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Ofcom cautious about fibre connections

Antony Savvas

Comms regulator Ofcom is still not convinced that fibre connections to the home are the best way to ensure UK users do not fall behind in the broadband access stakes.

Ofcom chairman Lord Currie told telecom managers at the annual Communications Management Association (CMA) conference that the regulator was not convinced that fibre to the home was a viable solution for the UK.

Countries including Japan, South Korea and the US are seeing widespread fibre deployments to support better and faster broadband access.

In addition, the Dutch government has decided to support the eventual replacement of the country’s traditional phone exchanges with fibre to the home deployments, being carried out by the likes of incumbent comms firm KPN.

Earlier in the day, CMA chairman Carolyn Kimber called for Ofcom and the government to get behind fibre to the home, otherwise risk the UK slipping behind other countries when it came to broadband access.

But Currie said, “We are considering a regulatory position to cover fibre to the home but remain unconvinced about its suitability to solve any access problems in the last mile [experienced by DSL broadband].”

Currie said, “When ADSL first came along I was told the maximum you could send down a copper wire was 1mbps. That has now increased to 24mbps.

“The physics that dictate what you can send down copper seem to be changing all the time.”

BT now offers a standard 8mbps connection to consumers with its basic broadband offering, and is promising faster speeds within a year for most users.

Currie said Ofcom would consider BT’s next move on speed and performance with broadband over copper before considering whether to get behind calls for wider UK fibre deployments. He said, “We have to consider whether there is a real commercial opportunity with fibre to the home before we step in.”

CMA calls for government to act on telecoms

Broadband stakeholder group

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