LONDON -- Broadband World Forum 2016 -- Matt Hancock, the UK's Minister of State for Digital and Culture, addressed a packed audience at the recent Broadband World Forum in London and outlined the UK government's thoughts on the current digital landscape and where it needed to be in order to lead the digital economy. It was a bold speech on the future of Digital Britain and how the UK should be a world leader, and not just a leader in the lagging European region.
High-speed fiber networks will be a critical part of the story. Before introducing gigabit services, the US city of Chattanooga, Tenn., had practically zero venture capital funding. As of 2014, it boasted, as The Guardian reports, an incredible $50 million in investments. Cities and countries with high-speed networks will have more influence in shaping the future, and this is where the UK needs to be, said Hancock.
The minister also pointed out that customers really don't care about the underlying technology -- only that it allows them to access the services they want. Yet there is evidently huge disagreement on whether operators can meet evolving service needs through upgrades to existing copper lines. Many in the industry believe there should be more focus today on replacing this last-mile infrastructure with much higher-speed fiber.
As shown by the demos at the Broadband World Forum, G.fast, a technology that supercharges copper-line connections, is generating plenty of interest. In the short term, G.fast may look very attractive to private-sector investors funding access-network improvements. But the broader view is that G.fast is only an incremental step and will ultimately need to make way for more fiber.
Pressure from UK regulatory authority Ofcom has driven incumbent operator BT to make a bigger commitment to fiber-to-the-premises technology. It now plans to make FTTP services available to about 2 million premises in the UK over the next few years. But if the UK wants to assert itself as a digital leader in the future, it will have to go a lot further. And that means full fat-fiber on a much bigger geographical scale.
— Elliot Richards, Senior Editor, UBB2020