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Super Fast Broadband in the UK? – The Facts 24/02/2011

Although the adverts give the impression that fibre is the latest Super fast broadband technology – it isn’t. It has been around since the 1960’s. Over half the population already has access to high speeds courtesy of Virgin Media. Setting up that network bankrupted many companies and has left Virgin with a massive debt.

Now BT have committed to providing £2.5bn to bring fast networks in the form of FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) to 2/3 of the country by 2015. So that will leave 1/3 they don’t reach. That of course will include most of the places which Virgin doesn’t reach either.

At the moment BT will not say where the 2/3rds is. This means that if you were a company who wanted to bring fast broadband to your favourite semi rural spot – you could spend a fortune achieving that only to find BT wander in and undermine your investment. BT has at least said they will keep people informed about their plans for the forthcoming year on a rolling basis.

The Labour government had decided on a 50p a month telephone line tax to raise 1.2bn and thus allow the connection of the final third of the country. However the new government scrapped that and came up with a headline figure of £830m to do the job. However the headline figure is simply a headline. The reality is that they are putting £530m into the task, £300m from the BBC licence fee and £230m from the digital TV switchover. However the consensus seems to be that the total cost of FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) will be around £5.1bn. So we have a major shortfall no matter which way you look at it.

Cornwall and Wales are sufficiently depressed to get EU money to help the roll out. Some councils are putting together plans to achieve what BT won’t. For example Cumbria claims to have fast access almost everywhere with money from the Northwest Development Agency. There are other people and councils working along the same lines.

BT are suggesting that Virgin could open up its network to other ISP’s as it was forced to. However without Virgin being forced to do that there is no chance – it would be commercial suicide. Virgin can counter with other allegations including BT’s reluctance – no refusal to provide broadband access without a telephone number and subscription.

So if you are in a rural or semi rural location and want a fast broadband what can you do?

You could wait for LTE, the long term evolution, the new 4G service for mobile. However the wait will be long and the service will of course start in the big cities when it eventually comes around in 2014-15. The government hasn’t even auctioned the spectrum yet.

You could go Wimax, this can be a promising development. Take the fibre to a central point and then broadcast the signal out. There is getting to be a group of Wireless Community Networks being planned or actually implemented in the UK. The problems tend to be administrative and regulatory, but if you know lots of people….

There is satellite broadband – with the launch of Hylas1 the other week and competitor offerings coming around this is a good answer. However because the signal has to travel around 72,000km to the satellite and back the time lag on the signal makes it unsuitable for VoIP or gaming. It is also relatively slow and expensive.

You can get a leased line or bond together ISDN lines. In both instances the cost is liable to be prohibitively expensive for home or SME/SMB use. However where there is enough money there is a solution. A cheaper solution may be BT’s broadband enabling technology (BET) which effectively bonds two old fashioned lines into one channel. BT are keen to roll this technology out but want public money to make it happen.

This is where we come in. We recently secured a long term partnership with one of the brightest new prospects to come out of California’s Silicon Valley to provide their products to the UK. That company is called Mushroom Networks.

From their own website they say:

“Mushroom Networks, Incorporated, is a San Diego, California-based company with the mission to provide innovative networking solutions. Our products and services are focused on a range of networking solutions for Internet access for the broadband industry and networking solutions for the digital living room. Mushroom Networks was founded in 2004 as a spin-off from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The leadership team has over 70 years of collective cutting edge research and development experience in the networking field, and has management experiences at a wide array of companies from small and large technology enterprises to venture capital.

Mushroom Networks’ products are based on the unique and patent pending Broadband Bonding® technology developed by our engineering team through extensive research and development.”

Their products interested us at Rustyice Solutions because they enable consumers languishing in the UK’s network doldrums who are downcast about the dearth of competing providers of reasonably priced or even reasonably functional broadband options in their area, to find the answer by taking things into their own hands.

In a nutshell their products enable the combination of two or more existing broadband connections on inconsistent media types if necessary ( eg. virgin media cable with BT ADSL ). This forms a dedicated virtual high speed broadband connection which offers bandwidth levels to consumers which compete with “leased line” services such as MPLS and Metro Ethernet at a price point which undercouts the costs of these services enourmously.

Where Virgin and BT are located there is and will be competition, where they are not, there is likely to continue to be not very much at all. If you or your business needs next generation internet speeds today but cant wait for the major carriers to decide whether or not they are even going to bother with your area, contact us today. You will not be disappointed.

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