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

Monday, February 29th, 2016 (8:25 am) - Score 1,245
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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.

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.

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).

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.

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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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39 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve Jones

    “the current political policy is still focused on restraining investment in order to protect the economy”

    I’ve no idea what this means unless it is a reference to constraints on public funded infrastructure investment and to do with the deficit. I can’t imagine political parties wanting to constrain private investment unless there is some concern about a “bubble”. I suppose there was such a thing after the vast amount of money poured into the cable network in the 1980s and 1990s, much of which had to be written off following restructuring.

    • Yes that’s what it means Steve, cutting back (austerity) to protect the economy so that the country can live within its means. A more stable economic environment, with less debt to worry about, would perhaps foster more public funding towards broadband.

  2. Avatar Captain.Cretin

    Err, 10,000 Mbps does not equal 10MBps

    Sorry to be a pendant, but 8bits = 1 Byte, so 10,000Mb = 1,250mbps.

    • Did I miss something Captain? We’re NOT talking about MegaBytes anywhere above and when discussing broadband speeds it’s generally preferred to use a simple conversion, which means 10,000Mbps (Megabits) = 10Gbps (Gigabits). But that’s an age old debate and it’s entirely your choice if, for example, you prefer 1Gbps to equal 1024Mbps or 1000Mbps.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      He has probably not yet had his early morning coffee! 🙂

  3. Avatar Captain.Cretin

    Make that Mbps

    • Avatar Captain.Cretin

      Yes, sorry. I have had an ear infection ongoing for over 6 weeks, it means I am not getting anywhere near enough sleep, and making mistakes.

      Anti-biotics havent cured it, not even after several courses.

      It has got to the point where I am struggling not to fall asleep during the day, then unable to sleep at night.

    • Avatar Pete

      b = bits
      B = Bytes

      🙂

  4. Avatar wirelesspacman

    It is one of those speeds that sounds incredible, but in reality is not much more than Moore’s law.

    I have no doubt that such an access speed will be fairly widely available by then. The altnets will probably have it quite a while earlier.

    Whether the access speed will translate into a meaningful “Internet” speed is perhaps more debatable. I suppose a lot will depend on how much customers actually want/need to use it. If applications have been rolled out that can consume that sort of throughput hours on end, then we could be in trouble as the backhaul networks most likely could not cope. If, as in my view is much more likely, people’s usage is more constrained than this then we might well be fine.

  5. Avatar Andrew

    Don’t see the point of talking actual speeds. It should just be about getting full fibre to the premises. Why worry about whether it’s 1Gbps or 10Gbps? Once the fibre is in it could be 100Gbps one day but only 300Mbps to start with. The point is, once it’s in you can have whatever speed is available.

    • Avatar MikeW

      Andrew has it right – a call for “10Gbps speed” is really a lightly-veiled call for “fibre infrastructure”, based on the thinking “if we set a high enough speed, surely copper cannot be the solution”.

      That seemed to be the same kind of thinking when the EU set their digital-agenda target of 100Mbps. “Surely that will force people to deploy fibre”.

      Instead, it seems to have triggered some ingenuity.

  6. Avatar Noel

    Actually, this is pretty simple and a realistic goal. It just means doing what Sky/TalkTalk/Vodafone/everyone have been calling for which is replacing all copper lines with fibre (FTTH/B/P).

    The great thing about FTTH is that you can just replace the boxes at both ends and get anything up to 68Tbps, which is a little more than the current proposed USO.

    At the moment, BT/Sky/TalkTalk deploy GPON (2.5Gbps). 10GPON (10 Gbps), which would deliver the proposed USO, is available today in places like Singapore ($140 per month) and Chattanooga, TN ($299 per month). 100GPON will be increasingly be being deployed by 2030.

    All pretty manageable really.

    UK deployment costs in total of would not exceed £15 billion (unless Openreach do it, where they’ll double or triple the price just for fun as they seem to do every time I come across them).

    Spain/France/Portugal/Ireland/Sweden/USA/Canada/Japan/China/South Korea/New Zealand, etc., etc., etc. are getting it done. Unfortunately BT Group/Deutsche Telecom are trying to hold onto their junky copper networks. That won’t last for long.

    When Ofcom finally break up BT (looking good for 2020 following the inevitable failure of G.Fast for at least 1/3 of the UK), they’ll still be a good ten years to do it.

    All rather exciting really.

