Analysis: Broadband - is the UK up to speed?

By Sooraj Shah
30 Aug 2012 View Comments
hartwig ftth

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s declaration late last month that the UK will have the fastest broadband in Europe by 2015 was a bold statement. Although it may have aroused some excitement among consumers, industry insiders were less impressed.

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Former BT CTO Peter Cochrane told Computing that the UK has “not a hope” of meeting Hunt’s targets, particularly as it is focusing on implementing fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) and not fibre-to-the-home (FTTH).

But is widespread scepticism of the government’s promises justified? Where are other countries in their implementation of the fastest possible broadband available: FTTH?

Hartwig Tauber (pictured), director general of the non-profit organisation FTTH Council Europe, says the US is seeing a lot of activity around FTTH, particularly among the many local exchange carriers outside of the big cities.

“These carriers have small numbers of customers and their networks are rundown in comparison with those in bigger cities, and they only have one chance to get funding to upgrade their networks for broadband delivery – so they’re mostly going with fibre,” Gartner analyst Ian Keene explains.

Despite this, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 19 million Americans still have to put up with internet speeds of below 4Mbit/s.

Keene says demand for fast broadband is much higher in the US than in the UK.

“People see it as ‘I’ve got higher broadband speeds’ and they are willing to pay money for it. In western Europe, people ask what can those speeds do for me?” he says.

Google, meanwhile, is looking to give residents in Kansas City a broadband speed of up to 1Gbit/s, which is more than 200 times the amount found in most US homes.

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