Fibre to where it should have gone to start with

Posted by Voipfone on August 1, 2018

dreamstime_xs_70603296The Government announced this week that the UK is finally going to get fibre to the home or what it’s now calling full-fibre broadband. But it won’t be anytime soon – 2033 for full coverage apparently. (Isn’t it amazing how the future arrives in nice round chunks of time; 15 years in this case.)

While it’s great to have plans and intentions it’s also depressing that BT had business cases to do this back in the 1990s and since then we’ve slipped to 35th place in the world league-table of broadband. We’re even behind 25 other EU countries; rather unbelievably only 4% of homes in the UK have full-fibre broadband, but Portugal has 89% and Spain 71%.

Back in the day we spoke of fibre to the premise being building the railways of the 20th century (sic). We didn’t do it then because of many things but the only one that mattered was money. This latest effort is priced at around £30bn, and in the way of things we can expect it’ll cost a lot more. It’s spoken of as an investment in technology but, in reality, the tech piece has been done, this bit is about civil engineering. Even that’s a bit of a highfalutin word for what is essentially digging an awful lot of holes in our pavements and gardens to get the cables from the street cabinets into our homes and businesses.

Meanwhile both full-fibre broadband and the turn-off of the old TDM switched network in favour of IP is scheduled for the nice round number of 2025 and means that there will no longer be power fed down the line to your phone from the BT exchange. This has various consequences, the major one being that calls to 999 services will no longer work if you have a power failure in your home and use a phone built in 1948, or thereabouts. In fact, there are few homes that now rely exclusively on the phone directly plugged into the master socket and nothing else. Most now use DECT wireless telephones which already won’t work in a power failure and also have mobile phones which will.

So in July OFCOM ‘consulted’ industry on what to do to protect those few that may have a problem calling 999 after the turn-off. They propose making every operator provide a battery back-up service. Probably the best example of using a hammer to crack the nut I’ve seen for some time. Voipfone put its response in, as did ITSPA, pointing out that this was disproportionate, expensive and unworkable. But as ever, OFCOM will do what it wishes as – it was pointed out to me many years ago by an OFCOM bigwig – they don’t go to ‘consultation’ on something they don’t intend to do.

OFCOM ‘consultation’ here for those of sufficient tolerance.

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