Obviously as someone deeply involved in the Fibre Optic business they are very likely to push its benefits, but Sweden is a good example of what can be achieved.
What has been most telling from this article is some of the comments from UK sources, for example "Broadband is a process and we need to think about the here and now. Fibre networks could be the big thing in ten years time but if we invested millions in it and it wasn't then that would not be a good idea," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry. Unfortunately thinking about the here and now and not five to ten years down the line has left the UK in the position it is now, which is playing catch up to the rest of the G7. As for fibre being a big thing in ten years, British Telecom themselves have invested £5 billion in fibre backbones, lots of other companies have various fibre backbones around the country as well. Fibre technology has been around for some time, just that the costs of upgrading existing areas can be expensive, but installing it at the same time as building a new estate would be relatively inexpensive.
Now is the time for UK PLC to consider what products will be available to the massed public in four to five years, are we to be restricted to 0.5Mbps possibly 2Mbps ADSL. Or do trials start in the next year or two that will look at the next major step up and provide speeds like 10Mbps to residential users. This does not have to be fibre to the doorstep, wireless technologies or VDSL offer this sort of capability, but if none of these are explored then when the rest of the world is enjoying the benefits we will still be in the trial stages.
Plenty of people will say what will home users do with that bandwidth? They will have plenty of company as Jill Finger an analyst at IDC thinks that "Obviously it would depend on what applications were developed but copper will provide sufficient bandwidth in the next few years." This leaves us with the classic chicken and egg situation, why not be speculative and create the technology and let the applications appear. If we followed the path of waiting for applications then we would probably all still be using 9600 baud which works well enough for plain old email.