Home & Office

Gov't seeks to boost UK broadband networks

An independent review has been launched into barriers preventing the rollout of high-speed, next-generation broadband networks in the UK
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

The government has launched an independent review on barriers to rolling out high-speed, next-generation broadband networks in the UK which it says are essential for the future economic success of the country. It is also looking at around fibre.

Business and competitiveness minister, Shriti Vadera, said the UK's communications infrastructure must be able to respond to future technology development. "We must not be in a situation where our creativity and [the] growth of our businesses are stifled by inadequate communications and regulatory frameworks," she said in a statement.

Areas the review will consider include whether the public sector has a role to play to help minimise the cost of investment to the private sector; whether Ofcom has adequate powers of regulation around high-speed access; and possible barriers to collaborative models of investment involving telecommunications suppliers, content providers and others.

The government has also asked industry-lobbying association the Broadband Stakeholders Group to look at the economics of fibre deployment; specifically whether laying fibre to the home is viable without first deploying fibre to the cabinet.

Tiscali chief executive, Mary Turner, recently told ZDNet.co.uk's siter site, silicon.com, that fibre to the cabinet — or "backhaul" — needs to be "commercialised", as BT is not obliged by Ofcom to resell it.

Turner said: "The bandwidth is there, it needs to be commercialised so that we can afford to actually buy that and resell it at an affordable price to the consumer. And that's the argument and it is a point that we have made to Ofcom. And we are having those discussions with Ofcom on a regular basis because we have to, because the discussion has moved on to fibre to the curb."

The government said the review, which will be led by Francesco Caio, vice chairman of investment bank Lehman Brothers, is intended to complement Ofcom's review on next-generation access. It will report in the autumn to the secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, and the chancellor of the exchequer.

Vadera added in a statement: "The way we will do business [and] access many government services, as well as information and entertainment, will change beyond recognition over our lifetime. New technologies will push the boundaries of today's communications infrastructure.

"We must be ready to respond to future technological developments, which will place unprecedented challenges for our communications networks over the coming decade."

Editorial standards