Copper networks won't meet our future broadband needs
Opinion is divided over whether the UK's ageing copper broadband infrastructure can continue to provide the necessary levels of connectivity over the coming years.
Essentially, two schools of thought exist on the matter. Some argue that copper can live on and continue to be useful in the form of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology, which sees fibre optic cables run to street cabinets, before being connected to customers' homes via copper.
BT is the most important supporter of this viewpoint. The telecoms giant is aiming to reach two-thirds of the UK with its super-fast broadband network and will mostly use FTTC to help it achieve this goal.
However, this outlook has plenty of critics from people who feel that continuing to rely on copper cables is ultimately doing the UK no favours.
One company that shares this view is Kcom, which predicts that by 2016, average home broadband rates in this country will surge past 50Mbps - speeds that copper networks may struggle to cope with.
Kevin Walsh, Kcom's board director and broadband chief, told the Guardian this week that copper was only ever intended to carry voice signals, not data. "We are right at the limit of copper," he declared.
It's easy to label BT as the incumbent operator that is purely motivated by profit and has little interest in helping the UK keep pace with its European and global counterparts in terms of broadband connectivity.
That's a bit of a misleading view, and the company should actually be applauded for committing £2.5 billion to the rollout of super-fast broadband.
However, BT is deluding itself and its customers by claiming that FTTC is up to the task of meeting the UK's future broadband demands.
As bandwidth-heavy online services such as video streaming and cloud computing become increasingly commonplace, copper networks will be shown up for what they really are - outdated.
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