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October 18, 2016
Speaking at Broadband World Forum, Openreach’s CEO Clive Selley gave a rundown of what the country needs to do to remain at the top of the digital economy. The first part of this crusade is a relatively simple message to Ofcom; stop messing around.
Ofcom’s Strategic Review of Digital Communications was announced last year, and is yet to reach its conclusion. Although a review is not necessarily a bad thing in a rapidly changing environment, the duration and intensity has made the overall task more of a nuisance and distraction to the industry than a benefit.
Selley made a straight forward suggestion to the UK regulator, effectively saying ‘stop d*cking around and start doing what you’re supposed to be doing’. Broadband is as important to the 21st century as the train was to the 18th, if Britain is to continue as a leader in the digital economy the focus has to be moving forward not reviewing the now. It was a simple statement from the Openreach CEO, though one does wonder how effective it will be in cutting through the hazardous Ofcom bureaucracy.
The Openreach strategy is a simple one in essence, though the delivery maybe slightly more complicated, and that is to ensure the delivery of ultra-speed broadband to every household in the UK by 2020 in a cost-effective manner. Very nice to hear, but very complicated to deliver.
But what does Britain’s future network actually look like? For Selley and the Openreach team, this ambition falls into three distinct areas.
Firstly, Long Reach VDSL will form one of the central pillars of the Openreach strategy, and according to Selley, the beauty of this technology is the simplicity. In initial small-scale trials, the technology has already improved download speed performance in households more than 1km away from the cabinet, compared to 300-400m with the current technology, and large-scale trials are set to begin in January 2017.
Secondly, Openreach has made no secret of its love affair with G.fast and this was emphasised by Selley at the conference. Openreach was one of the first organizations to announce a commercial rollout of the technology and it’s not stopping there. The basis of this confidence in the technology is what it delivers; speed and affordability. Speed in terms of bandwidth and deployment time, and affordability due to the fact it will piggy back current infrastructure. For Selley, it’s an absolute winner, and by 2020 it will reach more than 10 million premises to deliver ultra-fast broadband.
Finally, Fibre-to-the-Premise. This is an area which has featured in parts to date, but not as prominently as some observers would have wanted. Selley answer was simple. It was too costly and time-consuming. Although it would have been the best long-term solution, it was not a solution that would have met the demands of customers. According to Selley, VDSL was the right technology at the right time, but now the team can look to more expansive solutions.
Over the next two years, Openreach FTTP will be doubled. From next month, FTTP will be built into all new housing developments which have more than 30 homes. The team will also aim to deliver a commercial FTTP product in the near future, with the ambition of delivering ultra-fast broadband to 1 million SMEs by 2020 through FTTP and G.fast technologies.
In short, Selley admits FTTP has played a supporting role to date, the CEO now claims it will be the lead during the Openreach production. This is how Britain will maintain its position at the top of the digital economy, even if it is wobbling under pressure from the new super-powers.
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