» ISP News » 

Hull ISP KC Calls UK Broadband Speed Demand Study a Dangerous Red Herring

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 (8:35 am) - Score 900

The Hull-based incumbent telecoms provider KC, which covers part of East Yorkshire in England, has advised the UK Government to ignore an “unambitious” new study by the Broadband Stakeholder Group after it suggested that a “median household” might only require bandwidth of 19Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2023.

The study itself (here) was intended to forecast future demand for broadband bandwidth in UK homes and proposed a number of different ways in which its model could be interpreted, which depended a lot upon how long you’d be prepared to wait for your content to complete its download or begin streaming without any buffering.

The research arguably attempted to reflect the reality of real-world consumption but KC’s Finance & Commercial Operations Director, Sean Royce, views it instead as a “red herring” that the Government could use “as its yard stick” to help lower the bar for their own superfast broadband targets (currently still defined as “greater than 24Mbps“) and thus cause the UK to “fall further behind other developed economies for infrastructure” (note: at present some studies actually show us rising above other developed economies).

Sean Royce, KCs Finance & Commercial Operations Director, told ISPreview.co.uk:

19Mbps by 2023 is unambitious, and if the UK is to remain an economic power on the global stage we need the infrastructure in place to deliver this. There’s a big focus on rebalancing the UK’s books with greater exporting and trade, but if broadband speeds are neglected this will impact our service and creative industries and make it more difficult to compete. It is no coincidence that the strong economies in Asia all lead the way here and are rolling out fibre-to-the-premises faster than anywhere else in the world.

The second concern I have with the study is need versus desire. From our experience, there is a clear distinction between the broadband capacity that households need and the speed levels that consumers want. This isn’t simply about keeping up with the Jones’. It’s a recognition that across almost every aspect of our lives today – whether that’s how we stay in touch with family and friends, how we watch films, to where we work and how we collaborate on documents – we rely on the internet. That reliance is only going to increase and people will continue to want faster and faster broadband speeds for peace of mind.”

KC are of course currently in the process of deploying their own superfast fibre optic (FTTP/H and FTTC) based Lightstream broadband service, which should reach 30,000 homes and businesses in Hull by the end of 2013 and then 45,000 by March 2015 (here). Most of this deployment is being dominated by their 350Mbps capable true fibre optic (FTTP/H) network and that’s the reverse of BT’s approach where the slower ‘up to’ 80Mbps hybrid fibre FTTC solution is the most dominant (FTTC is still distance dependent so some lines deliver well below 24Mbps).

It is however worth pointing out that even the fastest fibre optic lines rarely come across Internet services that can make full use of their performance, which is reflected in various broadband speed studies from the likes of Ookla (Speedtest.net), Akamai and others. But never the less it is perhaps important to ensure that the infrastructure you deploy is able to keep pace with both the lowest and highest types of demand. A recent comment from Fluidata’s boss reflects this.

Piers Daniell, MD of Business ISP Fluidata, said:

With 4K video offering four times the resolution of 1080p and talk of 8K on the horizon our appetite for high definition content will only grow, putting our efforts of on deploying antiquated technology into perspective. The problem is without looking far enough into the future we are only ever going to be playing catch-up, which is why so many new businesses have been able to start and raise private funding to deploy Fibre to the Home (FTTH) networks. Virgin obviously have their own network but without national coverage and its own limitations I feel unless we look forward to gigabit speeds and more we are never going to be able to meet this demand.

It reminds me of a time in the late nineties when PCs were always inadequate to run the demands of the software on it. Every day processor speeds and memory would make a leap forward only to be insufficient to run the newest programs. Today however I feel there is a bit more of an equilibrium, with the limitation now squarely focused on the pipe leading to the computer.

While I am not for spending government money on building an entertainment network (as that is its current biggest demand for bandwidth) there is an argument for adopting Sweden’s model of deploying a raw dark fibre network onto which the many providers can sell services. … With over £50bn being estimated for HS2 I would say the biggest infrastructure challenge our country faces is a national and ubiquitous fibre network rather than connecting two cities together with a faster train.”

