Ofcom Looks to Future of Fast Net Access

Regulator Ofcom has added its voice to the growing debate about how the UK should roll out super-fast broadband.

It has launched a consultation, running until December, to probe ways to keep UK net services up to speed with those of other nations.

Current broadband speeds have a natural limit which are unlikely to satisfy growing consumer demand for bandwidth.

In other countries, networks delivering speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second) are already being rolled out.

Some experts are concerned that the UK is falling behind its competitors. Last week Stephen Timms, Minister for Competitiveness, ordered a summit on the issue and did not rule out the possibility of public sector intervention.

The debate centres on the question of whether the UK should put in place a nationwide fibre network and, in its consultation, Ofcom lays out some of the options for the UK as well as suggesting ways in which such a network should be regulated.

So-called fibre to the kerb would offer speeds of up to 50Mbps and cost up to £10bn to roll out nationwide, experts predict.

Fibre to the home is more expensive – with an estimated £15bn price tag – but offers speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Ofcom points out that no one technology will answer the needs for more bandwidth. Cable networks will also play an important role in offering high-speed net access and Virgin Media is already trialling speeds of up to 50Mbps.