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CRC Conference, Summer 2009


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At the annual Commission for Rural Communities conference in Birmingham, UK, I presented on the state of broadband in rural areas based on the work done for their "Mind the Gap" report.

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CRC Conference, Summer 2009

  1. 1.
  2. 2. Mind the Gap<br />CRC’s input into the Digital Britain process<br />The first empirical national study of broadband in rural areas<br />
  3. 3. 99.6%*<br />* Just means a small number of BT exchanges aren’t equipped with ADSL<br />
  4. 4. 5 – 20%?<br />Urban or rural?<br />
  5. 5. Why does nobody know?<br />Much of the information is “commercially sensitive”<br />Even if central bodies have the data, they can only share derived information<br />No-one has ever asked for an independent national view<br />
  6. 6.
  7. 7. England is a very odd place<br />We only live in two places. . . <br />
  8. 8. Urban heartlands<br />
  9. 9. Rural idylls<br />
  10. 10. A very odd place<br />Hypothesis:<br />“60% of the English population might get superfast broadband from commercial operators”<br />And this is where they live!<br />
  11. 11. A very odd place<br />Hypothesis:<br />“60% of the English population might get superfast broadband from commercial operators”<br />Fixing the Copper?<br />The mean distances are too great<br />FttC? <br />There aren’t always cabinets<br />Wireless?<br />In some places but trees and valleys pose problems<br />Fibre is likely to be the only long term solution<br />
  12. 12. A very odd place<br />
  13. 13. League table of the disconnected<br />Rural Communities<br />Farming and Forestry<br />Urban Commuter<br />Mature Urban Households<br />Struggling Urban Families<br />21%<br />of rural homes are likely to receive less than 2Mbps<br />
  14. 14. And what’s missing?<br />Line length is only one source of broadband problems<br />Quality of copper and line-sharing are others<br />Line sharing is a result of economically vibrant rural areas<br />Further work is underway to map these issues – watch this space!<br />
  15. 15. A very odd place<br />
  16. 16. Superfast broadband?<br />
  17. 17. So why 50p?<br />Most ISP’s only resell BT Wholsale’s offerings<br />Marginal investment<br />Little scope for technical innovation<br />Those that do invest, do in the same places<br />Typically along with Virgin and WiMAX operators<br />Expectations of market share must be small<br />Everyone only competes on price<br />Ever eroding margins<br />Ever shrinking funds to invest in the future<br />If the market won’t change, how is the UK compete?<br />
  18. 18. So why 50p?<br />50p generates a fund of £900m by 2016<br />Could a partial business case generate the same?<br />Could community investment mean a further slice?<br />Investments from those that are able as they do for wind farms?<br />Contracted trigger campaigns as security<br />And commercial finance has a role<br />Can we combine to create a solution?<br />
  19. 19. Rural v Urban<br />Digital Britain creates new tools for rural areas<br />But we still don’t have sufficient detail to plan the whole solution - YET<br />Its up to us to make sure it delivers NGA and not another sticking plaster<br />Lots of first generation choice<br />Evidence of sweating the last ounce of value from legacy networks<br />About half of BT’s ducts have enough space for three 25mm cables*<br />Enough to supply 17,000 homes in each duct<br />A new divide?<br />* Source: Analysys Mason for Ofcom<br />
  20. 20. Summary<br />The telecoms industry has a polarised view of England<br />Rural areas in England<br />Have not been targets for commercial investment in the past<br />And are not targets for future investment<br />42% of rural homes fall below 2 Mbps<br />But we need more analysis<br />The answer is fibre – we just need to find the way to do it<br />Digital Britain provides some additional tools for rural areas but isn’t going to solve everything alone<br />And may have tilted the next generation problem towards urban areas<br />Getting to the future will be a team effort<br />
  21. 21. Questions?<br />Thank you!<br />Adrian Wooster<br /><br />