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Ofcom report says UK needs high-speed fibre in the last mile

Next-generation broadband products for the last mile must be based on fibre, according to a report commissioned by Ofcom.

At the recently held Communications Management Association conference, Ofcom chairman Lord Currie told telecom managers that the comms regulator remained unconvinced about the role of high-speed fibre in the last mile.

He said DSL broadband may well prove to be an adequate solution to support the UK’s future internet access needs.

But the Ofcom-commissioned report from Plextek, which was a six-month study into the role of wireless broadband, has said fibre to the home and office has an important role to play, to ensure the UK does not get left behind other countries when it comes to high-speed connectivity.

A recent research report from Informa said Western Europe now had over one million fibre connections to the home, to enable users to get access to the internet far faster than standard DSL broadband speeds.

The Informa report, however, pointed out that these connections were mainly in Sweden, France and the Netherlands.

The Plextek reports says the UK needs fibre if it is going to adopt applications like IPTV, which needs bandwidth far in excess of what DSL broadband has to offer.

The report says a combination of fibre connectivity backbone networks combined with fixed and wireless gigabit connections in the last mile are the way forward.

The Metronet network in Manchester supplies such a combination to businesses, the local authority and the police.

Steve Methley, senior consultant at Plextek, said, “Future high definition (HD) TV services are likely to demand undiluted access to streaming content at 10-15Mb/s per channel, which is massively in excess of what today’s ADSL systems can support.

“Not enough people understand that today’s ADSL is a contended service - delivered rates may fall to only hundreds of kb/s,” he said.

Contention rates in broadband exchanges can currently see an 8mbps broadband connection being shared by over 20 users.

The Plextek study found that wireless cannot realistically compete with fibre for the provision of future broadband requirements over the whole of the last mile.

The report says that upcoming wireless standards show a bias towards small screen mobile content delivery and are not attempting to address the challenge of “Broadband 2.0” requirements, like HDTV.

Fibre can solve the contention issues by increasing back haul capacity and can solve the last mile issue by acting as a point to point solution alone, said Plextek.

Plextek is an independent research company which counts BAE Systems, the MoD, QinetiQ, Raytheon, TDK and Sony among it clients.

Related article: Fibre connections to the home in Western Europe top 1 million

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