Govt ‘must act’ to ensure super-fast broadband

The UK government must do more to ensure consumers get broadband well in excess of the speeds offered by today’s packages, according to a telecoms advisory group.

Although 50% of all adults live in a home with ‘broadband’, according to a recent Ofcom report, the Broadband Stakeholders Group warned that current speeds will be too slow to handle the requirements of the most bandwidth-hungry businesses by 2012.

It said price pressure, which has discounted broadband offerings and has made some services free’, is prohibiting further innovation in upgrading infrastructure.

“If steps are not taken [by 2009] to prepare for next-generation broadband, then we may well find ourselves in a position where it is too late to catch up,” BSG chair Kip Meek is quoted as saying in the FT.

Virgin Media is to upgrade its 10Mbit customers to 20Mbit, while BT is to offer 24Mbit from next year via its 21st Century Network, a digital upgrade to the UK’s aging telephone-line network.

But France Telecom is already trialling a 100Mbit service, Deutsche Telekom is due to roll out 50Mbit next year and South Koreans have been enjoying super speeds for years.

High-speed networks are seen as a key economic advantage for retailers and other companies which need to shift large amounts of data quickly.

The BSG, which advises the UK government on high-speed connectivity, said it would cost £9.6bn to build a national data backbone based on fibre and called on legislators to ensure to the UK stays ahead of the pack.