Saturday, 25 December 2010
This blog post can be read at 5tth.blogspot.com
2011 is shaping up to be one of those seminal years where we see results from all the years pushing the same message. I suspect we will also see some disastrous decisions that will result in similar heart-rending end of year contemplations in years to come. This blog post is similar to others of mine which go back to at least 2004 now - a hopeful heart with more than a twinge of dread.
Many will say, in 2015 etc, "Ah, it's all well and good with hindsight, saying we should have done xyz in 2010/2011" but the truth is it doesn't take a genius to see that this country is on the brink of some exciting innovations and some old school cock ups. There are far too many people in public sector etc who just don't get it about FTTH or the importance of true broadband.
But then we've known that all along. Part of the task has been converting those people, but in that process we are fighting a system that is so entrenched in its ways that it has been easier to JFDI around these institutions than endeavour to change often good thinking folk who just want to keep their jobs, pensions etc.
So, what does my crystal ball reckon for 2011?
1) The major telcos, including the incumbent, are going to seriously up their game plan. Marketing hype (read: lies) will be excruciatingly painful for the many in the know who cannot afford £Millions to educate the masses to the truth.
2) There will be more community-owned and open access fibre installed than many of us could have believed.
3) There will be less community-owned and open access fibre than many know is possible.
4) Public money will be squandered as 1) kicks in and councils etc make uninformed decisions with our dosh.
5) The UK will fail to learn lessons from abroad, where FTTH deployments far outnumber our feeble efforts. However, there will be a larger contingent in Milan in February from the UK and that group will do their best to bring back key messages, which should be listened to during the year.
6) Fibre companies in the UK will continue to struggle. Some will relocate to other countries in the EU and beyond, to take advantage of the growth of FTTH worldwide. Some will possibly go by the board trying to fit into the Big Society initiatives, and these will be the greatest loss of all to UK Plc.
7) The digital divide will widen, and continue to do so over the coming years. However, it will be skewed, and more complex - less reliant on the BT network. No longer simply rural/urban or rich/poor or related to line length - communities will become jealous of their neighbours who have JFDI, or of specific private companies who have taken a lead and cherry picked their markets for longer-term sustainability.
8) 2011 will see a resolution to the fibre tax issue. Possibly not as expected, but I think we will hear more about the imparity between utilities (and hence the fears of the Treasury et al that changing rates for telecoms will lead to a spat with the other utilities) and an understanding about the importance of communications vs existing utilities which are already near as dammit ubiquitous.
9) Telecom Tourism will increase, massively. Live near a fibre village? Open a B&B! Need access to a fat pipe? Make friends with those in fibred communities.
10) Convergence will increase to the point where even Nanny Jones "gets" mobile internet. Wanna lay a bet on how many silver surfers have got smart phones and iPads this Christmas or are learning to use the cloud? The failings of the UK infrastructure will become ever more apparent to more and more people in this country, be it mobile, fibre, or PSTN. The Govt will get it, or they won't. (I'll hedge my bets on the latter). The telcos will get it, and start working to fibre up mobile masts, share with communities etc. Or they won't! Competition may be a good thing, but it is serving more to confuse the consumer than solve the problems of our telcos, industry, citizens etc. Converge and co-operate should be the watchwords of 2011.
So, Happy Wotsit. Let's see what 2011 brings.