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PM David Cameron Reiterates UK Governments Broadband Commitments

Tuesday, Mar 20th, 2012 (8:15 am) - Score 656

The UK Prime Minster (PM), David Cameron, has laid the groundwork for tomorrows Budget 2012 announcements by giving a special speech on national infrastructure to the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) that reiterated the governments various commitments for improving the country’s broadband internet access services.

The speech itself doesn’t reveal anything particularly new but it did confirm that the finalized list of 10 “super-connected” UK cities (Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London have already been confirmed) would finally be revealed in the budget (original announcement).

Each of the selected cities will benefit from a slice of £100m from the Urban Broadband Fund (UBF), which aims to help rollout “ultrafast” fibre optic based 80-100Mbps+ (Megabits per second) broadband services “to provide coverage in areas where BT and Virgin Media will not go“. Though this has left many to question why the Private Sector cannot do the job by itself.

David Cameron, Prime Minster of the UK Government, said:

Now, we can also aspire to global leadership in telecommunications, the third area of infrastructure where we will not shy away from big decisions and bold moves. The old economy was built on links through the Royal Mail and then the telephone. Now the world economy depends on digital communication, a route to market for our creative industries that is every bit as essential as the canals which once carried the cotton.

The problem is we risk leaving some people behind. While 99% of our population have access to the last decade’s standards of broadband, the market alone will deliver the next generation of broadband but to only two thirds [66%] of the country. So we risk falling further behind countries like South Korea and Japan. So we’re working with the private sector to ensure 90% of properties have access to high speed [24Mbps+] broadband by 2015 and that the remaining 10% of the hard to reach can have access to at least functional broadband of two megabits per second. And this week the Chancellor will be announcing ten super connected cities which will have universal access to ultra fast 100 megabit broadband, making them some of the fastest and best connected cities anywhere in the world.

But alongside this we will also need far better fast mobile data signals. The USA already has 4G capacity in place and our major European competitors are ahead of us in setting up their networks. So we’ll press ahead urgently with the auction of 4G spectrum so companies can invest and get the network set up while including tough new conditions so that it covers 99% of the population. In the meantime this will significantly reduce mobile signal black holes by 2015. That is a major boost to economic productivity. Although it will mean of course you will not be able to escape your office.”

In terms of 4G mobile connectivity the government has already set aside £150m via their Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) to help boost the country’s mobile (voice and data / internet) network coverage to 99% of the population. The telecoms regulator, Ofcom, talks about this as being “at least” 98% instead of 99% of the population but that’s semantics for you.

Meanwhile the governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office, which has set aside £530m of public money and £100m from European funding to support the rollout of superfast fixed line broadband ISP services to 90% of the country, recently confirmed that all but two local authorities (councils) had managed to submit their draft Local Broadband Plans (LBP) on time (details). Final plans must now be “agreed” before the end of April 2012.

A further £300m could be added to BDUK’s budget (between 2015 and 2017) by using some of the BBC’s TV Licence Fee (i.e. the 3.5% Digital Switchover Budget) but that is very much dependent upon the outcome of the next general election in 2015. Europe’s Digital Agenda ultimately expects 100% to be within reach of a 30Mbps+ service by 2020, which is likely to be a future focus for the 2015 – 2020 timeframe.

Critics of BDUK’s fixed line broadband investment fear that much of the money will end up reinforcing BT’s existing hold over the national telecoms infrastructure and shunning smaller rivals. This is somewhat supported by recent developments in Wales (here) and Scotland (here).

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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