Broadband - Unsure Future for the UK

By: Liam G

Stephen Timms, the UK's minister for competitiveness, warned last year that the UK risks falling behind in the race to providing super-fast broadband networks, claiming the situation to be "21st century's equivalent of the great arms race".

Timms drew up comparisons between our current broadband networks to those used in Japan and Korea, the world's leaders in broadband speeds, questioning why the UK should be allowed to fall behind.

The average advertised speed in Japan was 93Mbps in 2007, and South Korea's 43Mbps. Compare this to the average advertised speed of 10Mbps in the UK, with actual download speeds in the region of 4.5Mbps its easy to see where Timms is coming from.

The answer, it would seem, to stepping up our broadband networks is easy enough - a nationwide roll-out of fibre optic networks. The practicability and cost factors involved with such a roll out however, are where businesses and government officials start to stumble.

With an estimated cost of ?7 to ?15Bn, Ofcom, the UK's telecommunications regulatory body is having a hard time trying to convince any one company to invest.

It's been raised that what Timms didn't take into consideration is the concentration of residence in Japan and South Korea, where network speeds are at their highest. As, once you move out of the big cities and into the vast rural areas, the situation with slow or no broadband access isn't all that dissimilar to that experienced here in the UK.

Realistically it would seem that there is no "quick-fix" solution to the problem.

Various experiments and trials are being commissioned around the country with regards to implementing fibre networks, which will of course help towards the cause.

Moreover, even though it does not compare to other countries' networks, the UK is expected to be able to have the networks in place to increase advertised broadband download rates to 24Mbps over the coming years; which is a considerable improvement based on current standards.

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