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Government is investing in dead-end broadband solutions

Monday, November 3rd 2014 by Hannah Langston

The government’s rollout of superfast broadband to 95% of the UK relies upon a flawed technology, according to the head of Fujitsu’s carrier services division.

The Japanese technology company pulled out of a procurement process for government funding to deliver fast broadband to rural areas last year. The funds were subsequently awarded to the sole bidder – BT Openreach, which is now rolling out fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Bill Mackenzie, business unit director for carrier solutions at Fujitsu said: “Everyone speaks about the speed of fibre as the speed of light but very few actually deliver it to the home. They take it to the cabinet, not just Openreach but others as well.

“This is more a personal view than a Fujitsu view – the investment in BDUK is investment in something which could become cul-de-sac.

“The law of physics says you can take speed through copper even through G.fast and VDSL so far but it does have flaws, whereas fibre optics have got a slightly longer shelf life.”

When asked if Fujitsu would have implemented a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband solution, Mr Mackenzie said they would have taken it “as far as we could commercially”.

He added that the company planned on working with “some very active community groups,” to “take fibre deeper within the community”.

Mr Mackenzie added that wireless broadband would also have been part of the solution and claimed Fujitsu withdrew from the BDUK procurement process because of ‘challenges’ around the technology solution.

“There were challenges around the view that the European Commission were taking at that time on fixed wireless broadband. It was deemed not to be superfast or fast broadband and to provide these types of solutions in rural environments the cost of putting in fibre infrastructure is a challenge.

“Wireless itself is a challenge but without having the certainty that we would be able to use fixed wireless broadband as part of our solution it dissuaded us a little bit.”

Responding to Mr Mackenzie’s comments about BDUK investment, a spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “The UK Government’s programme is technology neutral - it does not prescribe a particular solution and leaves it to the market to propose solutions that meet the requirement of delivering commercially sustainable services that can be upgraded.

“This approach will extend superfast coverage to the widest number of premises within the scope of the investment that is available.”

The spokesperson added that if government had opted to deliver a full fibre network, only a small proportion of the UK’s premises could have been reached with the available funding.

The government recently dedicated £10 million to trialling alternative broadband technologies for boosting connectivity in rural areas.

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