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The Myth of a Speedy Broadband Britain
By: MarkJ - 21 February, 2007 (1:57 PM)

Speaking of broadband speeds, Point-Topic has issued a new report into Britain's aging hi-speed networks. The piece highlights the somewhat short sighted nature of operators that shun newer technologies (FTTH etc.):

When households in the city of Stavanger in Southwest Norway want to get broadband from Lyse Tele, they have two options: either to wait until the engineers dig a trench for them or do it themselves. An amazing 80% chose to get out their shovels and dig their own.

Lyse Tele’s broadband services, like many of its kind in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, are special. They are fast, symmetrical and cheap. Monthly prices for stand-alone service range from as little as US$26.50 (£13.60) to US$31.00 (£15.90) for a symmetric 10 Mbit/s FTTH broadband service. They are delivered over optical fibre, and no longer use copper wires.

Households in Britain are less fortunate. Many are grateful to get broadband and receive asymmetrical broadband of up to 8 Mbit/s from BT or other DSL provider. The new Virgin Media doesn't offer much more – with asymmetric speeds of 10 Mbit/s at most. Whereas many Western European countries are abuzz with announcements of investing billions in new optical fibre networks that will cater for tomorrow’s needs, Britain is watching from the sidelines. We have reviewed what the cost of deploying fibre on a national scale would be and highlighted some of the primary reasons, you can read more in a recent Telecommunications Online article.

For the purposes of our analysis, optical fibre will be carried all the way to the subscriber, using Passive Optical Network (PON) architecture. We also recognise that existing networks pose a legacy challenge and will continue to shape the future network design. The largest cost item is commonly civil engineering - digging new trenches. Here, we assume that 60% of the fibre infrastructure is deployed by using existing ducts and structures and 40% needs to be put in place with new ducts.

Operators who have released official cost estimates suggest a figure between US$1000 (£513) and US$1500 (£770) per subscriber or household would offer an acceptable investment risk.

We estimate that almost 40% of UK households could be connected for less than US$1000 and 65% for less than US$1,500. The total cost for connecting about three quarters of all UK households (19.5 million) would amount to around US$20.5 billion (£10.5bn). This seems like a large sum. But by hanging on to its current aging ICT infrastructure the UK stands to lose a significant amount of its economic competitiveness in the long-run. The future should be worth that much.

Unfortunately, bar the odd small trial, BT couldn’t give a monkeys. Please note that the GBP figures were edited in by us based on current exchange rates.

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