    • Avatar Noel

      Looks like Virgin Media’s cables survive to 2040! Full duplex DOCSIS will offer 10 Gbps symmetric.

      BT/Sky/TalkTalk/evryone else will likely use 100GPON to offer 100 Gbps down and 40 Gbps up. Does the job!

      TWDM-PON: https://techzine.alcatel-lucent.com/twdm-pon-taking-fiber-new-wavelengths

      DOCSIS: http://www.cablelabs.com/full-duplex-docsis-3-1-technology-raising-the-ante-with-symmetric-gigabit-service/

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      That £15bn figure is pure fantasy. Far and away the most credible independent report (and the only thorough one) was that done for the BSG which came up with a number of £28bn for PTP fibre, and a few billion less for GPON. It’s a credible figure and seems to be borne out by projects such as the one for installing fibre in Jersey.

      Even that figure would leave some outlying unserved properties. Work done to date on the FTTC rollout would reduce the GPON costs as there are now aggregation nodes deeper into the network. With PTP there would be big problems with the amount of duct space required as, for a considerable time, copper and fibre have to coexist, if only because the copper service could not be withdrawn until every property was converted to fibre in a given area.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      So com’on Wizards. That sort of investment with a commercial ROI to a 2030ish timescale, what sort of consumer charges may that need? Better start saving the pocket money.

    • Avatar DTMark

      When talking about the cost of ‘deploying fibre’ we should be talking about the cost to bring the network close enough to properties so they can be connected on demand (e.g. when they order) rather than the cost to physically visit every single premise in the country, plumb it in, swap out the wall socketry and supply a new modem.

      The way VM works, basically. The installation cost, which is then minimal, or in a competitive environment perhaps free (VM again) pays for the final ‘drop’ rather than the project being costed as though it involves wiring up every building on day one.

      Thanks to the overlap potentially needed with copper (though not necessarily – converter type boxes could bridge the gap as engineers work their way through areas? Can we learn from other countries?) and more likely blocked last drop underground ducting (or no ducting) a new local loop might be needed in some/many places.

      But then in some areas that’s going to be cheaper than trying to excavate what’s there, and the copper can then be left buried to die.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      “Converter type boxes”

      Isn’t that essentially what g.fast and VDSL do? A major problem with any “converter box” is that it needs power, and that’s a major cost and logistical issue. As for “learn from other countries”, do you think that network engineers live in a vacuum? The logistical, technical and economic issues arise all over the world and telecommunication engineers (and business people) are always exchanging information. After all, that’s how standards for things like gpon, g.fast, VDSL and so on are produced and how equipment is developed. That includes deployment, microtrenching and any number of other things.

      The biggest variance isn’t the technology. It’s the economic, social, logistical and existing infrastructure issues between different countries. Singapore (for instance) is a city-state with very high population densities and an intensely paternalistic political system. The vast majority of its housing is relatively new developments, in apartments, with modern services built in. The government is highly interventionist on at least the infrastructure. Whilst local wages are very high, the construction industry uses large numbers of “guest workers” from a (carefully controlled) number of low-wage countries.

      This is the sort of thing.

      http://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-worker/sector-specific-rules/construction-sector-requirements

      This is vastly different to the UK where wages are ruled by (relatively high) UK rates and the supply of “guest workers” in the Singaporean sense is very different. EU citizens have to be treated like UK ones. So the types of country that are more comparable are Germany or France with economic, tax and infrastructure issues closer to our own.

