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'Investment, time and effort' - but 100% UK broadband coverage is possible

Wednesday, December 3rd 2014 by Ellen Branagh

It is possible to deliver connectivity to 100% of the country, but only with creative solutions, the head of the body representing the UK internet industry has said.

James Blessing, chair of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), said it is never impossible to reach 100%, but it needs “money, investment, time and effort”.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, he said reaching 90% was easy, becoming progressively harder up to a "difficult" final two or three per cent.

But he added: “It’s never impossible. It can be done if you’re willing to spend the money. If you’re willing to put the money, investment, time and effort in, you can have 100%.”

Mr Blessing said some of ISPA’s members are delivering connectivity in hard-to-reach areas, proving that it can be done.

But he said those in the hard-to-reach areas were being left behind, and growing so impatient that they were starting to find their own solutions.

“Government started on the easy bit first, so we’ve concentrated on getting all the cities sorted out, we’ve concentrated on getting the populated rural areas sorted out.

“The people out there are the ones who are now lagging behind.

“You’ve got projects all over the place where people have got to the point where they’re fed up and going ‘well we’ll fix it ourselves’.

“We’ve got members who do all sorts of random things, they try really hard to fix these problems because they can see there’s a need and they’re not investing on a three-year cycle.

‘They go, ‘if we do this now in 10 years time we’ll be into profit or it’ll pay for itself in 10 years time’. Try getting finance for that, it’s really difficult.”

Outlining one hypothetical creative solution, Mr Blessing said the trick would be to use the best signal appropriate to what a user is doing, to deal with the issue of latency.

Network latency is the time it takes for a packet of data to get from one point to another. Low latency means there are small delays in data communication, whereas high latency refers to longer delays.

If someone could develop a solution which prioritises low latency traffic on the fastest available connection, leaving high latency material to a high latency connection like satellite, that would be a possible creative solution, he said.

“This is what I’m saying – yes you can get 100%, you just have to start getting very creative with what you’re doing.”

The man behind the project to bring superfast broadband to Wales also expressed the same views in an interview with Cable.co.uk.

Superfast Cymru programme director Ed Hunt said: “Anything is engineeringly possible. I would imagine there’s not many houses in the UK that don’t have electricity. There’s a hell of a lot that don’t have mains gas or mains sewage and that’s because it costs a lot of money.

“If you had a bottomless pit of money I’m sure you could quite easily get to 100% of the UK.

“I think it’s going to come down to viability and cost. Satellite broadband is nearly ubiquitous, there can’t be that many places that can’t get satellite broadband anymore.

“It’s a case of money, yes, creative technologies, pushing fibre further. We’re pushing fibre to the cabinet further than we thought we would two years ago.

“So as time moves on and technology moves on I’m sure we’re going to get in those very very high 90s.”

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