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Superfast Broadband for 95 per cent by 2017: BDUK goalposts moved

Broadband Delivery for the UK (BDUK) goalposts have been moved. 95 per cent of the country now stands to get superfast broadband, but the due date has been pushed back to 2017. 

The government’s Spending Review reveals that an extra £250 million will be spent on extending the reach of superfast broadband. This money, drawn from TV licence funds, will be locally match-funded by councils, meaning the total extra sum for public investment will be £500 million.

Additionally, the government wants to invest in additional fixed, wireless and mobile broadband solutions to ensure that 99 per cent of UK premises can benefit from better broadband connections in 2018. 

The lay of the land: Broadband Britain delayed until 2017

Read Recombu Digital’s report on Fibre Broadband and BDUKThe document Investing in Britain’s Future does not detail what kind of speeds or quality of service those benefitting from these alternative technologies can expect. It’s not explicit if the speeds will be ‘superfast’ (defined as being 25Mbps or above) or not. The launch of up to 80Mbps 4G mobile broadband in London’s Tech City by EE gives us an idea of the kind of speeds those in line to get a mobile solution can expect.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller welcomed the announcement saying:

“Access to high speed connectivity is vital to the UK’s economic future, and drives growth and jobs across the country. Every week, 100,000 more homes and businesses are getting access to superfast broadband, and our broadband is already among the best in Europe when it comes to coverage, usage, and choice.”

While the pace of BT, which so far has won all of the BDUK contracts, is commendable, we’re a long way off being counted in the broadband big leagues yet. Just over half of the BDUK contracts have been signed and compared to other countries, we’re behind when it comes to availability of future-proofed FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) broadband. 

Dana Tobak, managing director of Hyperoptic said:
 
 “The UK is, in fact, significantly lagging when it comes to fibre to the home access, with Spain, Italy and France all boasting greater penetration and availability of fibre connections, according to FTTH Council Europe. It is also a widespread misconception that cities have the greatest universal access to the fastest broadband, when the reality is that long line lengths, exchange-only lines, and reliance on poor quality aluminium-based cabling frequently create ‘not spots’ and other serious connectivity issues.”

The majority of premises connected under the BDUK contracts so far now benefit from BT’s FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) type broadband. FTTC provides faster download speeds than traditional ADSL, but suffers from the same distance difference because the so-called ‘last mile’ connection is made from copper, not fibre optic cable.

BT has launched an FTTP On Demand programme, where customers can pay to upgrade the copper last mile with a fibre line, but this is currently priced beyond the means of most families.

Hyperoptic only provides FTTP broadband, delivering speeds of up to 1Gbps. Under the current terms and conditions of applying for BDUK contracts, it doesn’t look like anyone but BT, the only remaining viable bidder, will win.

Tobak hopes that government noises about working more closely with the industry means less of a reliance on the ‘dominant players and same old solutions’ but in this stage of the game, that’s unlikely. 

Image credit: Flickr Ben Sutherland

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