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Ed Vaizey MP Moots “Gigabit Britain” for 2025 and 10Mbps USO by 2018

Thursday, Apr 14th, 2016 (10:10 am) - Score 1,349

The Government’s Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, has told a select committee inquiry into digital connectivity that he would expect to start seeing “gigabit” (1000Mbps+) speed broadband from 2020-25 and that the 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) should be “coming on stream” towards the end of 2017 or 2018.

At present it’s widely expected that BT’s commercial G.fast roll-out, which will commence from next summer 2017, and Virgin Media’s on-going cable network expansion should bring broadband speeds of around 300Mbps to most of the UK (around 60-70%) without recourse to public funding by 2020/25.

But Ed Vaizey also spoke a lot about reaching Gigabit speeds after BT and Virgin Media have completed the above commercial investment, which could perhaps replicate the existing Broadband Delivery UK programme in order to push that out to nearly universal coverage.

However G.fast would struggle to deliver Gigabit speeds unless the node exists right outside your home, although BT has also talked about ramping up their Gigabit capable FTTP roll-out. Similarly we expect that Virgin Media’s future DOCSIS3.1 upgrade could deliver Gigabit speeds.

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister, said:

“I’ve started talking about a Gigabit Britain, which I wouldn’t necessarily see as ending in 2020.

But I think the next phase we want to see is the kind of speeds that people are going to expect over the next decade. 100-300Mbps is kind of what people talk about, but I think Gigabit Britain trips off the tongue more easily than a 100 meg to 300 meg Britain.

I fully expect to get to a specific tipping point at the end of this decade in terms of those kinds of speeds being seen by the majority of people. But I think that we as a Government need to think very hard about what we do to achieve the same kind of near universal roll-out that we have achieved with superfast broadband. But I would give it a time-scale up to sort of 2025.”

After that Vaizey took time out to praise the BDUK and BT deployment of superfast broadband (24Mbps+) connectivity and confirmed that the clawback (gain share) mechanism in related contracts requires BTOpenreach to return part of the investment when take-up of the new service passes beyond the 20% mark. So far £129m has been confirmed for reinvestment to help boost coverage and Vaizey said, “we’re on course to clawback £250m, maybe more. I think it’s been a very cost effective programme.”

The minister also separately suggested that Devon and Somerset should have signed a deal to expand local “fibre broadband” coverage with Openreach last year, which in the end didn’t happen because the contract negotiations broke down over issues of cost and time-scale (here).

Ed Vaizey said:

“We’ve had fun and games with Devon and Somerset. I would much rather they’d gone on and signed phase 2 with Openreach, but they got themselves worked up about delivery and you will find that there have been occasional incidences where there has been a breakdown in communications. So I think that’s unfortunate, but at the end of the day although we work in partnership with local authorities we’re not going to mandate to them who they should contract with.”

Finally, a lot of early discussion was focused upon debating the future 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (here), which saw Vaizey warn that he couldn’t “guarantee” that every single premise is going to get 10 Megabits per second or more “but it should be potentially possible.”

At present there are several related USO consultations running (here and here) and Vaizey confirmed that he intends to legislate for it as part of a future Digital Economy Bill (not to confused with the infamous 2010 legislation), which he “hopes” to publish in June or July 2016. The good news is that it could then be ready for introduction far sooner than the aforementioned 2020 date, with the minister suggesting a date “towards the end of 2017 or 2018.”

In terms of funding, Vaizey noted that they were considering either an industry led approach, support from the public purse or a combination of both. Much like the current USO for telephone lines, “there would be a potential cap on the amount of public funding if a particular connection will cost many thousands of pounds” (the current telephony USO sets a cost threshold of £3,400).

It’s also generally expected that any public funding would focus on helping those in the final 5% of the UK to achieve the USO, although all of this remains very much subject to the on-going consultations.

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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