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i3 Group Warns UK in Danger of Building Mediocre Broadband Network

Posted: 01st Apr, 2010 By: MarkJ
fibrecityThe i3 Group ( H2O Networks, Fibrecity ), which recently launched a 100Mbps Fibre Optic ( FTTH ) broadband network in Bournemouth city on the south coast of England (here), has today warned that the UK is in danger of being left with a mediocre broadband network due to Ofcom's weak definition of next generation services.

Over the last few months the Next Generation Access (NGA) debate has been raging with headline speeds of up to 1Gbps being touted. However the i3 Group is concerned because Ofcom believes the super fast benchmark to be speeds greater than 24Mbps, as referenced in its latest report ‘Super fast broadband’ published last week (here).

Elfed Thomas, CEO, i3 Group said:

"Industry experts agree that the definition of ‘super fast’ broadband is 100Mbps. 24Mbps is going to ensure the end user has a far better experience than the average broadband service today, but with the explosion of new applications, such as HD video on demand, e-learning and IPTV, it will soon become outdated.

Therefore, to set the benchmark for super fast broadband at this mediocre level is both dangerous and short-sighted. The UK deserves better. We only need to look overseas to see that we will be left far behind the rest of the world, which completely contradicts both the Government’s and its challengers’ desire for the UK to be world digital leaders."

We too, along with many others, have also raised concern in past news items about both the use of such speeds in the regulators definition and its confusing adoption of "super fast" to describe NGA networks (used my many existing 8Mbps products). By this definition some might even believe that a 24Mbps ADSL2+ service could be classed as NGA, which it most definitely is not.

However nobody should be surprised that Ofcom would set the bar so low. Regular readers can probably still recall how their official definition of "broadband" was originally set at just 128Kbps. At that time 512Kbps (0.5Mbps) services were considered entry-level and you couldn't even get a slower ADSL connection than 256Kbps.

In related news Viatel, a business communications expert, is advising organisations not to get carried away with the hype surrounding BT's new up to 40Mbps FTTC and up to 100Mbps FTTH / P broadband network.

Steve Powell, Product Manager for Connectivity at Viatel, said:

"At last Broadband availability is a key issue in this year's election and this demonstrates a never before seen level of commitment and understanding from all the main political parties of the communication issues faced by businesses today. But, critics have been right to question how the next Government will actually bring superfast speeds to the whole country.

The fact that BT has announced the next stage of its next-generation upgrade programme doesn't change this. We can now see the shape of new superfast deployments and the business requirements of line reliability and Quality of Service.

However current lack of availability to businesses up and down the country could cause headaches as organisations look to access more bandwidth in order to support more and more bandwidth hungry and mission critical applications over these connections."

Viatel notes that for businesses, hybrid FTTC or even full fibre ‘superband’ FTTH / P services, without sufficient guarantees on reliability and the availability of Quality of Service (QoS), will struggle to run delay-sensitive applications like voice and video.

Viatel works closely with BT and is confident these issues will all be overcome and business focused products and services will be obtainable in the future, but national or even patchy local availability will be a problem for some time to come.
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