Like many countries around the world, the UK government understands that superfast broadband is crucial to competing in the global economy.
Whether it is in helping businesses work more efficiently, providing access to rich content or enabling citizens to shop, learn and interact with public services the benefits are enormous.
The government has pledged to deliver superfast broadband to at least 90% of premises in the UK and to provide universal access to standard broadband with a speed of at least 2Mbps.
Telcos are investing heavily to provide the fibre optic networks that superfast broadband requires. For example, BT is spending £2.5 billion on fibre broadband infrastructure for the UK, with more than 13 million homes and businesses already having access to its fibre network. The carrier has set itself a target of more than two thirds of UK premises having access to fibre broadband by spring 2014.
However providing fibre broadband to the final third of the country, mainly rural communities, is simply not commercially viable for any carrier. To meet this gap, the UK government has therefore allocated £530m under the Broadband UK (BD UK) programme to stimulate commercial investment in new fibre networks, with the aim of transforming broadband provision for all.
Local authorities have responsibility for commissioning these rural networks, with over 40 schemes either in procurement or deployment. BT Openreach has won all tenders to date. Funding comes from central and local government as well as BT itself.
So how is superfast broadband being rolled out? So far, BT’s deployment has focussed on Fiber to the Cabinet (FTTC), replacing copper cables between local exchanges and street cabinets with optical fibre. This works well for those within a short distance of cabinets, even in rural villages, as it enables a cost-effective, high speed solution with download speeds of up to 300Mbps.
However around 10% of the population live too far from a cabinet to be catered for through FTTC. Filling in these holes in the network is crucial to avoid a two speed Britain, with rural ‘have nots’ lagging behind the majority of the UK.
This is where technology such as PPC’s Miniflex fibre cable, microduct and protection tube can help. Combining toughness and lightness with flexibility the range has been designed to be easier, faster and cheaper to install, without the need for expensive blowing equipment. Fiber can be run along existing telephone poles and then connected to individual houses or businesses, delivering Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), with Miniflex providing the protection over the crucial last 100 metres. PPC's slimline products are designed to fit in with new techniques, such as micro trenching, that minimise disruption by making holes smaller and faster to dig and seal. And because Miniflex is available as a pre-terminated solution it can be installed quickly and safely by non-specialists – even by consumers themselves through pre-connectorised kits.
The rollout of superfast broadband across the UK is happening quickly, with new towns and villages being connected every week. It will help turn the government’s ambitious vision of Britain having the best broadband network in Europe into reality. However a combination of innovation and focus is needed to ensure that the benefits of superfast broadband reach 100% of the population, wherever they are located.
Image by: CollegeDegrees360