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Ofcom Strategist Suggests UK 2Mbps Broadband Goal be Lifted to 10Mb

Friday, January 11th, 2013 (1:34 pm) - Score 984
2mbps for all UK people by 2015 sign

Ofcom’s strategy director has told a discussion panel, which was organised by the Policy Exchange, that the United Kingdom’s aim to make a minimum download speed of 2Mbps (Megabits) available to everybody in the country by 2015 (Universal Service Commitment) may now need to be increased up to 8Mbps or 10Mbps.

The latest remark echoes one made by the telecoms regulator during mid-November 2012, at the publication of its annual 2012 Infrastructure Report. At the time Ofcom’s report said, “It is widely recognised that targets such as the USC need to evolve over time if they are to remain effective. The data we have published here suggests that it may be appropriate to consider increasing the USC target in due course.

Steve Unger, Ofcoms Group Strategy Director, added:

[The 2Mbit/s USC] was determined by a range of factors about what was deemed necessary at the time to have a basic internet experience and that’s how we arrived at 2Mbit/s. That’s clearly no longer the case, it’s more around 8-10Mbit/s now and this will evolve over time, so it’s unlikely that would still be sufficient in 2020.”

The UK government has previously hinted that it would be ready to reassess the USC and indeed its target for superfast speeds (currently 25Mbps+ or 30Mbps+, depending on when the Local Broadband Plan was agreed), although even Ofcom admits that such a change would still need to “take account of affordability” and “practicality“.

A spokesperson at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told V3 that it had no current plans to change the 2Mbps target, although it did “hope to improve broadband speeds further in the context of the £300m [from the BBC TV Licence] which has been earmarked to provide support for broadband in the period 2015-17” (i.e. BDUK’s full £830m budget as previously reported).

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Mark Jackson
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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20 Responses
  1. DTMark

    The primary reason for the oft-quoted comment “it will all need to be done again”.

    So predictable, and very sad that so much money has been wasted on stop-gap “solutions”.

    • Somerset

      What solutions so far have been put in?

    • DTMark

      No solutions have been implemented which will result in the woefully inadequate USC of 2Meg, unless you include satellite, which has nothing much to do with BDUK anyway.

    • New_Londoner

      @DTMark
      So why have you said “So predictable, and very sad that so much money has been wasted on stop-gap “solutions”.” in your first post then? Very confusing, seems contradictory.

    • DTMark

      Back in the day, it was evident that ADSL was never going to be a long, even medium term solution, but in the infancy of the internet that stop-gap was attractive.

      Run fibre to every cab in the country and then fast forward a decade or so, and the identical scenario will be true all over again.

      This could all have been done properly. But then the UK doesn’t really “do” infrastructure in modern times.

  2. FibreFred

    Isn’t it a bit late to be shifting those goalposts?

    • DTMark

      Yes.

      But I’m sure it could be achieved by simply installing tens of thousands more telephone cabinets and reconfiguring the telephone network.

    • Ignitionnet

      It is, though they were put in a ridiculous place to begin with and through a combination of satellite, WiFi and 3G/4G it’s achievable.

    • DTMark

      BDUK seem to have ruled out Wi-Fi, though.

      Which is odd, because if you look at the State Aid approval document, it explicitly allows for use of Wi-Fi, and insists the overall solution should be technologically neutral.

      It’s almost as if there was a concerted strategy to just give all the money to BT, and to set up the framework to ensure that. But I’m sure that couldn’t possibly be the case…

    • New_Londoner

      If I had wifi rather than FTTC, I have had a speed increase last year from 40 to 70Mbps, nor would I have the prospect of further increase throughout either profile 30a or vectoring, nor the option to upgrade to FTTP. Also, would I have a stable line speed not affected by weather, interference, trees growing etc?

      Wifi has its pace, but not at all convinced it has much to contribute outside of the most rural areas, and even there 4G or white pace may be better options anyway.

    • Ignitionnet

      Given you’re obviously in an area covered by a commercial FTTC deployment that’s all not relevant. The discussion is around where neither commercial nor BDUK-funded FTTC is viable not around replacing FTTC with wireless.

  3. Bob

    What is realy needed is a cost effective solution of getting Fibbre to the home.

    Pressure is growing on wireless frequency so would it be economic to close down the terrestrial TV Tranmitters and deliver TV via Broadband. It saves the cost of the trasmitters and the spectrum can be sold off. The Fibre could also be used for Smart Metering. With the DVD rental market dying FFTH makes delivery of films over the Internet available to more people and will do it better.

    I suspect this will come once take up grows. THe first stage would be BT probably shutting down ADSL and migrating every one to FTTC. It is expensive to keep two sysytems going. To do that though they probably need to recover some of the start up costs. Once they drop out costs of ADSL & FTTC should be similar

    Once you have a high take up say circa 50% then putting in fibre becomes fiable. Even more so if you can dispense with the leggacy copper.

    Given the typical condition of ducting from the cabinets to the home it would probably be easier to start again rather than try to blow fibre in. Modern Slot cutters would enable it to be put in quite quickly. Very few pavements use paving slabs

    • Bob2002

      I watch a lot of Internet TV and use well over 100GB/month. Now multiply that by the tens of millions who watch terrestrial TV(probably a low estimate because SD and HD are typically of higher quality than average Internet streams). Now add in the fact that xDSL is provided on a contended, “bursty”, model. I’d be pretty surprised if the broadband network could cost effectively replace the transmitters.

    • Ignitionnet

      Fortunately the powers that be thought of this and invented multicast.

    • Bob2002

      @Ignitionnet

      I forgot about that … it was going to be the next big thing. Weren’t the BBC trialling multicast for quite a while? Why did they drop it? Any examples of broadcasters using this on a large scale?

    • DTMark

      I think there’s a fair amount of scaremongering about the cost of running fibre to the home. For our village, I can’t seriously see it taking all that long to run ducting along the (in the main, two) roads. And in rural areas, the chances of hitting other utilities and the disruption to traffic are far less problematic.

    • FibreFred

      If its scaremongery dtmark surely you should be able to get any provider to bring it to your home , some say building your own ducts are cheaper than pia if all this is true and it’s so easy you should have no bother getting fibre to your village ?

  4. Stoat

    The lifetime of any given communications technology is about a decade – or less. How many of you are really running the same computers and routers you were 5-6 years ago?

    Infrastructure lifespans (the stuff between the communications tech) are much longer, but copper loop is well past its use-by date. The next logical step (Fibre-on-site) will probably be easier than the last one – and as a nice side effect it should cut down on disruptions due to cable theft.

    Part of the problem is that telcos are used to 20-year cycles and a captive market.

    Another part is woeful lack of investment in UK street infrastructure over the last 25 years. It’s a form of asset-stripping to let things rot, rather than invest at a rate matching depreciation, and one of the ways BT managed to keep a high rate-of-return for its shareholders for so long, but sooner or later those chickens return to roost. Asking for taxpayer handouts to being things back to proper usable standard has a high level of chuntzpah and Openretch really needs to be completely severed(*) from BT, not just a “chinese wall” erected.

    (*)Completely separate company, subject to the same rules as water and power distribution companies are.

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