Clock is ticking on UK broadband

BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB, Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse are among the UK’s telecoms companies meeting with Minister for Competition, Stephen Timms, at a UK broadband summit today. The aim of the get together is to address investment in broadband infrastructure. Although more than half of UK homes have broadband, many other European operators are upgrading their networks to cope with faster speeds, putting the UK in danger of slipping into the internet ‘slow lane’.

BT’s offerings are topping out at about 25Mbps at present and the company is running hot and cold on the fibre question, while Virgin is charging ahead with its own 50Mbps cable trials. Even so, other European incumbents are already moving onto networks capable of 100Mbps in the case of France Telecom, and 50Mbps in the case of Deutsche Telekom. Although the German carrier’s objections about not being able to have a regulatory holiday are probably representative of every incumbent in the industry.

There was an interesting development for national UK 3.5GHz licensee UK Broadband as well today. Ofcom has allowed it to connect to mobile devices as well as granting techical neutrality on its spectrum licence – this effectively gives the company carte blanche to start a Mobile WiMAX rollout.


  1. Avatar James Abbott 26/11/2007 @ 5:31 pm

    While we all would appreciate a faster broadband, mine averages out at 1.4mbps. At least in the UK it is available on line 24/7. In the south of France I’m lucky if I can get on line 4 days out of 7.

  2. Avatar David 26/11/2007 @ 5:32 pm

    What’s the point? Presumably BT will not invest in upgrading the infrastructure unless there’s a better rate of return than they think they will get when compelled by Ofcom to offer a wholesale service. Is it not Ofcom’s job to make those kind of judgements and then negotiate a deal between BT and the other players? If BT invests and delivers a % cover across the UK at an average y mbit/s to z % householeds/business addresses, then BT will be permitted to charge x £, achieve y% rate of return or howver else you care to calculate. You don’t need a government minister to look as though he’s trying to do something.

  3. Avatar Matthew Griffiths 26/11/2007 @ 5:32 pm

    With reference to the above article the current house building boom in the UK has resulted in what were one-street villages transforming into commuter towns. The problem with this is that these often share an exchange with a ‘neighbouring’ village and the building greatly increases the distance from the exchange. I live on a modern development with a number of home workers and professional families and yet have access to only the lowest speed broadband whilst friends residing in rural farmhouses have broadband speeds I can only dream of.

    Unless BT or the Government invests in providing key services to new developments we will see a widening gap. This time it won’t be the “North South divide” but the “Connected or Disconnected home”.

  4. Avatar Matthew 27/11/2007 @ 1:37 pm

    I doubt that a connected or disconected home scenario will result – more and more web savvy folk will expect far reaching broadband coverage to suit their lifestyles. The government and BT http://www.bt.com/broadband surely will work towards a solution – something that until now has been overlooked.

  5. Avatar Broadband 27/11/2007 @ 1:42 pm

    Sorry – I meant to add – FTTH (Fibre To The Home) new generation broadband in the above comment..

  6. Avatar Moh Yan 28/11/2007 @ 4:51 pm

    As some have said, BT are not going to invest in fibre
    infrastructure until any number of the following
    conditions occur :

    1. Regulatory pressure to do so
    2. Business case is compelling (new business, loss of
    existing business etc)
    3. Convergence with existing infrastructure plans (21CN
    roll-out, new housing estates etc)

    A similar situation exists in Germany (DT) .
    DT are unwilling to deploy new infrastructure (and
    I mean new – this is not networks that existed when
    the incumbents were state utilities) if they are
    forced to open it to competitors at non-ROI rates (see
    1) .

    Interestingly, a European model that has taken hold for
    FTTx is where municipal bodies (cities, councils etc)
    pay for network cabling etc, and service providers then
    have equal rights in connecting and providing services
    over the network (to residential apartment blocks etc) .

    Perhaps UK authorities at various administrative levels
    will need to do the same (business region/development
    grants etc) . Because until Virgin Media etc have
    comparable networks (size, reach etc) , BT will squeeze
    every last bit/s out of the existing copper links.

  7. Avatar Howard Bedford 06/12/2007 @ 11:03 am

    I have been continually intruiged by the “buzz” associated with proposed faster speeds. A 4Mb/s symmetrical connection is more attractive to me than an “up to 50Mb/s” downstream link. “Hello ISPs, could we have improved quality rather than flash notional best effort services please?”

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