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Super-Fast Broadband

Last Edit: 10/01/17

Introduction

Super-Fast Broadband is a popular UK term, which, as of writing (2011), generally refers to an Internet Connection which has a speed of 24Mbps and above. When most people think of Super-Fast Broadband, they usually think of a connection delivered by a fibre optic cable, rather than the traditional copper landline cabling.

Super-Fast Broadband is also referred to as high speed broadband, and can be found in numerous countries around the globe. As of 2011, South Korea and Japan have two of the leading global high speed broadband networks, with considerable coverage percentages. The UK does have a Super-Fast Broadband network, which was first offered by Virgin Media, but, reports have suggested that only 1% of the UK's population has access to a broaband speed of 24Mbps and above.

The previous Labour (UK) government had developed a scheme to ensure that the whole of the UK would have a broadband speed of at least 2Mbps by 2012. Recently, the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government has announced that they have shelved this scheme. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has stated that the Internet is evolving at such a pace that 2Mbps will not satisfy the demands of users.

Instead, Jeremy Hunt has promised he will develop a strategy to create Europe's best broadband network by 2015. The coalition government has ear marked over £800m to help develop the UK's new fibre optic network. The current aim is to ensure that every community in the UK has access to fibre optic cabling. The one obstacle to this aim is the rural hard to reach communities dotted up and down the UK. Trials have already been put in place to reach difficult-to-reach areas such as the Scottish Highlands.

Previous Labour Government

One of the hot topics of conversation, when it comes to broadband and UK users, is 'Super Fast' broadband. What constitutes 'Super Fast' is up to debate, but presently it resides around a 40Mb to 50Mb download speed.

The first company to launch a super fast connection was Virgin Media. Currently set at a 50Mb download speed, it provides the benchmark for all other providers to meet. BT have recently released their own super fast service, which offers a speed of 40Mb.

Currently the UK has an average download speed in the region of 2Mb, with many rural areas obtaining a speed in the region of 500Kb. The current government aim is for all households to enjoy a speed of 2Mb.

The previous Labour government had proposed a 50 pence tax on landline telecom services. This tax would help fund the infrastructure of a super fast broadband network. And specifically, help to launch the service to rural areas, where the cost of implementation is that much higher.

The one problem, one which is increasingly becoming a political problem, is the actual broadband speed consumers receive. While providers advertise a speed 'up to', in practice, Ofcom research has concluded that very few consumers receive anywhere near the advertised and claimed speed.

Only recently Cisco has released the results of a study which placed the UK twenty fifth out of sixty six countries for broadband spped. The study concluded that the UK's network was sufficient for today's demands, but, it did not look ready to handle future demands, such as high definition video.

Japan and South Korea topped the list, with both countries promising to deliver 1Gb download speeds in the future. A figure which dwarfs the 50Mb currently offered by Virgin.

It would appear then, that the UK is lagging behind when it comes to planning for the future development of fibre optic cabling in the UK. The Conservatives, in their election manifesto, promised to review how fibre optic networks are funded.

To date, Ed Vaizey, minister for communications, has not indicated that this review will take place. It appears that the current funding guidelines will remain in place. The ones which the Conservatives attacked, and which research indicates is 'not fit for purpose' for the upcoming decade.