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  • Barriers to Broadband Britain

    Barriers to Broadband Britain

    Following the announcement of a new Government review of the UK’s broadband needs, Geo has said it believes the key inhibitor to broadband development remains the ‘middle mile’ – the network that runs from the local exchanges to the core. It has called for a renewed focus on relieving this bottleneck.

    The Government claims its new review will look into where barriers to broadband growth lie, and says high-speed broadband services are more important than ever to the UK’s future economic success.

    It says change is needed before so-called ‘Broadband Britain’ turns from fantasy into reality, and wants to ‘prepare the way for the UK to adopt groundbreaking new technologies to ensure that we do not get left behind competitively or technologically’.

    The review is being led by Lehman Brothers’ Francesco Caio, former chief executive of Cable & Wireless, and the results will be handed to the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), as well as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in Autumn 2008.

    In addition to this latest review, the Government has called on the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) to consider the economics surrounding the deployment of fibre. The BSG published its Pipe Dreams report last April outlining key areas for broadband action.

    Geo National Sales Director Annette Murphy stresses that the principal block on broadband development is not the well-publicised issue of local access to homes and businesses, nor the core networks that aggregate traffic between major population centres, but the ‘middle mile’ network that runs from local exchanges to the core.

    She says that with its relationships with Carphone Warehouse Networks and Tiscali, Geo is playing a key role in bridging this middle mile challenge.

    “There are longer term issues to be solved also, with the copper network that connects into homes and businesses,” she says. “It needs to be replaced over time with fibre, as other countries such as France and South Korea are doing right now, but this is part of an evolutionary process which will include several stages of overlaying the copper assets.”

    Murphy says this process of improving local access will take time, and will have to allow those delivering services over existing networks to maximise their investment in the copper loops.

    “However, these upgrades will be useless unless the high costs and limited products of the middle mile are also addressed,” she believes. “For many of our customers this is the highest part of their cost base, and is an issue we can help them solve by using our fibre network to bridge the gap between their core networks and BT Openreach’s access network.”

    She says Geo is helping customers take advantage of today’s facilities-based local loops offered by BT Openreach, picking up huge quantities of data traffic and transferring it over high speed fibre networks to the terminal points – whether the public internet, telehouses or data centres, or other networks – at the lowest possible unit cost.

    “The Government needs to be sure it understands the immediate issues before it jumps to the conclusion that the country needs optical fibre built to the home right now. The first problem to fix is the cost and availability of fibre between local exchanges and core networks,” she adds. “It’s a question of being able to walk before you can run.”

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