UK Needs More FTTH To Improve Its Broadband Strategy

  • Posted on: 26 January 2013
  • By: Patrick Oliphant

FTTH (Fibre-to-the-Home) is the ultimate in broadband connection, but despite its possible benefit establish/old economics are slow to roll out the technology.  Reasons for their lack lustre approach is: its cost too much;  it will take too long to see the return on investment; it’s not needed, these and many other reasons are sighted for the low penetration of Fibre in the UK. Based on data from the FTTH Council Europe the UK  is far away from those countries leading in rolling out fibre-to-the-Home broadband.

Fibre to the home or ultra fast broadband is viewed as a “could have” by some suppliers, and instead of ultra fast broadband to the home they offer what is called “fast enough” service. Currently, money is invested in improving the speed of copper and marketing small speed improvements.

“Incumbent know that copper is obsolete, but they want to hold onto their legacy instrastructure for as long as possible because they are making money from it,” said Nadia Babaai, the Communication Director at FTTH Council Europe.

There is no denying that the installation of FTTH is a huge investment but I think it’s a necessary investment for the long-term. I don’t think suppliers should wait until there is a huge demand for it before they start falling over themselves to install it.

In comparison to the rest of Europe the UK has the lowest fibre-to-the-home growth rate, base on reports from the FTTH Council Europe.  According to them, the penetration of fibre to the home in the UK stops at the cabinet (FTTC).  By stopping at the cabinet households are offered up to 40Mbps upload speed.  IF they should take the fibre to the premises households can expect connection speeds of up to 300Mbps – a significant improvement.

Although I am focusing on the UK, a similar situation exist in western Europe.  Those countries like the UK who were early in rolling out internet connection are also logging behind in upgrading the broadband infrastructure as well. Countries such as Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland have less than 10 per cent penetration, according to the FTTH Council Europe.  Their Eastern European neighbours are rolling out more FTTH at a faster pace.  By 2016 countries such as Estonia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Slovak, Sweden and Latvia are expected to have a 20 per cent penetration.

There are many independent working being done in and around the home that will require us to have better broadband connection the fully benefit from these services.  Areas such as Health Care, utility, home automation, security and home entertainment are developing innovative services.  Connected health solutions are being develop for those who need medical support at home.  The entertainment industry, in reaction to our changing habits is offering different ways for us to access digital content i.e. download on demand movies.

FTTH is needed to support the change in content format (from standard to ultra HD) so users can experience the content how the creators intended them to.

The method of using the internet has also changed, it has move from one way to two-way communication, not only in point and click but voice and video as well.

The UK is part of the European broadband Digital Agenda 2020, where member countries sign up to have at least 50 per cent of its household having broadband connection of 100Mbps or more.  The government in the past have announced plans to have the “best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015”.  These plans were made with the best intention but it has come up against obstacles; BT for one has changed its strategy by deciding to focus on upgrading it copper network to offer fibre-to-the-cabinet instead.

The UN’s Broadband Commission for Digital Development has stated that every country should have a national broadband plan by 2015, claiming Internet should be seen as a human need and a right, and that broadband contributes to economic growth and job creation.  The European Commission proposes to spend 9.2 billion euros from 2014-2020 on high-speed broadband and related  services, with 7 billion euros available for investment in infrastructure.