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BSG Claims UK Homes to Only Need 19Mbps Broadband Speeds by 2023

Tuesday, Nov 5th, 2013 (2:23 pm) - Score 1,952

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), which advises the Government on broadband matters, has published a new report that claims to outline a “new way for measuring and forecasting demand for bandwidth in UK homes“. The research concludes that the “median household” will require bandwidth of 19Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2023.

At present the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme aims for 95% of UK people be within reach of a fixed line superfast broadband (25Mbps+) service by 2017 (rising to 99% with wireless and mobile solutions come 2018) and it’s investing £1.2bn to support that. Meanwhile the EU requires every member state to deliver a speed of at least 30Mbps to 100% of homes by 2020.


But what will people actually need? There is often a disconnect between what such services can delivery and what homes tend to use or require, which typically varies due to factors like family size and the quality of streaming video etc. The BSG has simply constructed a way to model this.

Pamela Learmonth, CEO of the BSG, said:

In publishing this report we are not presenting a magic number for desired bandwidth speeds one decade out. Rather, we are demonstrating that to facilitate an informed policy debate around whether broadband infrastructure in the UK will enable consumers to do what they want over time, then we need to develop a better evidence base.

Like any good maths student, we have not simply given a number, but shown our working. We want to use this to develop a formative and evidence based discussion on future bandwidth needs and what this means for wider broadband policy.”

The report concluded that 50% of households will have a demand of 19Mbps+ by 2023, while in that same year 10% will need 30Mbps+ and the top 1% will seek 35Mbps. In addition the BSG also found that the median upstream demand would grow from 1.1Mbps now to just 2.4Mbps by 2023.

Extract from the BSG Report

A 2023 median demand of 19Mbps may seem low, but needs to be seen in the context of the continuing benefits of video compression, and the fact that 64% of households only contain one or two people. Consider two people both surfing, both watching their own HD TV stream while each having a video call. Even this rather aggressive (and rare) use case only requires 15Mbps in 2023.

However the BSG admits that its model “is dependent on a large number of assumptions“, which might become particularly fragile over the longer 10-year forecast period; as always there’s no easy way to account for the introduction of innovative new services.

For example, services like 4K TV, the potentially huge demand from Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners (both upstream and download) and so forth are always tricky to understand before they’ve had time to exist in the market.


Extract from the BSG Report

The report also highlights a number of sensitivities to the model results which could change anticipated requirements. These include changing user expectations for factors such as download speeds and notably, reducing the time one would expect a software download, such as a console game, and upload of files to take.

For example, in significantly reducing the base case assumption of 10 minutes waiting time to 2.5 minutes, then 16% of households require 83Mbps. Reducing the waiting time further would quickly take demand over 100Mbps for those households.

In other words, the speed you’d expected to need depends on how long they think you’d be happy to wait. Indeed the model can be amended by anyone to change its assumptions, which in fairness are already quite aggressive and do take account of 4K video streaming etc.

In fact one of the most aggressive models, which does factor 4K usage, suggests that all but 1% of homes might be happy with 71Mbps in 2023; it all depends on how the market develops and how long you want to wait while something is downloaded etc.

But we must not forget that access and infrastructure capability remain the core concerns. In an ideal world 100% should have access to a technology that can deliver for the most aggressive models as well as the most conservative or median ones.

BSG Domestic Demand for Bandwidth (PDF)

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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