Still No Consensus On The Need For FTTP Argues UK Government

Those hoping for a big rollout across the UK of ultrafast pure fibre optic broadband connections / Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) have been frustrated and disappointed this week by the UK government’s comments on the subject.

In a written response to European Commission (EC) consultation on the need for internet speed and quality beyond 2020, the UK government has said that there is no consensus to expand the deployment of FTTP, or to make it the main broadband delivery method. The government also chose to refer to an old pre-election budget document rather than to directly answer the EC’s questions on the subject.

Why The Consultation?

One of Europe’s Digital Agenda goals is to make sure that every home in the EU can access a 30Mbps+ capable “superfast” broadband connection (plus 50% subscribed to a 100Mbps+ service) by the year 2020. In order to make this happen, and as part of a wider inquiry into the digital single market, the EC has been running a public consultation among its members “addressed to citizens, businesses, NGOs, public authorities and every sector”.

The goal has been to help it to identify where to best focus efforts after 2020 so that future Internet connectivity needs can be are fully met. The consultation ran from 11 September to 7th December 2015.

What Is FTTP and How Could It Help?

FTTP is the shorthand term for providing Internet access by running a fibre optic cable directly from the Internet Service Provider to a user's business - “fibre-to-the-premises”. The benefits of doing so are much faster speeds, greater capacity and reliability.

Faster downloads (and uploads), higher quality streaming media, and plenty of bandwidth are what users of FTTP could expect. We could also expect FTTP connections to allow businesses to develop products and innovations hitherto not thought about thanks to the possibilities that greater data transmission will enable. Those managing the physical network of FTTP can expect fewer problems because fibre optic cables are durable, need very little servicing, and can be easily monitored.

Why The Government’s Recent Response?

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) chose not to respond directly to the consultation i.e. there was a lack of response. The government did however point to the findings of a year old consultation from the Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy (DCIS).

Whilst it supported the EC’s vision and acknowledged the need for “high-capacity, reliable, resilient, secure, affordable and fast” infrastructure it said that users were more concerned with connection quality rather than speed. The government’s response document said that while it was likely there would be an expansion in FTTP deployments, G.fast would enable ultrafast speeds over copper networks, and while fibre has an important roll in underpinning networks, there is no consensus on FTTP’s expansion as yet.

Criticism

This response has been met with criticism that with the UK ‘s broadband consumption doubling year on year, there is a very strong argument for Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) services being extended now. Critics have also taken this opportunity to point out the limitations of the current Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) infrastructure (slow speeds, distance attenuation & slowdowns at peak times), and to cast doubt on the ability of G.fast technology to live up to its promise.