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UPDATE FTTH Council Urges UK to Boost its Superfast Fibre Optic Broadband Rollout

Posted: 09th Jun, 2010 By: MarkJ
ftth broadband councilThe Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council has said that the UK and Europe must increase its roll-out of true superfast 100Mbps fibre optic ( FTTH ) connections or risk being left behind. The remarks came shortly after Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, the Olympics Media and Sport, had finished setting out the governments plan for bolstering broadband internet access around the country (here).

Elsewhere a market forecast commissioned by the related FTTH Council Europe predicted that the UK would be the last nation in Europe to reach “fibre maturity” – defined as 20% of households having a broadband subscription over a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network.

The study, carried out by telecoms analyst firm Heavy Reading, forecast that the UK would not reach this milestone until 2020, between two and four years later than the other major G20 European economies of France, Germany and Italy.

Chris Holden, President of the FTTH Council, said:

"In terms of FTTH deployment, the UK has barely got off the starting blocks. There are estimated to be less than 5000 fibre subscribers in the UK today, mostly in selected new-build housing estates, such as Ebbsfleet in Kent, Wembley City in London, and Liverpool ONE.

In contrast Sweden, one of the leading FTTH nations in Europe, has more than 500,000 homes with fibre-optic connections. Many Eastern European countries – including Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia – already have more FTTH subscribers than the UK, both as a percentage of total households and in absolute numbers.

Politicians like to remind us that the UK is one of the best-connected countries in the world. But although it is correct to say the UK was a leader in first-generation broadband, when it comes to next-generation access, as a country the UK is way behind."

Holden also welcomed the EU's plan to make connection speeds of 30Mbps available to everybody by 2020. However he warned that the issue of upload performance and minimum speeds was still unclear, noting a distinct difference between promising uncertain speeds of "up to" 30Mbps and guaranteeing them.

Holden added that it would also be better to focus on delivering a truly symmetrical service, such as FTTH no doubt, where both the download and upload performance is the same in both directions. Most existing broadband technologies often have tiny upload speeds in comparison to high download performance. Indeed a lot of big UK ISPs try to hide their upload speed away from the package details, yet upload performance is a crucial factor.

The Council’s UK members identified multiple reasons why the UK has been slow to deploy FTTH, including lack of clarity on key policy issues such as infrastructure sharing, lack of competitively priced backhaul connectivity for new networks, and consumer confusion over the marketing of broadband services. Furthermore, at present there is no clear funding mechanism for local authorities to bring fibre to rural areas.

Elsewhere the council also took time out to have a dig at any half-way fibre optic solutions, such as BT's up to 40Mbps FTTC service, which only takes the fibre optic cable as far as your local street cabinet before relying on VDSL2 technology over existing copper wire for the "last mile" connection into homes. "The applications that people will want in the future, such as being able to download HD movies, will need faster speeds," said Hartwig Tauber, secretary general of the FTTH Council.

UPDATE 12:23pm

Replaced some quotes with comments taken directly from the FTTH Council today.
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