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Industry responds to Labour ultrafast broadband pledge

Thursday, September 25th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Internet service providers offering gigabit broadband have welcomed calls from the Labour Party’s digital advisory group for 1Gbps connections to all UK homes, businesses and public buildings.

Labour Digital, an influential group of digital experts and MPs, used the annual party conference in Manchester to promote a five-year strategy to transform the UK into the world’s leading digital economy and society.

The move, announced by Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, brought a warm reception from Matthew Hare, the chief executive of Gigaclear, which offers ultrafast internet services to homes in communities with poor connections.

He told Cable.co.uk, "Gigaclear sees gigabit broadband nationwide as a worthy goal. It will be economically transformative, alongside nationwide water supply, electricity and telephony. To achieve this goal will require tens of billions of pounds of new investment.

“With the right regulatory and financial environment, private telecommunications operators are sure to play their part in achieving this vision."

Fellow ultrafast provider CityFibre, which brings gigabit connectivity to urban communities, also supported Labour’s ambition.

CityFibre director of strategy and public affairs Mark Collins told us: “As a builder of gigabit cities we’re fully supportive of Labour’s ambition to get gigabit access into the UK’s homes and public buildings as early as possible but with the view of 2020.

“This also aligns to the world-class vision of the Scottish government – 1Gb in all fixed line connections by 2020.”

But he said construction would have to start now, and Labour would need the support of new infrastructure.

“The reality check is that to achieve this we need the networks built to deliver it. Construction needs to start now. Networks that support 1Gbps into homes and up to 10Gbps for businesses need to deploy connections now.

“Our view is that cities are on the right track to achieve that but more needs to be done. We’re keen to engage with other cities to support that vision in this timeframe.

“If Labour want to be elected they need the encouragement and support of new infrastructure providers to help achieve [gigabit broadband] quicker.”

Hyperoptic, which is also rolling out a gigabit service across the nation, also backed the proposals.

Managing director Dana Tobak said, "Hyperoptic welcomes proposals from the Labour Digital group for nationwide access to gigabit broadband.

“With investment in fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) there are immediate employment opportunities to build the infrastructure, and long term economic and social benefits to be gained from having future-proofed connectivity, which enables businesses and consumers to take advantage of all the internet has to offer.

"The UK is the most internet-based major economy, but unlike many other developed countries, it is lacking a clear FTTP development program.

“Hyperoptic is leading the charge for gigabit connectivity in the UK and is expanding its footprint rapidly across the UK – we would welcome Government support to further fast-track the expansion of gigabit broadband.”

Mr Collins urged Labour to work with alternative network providers like CityFibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear, known as alternative network providers (altnets), to help bring gigabit broadband to the nation.

“All companies (Cityfibre, Hyperoptic and Gigaclear) are complementary. We share the same vision and are working in a collaborative market.

“For example, in Peterborough we are supplying the backhaul for Gigaclear in rural villages.

“We don’t have much business with Hyperoptic, however we are discussing putting fibre into multi-dwellings, and people can then connect on to BT’s network too.

“Labour need to have a chat with the altnets instead of going back to BT.”

When contacted by Cable.co.uk, BT declined to comment on Labour’s plans.

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