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UK Government Complicates Superfast Broadband Definition with 30Mbps Target

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 (1:52 pm) - Score 3,686

The UK governments Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) office has quietly complicated its existing definition of “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) by bringing it more into line with Europe’s Digital Agenda target of 30Mbps by 2020 (minimum download speed / Megabits per second), but the subtle change could prove tricky to apply.

At present the government aims to ensure that 90% of “people in each local authority area” can access a superfast broadband ISP service by 2015 (the last 10% will have to make do with download speeds of at least 2Mbps). BDUK officially still defines this as being a service with “potential headline access speed of greater than 24Mbps, with no upper limit“.

But a recent State Aid Guidance (PDF) document, spotted by Thinkbroadband, points to this now being confusingly defined as “speeds of 30Mbps or in any event more than 24Mbps“. Thankfully a slightly more logical explanation is given in the small print.

Eligible projects

All new projects must target delivery of superfast broadband speeds of 30 Mbps or more, which is in line with the EU’s superfast/NGA broadband targets. However, due to earlier UK definitions of superfast referring to speeds of more than 24 Mbps, projects already underway will be satisfying the superfast broadband speed requirement if they seek to deliver speeds of more than 24 Mbps.

BDUK is working at present on the basis that access to basic broadband infrastructure is not affordable if the installation cost is £100+ and/or the rental price is £25+.

As a result any “new projects” must aim to deliver a minimum download speed of 30Mbps, while existing (old) ones should continue to conform to 24Mbps+. A split target like this could easily cause confusion, especially with Europe still expecting everybody to have access to 30Mbps (with 50% or more using a 100Mbps product) by 2020.

Similarly there’s the question of how you define a “new project“, at the tender or deployment phase? For example, BT’s national rollout of 40-80Mbps capable superfast FTTC services will reach 66% of the UK in 2014 through private sector investment and could hit 90% with full public funding. This might potentially be described as “underway“, yet officially the majority of Local Broadband Plans (LBPs) have yet to award their contracts.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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