INCA Outlines Future Gigabit Britain

White paper

INCA has published its Building Gigabit Britain report. The document, created in consultation with members including national players Sky and Vodafone, alongside CityFibre, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Relish, ITS, Warwicknet and others, outlines a number of Government measures required to facilitate the wide-scale deployment of pure fibre or ‘Fibre-to-the-Premises’ (FTTP), the infrastructure essential to ensure the UK remains digitally competitive.

The UK currently has the lowest FTTP deployment in the OECD, with around 2% coverage, Building Gigabit Britain outlines how this puts the country at an inflection point, with legacy copper-based networks increasingly unable to cope with the exponential growth in data. INCA states that only the deployment of pure fibre infrastructure, supporting vastly greater speeds, more symmetry upstream as well as down and lower latency than copper or hybrid networks, will support the UK’s growing needs. Fibre networks are needed to support the growth of both fixed wireless and mobile wireless services.

The report outlines a number of specific measures the UK Government must take to provide the connectivity British businesses and consumers need to support them in an increasingly digital future by encouraging the deployment of FTTP. There are six recommendations in the full report, available here, including:

•The Government should set out a clear and achievable ‘Gigabit Britain’ strategy: including a target for 80% of the UK population to have access to an FTTP connection by 2026, and near universal coverage by 2030.
•Remove financial barriers to FTTP rollout: regulation should be designed to foster continued private investment in digital infrastructure by removing barriers such as unequal business rates on fibre assets for the next ten years.
•Create a regulatory environment which encourages competition and a collaborative approach between all digital infrastructure providers: Ofcom designing a fair playing field, enabling greater infrastructure investment.
•A review of advertising guidelines: Consumers and businesses require greater clarity on the differences between fibre and a hybrid copper-fibre solution.

Investment in pure fibre networks has accelerated in recent years, driven largely by a growth in operators challenging the dominance of BT and Virgin Media. The Altnets have already passed more than 650,000 premises with pure connections, double the number of premises passed by BT’s FTTP network, thereby delivering the majority of pure fibre connections in the UK. These Altnets are forecast to pass 4.9m premises, or 18% of the UK population, with FTTP by 2020, estimated at 1.5m more premises than BT and Virgin’s networks combined.

Malcolm Corbett, CEO of INCA, commented: “Unless the UK Government takes action, we will be faced in the very near term with a clear divergence between supply and demand in our digital communications. The UK has some of the lowest pure fibre deployment in the OECD, yet our economy is one of the most digital in the world, which is dependent on our digital infrastructure. We urgently need to upgrade to pure fibre connections and government needs to act by setting the vision and framework to encourage competitive investment. The Altnets are doing a great job. Five years ago few of them existed, today they provide more than twice as many FTTP connections as BT and many more offer great wireless broadband services. These are the people Building Gigabit Britain and if we don’t encourage and support their much needed investment, the UK’s economic position will be put at risk.

“Increasingly government ministers and agencies like BDUK (which invests in rural broadband) are recognising the vital role of the Altnets. But more needs to be done. We have presented a number of recommendations, which, if followed, will not only help the telecoms industry to meet and exceed their current deployment plans – without Government subsidies – but will also ensure our nation’s fibre infrastructure is future-proofed.”