  7. Avatar Richard

    I have been trialling the new Ultra Fibre Optic in York for 6 months now. As a system it is great and a real step up from my old phone broadband. I now have 1GB/s wired speeds and an ac router that gives over 200 MB/s wifi on the latest (work owned) tech (Ipod Touch 6; new laptop; Samsung S5 Neo) on the 5GHz band close to the router (10m) and speeds up to 50 MB/s on the 2.4GHz band throughout my house. However as the end of my free trial approaches I’m left wondering just what I really need this capability for. If I want to make use of it then I really need to consider wiring my home for Ethernet, upgrading all my own devices to include ac wifi capability and purchasing new 4k TVs. All at significant cost and none of this seems necessary when I can achieve all I want to using my existing set up. Then once I have the devices and connections what do I use them for. Anything making use of the speeds inevitably requires some form of monthly subscription (BT sport, Netflix, online storage, etc.) and I honestly don’t have the time to watch enough online to justify the expense. A good Freeview TV and Samsung HDD/Blu-Ray gives you all the programmes and catch up you need without the monthly cost. Everything is geared towards sending more data but at a price. Web pages are more complex and data heavy but in terms of output reading the news, checking a bank statement or booking a train ticket is the same now as it was 10 years ago – I’m just expected to use more data to achieve this. Similarly ordinary TV against HD or UHD. Why not set an industry standard for web pages that limits file size to something that will load quickly on a standard connection? Yes pages load faster with Ultra Fibre but above a modest speed I don’t really notice the difference. Uploading photos/files to online storage or social media is quicker but in practical terms do I notice. Before I would click upload, go away to make a cup of tea and come back to see the last file upload. Now that happens sometime while my kettle is still boiling. For the number of times I upload does it really make a difference? There has to be a practical limit to the amount of data a domestic consumer needs. I want functionality on the system we have not constant upgrades just because someone has a great new idea. I also wonder if this investment is really the way forward for the domestic consumer. The fashion is for tablets and phones which rely on wifi or 4G. High speed home broadband works best on a wired basis and cries out for houses to be built with wired networks rather than phone lines and extensions and routers. As 4G speeds increase (EE 4G+ is over 50MB/s in York) then why would we need home broadband at all. One device could do it all in the home and out and about. The cost of the hefty data allowance may well be offset by only needing one device and driven down by competition. I am of a generation that remembers 3 TV channels and an annual licence fee that covers everything. You can call me an old cynic but we embrace technology whilst understanding the need to balance cost against benefits. Unfortunately the next generation has been conditioned to expect constant upgrades, monthly subscriptions, pay per view and a fashion for the latest tech and the outrageous costs that go with it. As a nation we need to think what do we really need going forward and what can we achieve within a reasonable budget. Businesses may need higher speeds but only if it improves their efficiency not their ability to demand domestic consumers spend more and more on tech they don’t want or need.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      Good points, and I suspect the way that most normal people think (i.e. those that are not on forums). It wouldn’t take much of a price increase to persuade me to ditch the FTTC 40/6Mbps broadband I have in favour of 3G/4G, let alone 5G when it comes along. I gave up comic books as a child, and don’t want as I get older to live in one. My technology isn’t a substitute for exercise or a social life. And I’m not keen on subsidising other people’s fantasies with my taxes and subscriptions either.

    • Hi Richard. Please try to avoid posting walls of text as they fall into the tl:dr; category and often get marked as SPAM.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I overcame my initial reluctance to read the wall of text, and I’m glad I did.

      Richard is spot on with his statements, except about EE 4G speeds.

      Can I ask – what was your “old phone broadband” speed? Were you still on something exchange-based, or had you jumped to something “fibre”-based?

      As for EE’s 4G speeds: The issue isn’t the speed that 4G brings, but the capacity.

      Yes, the speeds might be great in York, in a cost-restrained environment. But EE couldn’t handle the capacity if everyone dropped their fixed lines, and tried to move their fixed-line TV habits onto 4G infrastructure. The competition might have a downward impact on prices, but the limited spectrum will always be the ultimate restriction – and will therefore keep prices up to stop you using too much.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Web pages do tend to be more intensive now than they once were because of the inclusion of higher quality photos and inline/embedded video.

      For example, back in the day when we were working on Tesco.com we didn’t use any Flash tech (videos) because the UK’s broadband was so dire, yet, the Tesco.kr site was much more graphical.

      These days, with modern web page design, larger pictures (or full-width up to 1920px and beyond) at higher resolution are more normal, though the website may well serve a smaller image (physically, and file size) to a mobile client rather than push down the large one and have the device scale it down, saving on data. Google considers page load time an important metric when deciding how to rank websites.

      That the mark-up is simplified (less “code”) these days with CSS probably doesn’t offset the increase in the file sizes of things like images especially on graphically rich websites.

      All of that said, “web page browsing” is still not a bandwidth intensive activity.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      There are some good points there. Whilst I think that “standard” superfast is fine for the vast majority of domestic uses at the moment (unless people think multi-channel 4K is essential), there is one area where bandwidth requirements could be vastly higher and that is for full-on cloud storage, whether for backup or as primary storage. If you have terabytes of storage (and many will with video etc.) then it’s very easy to imagine 1Gbps (or more) being used. I use USB 3.0 drives for backup. It would be nice to be able to do it over the Internet. At 20mbps even incremental backups are painful for large media files, let alone a full restore of a partition. Here, 1Gbps could be very good, but you have to wonder if even that is fast enough.

