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Opposing Views - 'Future' Broadband Services

Posted: 18th Apr, 2007 By: MarkJ
The recent Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) report, which cited the importance of building a better broadband network, caused a lot of discussion. Typically much of this has been positive, but not everybody agrees with the BSG conclusions.

Dan Cole, head of product management at THUS (Demon Internet), feels that the BSG is overlooking key elements within our market:

“The technology to provide high-speed broadband of up to 100Mbps is already available in the UK, should it be required. However the UK market has traditionally been much more concerned with tailoring broadband packages to meet the business need, therefore improving its return on investment. As such the telecoms market has a dual educational role to play to prove the worth of any technology investment.

Telecoms operators must discuss both present and future broadband needs with customers to ensure that they are educated on what is currently available in the market. However, while the pressure is on the telecoms operators to make the business case for increased broadband speed, we cannot ignore the fact that many businesses only require enough download capacity to receive emails and attachments.

BSG’s report needs to extend beyond download speeds to also include upstream speeds, and it is vital that businesses are educated about the importance of upstream capacity which is becoming increasingly important. This is especially true for media companies that upload large image and video files, as well as the growing number of companies that have flexible remote working practices with many employees accessing large amounts of data held on company servers from remote locations.

Significant broadband speeds are already available for UK organisations to take advantage of, where and when required. For example, THUS is providing broadband speeds in excess of 10Mbps in both directions and, where needed, 100Mbps, to schools, libraries and other council buildings throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, with the Pathfinder Project. In this case, the bandwidth is being used to enable valued services such as interactive multi-media learning in schools and colleges and this can only be achieved by having an intelligent network in place that can accommodate high speeds both downstream and upstream.

The remarks from THUS appear to focus primarily upon business access and in that respect it succeeds in making some very valid points.

Meanwhile moneysupermarket.com's head of broadband, Jason Lloyd, focuses a bit more on the residential side. He points to Virgin Media's existing cable network and BT's forthcoming 21CN, suggesting that no further investment is needed. There’s also the potential threat to smaller ISP’s, which may find it difficult to keep up:

"There is a fear growing within the broadband industry that once BT stops supporting the roll-out of LLU (unbundled) services, we will see the industry start to become dominated by the main players who have the funds necessary to develop their own fibre optic networks"

Many smaller providers hit troubled times last year while adapting to BT’s up to 8Mbps “MAX” technology (see some of our recent ISP Interviews) and ADSL2+ is expected to cause similar problems. Related ISP’s may again run into difficulties while attempting to find the needed investment for a new network.

Lloyd goes on to suggest that BT could be placed back into public hands and its networked turned neutral, although we can't see that happening. Likewise we can’t see Virgin Media extending its cable coverage beyond that 50% mark and BT’s existing network, even after 21CN, won’t be powerful enough by itself.

Speaking as a consumer focused website, ISPreview wants to see ordinary people having access to faster broadband services that actually run at the speed advertised – for EVERYBODY. However the reality is that taking such a step will take time and money, lots of it. We may just have to live with ADSL2+ for awhile, much like dialup before it.
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