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INCA: UK should aim for 80% FTTP broadband coverage by 2026

Thursday, September 8th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The government should aim for 80% of the UK to have access to fibre to the premises (FTTP) broadband within 10 years, according to a group of BT’s rivals.

INCA, the Independent Networks Cooperative Association, wants ministers to set a more ambitious fibre target as part of a new ‘Gigabit Britain’ strategy.

It says pure fibre infrastructure is essential to ensure the UK remains digitally competitive.

In a report launched today, INCA says 80% is an “attainable goal” and sets a further target of “near universal” FTTP coverage by 2030.

It also calls for the removal of barriers to FTTP investment, including the suspension of business rates on new fibre assets for 10 years, and a review of advertising guidelines to clarify the difference between FTTP and other fibre technologies.

The government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme is currently working towards a goal of 95% superfast coverage by the end of 2017.

This is being mostly being delivered using fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology, which relies on traditional copper wires to connect each property to its nearest fibre street cabinet.

INCA is made up of alternative network providers – known as Altnets – including Sky, Vodafone, CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and Relish.

According to today’s report, Altnets have already passed more than 650,000 premises with FTTP broadband – twice as many as BT.

INCA says its members are forecast to pass 4.9m premises, or 18% of the UK’s population, with FTTP by 2020 and could increase their deployment plans by 25-50% in “a more supportive policy and regulatory environment”.

Altnets 'doing a great job'

Malcolm Corbett, the association’s CEO, said: “The UK has some of the lowest pure fibre deployment in the OECD, yet our economy is one of the most digital in the world, which is dependent on our digital infrastructure.

“We urgently need to upgrade to pure fibre connections and government needs to act by setting the vision and framework to encourage competitive investment.

“The Altnets are doing a great job. Five years ago few of them existed, today they provide more than twice as many FTTP connections as BT and many more offer great wireless broadband services.

“Increasingly government ministers and agencies like BDUK (which invests in rural broadband) are recognising the vital role of the Altnets. But more needs to be done.”

Mr Corbett said INCA’s recommendations would help the telecoms industry exceed current deployment plans without the need for government subsidies.

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