Analysis: Broadband - is the UK up to speed?

By Sooraj Shah
30 Aug 2012 View Comments
hartwig ftth

Keene says the rollout is being seen as an experiment because no one really knows what applications become compelling at that bandwidth. That said, both South Korea and Hong Kong – who along with Japan and Taiwan are seen as global leaders in the take-up of fibre broadband – have already found ways to use the additional bandwidth in areas such as online gaming.

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Meanwhile, Hartig says that Verizon’s rollout of fibre in the US has slowed recently because of weaker-than-expected demand that he blames on poor marketing.

Utility companies in Denmark faced a similar situation when they began rolling out fibre. Never having to try hard to get households to sign up for electricy, they were surprised when many Danes said they didn’t see a need for faster broadband.

And even in areas where there is high demand for fibre, it only takes one homeowner to object for the rollout to grind to a halt. “In Denmark, if you have one person who says I’m not having my front lawn dug up, the whole project stalls,” Keene says.

Hartwig said that other Nordic countries such as Sweden and Norway are leading Europe in their implementation of fibre because of very early rollouts; Sweden started its broadband initiatives in 2000.

However, Hartwig stresses that just because a broadband model works well in one country doesn’t mean it can be transferred to another, because of the different frameworks involved.

For example, in Australia there is the National Broadband Network, which is a wholesale-only, open-access data network currently under development.

“Australia’s government said they did not want to wait for an incumbent because the process was moving too slowly, so the government wanted to take responsibility for it. This approach is interesting but difficult for European countries because as former European commissioner Viviane Reding specified, there should be no more monopolies,’” Hartwig explains.

But while Australia’s Labor government is set on delivering FTTH itself, the opposition, the Australian Coalition, has said that it may follow the UK’s policy and introduce FTTC first, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Australian infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese told the country’s parliament: “After 22 failed broadband plans when they were in government, their latest thought bubble is to model their policy on BT’s FTTC. But even [Hunt] described this as a ‘temporary stepping stone to FTTH’.”

But while Hartwig thinks the UK will regret not implementing FTTH from the beginning like many Asian countries, director of business development EMEA at fibre communications provider Level 3 Damian Butterworth believes that it only makes sense to introduce FTTC first.

“If there is an existing copper infrastructure that is intact and good to use then FTTC makes sense. If you are building from scratch, as many African and Eastern European countries have to do – then it makes sense to implement FTTH from the start,” he said.


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