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IoD Demands 10,000Mbps Ultrafast Broadband to Cover UK by 2030

Monday, Feb 29th, 2016 (8:25 am) - Score 1,447

Not an iceberg’s chance in hell. The Institute of Directors, which represents around 35,000 business leaders and directors, has called on the Government to go beyond their current ambition to deliver a Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps broadband for all by 2020 and take us to 10,000Mbps by 2030.

The IoD’s new report (‘Ultrafast Britain – A Broadband Vision for 2030‘) effectively calls on the United Kingdom’s central Government to take a truly world lead by ensuring that the country is covered by a 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) capable fibre optic (FTTH/P) broadband network by 2030.

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The report comes only days after the IoD welcomed the outcome of Ofcom’s Strategic Review (here), which chose a half-way house approach to fixing weaknesses in the market instead of the more aggressive option (i.e. splitting BT from control of their national telecoms and broadband network, Openreach).

However the IoD also raised “real concerns about BT’s influence over Openreach and the effect this has on competition in the broadband market” and indeed they’ve previously joined with Sky Broadband and TalkTalk to call for BT to be split (here).

Dan Lewis, Senior Infrastructure Adviser at the IoD, said:

The current set up, with the major broadband provider being part of the same group that owns the cables, poles and pipes, may not in the long term be able to deliver the network that the UK’s rapidly expanding internet economy needs. Even after Ofcom’s changes, BT Group will still extract value from competitors paying to use Openreach’s network, so a full investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority must remain on the table.”

But the outcome from last week’s Strategic Review seems unlikely to foster the sort of truly national pure fibre optic network that today’s report appears to envisage, at least probably not by 2030. Indeed it would take a much more significant commitment from BT, its rivals and or the Government, both financial and technically, in order to deliver such a service in time for 2030. In fact even if such commitments did exist then they’d need to get started on it today as related networks take many years to roll-out.

At present the current targets are somewhat more pedestrian. The Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme has committed to ensure that 95% of the UK can access a “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speed by 2017/18 and underneath that they’re also working to deliver a legally-binding USO of 10Mbps for all by 2020.

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Meanwhile commercial investment is separately expected to result in the roll-out of new hybrid-fibre technologies like G.fast / XG.Fast (BT) and DOCSIS3.1 (Virgin Media) over the next 10 years, which should mean that around 60-70% (our guesstimate) of UK premises eventually gain access to “ultrafast” speeds reaching upwards from 100Mbps+ and hitting 1Gbps in some areas (some smaller altnet ISPs, like Gigaclear, are pushing 5Gbps in trials).

We also expect to see more ultrafast fibre optic FTTH/P from all of the primary and alternative infrastructure developers, which is currently the best technology to deliver real-world 10Gbps speeds to homes and businesses. However, short of a much more significant investment and change of strategy, the IoD’s call for 10Gbps seems unlikely to materialise on a wide national scale.

Dan Lewis said (BBC):

“Now is the time to set a bold new target for genuinely world-beating broadband. We have the leading internet economy in the G20, and yet download speeds are mediocre and the coverage of fibre optic cable is woeful. Unfortunately, the Government’s current target displays a distinct poverty of ambition.”

In terms of cost, it’s expected that to nearly blanket the country in FTTH/P could require £20bn to £30bn, although such estimates are very old and do not always take account of the impact that existing deployment methods and fibre optic network coverage could have. It’s difficult to give any kind of accurate cost and even then we expect that some rural areas would still miss out.

All of this is before we even consider the endlessly vexed question of consumer need versus demand for specific broadband speeds and not to mention the impact of marketing (i.e. sometimes faster speeds do sell, even if you don’t strictly need the full performance).

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On top of that there’s the issue of network capacity and online content support, with many Internet services still being unable to take full advantage of such ultrafast connectivity. On the other hand we are talking about a service for 2030, not 2016, and who knows what our requirements will be in fifteen years’ time.

Today’s direction does however result in ever more fibre optic cable being used in the wider local network, which is getting progressively closer to homes, and as such we may eventually get a full fibre optic infrastructure, but it will probably come later than 2030.

Ofcom’s tinkering doesn’t appear to be enough to change that expectation and the current political policy is still focused on reducing public spending (austerity) in order to protect the economy, all of which could perhaps work against the sort of connectivity that the IoD desires to see.

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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