At level of Rhetoric, 'Gigabit' Becomes the UK Goal

September 30, 2014
By: Gary Kim

“The U.K. should target nationwide access to 1 Gbps broadband in homes, businesses and public buildings, with 10Gbps services for tech-clusters, as early possible in the next parliament,” a new position paper by Labor Digital, a group affiliated with the U.K. Labour Party argues.

Separately, Conservative Party Sajid Javid talking at the Conservative Party Conference pushes the previous ambition from when Jeremy Hunt was Culture Secretary to be best of the major countries in Europe much further wanting the U.K. to compete with Japan and South Korea in the global digital economy.

"Since 2010, access to Superfast Broadband has doubled and we already have the best broadband coverage of any large European nation,” said Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities, and a member of the Conservative Party.

“But beating France and Germany is never enough,” he said. “We need to compete with the likes of Japan and South Korea,” he said.

And where, originally, talk of nationwide “Superfast” 30 Mbps high speed access was seen as the goal as recently as 2010, one might argue that Google (News - Alert) Fiber has had political impact in the United Kingdom, not just in the United States, where the Google Fiber launch already has changed decision making about market levels of competition.

At least at the level of political rhetoric, there already is talk of widespread access two orders of magnitude over the levels envisioned only several years ago.

The proportion of U.K. “superfast” connections at headline speeds of 30 Mbps or more has grown from five percent in November 2011 to 25 percent in November 2013, U.K. communications regulator Ofcom reports.

Also, “average” superfast connection speed has continued to rise, reaching 47 Mbps by November 2013, an increase of 47 percent since May 2010.

The role of cable operators is not to be underestimated. Observers might note that Virgin Media, which sells Internet access at speeds of 152 Mbps, already reaches about 44 percent of U.K. homes, while BT (News - Alert) Openreach is available to 69 percent of U.K. homes.

That trend, where typical cable speed is faster than typical telco high speed access, has been in place for some time, one might argue.

According to Ofcom studies, cable high speed access tends to be faster than telco-provided asymmetrical digital subscriber line services, for example. And some would argue that speed difference tends to persist even over telco fiber to cabinet or fiber to home services.

In any event, the level of rhetoric now has been changed. Instead of talking about 30 Mbps, U.K. policymakers might start talking about gigabit access.