At this point we know that BT would probably point to future FTTC enhancements, such as Vectoring or G.Fast (FTTC2) and its associated Fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FTTdp) twin which we wrote about quite extensively during the summer (here and here). Combined there is the possibility that some lines could eventually get speeds of up to 1Gbps and without needing a full FTTH/P network. But theoretical possibility and actual real-world performance tend to be two very different things and these enhancements would still cost money to deploy; albeit a fair bit less than FTTP/H.

It’s also worth remembering that the BSG’s bandwidth model can also be adjusted, so while it might show 19Mbps for one model then in others that can be tweaked to demonstrate a need for significantly higher speeds. In either case it looks like the infrastructure of 2020+ will need to be able to handle much faster speeds in order to cater for heavy as well as light users and not forgetting that this must ideally be made available to the vast majority of premises.

As usual the key problem here remains one of money and perhaps competition too. Few people dispute that the ability to fibre-up every home would be a fundamentally good thing but finding the tens of billions that would be needed to do it is another matter entirely. Scrapping HS2 might help but then it’s not even clear if the country, which is quietly suffocating under £1,377 billion (91% of total GDP in Q1-2013) worth of public debt and growing, can actually afford HS2 in the first place.

Even if you could get that money together then would throwing all of it BT’s way again, which is what the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project currently seems to favour, be a wise thing to do? In the meantime there’s only £1.2bn to spend and thus the lowest cost and furthest reach approach will always win the day.

Share with Twitter
Share with Linkedin
Share with Facebook
Share with Reddit
Share with Pinterest
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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar dragoneast

    The oldest conundrum: do you get what you need or what you supplier wants you to have? I’d like to have everything please (just in case). Actually I don’t think I’m brainless, so I wouldn’t.

  2. Avatar zemadeiran

    “For a start, Openreach generates over £5 billion of revenue every year. It employs more than 30,000 people, all of whom contribute to their local economies and local communities through their spending power. They buy goods and services from local suppliers, and pay council taxes to local authorities. Openreach is also investing considerably in new capital projects, such as the provision of next-generation superfast broadband services. A fair proportion will be invested in this area through normal day-to-day business operations.”

    Taken from: http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/helpandsupport/frequentlyaskedquestions/viewAllFaqs.do?data=2nJg4lbnwgQsndrWEWxdJyoNZWoRsDY8OVPljY6HEq8%3D

    As piers points out,

    “While I am not for spending government money on building an entertainment network (as that is its current biggest demand for bandwidth) there is an argument for adopting Sweden’s model of deploying a raw dark fiber network onto which the many providers can sell services.”

    I am 100% behind you on that and would love to see Openreach completely split. OP can then be charged with building the UK’s NGA Open Fiber Network.

    HS2 is an extremely bad idea which is attempting to transfer public funds into private grubby hands on a massive scale with little to no economic benefit for the UK public who’s money is being outright stolen…

    • Avatar Phil

      I agree the HS2 is a waste of money, the government should have asked the public peoples first with a voting. I bet the whole of UK public will voted NO of over 90%. It just a waste of taxpayers. Why need HS2 if all railways network running fine without any problem. For god’s sake the government think reduced train times from Birmingham to London in 40 minutes is pretty stupid!.

      They should axed HS2 and use that money towards NHS (as it more important health) and energy to help O.A.P who unable to afford heat their homes in winter.

      Shame on you Tories.

  3. Avatar BMV

    My interpretation of the headlines the BSG report raised were about what bandwidth people will need, not want they want, nor what they should probably aim for given future advancements in technology and Internet usage.

    Of course it is wise to aim for the best speeds, and if we aim for fibre, then there is almost a limitless amount of bandwidth that can be delivered over this.

    Of course we should be aiming for 100 Mb/s, 1 Gb/s, 100 Gb/s+, but the report was merely saying what people will actually need based on today’s understandings.

    You don’t need 100 Mb/s to watch a 4k video, you don’t even need 10 Mb/s to watch a 1080p Netflix movie.

