Jeremy Hunt warns UK could fall behind other countries in superfast broadband roll-out

Jeremy Hunt, culture secretary, has warned that the UK could fall behind other countries in delivering superfast broadband. Hunt also criticised BT over its provision of broadband access, in a speech to the Royal Television Society.

Jeremy Hunt, culture secretary, has warned that the UK could fall behind other countries in delivering superfast broadband. Hunt also criticised BT over its provision of broadband access, in a speech to the Royal Television Society.

Average speeds today are 7.5Mbps, but consumer bandwidth is rising by 60% each year. At this rate we'll hit 1Gbit by 2020, said Hunt.

He added that other parts of the world are doing much better than the UK, with Singapore's government planning universal access to 1Gbit.

"I am a strong believer that competition is the biggest driver of investment, both at the retail and infrastructure level. But I do not believe the market is working as well as it should.

"The process to reach a satisfactory conclusion on PIA [physical infrastructure access] prices for the use of BT's ducts and poles is taking too long. PIA has to be sorted out - and quickly - in a way that allows fair competition with different providers able to invest in our broadband infrastructure. It's also important that we have a properly competitive market in retail fibre," he said.

In the same speech Hunt urged for the 4G spectrum auction to press ahead as quickly as possible, as the growth in tablets and smartphones suggest mobile will be the primary devices used to access the internet in the future.

Sweden completed its auction in 2009, Germany last year, Italy's is taking place this weekend, France will finish its auction this year. "Mobile phone operators must put aside competitive differences and work together in their common - and our national - interest to make this happen.

This follows a recent announcement from Ofcom that it is to delay the 4G spectrum due to technical and competition reasons.

A BT spokesman said the company was keen to announce new PIA pricing earlier this summer but the trials were delayed due to some companies being slow to sign up.

"BT volunteered to open its ducts and poles to other providers last year and we have kept Ofcom fully informed every step of the way. As planned, we will issue revised prices for duct and pole access in the coming weeks,” he said.

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