It has been revealed that an EU intervention over use of state aid and the competition process has stalled any physical work from getting underway in the UK on the super-fast broadband initiative. EU officials have raised questions over whether there has been genuine competition for the £800m BDUK pot of money that the government has set aside to achieve set targets for super-fast broadband throughout the whole of the UK by 2015…
It has been revealed that an EU intervention over use of state aid and the competition process has stalled any physical work from getting underway in the UK on the super-fast broadband initiative. EU officials have raised questions over whether there has been genuine competition for the £800m BDUK pot of money that the government has set aside to achieve set targets for super-fast broadband throughout the whole of the UK by 2015.
David Pinnington, Head of Government & Systems Integrators at MLL Telecom, explains: “At the moment there are only two companies that are eligible to carry out the work on super-fast broadband under the BDUK framework – BT and Fujitsu. The government needs to consider opening up the framework to more companies that can help deliver connectivity quicker and to consider delivering contracts in smaller lots to encourage competition, especially to those areas that currently have the poorest coverage. Regional councils should be encouraged to introduce their own competition to accelerate the process and not feel they have to strictly adhere to the BDUK commercial procurement framework.”
Meanwhile, the current delays mean it is unlikely that targets will be met in the timeframe set, and the general public will be left waiting until at least 2017, and possibly even longer, to reap the benefits of super-fast connectivity. Questions over targets had already been raised when a recent policy paper published by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) on rural broadband, revealed that 15 percent of the countryside is still unable to reach government minimum speeds.
With operators laying fibre to the cabinet in the most economically advantageous areas first, instead of concentrating on areas that have the poorest coverage, the gap between those that have good broadband and those that have none is widening – and they are now going to be waiting even longer.
“The problem lies in the way the targets have been set in the first place. At the moment, operators are rolling out fibre optic technology in big cities first to provide super-fast internet connections. Instead though, the government should be encouraging operators to focus their efforts on the 15 percent that can’t even get minimum speeds in order to really make a difference. By concentrating on these neglected areas first they would gain maximum benefit from the funding available early on in the project and use it to its best advantage – a much fairer system overall. The current delays should push the government and the regional councils to rethink their priorities and strategy,” continues Pinnington.
It’s not just about the strategy though, but also about the technology used. When helping bring broadband to remote areas, operators need to bear in mind that in around 5 percent of the cases a fibre to cabinet solution won’t make things any better. This is because in very rural areas they are likely to be too far from the cabinet in the first place. In those areas, operators need to make use of microwave backhaul and use radio multi point-to-point technology to accelerate deployment once it gets underway. MLL Telecom suggests that radio can play a big role in helping bring faster broadband to areas that are currently suffering.
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