know the drill: you sign up to broadband on the promise of
blisteringly fast speeds only to discover the grindingly slow
reality. Not any more. Well, sort of.
today, new advertising rules will force internet service providers
(ISPs) to be more upfront about exactly how fast your connection
should be. Previously, broadband providers could entice people with
tantalisingly fast “up to” speeds so long as they were available to
at least ten per cent of customers at any time of day. The new
average speeds must be available to at least 50 per cent of
customers at peak times – i.e. when you’re actually at home trying
to stream Netflix in 4K or make a Skype call that doesn’t drop out
every two minutes.
Sky Broadband as an example. It’s already adhering by thenew
Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) rulesand
as a consequence its 17Mbps service is now billed as 11Mbps. Add in
the usual caveats of poor Wi-Fi signal, bad wiring and other
interference and that number will fall further still. But honesty
doesn’t address the underlying issue: the UK’s broadband
infrastructure remains a cheap, outdated mess.
you’ve signed up to fibre broadband? Think again. Unless you’ve got
fibre to the home, then your connection is actually a mix of fibre
and copper – fibre all the way to the nearest roadside cabinet and
copper up to your front door or building. So while everyone will now
have to be (more) honest about speeds, they can still be economical
with the truth when it comes to exactlyhowyour
home is hooked up.
that makes a big difference. The UK’s fibre to the home
infrastructure is so poor it’s out-performed byalmost
every other country in Europe(Latvia, with
50.6 per cent fibre coverage, ranks first in terms of market
penetration). The number of fibre subscribers in Europe increased by
20.4 per cent to 51.6 million in 2017. Of the major European
countries, Spain (17.5 million) and France (14.9 million) are the
major success stories.
Europe, the number of fibre to the home and fibre to the building
subscribers reached 51.6 million. In total, more than 148 million
homes now have the ability to access such connections.
of that is down to the realities of bricks and mortar. Fibre to the
home is easier to install in big apartment blocks, which are more
commonplace on the continent than in the UK. The makeup of who runs
and owns the infrastructure also plays a part. In the UK, that’s
(mostly) Opeanreach, which until recently wasn’t keen on sharing.
Recent regulatory changes mean it now has to let providers other
than BT use its underground ducts and overhead poles to install
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removing the financial and logistical hurdle of ripping up roads to
install new fibre services has led to a sudden surge in activity.
TalkTalk plans to bring1Gbps
speedsto three million premises in the next
five years and is investing £1.5 billion to make it happen;
Opeanreach itself wants to connect three million premises to full
is working with CityFibreto hook up five
million premises in the coming years.
there will inevitably be overlap, that’s likely to be a good thing:
competition for full fibre broadband connections will drive down
prices and persuade more people to ditch crawlingly slow and
that’s the other part of the UK’s seemingly endless broadband speeds
saga: cost. The UK has highest percentage of people using the
internet of any G7 economy (a figure based on a2014
government report) and speeds remain above the European
average. But, for the most part, a lack of competition for full
fibre services has left the UK hooked on a poor diet of copper.
Ofcomshow that 44 per cent of households
have download speeds of 30Mbps or higher, that’s despite so-called
“superfast” connections now being available to 91 per cent of UK
premises. That gap is down to the quality of what people are willing
to pay for, not the quality of what companies are selling.
that inequity is down to the government. In 2016, chancellor Phillip
Hammond announced £400 million to support investment in fibre
broadband infrastructure, a figure it believes could rise to £1.5
billion with private investment over the coming years. This week,
Hammond pledged to make full fibre connections available to 15
million premises, the majority of UK homes and business,by
2025. It is, of course, the latest in a long line of similar
new ASA rules around how broadband speeds are advertised will make
one thing abundantly clear: despite years of promises and token
gestures from the government, the UK broadband market remains stuck
on cheaper copper and fibre connections. And, with all the will in
the world, that will remain the case for decades to come.