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UK Broadband Services Celebrate 10th Anniversary

Posted: 25th Feb, 2009 By: MarkJ
Its ten years since the first consumer broadband services surfaced in the UK during 1999, which is incidentally the same year that ISPreview began life. Back then the majority of people didn't have Internet access and those who did connected through slow 56Kbps narrowband dialup or 64/128Kbps digital ISDN links.

It was during this period that Virgin Media's precursors (NTL, Telewest) became the first to launch cable broadband services. This was followed by early BT trials of ADSL technology. Speeds ranged from just 256Kbps (0.25Mbps) to 512Kbps (0.5Mbps) and prices were high, with some early ADSL ISPs touching the £50 per month mark.

“The vision of the people who launched broadband has been pretty well fulfilled,” says Tim Johnson, Chief Analyst at Point Topic. “In just 10 years high speed internet access has gone from novelty to necessity for millions of families.”

“Bandwidth seems to be increasing in the same way as computer power,” comments Johnson. “According to Moore’s Law, computer processors double in speed every 18 months – bandwidth has been increasing even faster than that.”

Back in 1999 you might have been considered somewhat of a geek for going online, although thanks to broadband it has now become a widely accepted social practice to surf the Internet and be knowledgeable about it. Thank god:

“Now we’ve reached the point where losing your connection or just being in ‘slowband land’ can be incredibly frustrating. Fast internet access has changed the way we listen to music, watch TV, stay in touch with our friends, shop and plan our lives," Johnson points out. “It has touched every corner of our lives not just everyone’s life.”

Today broadband, in its slowest form, can reach approximately 99% of the country. The services are cheaper, typically costing anything from £10 to £20 per month, and the average speed is something close to 3.6Mbps. Meanwhile the most common type of package is an 'up to' 8Mbps service, which is expected to increase as newer 24Mbps products become increasingly common place.

UK Broadband Speed Population Coverage to 2Mbps

Unfortunately there are still places, usually rural locations that reside several miles from their local exchange, where broadband either cannot reach or where it is still only possible to receive the slowest of speeds (e.g. 0.25Mbps to 1Mbps).

Lord Carter’s interim report, released last month (Digital Britain Report – Universal UK Broadband Plans), proposed a Universal Service Commitment (USO) for broadband. The commitment would be to offer at least 2Mbps of bandwidth to virtually all homes. That’s provided everybody can agree about how best to do it.

Meanwhile BT is expected to proceed with its £1.5 billion programme (news) to roll out fibre-based, super-fast broadband (FTTC, FTTH, FTTP) to as many as 10 million homes by 2012. Virgin Media is also busy bringing 'up to' 50Mbps services to a many UK homes by this summer.

Point Topic forecasts that over 90% of UK homes could have broadband access in 10 years time, almost all with speeds of over 32Mbps. Mind you, ten years is still a very long time to wait.
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