Wednesday, 18 July 2018

TalkTalk CEO: Broadband access is a right, not a privilege

By Chris Kelly, Total Telecom
Tuesday 19 June 18

TalkTalk's CEO Tristia Harrison says that the UK must boost its FTTP penetration levels, or risk doing irreparable damage to its digital economy

Britain has taken great strides in recent years to cultivate its digital economy, which is set to play a key role in the country's success post-Brexit. However, the UK could be setting itself up for a potentially catastrophic fall, unless it dramatically improves its focus on full fibre communication networks. Britain's digital economy is something that we should be tremendously proud of &ndash…

Britain has taken great strides in recent years to cultivate its digital economy, which is set to play a key role in the country's success post-Brexit. However, the UK could be setting itself up for a potentially catastrophic fall, unless it dramatically improves its focus on full fibre communication networks.

Britain's digital economy is something that we should be tremendously proud of – however, it has been built despite the infrastructure not because of it," said Harrison, during a key note address at Connected Britain.   

"Full fibre networks are critical infrastructure and will be for the next 100 years – and Britain trails behind the rest of the world in rolling that out. Other European nations have fibre to the premises (FTTP) levels of around 70-80 per cent, Britain has less than 5 per cent. That is clearly a sobering point. Without urgent action, we risk being left completely behind and the digital economy that we have all worked so hard to create will suffer," she added.

TalkTalk now has over 4 million broadband customers across the UK and is set to dramatically increase that figure in the coming years. Harrison believes that consumers must start demanding their digital rights as the country moves towards the next stage of its digital lifecycle.

"We said 15 years ago that broadband is a right, not a privilege and we believe that even more strongly today as we sit here at the Connected Britain event," she added.

Earlier this year TalkTalk agreed heads of terms with M&G Infracapital to create a new company that will build full fibre networks in medium sized towns across the UK.

The new network will reach more than 3-4 million homes and businesses, transforming broadband speeds and reliability across the country.

"This is all being built on the successful pilot that we worked on in York, alongside CityFibre, which really created Britain's first gigabit city," Harrison explained.  

"What the trial proved is that FTTP can be built affordably – I think that is a very, very important point. We have been at it for three years and we have passed nearly 20,000 homes and businesses, and what we have really learnt is the alchemy between investment and signing up customers. If you build it, and you fast-migrate, the customers will come, the revenues will come, the returns will come.

Harisson took part in a lively key note panel session at Connected Britain, which saw the CEO's of TalkTalk and CityFibre do battle with representatives from BDUK and Openreach on how best to secure the UK's digital future. Harrison's closing comments summed up the tone of the debate, and sounded a warning to the UK government if it should choose to neglect next generation connectivity as a key issue.

"Gigabit capable broadband is the way the internet should be – it is a transformational thing and the UK really is lagging behind the rest of Europe on that," she concluded. 

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