Broadband war coming - DTI

The government is to auction large amounts of the radio spectrum in a bid to kickstart broadband access in the UK it was announced yesterday while a DTI spokesman predicted a broadband war as the wireless proposals go head to head with BT's ADSL plans.The government is keen to encourage competition in the broadband access market as part of its 'Information Age' strategy for new technologies.

The government is to auction large amounts of the radio spectrum in a bid to kickstart broadband access in the UK it was announced yesterday while a DTI spokesman predicted a broadband war as the wireless proposals go head to head with BT's ADSL plans.

The government is keen to encourage competition in the broadband access market as part of its 'Information Age' strategy for new technologies. Video telephone calls, virtual offices for homeworkers and the remote diagnoses of patient illnesses are just some of the services the government hopes to make a reality. Initially though, the main benefit for consumers will be low-cost faster Internet access.

IDC analyst Richard Moll thinks there is little to differentiate the two technologies and that the advantage of the wireless services will create competition for BT. Said Moll: "This is a good sign for new service providers. They will no longer be dependent on BT and won't need to lease lines from BT." Moll predicts the move will put pressure on BT to roll-out broadband services more quickly -- something the industry has been pushing for some time.

BT is still dragging its heels over mass roll-out of ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line). A spokesman told ZDNet News the company is still evaluating the West London trial of ADSL and an announcement is "due shortly". In response to the government's decision to auction radio spectrum he said: "We welcome competition as long as it is fair."

Moll predicts the broadband wireless services will initially offer consumers Internet access speeds of around 200Kb/sec, for around £20 per month.

The government is calling on the industry for views on which spectrum to license, which companies to allow to bid for licenses and the geographical coverage of the licenses. Launching the consultation document 'Wireless in the Information Age', Telecoms Minister Michael Wills said: "This is a very exciting development and will give everyone cheap access to the Information Superhighway. In the future you will be able to send home videos over the network to relatives, make video telephone calls and create virtual classrooms for learning."

In a separate announcement, Oftel today proposed unbundling BTs local loop to give other operators access to the copper lines needed for broadband services.

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