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DCF Report Examines Future UK Broadband Needs and Take-up

Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2024 (1:05 pm) - Score 1,120
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The Digital Connectivity Forum, which is an industry think-tank for the UK Government, has published a new “advanced connectivity” report that analyses “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband and 5G mobile deployments, take-up and use cases to understand the key barriers and drivers of adoption, as well as what we might need in the future.

Since the early 1990s the world has witness significant changes in internet capabilities and the performance of the network connections that underpin that – going from average dialup speeds of around 14-56Kbps (0.014 – 0.056Mbps) to 100Mbps today across the world, while many in the UK can now access gigabit-capable broadband networks (1000Mbps+).

NOTE: The DCF’s sponsors are: BBC, BT, Cellnex CityFibre, Cornerstone, DSIT, Digital Mobile Spectrum Limited, Ericsson, Gigaclear, Giganet, Hyperoptic, Openreach, Sky, TalkTalk, TechUK, Three UK, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, Vorboss, Wireless Infrastructure Group.

The latest independent data from Thinkbroadband shows that 81.56% of premises across the United Kingdom can now access a gigabit-capable broadband ISP connection, which falls to 64.05% when only looking at Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology. Ofcom similarly states (here) that around 42% of customers are on a gigabit network (28% for FTTP alone), but as usual this is taking time to grow.

The regulator’s own modelling currently predicts that UK gigabit broadband coverage will reach around 83-84% by May 2024, then 87-91% by May 2025 and 90-94% by May 2026 (here). Naturally, those able to benefit from such improvements may well ask, “why do I need more?“. After all, most HD video streams these days only need speeds of 5-8Mbps, and even future 8K streams aren’t much of a problem for full fibre lines.

The new ‘Advanced Connectivity’ report(s) from the DCF delves into this a little more and asks – with less of us facing the buffering wheel as we watch our favourite programmes, what are the wider implications and uses of high-speed ultra-low latency connectivity, and why should we care? It also looks at how take-up can be boosted on FTTP networks.

The reports are both available online (PDF):

Findings of the DCF’s Report

The key findings reveal that consumers prioritise speed, price, and reliability when considering advanced connectivity options, reflecting the increasing indispensability of connectivity in modern society. However, a significant barrier lies in the lack of awareness regarding the benefits of FTTP and a perceived absence of necessity among consumers.

DCF-Drivers-for-Boosting-UK-FTTP-Take-up

Addressing these challenges, the report recommends the implementation of an information campaign centred around a new cross-industry independent website. This platform, they say, could serve as a point of clarity, offering accessible explanations of various broadband technologies and their capabilities in layman’s terms, thereby empowering end-users to make informed decisions. But a lot of websites already do this, so we’re not convinced it’ll have much of an impact, and most consumers seem to look at advertised speeds more than the underlying delivery technology.

Moreover, the report claims to showcase “compelling use cases for 5G SA and FTTP connectivity in critical sectors such as agriculture, transport, healthcare, and manufacturing“. From virtual coupling of trains to connected ambulances and advanced agricultural techniques like crop phenotyping, the potential for transformative impact is said to be “evident.

The report responds to this by advocating for “increased trialling of advanced connectivity solutions, alongside proactive government promotion and feasibility assessments” aimed at addressing regulatory, operational, and safety challenges. By implementing these recommendations, the UK may, we’re told, be able to “unlock the full potential of advanced connectivity, ushering in a new era of prosperity and innovation for the economy and society alike.”

Alex Mather, Head of the Digital Connectivity Forum, said:

“As the rollout of gigabit-capable fixed connectivity accelerates, and 5G standalone rollout gets underway, the importance of ensuring that all parts of the UK society and economy understand and benefit from these transformational forms of connectivity has never been greater.

The report shows better understanding and awareness of advanced broadband technologies is essential in enabling the nation to reap the full benefits of these forms of connectivity.

We look forward to working with industry as well as government and regulatory stakeholders, to bring these uses into reality.”

The full report is a little dry, and we had been hoping that it was going to include a more scientific study of current and future broadband speeds vs needs, but sadly it doesn’t seem to go into quite that sort of depth. Instead, it’s more of a high-level case study, which provides some useful insights but doesn’t really seem to be saying anything terribly new or that hasn’t been handled better before (e.g. GigaTAG’s study on boosting take-up)

Finally, it’s important to remember that, while much of the talk about full fibre and 5G or 6G connections may frequently centre on speed, the other key benefit for consumers is in being able to access a much more stable and reliable internet connectivity solution. A solution where speed matters, but in the case of FTTP is no longer the sole defining factor or limitation, unlike flaky copper DSL lines with their many issues of signal degradation and stability.

Over time, online content and services will increasingly evolve to make use of this extra speed, often in surprising ways (cloud-based gaming / computer and AI etc.). So perhaps the real killer app for services like FTTP isn’t a specific one, but rather the fact that the actual connectivity side is no longer.. crap. Unless your ISP cocks up on its network/routing/DNS or capacity management, of course, and that’s always a distinct possibility.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
4 Responses
  1. Avatar photo A Stevens says:

    My barrier to uptake is, as usual, the inability to get it. In a large, affluent suburb of a city of 130,000. If I moved to a remote island or rural Cornwall, no doubt I’d be straight in on FTTP!

    1. Avatar photo Sonic says:

      Same for me. Zero FTTP options, comically poor 4G coverage.

  2. Avatar photo Buggerlugz says:

    The biggest barrier to take up is mid-contract price hikes which never benefit the customer. Maybe if OFCOM showed some teeth it’d actually drive uptake?

  3. Avatar photo Ed says:

    No doubt most people BTL here will want symmetrical speeds for the half-dozen or so Zoom calls they make a week.

Comments are closed

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