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Wales Aims to be First with BTs Next-Gen Broadband
By: MarkJ - 16 September, 2008 (1:43 PM)

The Welsh city of Cardiff could be among the first in the country to receive BT's next generation 'up to' 100Mbps fibre optic (FTTP, FTTC) broadband services, reports WalesOnline. Cardiff councillors have been in recent discussions with the operator and BT's chairman, Sir Michael Rake, spent Monday in the city meeting First Minister Rhodri Morgan and other senior figures.

Perhaps most interestingly of all is how open Rake appears to be in his comments towards the importance of adopting next generation broadband. It would have been hard to imagine these words coming from the mouth of a BT boss prior to July's £1.5bn investment announcement (here):

Sir Michael said: “Six years ago we had virtually no broadband in the country. Today there is 99% availability. You’ve got nearly half the country using it, and it’s moved from being a luxury to a necessity. While the speeds may seem great, they’re not enough now for current demand, whether it’s individuals or businesses.

You just look at the way technology is developing, with the iPlayer for example, higher-definition television, people using broadband the whole time to access education – the need is going to be exponential in terms of access to data, to video, to voice, and to getting families involved all the time.

At the moment we rely on copper in the ground to bring broadband to people, and copper doesn’t last forever. People sometimes dig it up and steal it, which is annoying. It can degenerate, and you have to work on it and maintain it. And it has physical limits like the speed you can deal with it and the length from the exchange.

So fibre gives you a whole new dimension in technology. At the moment with copper you can go up to eight [megabytes], and soon we’ll be up to 24. People will see a huge improvement in speed, capability and download time. At fibre you’re looking at a minimum of 100 and beyond.

However Rake also spoke in reference to Ofcom, urging the industry regulator not to put "a cap on the price" it is able to charge for the service, which would make its investment difficult to justify with shareholders.

He continued on to stress the importance of Ofcom getting this resolved "quickly", so that it could proceed with the plan to deploy the new fibre optic broadband infrastructure.

Interestingly he concluded by warning that it could be "three, four or five years before we can start making an initial impact on this", noting there would be little need for central government money, except potentially to help get rural locations hooked up.

In related news BT's Chief Executive, Ian Livingston, said that all major telecommunications companies should share responsibility for helping poorer and vulnerable customers. Livingston called on Vodafone, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse to assume some responsibility for social policy.

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