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Reliance on copper networks not helping UK broadband customers

Wednesday, November 19th 2014 by Hannah Langston

The UK is in danger of falling behind other nations due to its reliance on legacy telecoms infrastructure, according to the chair of Europe’s industry association of fibre broadband suppliers.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Karin Ahl of the Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council said it was very “unfortunate” that the UK, France and Germany are using existing networks to deliver fibre broadband.

“The legacy networks already in place are under control of the incumbents and they immediately want to make the most out of it.

“I think it’s very unfortunate to take this intermediate step to fibre to the cabinet instead of going fully fibre digital when you use taxpayers' money to deliver a new infrastructure.”

Asked if legacy networks were holding these countries back Ms Ahl replied: “Yes, I think they are”.

Ms Ahl (pictured), who is also head of development at Swedish network provider Rala, added that countries that have rolled out FTTH on a broad scale are progressing: “The Scandinavian markets and eastern European markets are much further developed and engaged than other areas and regions in Europe.”

“If we look at the UK, Germany and France we can see that its mainly fibre to the cabinet being rolled out which doesn’t really help the end situation and consumer which is unfortunate.”

She argued that despite FTTH networks being installed mainly in rural areas in these countries the technology is “definitely a solution for very high density areas and other customer profiles”.

“In very open areas you can do more with [fibre to the cabinet] for the moment but just looking ahead two or three years the capacity won't be enough for those areas as well.”

However, she says the UK is starting to wake up to the need for pure fibre networks.

“I think the clock is ticking. It’s very early in the morning for the UK and I think it's started realising it.

“If you look at what they’re trying to achieve in the countryside now I think that needs to be multiplied onwards in the coming years,” she added.

When asked for a response to Ms Ahl's comments, BT referred us to this previous statement by a spokesperson: “BT has rolled out fibre to tens of millions of properties in record time. We were able to achieve that by focusing on the technology that could be rolled out the quickest and that was the most cost effective. This has enabled millions of customers to benefit from low prices and great value superfast broadband.

“It has been estimated that rolling out FTTP to every UK home would have cost up to £30 billion, and would have taken an awfully long time. We have taken exactly the right approach.

“Meanwhile industry experts believe the average home will require 19Mbps by 2023, so our FTTC service – which delivers speeds of up to 80Mbps – has plenty of life left in it yet."

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