Virgin Media’s statement today that it could be offering broadband speeds of 200Mbps by 2012 certainly puts the cats amongst the pidgeons in the ever noisier debate surrounding next generation broadband.
Last month, BT announced that it would invest £1.5bn to bring next generation broadband to 10 million homes by 2012. The speeds that would be available were quoted in BT’s release as 40Mbps to 60 Mbps for those homes serviced by a Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) deployment. Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) could, it said, offer speeds up to 100Mbps.
Although BT stated that the exact split of FTTC and FTTP was still to be determined, it did state that FTTP would be primarily focused on new build sites, whilst FTTC would be more “prevalent” elsewhere.
However, even in the unlikely scenario that it pursued a 100% FTTP deployment, delivering speeds of 100Mbps, the 200Mbps speed quoted by Virgin Media today knocks that straight out of the water.
The potential next generation broadband speeds that can be delivered depend on the technology being used. I could take this opportunity to harp on about the different potential capabilities of BT’s network as oppposed to the cable network owned by Virgin. I could point to the fact that the technology Virgin Media is deploying to deliver faster speeds, DOCSIS 3.0, uses channel bonding technology to (as the name suggests) bond channels together to achieve these super-fast speeds.
Yet a discussion purely on the technical capabilities doesn’t tell the full story. Indeed focus on these headline speeds alone misses the main reason why these announcements are interesting to the next generation broadband debate as it stands now.
The point is, the fact that such announcements are being made is exciting in itself.
Next month we expect to see the publication of a range of documents that will move the debate forward – the independent review on next generation networks being led by Francesco Caio, Ofcom’s regulatory statement on next generation access and the European Commission’s recommendation on the regulatory framework for a next generation environment.
Operators and investors need clarity about the regulatory framework before they can really get going on deployment.
The signals from both BT and Virgin Media are significant and welcome.
They and the rest of the industry now need regulatory clarity to make next generation access in the UK a reality, and not just a pipe dream.