What do you mean by “best” in best superfast broadband network in Europe?
We will publish a balanced scorecard on a number of measures that constitute best in Europe. From the perspective of raw connectivity, ‘best in Europe’ will constitute making sure fibre based solutions are available to as many premises past as possible, whilst at the same time using those same fibre paths to support next generation wireless solutions to those living in deep lying rural areas. Satellite will also play at role at the very edge. ‘Best’ in the broader sense will incorporate the retail price, the take up of services and most importantly the degree to which we can transform existing service delivery.
The EU has set targets of access to 30 Mbps for all by 2020 and half of the population to actually have 100 Mbps connections by then – what is the UK position on these targets?
EU and Member States recognise the vital importance of broadband. Our vision of the best superfast broadband network recognises that the user experience is as important as any focus on specific download speeds. But our vision is consistent with the EU targets. The 30 Mbps used in European documentation refers to a capability, such as a 4G cell, a shared resource from which an individual user experience is not currently defined.
How much money do you have?
As announced in the spending review on the 20th October 2010, we have £530m over the next four years, made up of £230m from an under spend of the digital switchover fund and £300m contributed from the BBC licence fee from 2013/14.
How much money is there for the pilots?
Precise amount will depend on the outcome of procurements, but as we said at the Industry Day in July, we expect it to be in the region of £5-£10m per pilot.
When will procurement of the pilots start?
As soon as possible after the announcement of the locations – aim to start procurement early 2011.
How will procurement work?
The procurement will be open and follow EU procurement rules. It will be technology neutral.
Do you expect difficulty securing state aid clearance?
BDUK will work closely with state aid officials in BIS and with the European Commission to ensure that state aid issues are properly covered in the procurement process.
Is the government still committed to providing universal coverage of 2 MBps to all by 2015?
Yes – delivering a 2Mbps access speed which permits quality home working anywhere in the UK is part of being best in Europe. There are different ways of delivering that edge of network service, and the new administration in line with the findings of BDUK theoretical exercises would favour meeting the USC by deploying next generation access components deep into rural areas wherever it is feasible to do so, with a minimum standard 2Mbps service underpinning this.
When are we going to start procurement for USC projects?
Announcements on procurement approaches will be made in due course, but note the NGA pilots incorporate the appropriate edge of network targets.
What is the definition of Universal Service Commitment?
The commitment made is that the UK will have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by the end of 2015. This incorporates the USC of 2Mbps as the minimum edge of network service capable of supporting a quality home working experience, with as many premises as possible having a choice of solution. Today’s Broadband access is a best efforts i.e. performance subject to capacity constraints and number of simultaneous users, is subject to communications medium with many factors affecting the consumer experience. The challenge therefore is to improve the consumer experience on a more consistent basis. The 2Mbps basic broadband service therefore acts as a proxy description for a volume of traffic which allows customers to access a reasonable quality home working experience from anywhere in the UK, with provision for adequate downloads and streaming. It is a reflection of a best effort data transport service offered by the principal ISPs. The USC definition takes account of the industry planning rules for the provision of affordable broadband services.
There is no legal barrier to sharing infrastructure between telecoms and other utilities – why is it still very rare ?
There are examples of infrastructure sharing – so it is happening and that’s one of the things that tell us that problems can be overcome – practical experience. We’ve been told about some concerns – e.g. health and safety – and these are real. But we think that they can be overcome through dialogue.
Why not legislate now to require infrastructure sharing?
We won’t legislate unless we need to do so. Encouraging signs from preliminary discussions that we can make progress without legislation through discussion and agreement – that’s usually quicker and could be more effective. But I am prepared to ask for legislation if needed.
What sort of powers would you take if necessary?
Still analysing the responses to our consultation so can’t make definitive statements, but there is no sign of companies calling for legislation to require infrastructure sharing.
Are you suggesting that industry should just get on with it then? What’s the role for government in that case?
Essentially we do want industry to get on with it – market-led solutions likely to be the most effective in terms of getting deployment moving. Government can help by bringing people together – like today, by raising awareness of the issues – e.g. through the discussion document, by sharing information and helping to bust myths.
When are we going to see sharing of BT ducts and poles?
We welcome the reference offer published by OFCOM – we hope to see infrastructure sharing products available for companies to use soon.