Top Posters

Broadband coverage vs. speed

The UK's second house - the House of Lords - last week published a review of the government's super-fast broadband plans. The report drew several conclusions, but perhaps the most important is that the Lords believe the quest to have Europe's fastest broadband is flawed. You can find the report here

In the Lords' opinion, the UK government should focus on ensuring broadband coverage for all rather than worrying about hitting 100-Mbps, as it is currently pledged to do. While the Lords would like to see FTTP deployed throughout the land, it acknowledges that a national fiber backbone is a more realistic goal given the costs involved. However, it's main concern is avoiding a digital divide by supplying coverage to areas where even basic 1-Mbps to 2-Mbps broadband isn't available today.

While it's a noble call, analysts are skeptical it will have any impact on government policy. Rob Gallagher, head of TV and broadband research at Informa Telecoms & Media, notes the Lords' proposals may not be workable in practice, and tips the UK market to end up with "next generation infrastructure largely owned and operated by the former state-owned monoply, BT". That said, Gallagher notes the focus on coverage rather than speed is a lesson many countries around the world should learn from. β€œ[E]nsuring equality of access seems a much more laudable goal than competing in [a] meaningless global contest based on Mbps alone.”

Ovum lead analyst of telecoms regulation, Matthew Howett, is more scathing, noting that the Lords' fail to mention the role of mobile broadband in a national infrastructure, and pointing out that calls for fair and open access to a national fiber network is something already provided by BT on its current copper and fiber networks. β€œThe report mixes, at times, a good narrative of how we ended up where we are with some questionable recommendations,” Howett states.