Government to review broadband

Government to review broadband

A new study will investigate ways to ensure the swift deployment of next-generation access

The government is to review the future of the UK’s broadband infrastructure as part of plans to ensure the speedy rollout of super-high-speed networks.

The independent study, to be led by Francisco Caio, the former chief executive of Cable & Wireless, will report to chancellor Alistair Darling in the autumn.

“High-speed broadband is vital for the growth of Britain’s creative industries, which
already contribute some £60bn to the UK economy,” said competitiveness minister Shriti Vadera.

“We need to prepare the way for the UK to adopt groundbreaking new technologies.”

Potential hurdles include high costs and a perceived lack of demand.

Suppliers already have strategies. BT is committed to high-speed fibre links for all new housing development. And Virgin Media plans for 50Mbit/s connections later this year.

But deployment will be harder than with first-generation services, said Antony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG).

“Most of the market was surprised at how fast broadband services were rolled out, but that is unlikely to happen this time because the scale of investment is so much bigger,” said Walker.

“If Virgin does widely deploy its networks, it might create competitive pressure, but beyond the higher-density areas, the business case becomes a lot harder.”

A BSG report considering possible funding structures for direct government involvement will be published later this year.