    Like we’re seeing in mobile phones, there’s also a drive for greater efficiency. It’s simply not going to scale if content providers don’t come up with better compression techniques, not for their backend systems, not for the transportation networks, and not for the end devices when it comes to storage.

    I think the biggest scandal is that our money is being used to prop up an unfit system for delivering broadband – namely copper & alu – a right stitch up – this VDSL, and now G.Fast etc is crazy.

    Like others are comparing this to, if it costs £50bn for HS2 and that’s good value for money, then why not spend that amount of money deploying a pure fibre network to the entire UK. I have seen some much lower estimates on that cost (although no doubt that would increase!)

    Lets not spend our precious tax payers good money after bad.

  4. Avatar MikeW

    It is interesting to see the number of people who want to stop HS2 in favour of FTTP, or bemoan the use of taxpayers money on one or the other.

    Perhaps it is instructive to consider both together, and compare & contrast.

    The HS2 concept comes about as a way to improve capacity on the main north-south rail routes in the UK. However, it is the Nth phase of improvements, where the most recent was a £10bn upgrade of the west-coast main line that caused a decade of delays while improvements were shoe-horned in alongside live running services, which itself followed on from a big project to electrify the east-coast line, and with a future project to electrify the midland main line. It appears that HS2 has come about because everyone (within the rail industry, or financing it) has realised that a whole new tranche of infrastructure is required “to do things properly” or to remove our dependence on “obsolete Victorian technology”.

    Recognise the position? It seems very similar to the position of FTTP-only supporters, who bemoan how obsolete and antiquated the existing copper network is. How the existing infrastructure should be ignored, and new technology put in its place instead.

    Anti-HS2 groups, and pro-FTTC supporters, all maintain that the existing infrastructure is good enough to support gradual improvement.

    I happen to believe we should have both sets of infrastructure replaced over a similar timescale – around 20 years. That’s enough to build HS2 and to install FTTP. However, our broadband requirements (even the weak ones in the BSG report) need us to have something better than ADSL2 before those 20 years are up – which is why I support FTTC as a way of deploying something we need now, faster.

    What both projects need is a national strategy. Something that considers the difference between a “patch-up” and a “start-from-scratch” approach, and decides when the project should swap from the former to the latter.

    It looks like, right now, the rail industry (and government)has decided that the time is ripe to swap, while the broadband industry (nor government) has largely decided the same is not true for copper.

    I wonder if the fact that there is no competition for the rail infrastructure business makes the difference here? The fact that there is a single national agency in charge of the rail track infrastructure whose job includes the determination of national strategy.

    Still, comparison with HS2 and the previous “patch-up” solutions on the main north-south lines all show one thing: that taxpayer’s money is used on both types of project, and all without direct ownership of the resulting infrastructure. Taxpayers money often goes toward projects that improve GDP or otherwise improve the “common good” without regard for whether it is to extend the life of old technology or to invest in fresh technology.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £19.95 (*22.00)
    Avg. Speed 50Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Promo Code: HYPER20
  • Plusnet £21.99 (*35.98)
    Avg. Speed 36Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: £50 Reward Card
  • SSE £22.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • xln telecom £22.74 (*47.94)
    Avg. Speed 66Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • TalkTalk £22.95 (*29.95)
    Avg. Speed 38Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
Prices inc. Line Rental | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. BT (2715)
  2. FTTP (2601)
  3. FTTC (1756)
  4. Building Digital UK (1700)
  5. Politics (1605)
  6. Openreach (1563)
  7. Business (1387)
  8. FTTH (1310)
  9. Statistics (1206)
  10. Mobile Broadband (1177)
  11. Fibre Optic (1044)
  12. 4G (1013)
  13. Wireless Internet (997)
  14. Ofcom Regulation (993)
  15. Virgin Media (976)
  16. EE (671)
  17. Sky Broadband (655)
  18. TalkTalk (644)
  19. Vodafone (641)
  20. 5G (472)
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact