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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Why FiWi matters in the UK

There are no two ways about it, and little argument from industry, government or consumers and community. In order to deliver Digital Britain, we need FiWi. That is, fibre as close to every home and business as possible, and wireless in the few places where that is not physically possible.

On such an issue as the fourth utility, finances do not come into it. However, there are always going to be places where fibre is just too difficult to provision and where wireless actually makes far more sense as being the right technology for that job.

There needs to be a Universal Service Obligation that applies to broadband exactly as it does water and electricity. Not "Best effort" depending on what your books look like and your shareholders think, but an OBLIGATION to get that utility to EVERYONE.

And not some half-hearted attempt that suits the world of commerce eg 2Mbps asymmetrical. That is NOT broadband and there is plenty to show now that asymmetry is not what people seek.

Broadband goes way beyond who is making money out of it. It is a UTILITY. There are some who still don't get it. Fine, they will, worry not. You can't escape the pervasive incursion of the internet into our daily lives, and as the public sector eg health and education realise the massive advantages, improved services and cost-savings that can be made by using broadband technology, it will become ever more pervasive and inescapable in every aspect of our world.

FiWi is key to bringing Britain into the digital age, engaging this country into the digital economy, creating 'digital citizens'. It is not some airy fairy pie in the sky notion, although I have been saying FiWi Pie for years to illustrate that there is a piece of this pie for everyone.

However, if we set the bar so low that a huge swathe of the country is reliant on wireless rather than fibre, we are doing ourselves no favours, now or in the future. The reality is that the future is FIBRE, and ignoring that fact, or shoving it under the carpet, won't make it go away.

The FiWi mix needs to be heavily skewed towards fibre, with wireless giving us the opportunity to connect the remaining few, as well as providing a wireless cloud so that everyone everywhere can connect using their wireless device. I'll say it again - wireless should not be the core technology used as the primary connection mechanism, except in a very few and exceptional places in this country.

This country needs to work together to deliver what is required, not just by our generation but by the NEXT GENERATION. It means thinking and working together to find the right solutions. Not allowing commerce to take the lead or set a glass ceiling for its own ends. Not allowing government to stymie innovation whilst it pads out the very depleted coffers. Not allowing communities to suffer at the expense of either of the aforementioned. Not ignoring the very real grassroots and industry expertise available in this country, purely to win votes or cash in.

What we need in this country is CO-OPERATION between all the stakeholders to get on with fibre and JFDI. Anyone who thinks 2Mbps is sufficient now, in 2012 or beyond, will either need to sit on the sidelines and watch, or change their thinking, fast.

Britain needs people who get IT. Who understand the scale of the task we need to undertake to firstly catch up with other countries and then, hopefully, to compete or surpass them. And who realise the time for meetings, quangos and conferences, talking about and extolling the virtues of 'true broadband' but resulting in little action, is over.

Work together and we could have a world class infrastructure our children will be proud of. Ignore the issues and continue with each party selfishly pursuing its own ends and agendas, and we will end up with a nationwide disaster that impacts every single sector of our country.


kijoma said...

wow, you really have fibre nailed to your head.. I don't agree that wireless is for the "last few" and FiWi as you keep raving about is nothing new. what do you thing our gigabit terminations run down, cat5? .

Wireless, and i don't mean wifi where you fatally think whole areas should have general access wifi clouds, is a very fast maturing technology with speeds well in excess of the "up to 40Mbps" of VDSL terminated Fibre available now, give it a couple of years and this will no doubt double or more.. It is not a "last mile" technology either, it is a last 10-20 Mile technology as it is in many other countries such as the U.S. . Why this country has such a ignorance over the benefits of Fixed wireless baffles me.. It is even seemingly scared of it!.


Cybersavvy UK said...

Nailed to my head? LOL. Um, yes, that'll be why I have been so involved in wireless networks then for over a decade!!

1) I never ever use the term last mile because I am a consumer, as is everyone else in this country 2) I think wireless should be ubiquitous e.g. a cloud so that anyone can have access wherever they are on the device they choose because the age of the desktop is coming to an end 3) too many people in this country believe wireless broadband is sufficient for us to progress and compete where their definition of next gen is wifi, or worse, mobile broadband with its limited capacity. However, you have to put wi-fi in the first inch or you deprive the vast majority of people being able to connect over a universal standard protocol that is now generally built into their devices.

We need both fibre and wireless, hence the term FiWi Pie. But not one at the exclusion of the other.

The less encouragement to pursue such a short-sighted path from those in the know the better. Keep posting Kijoma!!