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UK Liberal Democrats Pledge 30Mbps+ for All by 2022 and 2Gbps+ FTTP

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 (1:13 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,480)
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Yesterday it was the Labour Party (here) and today it’s the turn of the Liberal Democrats to publish their manifesto for the 2017 General Election, which aims to “ensure that every property in the UK” is provided with an unlimited 30Mbps (6Mbps upload) service by 2022 (plus 2Gbps FTTP?).

The headline commitment of 30Mbps appears to almost mirror Labour’s pledge (here and here), except the LibDems have managed to go one further by including a specific mention of both upload speeds and unlimited usage allowances. Recent estimates from both the BSG and Ofcom (here and here) have indicated that such a roll-out might cost up to £1.4bn – £2bn to deliver.

However it’s worth remembering that the Broadband Delivery UK programme already expects similar fixed line superfast service speeds to reach around 97% of premises by 2020. On top of that the manifesto doesn’t specifically say whether their 30Mbps pledge is a legally-binding USO (neither did Labour’s), although they do appear to be hinting at an investment of £2bn and that’s about right for a USO.

6.9 Sustainable rural communities

A thriving rural community needs local services and community facilities such as schools, public transport, local shops, cultural venues and pubs. It needs enough homes, affordable for local families, to ensure those services are viable. Liberal Democrats understand the changes needed to support a living, working countryside. We will:

● Ensure that every property in the UK is provided, by 2022, with a superfast broadband connection with a download speed of 30Mbps, an upload speed of 6Mbps, and an unlimited usage cap.

● Invest £2 billion in innovative solutions to ensure the provision of highspeed broadband across the rural UK, working with local authorities and providing grants to help areas replicate the success of existing communityled projects.

In addition, the party has also listed a number of pledges for supporting future UK technology and business needs, which included the following oddly worded commitment.

The 2Gbps Fibre Pledge

Invest to ensure that broadband connections and services to be provided before 2020 have a speed of 2Gbps or more, with fibre to the premises (FTTP) as standard and unlimited usage by 2020 across the whole of the UK. SMEs should be prioritised in the roll-out of hyperfast broadband.

The language used above is a little difficult to fathom. On the one hand they appear to want 30Mbps for every property by 2022, which is viable in terms of network coverage (albeit not uptake as that’s a complex matter of consumer choice / competition) and they’ve even correctly costed it. On the other hand they expect that everybody should be able to get 2Gbps FTTP “before” 2020? We’re not sure what to make of that.

Perhaps we’ve read it incorrectly but there is no possible way that 2Gbps+ FTTP connections could be made available “across the whole of the UK” before 2020 (we’re only at about 2% today). Perhaps in 10-15 years and with a few tens of billions worth of investment behind the roll-out, but not within 2-3 years.

Separately the Liberal Democrats have also pledged to “roll back state surveillance powers” (Investigatory Powers Act) by “ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records,” which is something that a lot of ISPs, civil rights groups and ordinary internet users will welcome.

In keeping with the above they’ve proposed to introduce a new Digital Bill of Rights that “protects people’s powers over their own information, supports individuals over large corporations, and preserves the neutrality of the internet.”

Political manifestos rarely include enough information for a proper examination (e.g. costings, timescale, technical details) and once again that’s the case here too. At this point it probably goes without saying that you should always take any political pledges, from any party, with a big pinch of salt.

What do you think of the LibDem's broadband policy?

  • I like it (62%, 88 Votes)
  • I don't like it (20%, 28 Votes)
  • Unsure (18%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 142

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18 Responses
  1. Ben

    I think they may be suggesting that any new connections being provisioned should be built with FTTP at a speed of 2Gbps or above, but it’s not particularly clear.

  2. wirelesspacman

    They know darn well that pigs will fly before they ever get back into office and thus they can say what they like with ease!

    The reference to 2 Gbps, as opposed to 1 Gbps or even 10 Gbps, just shows how thick they are.

    • CarlT

      2Gbps can be delivered over GPON, and in places is. They probably took the number from the House of Lords.

      Nearly all the FTTP in the UK is PON of one description or another.

    • wireless pacman

      Fair point Carl. I had forgotten about that inferior GPON rubbish! 😉

    • MikeW

      Haven’t we seen trials with all 3 main PON flavours sharing the same physical PON?

      That gives 40 + 10 + 2.5 = 52.5G as the shared speed of the PON.

      There’s room in there for Openreach to consider 1G symmetric services across the PON, or to allow the Libdems to have 2G services.

  3. Gareth

    Every property in the UK could have had ultra fast internet if they had scrapped that monstrosity that is HS2 that only the privileged that can afford it will be able to use. It’s already estimated at over £50billion and that’s before any overspend or overrun, which will happen.

    Homeworkers will contribute a large amount to the economy in the future as well as freeing up space on the road and cutting pollution. This will only be possible with pure fibre connections, not silly hybrid copper and fibre.

    • CarlT

      I’m not aware of anything a home worker does that requires performance beyond what hybrid solutions can achieve.

      If you can give an application for which this is inadequate please let me know.

      https://www.comhem.se/bredband/bredband-1000

    • wireless pacman

      Easy Carl – the application is generally referred to as “teenager” 🙂

    • Bob2002

      It’s the Lib Dems, so the proposal is worth about as much as a bet on a three legged donkey at the Grand National. 😉

    • Gareth

      CarlT – You’ll notice that I said “in the future”, so although hybrid might be able to cope with present applications, you can’t possibly know what future applications will look like, how much bandwidth they will require etc.

    • CarlT

      Holographic conferencing in 4k could be handled by upcoming hybrid solutions. Full duplex DOCSIS will certainly be able to push a symmetrical gigabit, with capability for more. Coax is good for 3 GHz or more, which can be fun both upstream and downstream simultaneously. Even at relatively low order modulations 24Gb each way is a reasonable yield.

      Not sure what application could use too much more. Either way until the application is at least on the drawing board no driver to retire all hybrid networks.

    • Gareth

      I doubt we will be using 4k in the future. Unless we are talking about the short term future. You could keep investing in technology that will eventually have to be replaced I suppose, but it’s false economy. It would be better to invest now like other countries have done. 20 years from now, the internet we use today will look slower than dial-up did. Look how far we have come in the last 20 years. And we are progressing faster each year.

  4. captain.cretin

    I am launching my own election campaign; if elected I pledge free, fire-breathing cat-sized dragons for everyone (to save on winter heating fuel bills), and a free Unicorn for everyone who gets married while still a virgin.

    I also intend to create so many new Bank Holidays, no one will notice that half the country is unemployed.

    All of this will be paid for by adding a penny to income tax.

  5. Steve Jones

    The reference to 2Gbps as “standard” will, I think, apply in the way building regulations do. That is it will be applicable to new developments and whole new networks and, very probably, state-aided networks. Even then, not all building regulations are fully mandatory as there’s often some wiggle room (fore example, on listed buildings).

    There should be no problem with GPON style networks being able to meet the 2GBps aspiration in that XG-PON1 can already meet it subject to any considerations over contention. XG-PON2 would push that even further. No doubt there will be future developments which push PON networks even further as and when requirements appear. After all, the vast majority of FTTP/FTTB networks in the world are based on GPON, so developments will surely continue. For those that require dedicated FTTP, then a GPON network doesn’t prevent it. It just makes it a premium product assuming there are some spare fibres included in the roll-out.

  6. Steve Jones

    Having scanned the Conservative Manifesto on broadband commitments, then there’s not going to much to write up on that as it says relatively little beyond what’s already happening.

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