Ofcom looking at ways to bring us Fibre
"Ofcom are looking for more practicle ways for the UK to employ fibre optics than digging up all the roads"
Ofcom looks for ways to provide cheap fibre
Today the BBC have reported that Ofcom have said that super-fast broadband could be delivered via running fibre optics in the underground pipes of the UK's water and electricity companies. They are conducting a survey of the UK's ducting network to see whether or not this line of thought is feasible.
Some companies in the UK and France already offer fast broadband via the sewers. In France, for example, there are already three ISPs supplying super-fast broadband to their users with speeds varying between 50 and 100 megabits per second with one of these ISPs offering other services such as IPTV and VOIP. That particular offer only costs €29.99 per month.
Ofcom have started consultation to see how best to regulate the next generation of networks. They aim to have this consultation completed by the 25th June of this year.
However, critics have already warned that Ofcom is failing to do enough and that the UK could fall well behind other nations with the provision of super-fast broadband.
"The fact that this is just a consultation is another indication that the UK is lagging behind," said Ian Fogg, an analyst with Jupiter Research.
To give an idea of just how much more efficient fibre optics would be over the copper we currently use, the picture shows a few copper cables and one small fibre strand. Any one of those bundles could be replaced by that single strand.
Ofcome CE Ed Richards is to lay out the case to the Institution of Engineering and Technology for how the UK should move to get on with deploying super-fast broadband.
"Next generation broadband will come to change our perception of communication radically. So we must prepare now."
Back on the subject of using underground pipes that are already in place Ofcom said:
"We must be sure we are not missing a trick here. We know that lots of the costs are in the civil engineering and this is civil engineering of a very similar kind,"
A similar survey carried out in France showed that over 50% of their existing telecoms infrastructure could be suitable for fibre deployment. Using existing telecoms infrastructure basically means it'll cost only a fraction compared to digging up all the roads and laying the fibre that way.
Mr. Fogg said "The key thing will be to avoid having one or two providers dominating the fibre landscape. How fibre impacts on the existing copper infrastructure also needs to be considered."
As well as using existing pipes of utility companies, Ofcom will also explore the idea of duct-sharing, where BT's existing pipes are made available to other next-generation broadband providers.
BT said it had an "open mind" on the idea of duct-sharing but that there were "some practical operational issues associated with it".
"This already exists as a possible remedy and has been introduced in some EU countries; however, Ofcom's previous consultations have not found any demand for this in the UK," said a BT spokesman.
Ofcom wants to get the ball rolling in the UK as soon as possible and want fibre deployment in all new homes and businesses and has opened a consultation asking for views on how next-generation broadband should be regulated.
An Ofcome spokeswoman was quoted as saying "We would prefer not to impose new regulation. We want to encourage investment to make the deployment of fibre-based products attractive to property developers,"
Jupiter Researches Mr. Fogg went on to say that what we need to avoid is having the fibre optic market monopolised by only one or two main providers. He also said that its important that consideration is given to how fibre will impact the existing copper infrastructure.
At present, while other operators can provide broadband to their customers, they still need access to BT's telephone exchanges. If BT were to switch off their copper network as fibre to the home would be cheaper to operate, they would leave other companies that use their exchanges "high and dry".
Ian Livingston, the BT chief executive due to take over from Ben Verwaayen in June, has indicated that should a new fibre infrastructure be built then the firm will be unwilling to maintain its old copper network. If Ofcom decide to only focus on fibre for new builds then this problem would be avoided but could open the doors to a digital divide.
"Offering fibre to the home in new-builds is tackling the easiest part of the fibre roll-out but it does mean that consumers will have to move house to take advantage of fast networks." said Mr. Fogg
There is an estate in Kent that is to be BTs fibre guinea pig later this year with plans to connect 600 homes by August. Looking to the future, this project will eventually see 10,000 homes connected via fibre with speeds of up to 100Mbps by 2020.
The main benefits of such bandwidth will see all sorts of services become possible such as high definition video streaming, downloading high definition files in a matter of minutes and even CCTV home surveillance and lets not forget HD gaming.
Are you sick hearing that other countries have internet speeds up to10 times over our own?
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