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UK broadband providers criticise 'biased' report

Tuesday, October 21st 2014 by Dean Reilly

Two UK gigabit broadband providers have challenged a report that claims a lack of market research is common in the ultrafast sector.

The Gigabit Broadband Services report from market research company Broadbandtrends identified that a “surprising” percentage of providers are not using pre-registration to gauge interest in their service.

Furthermore, the report added that the number one challenge for the expansion of gigabit broadband services was unclear customer demand.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Mark Collins, director of strategy and public affairs at gigabit provider CityFibre said, “All the evidence shows that high-speed digital connectivity is essential to the success of businesses in an increasingly digital economy. Around the country businesses are struggling to grow and compete, due to an insufficient availability of bandwidth, thanks to the ageing network infrastructure so many UK cities are forced to use.

“CityFibre is dedicated to changing this by building modern, digital fibre networks in the towns and cities that need it most. Gigabit connectivity enables companies to embrace the new generation of cloud services and online tools that provide the functionality and flexibility they need to grow.

"What is more, in cities where competitive pure fibre infrastructure exists, businesses can benefit by accessing a range of affordable gigabit-speed services that will put them at a significant digital advantage.”

CityFibre, which provides gigabit connections to cities including Coventry, Peterborough, York, Aberdeen and Bournemouth, is one of a number of providers collectively referred to as altnets or alternative networks.

Mr Collins added: “This is why, for CityFibre, pre-registration and demand aggregation campaigns are part of every one of our Gigabit City projects. This is to determine where we build, not if we build, but it does reinforce the demand for fibre connectivity.”

Matthew Hare, chief executive of Gigaclear also felt that the report didn’t reflect the actual picture of gigabit broadband in Britain. Similarly, claims that cloud-based backup and support and ultra HD content are the main drivers for gigabit expansion also don't ring true from a UK perspective, he feels.

He told Cable.co.uk: “This is clearly biased for the US market – we are a little way off having 4k TV content online yet, however the key point is that the FTTC networks that are being rolled out today in rural areas will struggle to deliver these types of services when they become mainstream.

For example the recent BBC iPlayer trial of 4k TV content demonstrated a need for nearly 30Mbps to watch one stream apparently and so, clearly, FTTP is the only technology that has the capacity and scalability to be able to support these services.

“This issue will be exasperated further as more devices connect simultaneously to the network, all updating their software frequently and placing further demands on bandwidth.

"The other key point made is that customers (especially business customers) need more upload capability, they suffer from the asymmetric nature of the legacy networks. Our network being symmetric, already demonstrates that our customers are now uploading significantly more than they did when first connected. When the capability is there, they use it, business customers demand it.”

Responding to the suggestion that unclear customer demand was a barrier to gigabit rollouts, Mr Hare, who's company specialises in providing gigabit connections to rural customers, said: “It’s the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’, for example, why do some people insist on paying more for a better version of the same thing, such as a top of the range car over an economy model?

"It’s true most customers don’t need gigabit today however what they demand is reliability, scalability and predictability.

“Our customers know gigabit is available at the click of a button whenever they need it. This future proofs them and gives them the confidence that they have no restrictions when it comes to new applications, devices or entertainment providers.

“Consider that 10 years ago, online staples such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Sonos, Netflix etc. were in their infancy, if they existed at all. We don’t know exactly now how we’ll be using the internet in a decade’s time, but it’s safe to say that it’ll be for considerably more that we’re using it for at the moment.

“The other issue that emerges is the perception that gigabit is very expensive. Most of our customers realise that they end up saving money when they actually factor in all the extras that they have to pay for with their current provider. On a value for money basis gigabit fibre cannot be beaten.”

Mr Hare concluded: “Our business model is proven to work as we know the demand before we start digging.”

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