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Point Topic Gets Behind Governments 2Mbps USO Goal

Posted: 09th Feb, 2009 By: MarkJ
Research group Point Topic has given its support to the government’s plans for a digital Universal Service Commitment (USO), which aims to make broadband capable of "up to" 2Mbps downstream available to everybody in the country by 2012 (original news).

Point Topic's Chief Analyst, Tim Johnson, believes that investing to deliver 2Mbps could provide the platform for full next-generation broadband in areas where it wouldn't otherwise happen for many years:

"At first sight two megabits looks too modest," agrees Johnson. "More than two-thirds of the homes in the UK can already get 2 megabits if they want it and it is far short of what is available in the more favoured areas and in many other countries. Why aim for only 2 megabits when Virgin Media is already offering 50 to cable customers?

On the other hand, millions of British homes in the slowband zones cannot get 2Mbps today and have no prospect of doing so in future without major investment by somebody. What's more, a 2 megabit USC will drive investment that can in fact support much higher speeds,
" Johnson believes.

Johnson states that the only sensible way to provide 2Mbps in slowband areas, at least as far as the telephone network is concerned, is to invest in bringing fibre to BT's street cabinets (FTTC). That assumes the government will take such a rout for remote locations.

This seems doubtful given that such a move would come under the semi-separate 'Next Generation Broadband' headline, where the government has shown less willingness to get involved. Instead their Digital Britain plan made a big deal about using Wi-Fi, Mobile Broadband and existing exchange upgrades to roll-out universal 2Mbps.

Point Topic states that delivering a universal 2Mbps service could require rolling out FTTC over as much as 30% of the country, covering more than 7 million homes. Interestingly the Digital Britain report hinted at a much lower figure (under 2m homes) but Point Topic believes this is a considerable under-estimate, partly because of the need to provide 2Mbps reliably, not just occasionally.

Still, we won't know the conclusion until Lord Carters final report is published this spring, although it's strongly suspected that FTTC will not be given a rural/remote coverage role. We just hope they don't cheat by trying to use Satellite.
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