      I think the real issue here is commercial. I’m sure people will happily accept 1Gbps if offered at a price comparable to superfast, but how many will actually pay a premium which would help fund a major rollout of the technology? Undoubtedly some would (just as some buy the fastest Intel I7), but the finances of high speed networks (at the consumer level) only work if there’s a big takeup. Even VDSL economics are heavily dependent on that (albeit the threshold is only around 20%).

    • Avatar Chris P

      @ Steve jones,

      1000mb/s is 125 MB/s, most spinny HDD’s will struggle to read at that rate let alone write at that rate. Most consumers home networks will struggle with rates over 50mb/s as most people are on wireless, even on wireless n or ac you have to be fairly close to the access point and minimum interference to receive gigabit wifi speed. As things stand today, if every one had 1gb/s internet they would never be able to use all 1gb/s as their home computers are not capable of delivering or consuming at that rate and their wireless is not

      The vast majority of people will not be able to take advantage of such speeds in their home or even corporate networks, so what’s the point of spending vast sums to do something no one can actually use?

      i’d love to know hoe much people would be willing to spend on such solutions? i pay £12 per month for 70mb VM broadband and £17 for a line i dont use. 70mb is already more bandwidth than i/we need, i wont be upgrading to anything faster.

  8. Avatar gerarda

    “Not an iceberg’s chance in hell.” At least the IOD are showing a bit of vision – and a USO of that sort of speed will encourage innovation and competition. I wonder what the broadband coverage would be like now if the original BDUK tenders had been awarded on the basis of a USO of 24Mbps instead being on a basis that ensured that only FTTC based solutions could win.

  9. Avatar TheFacts

    32% of non-rural in the survey have FTTP.

    • Avatar gerarda

      they are probably including leased lines in that figure – even though they are supposedly shown as a separate category. 3% of urban businesses using non cable broadband seems very low.

    • Avatar TheFacts

      While we are discussing numbers why 10G and not 5G or 20G.

      ‘In short, internet traffic is growing faster than the ability of the backbone fibre optic network to carry it.’ Evidence please.

      Table 4 – highest download is 24M.

    • Avatar GNewton

      @TheFacts: “32% of non-rural in the survey have FTTP.”

      In your dreams only. Wake up. The Openreach/KC FTTP (Native) in the UK is only 0.98% according to https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=FTTP+percentage+uk

  10. Avatar FibreFred

    There’s no reason why 10G can’t be available by 2030 it’s available now.

    To all?

    Not a chance

    • Typical ‘Can’t do’ attitude, Fred.

      It’s fine. Just needs according to this report an open chequebook from the taxpayer and forcing Openreach to open up their passive infrastructure at below cost rates.

      What’s the problem?

  11. Avatar Captain.Cretin

    When talking prices, just remember the scrap value of all that copper, and deduct it from the total bill.

    Assuming they are smart and roll up the copper as the unroll the fibre.

    (What am I saying!!!! SMART!!?? Not a welks chance in a supernova).

    • Avatar Ignition

      That isn’t up to BT.

    • Avatar Steve Jones

      The value of the copper is not a significant factor. Firstly, it can’t even begin to be recovered until every single line in a given area is converted to fibre. In theory there could be a partial recovery of some cables if a lot of effort was spent repatching to free up a cable.

      The second reason is that recovery itself is an expensive exercise. Some copper (as where I live) is direct buried. In a vast number of cases in the “final mile” it’s simply going to cost far more to recover than it would fetch on the market.

      A few years ago I did a calculation on this, largely because Tim Wormsley did a laughably inept job and came up with a figure of £50bn. I came up with a figure of about £2.5bn at the time, since confirmed by others. That’s for pure copper, and doesn’t factor in recovery and reprocessing costs. With the collapse in commodity prices, it will now be rather less.

      How much of this is recoverable, and at what cost, who knows, but it’s not some sort of easily recoverable gold mine. At best it will supply a trickle of income if, and only if, the cable can be recovered in a cost effective manner. Some will be, much won’t.

  12. Avatar cyclope

    We won’t even have a national roll out of 1GBPS by then , just another fairy tail, pipedream

  13. Avatar Pete

    I read on the FOA site the other day that 10Gbps FTTH is already being ran out in some states for about $300 – $400 a month. Then there’s Google fibre and the increase in community FTTH projects.. come on BT stop dragging your heels and dragging the UK down the FTTX tables.

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