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St Agnes, Cornwall has been trialling a pioneering new super-fast broadband among it’s businesses, as it has proved so successful BT is planning to roll-out the new technology nationwide. The plan is to make the service available to all communication providers by spring 2013. Up until recently BT have not been able to provide the fastest broadband, FTTP in areas where fibre already runs to the street cabinet from the exchange. The newest development could provide you with speeds of up to 300 Mbps, the average household speed last November was 7.6 Mbps. It is hoped that this new technology will bring a positive contribution to small and medium sized businesses across the UK who need to send and receive large amounts of data. BT believes it may be possible to provide super-fast broadband to more than 90% of UK premises. Along with the FTTP technology the communications giant, BT, also announced vast improvements in the current FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) speeds.  This improvement should see speeds doubling from 40 Mbps to 80Mbps.

Thanks to Ofcom the cost of broadband on your telephone lines is about to come down. The latest price controls on BT’s wholesale division means that companies who supply via Openreach ADSL networks such as TalkTalk and Sky will be able to trim the cost to the end user – you and I.

Although this sounds like great news for us and bad news for BT, it may not be.  It could help to make BT the only national player in the superfast fibre broadband market. With the government cutting the existing price of technology it may make the investment case for building new fibre networks even harder to sustain. Sky offer their new fibre broadband service, using BT infinity infrastructure, for £20 per month compared with £7.50 for a standard ADSL service.  This difference could get bigger.

There is £530 million in public funds available to bring superfast broadband to the ‘final third’of the UK, which will not be served by the market.  However in the four pilot areas – Highlands and Islands, Cumbria, Herefordshire and North Yorkshire – BT’s rivals took a look and decided the scale of the task was too much and withdrew from the process. It appears that bidding against such a well-established incumbent would be foolish.  Fujitsu announced last April that they were going to provide fast fibre broadband to 5 million homes in rural Britain, since this announcement we have heard very little about the progress of this plan. I think it would be fair to say that BT will get the main share of the £530 million for providing fast fibre broadband across the UK.

What we really need though is a clearer plan from Ofcom and the government that creates greater incentives for fast-fibre connections as opposed to perversely continuing the support and improvement of the old copper-based broadband networks.

Virgin Media’s superfast ‘up to’ 100 Mbps broadband is currently available for 10 million homes in the UK.  Virgin believes that half the country will be able to get superfast broadband provided by them.

The government promised to give Britain the best broadband in Europe before 2015, there is only three years left to reach this goal.  At present we will certainly achieve having the best and cheapest copper-based connections; however a fast fibre Britain still looks to be a long way off in the future. It would be best if Ofcom handed the job of installing fast fibre across Britain along with the public funds to BT.  In Cornwall they were awarded the contract with little fuss, no time consuming sorting through bids, customers are already using the fast fibre broadband and enjoying it.

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