The Future of UK Broadband

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As the web progresses and continues to deliver more elaborate and rich media content it is inevitable that the speeds at which this information is delivered must increase or at least stay relative to what is considered acceptable. This means that the broadband speeds offered by internet service providers (ISPs) needs to stay on par with the progression of the Web. If we are to realise the true potential of the World Wide Web, first we need to build an infrastructure that can support it.

The main issue in achieving faster broadband is that currently the UK relies on an out dated telephone system to deliver broadband internet. There is a danger that the future growth and use of next generation web applications will be stunted due to our out-dated method of transmitting data. Sites like YouTube, MySpace, BBC iPlayer, 4 on Demand etc, would never have been possible using a dial-up 56k modem. This is a clear indication of how better connection speeds can improve level of web applications that can be delivered. Currently broadband speeds are sufficient for today’s use, but we must look to the future if we are to realise the potential of the Web.

The majority of the UK ISPs is still using copper wire to deliver their services, as opposed to fast fibre connection. It is estimated that fibre alternative connections can increase broadband speeds as much as 20 times.

BT has plans to install super fast fibre connections via their Openreach project, which will hopefully replace their old copper phone network in the future. The cost will be huge but their aims are to finance this by renting lines to rival ISPs such as TalkTalk, Tiscali, Car Phone Warehouse and Sky on a wholesale basis. This will allow next generation broadband packages and services to be delivered to consumers at a competitive price.

At present the UK is miles behind countries like Japan and South Korea who have some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world, allowing them to watch broadcast quality television over the internet.

It is estimated that 90% of South Korea’s population are using broadband with an average connection speeds of 43MBPS. In Japan the average advertised connection speed is an incredible 90MBPS, which has been made possible via fibre-optic networks.

Current state of play in the UK

UK broadband prices are certainly dropping, and speeds have definitely improved since the days when 512KBPS was something to be proud of! Today’s norms are as much as 16x faster than they were a few years ago. The downside though, is that many of us in the UK don’t actually receive the broadband that we are sold. It is very much a postcode lottery, as people who live in more rural areas often receive a poorer service. This is due to the direct correlation between distance from the exchange and broadband speeds achieved.

If we are to keep up with Japan, Korea and of EU countries like France and Germany, our main focus should be on upgrading the way we transmit data. The fact that we are trying to squeeze every ounce of speed out of a network that was designed to transmit voice calls is a stark reflection of where we are and where we need to be in the future. Our current telephone network lacks the capacity to deliver the kind of high-speed broadband we require to realise the potential of UK Internet services.

We risks being left behind if we do not take the necessary steps to upgrade our data transmission infrastructure. This upgrade will allow businesses to develop new web related technologies to serve us in the future.

The future is bright for the Internet as new web applications are developed everyday that would never have been possible 5 years ago. The Internet will continue to evolve in years to come but its growth must not be stunted by something as simple as poor data transmission speed.