Ofcom predicts super-fast broadband for Britain

Ed Richards, CEO of UK regulator Ofcom, presented his vision for next-generation access and networks in a speech given at the IET on Wednesday 16 April 2008.

"If you were to ask me whether in 10 or 15 years̵7; time most developed markets will have very-high bandwidth networks available to many, many households - if not universally - I would say the answer is almost certainly, ̵6;yes̵7;," Richards predicted, speaking at Savoy Place, the London home of the IET.

The new super-fast access networks will give people anything from 20 to 100 Mbps and more. Virgin Media is piloting super broadband in Ashford with a view to rolling it out more widely this year and next. BT is bringing it in at Ebbsfleet.

However, such a network nationwide has a very stiff price tag, with some estimates running as high as £15bn for the whole country. Doubts remain over how quickly the commercial sector would be willing to shoulder the cost.

Richards acknowledged that super-fast broadband ̵1; next-generation access and networks ̵1; is crucial to the UK̵7;s future. "These networks form part of the critical infrastructure of the country̵7;s economy and will be central to the way we live our lives in the future," he said.

But Richards warned that government-backed solutions might not suit the UK. "In some Far Eastern markets, there has been substantial direct Government intervention, to help speed the deployment," he said. "The deployment is impressive and highly visible. More questionable is whether it has yet been proven to be economically efficient. Our research and discussions with colleagues in East Asia suggest there is exactly the same uncertainty about commercially viable new services on these advanced networks."

Rolling out a super-fast broadband involves a major civil engineering project. Ofcom intends to undertake a sample survey of the existing underground telecoms duct network and to ask whether there is scope to secure commercially viable access for fibre deployment through the networks of other utilities such as water and energy.

Further information:
Watch Ed Richards' speech on iet.tv

Image: Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom

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