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Hyperoptic Attacks BT Opposition to National UK Fibre Broadband Rollout

Monday, June 18th, 2012 (2:33 pm) - Score 1,883

The boss of urban fibre optic broadband ISP Hyperoptic, Dana Pressman-Tobak, has warned that last week’s comments by BT’s Strategy Director (here), Sean Williams, whom suggested that there was “no business case to support” a full UK roll-out of true fibre broadband (e.g. FTTP) services, could be “very dangerous“.

According to Tobak, the UK is “one of the biggest users of technology” and its internet economy is valued at £82bn (around 8.3% of GDP), yet despite this the country “fails to make the top 10 countries for broadband speeds” and “doesn’t even figure on Fibre-To-The-Building leader-boards“.

Dana Pressman-Tobak, Managing Director of Hyperoptic, told ISPreview.co.uk:

As a nation, the UK is very much a follower and [BT’s] message does nothing to change this.

In addition, the argument Sean Williams makes is weak on a number of counts. First, a FTTC 80Mbps connection still has many limitations – its distance dependent so only a small fraction of population will get it, plus it has very limited upload speed and is still subject to interference and not stable as fibre.

Secondly the hardware argument that home Wi-Fi or devices can’t cope with the enhanced speeds is fundamentally flawed. Today’s computers already come with 1Gbps Ethernet connections, there are new simultaneous dual band Wi-Fi connections – plus the recently 802.11ac standard provides wireless speeds of up to 1Gbps. Technology is constantly evolving and enhancements to speed fuels the development of hardware.

At the end of the day, the consumer and business appetite is here, now, but there is a clear disconnect between the level of demand and the quality of the UK broadband infrastructure. By putting clear and ambitious investment in a Fibre-To-The-Building infrastructure, which has distinct correlation with the UK economy, it will deliver long term long term RoI. Other countries are recognizing this – just look at the Chinese government, which recently allocated 80% of its $303 billion infrastructure investment for broadband FTTH development. If you pro-rata that per person in the UK you would be looking at least £8 billion. We should be aiming high – not making do with a short term strategy that is designed to help the big players cannibalise their existing customer base.”

Naturally Hyperoptic, which is slowly rolling out its own 1Gbps capable fibre optic (FTTB) broadband services into dense urban areas, has its own interests in this field and feels that BT’s outlook is wrong. On the other hand BT, unlike Hyperoptic, also faces the huge challenge of deploying superfast services into rural areas that are significantly more expensive and difficult to reach.

BT’s FTTC solution, which is still reliant on the restrictions of a last mile run of existing copper cable to reach homes, does have its limits and won’t be able to deliver the best performance to everybody but many should still benefit. In fairness, with the money available, BT doesn’t have a lot of options available and FTTC is a reasonable solution with some scope for future improvements.

The biggest challenge remains getting everybody connected and ensuring that the speeds they can receive do not fall below the 25-30Mbps promised by both the UK and European governments. So far the majority of BT’s FTTC roll-out has been focused on largely urban areas, thus FTTC’s performance problems over distance have yet to show themselves with much scale. That could change once government funding kicks in and begins to push the technology into more isolated areas where distance could become an increasing problem.

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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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