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Ultrafast broadband sceptics wrong, says CityFibre boss

Tuesday, November 11th 2014 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Internet service providers are starting to realise the need for gigabit connectivity is “inevitable”, a broadband boss has claimed.

CityFibre’s Mark Collins said the sceptical view that “no-one needs gigabit” still exists but the reality is that consumers don’t always know how much bandwidth they are using.

“The more capable our connection is, the more we consume on it,” Mr Collins, the company’s director of strategy and public affairs, told Cable.co.uk.

“We did a pilot project in Bournemouth with gigabit fibre to the home, and the average usage per customer on that is about five times that on Virgin Media’s network, based on the amount of data traffic they are utilising.

“Once you give people the capability and it’s really reliable and there’s a good user experience, they start using it for more things.”

CityFibre’s research suggests the majority of consumers don’t even realise they are using more data.

Technologies such as the BBC’s iPlayer use adaptive bitrate systems that allow it to stream in the highest quality the user’s internet connection will allow.

“If you say to the individual ‘what is it you’re doing differently?’ in some cases they can’t answer the question but actually when you give it to them they start doing all this stuff, they start watching more videos, they watch more of it in high definition,” said Mr Collins.

“So they don’t necessarily know, they’re probably thinking ‘this is a better experience’ but they are doing the same things.

“The growth of bandwidth will continue and our view is you just need to have the right quality of infrastructure in place.”

Cable.co.uk previously reported how CityFibre had teamed up with Fujitsu to extend its core fibre network in York to serve 20,000 residential properties.

The fibre-to-the-premises broadband will make new 1GB packages from Sky and TalkTalk available to residents.

“We take an approach in entering a market that we will be build all of the physical infrastructure through CityFibre’s private finance,” said Mr Collins.

“We build all the infrastructure ourselves through our own resources but we don’t build speculatively – we build to an element of aggregated demand.

“The process is then looking at the different layers to aggregating that demand and building an infrastructure in phases.

“We started out discussions with Sky and TalkTalk about two years ago and there was very much a view of ‘well, we need to see if our customers really want this’.

“Two years later, we can see these projects rolling out all over Europe and we can see this whole debate on broadband – people are not happy with the speeds they get.

“You have things like Sky launching Now TV and starting to realise ‘well actually for that to work really well and scale that up we need much better quality broadband connectivity’ so I think there’s a realisation that this is inevitable, that this is going to happen.

“There is still a question of when – is it five, 10 or 20 years’ time? But it is inevitable.

“There is also a growing view within the industry itself that just buying connectivity from one monopoly supplier is not a good place to be, so encouraging there to be an alternative to BT Openreach to exist is also a good thing.”

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