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Thursday, 10 February 2011

EU fibre roll-out too slow

Whilst some countries are achieving the targets hoped for in Europe for fibre rollout, others are failing. And three are failing abysmally. We (UK) are one of them.

This blog post can be read at

The final plenary made it clear how important it is for the EU countries to work together to create a single market for digital content, and fibre is the only way to achieve this. 100Mbps was dissed as a very low bar throughout the conference and the final plenary was no exception.

For those who still think a USC of 2Mbps is sufficient, and who cannot see why or how better connectivity is required and can be achieved, well, where the hell were you?!

The FTTH showcase highlighted some of the applications and services that cannot function without high bandwidth, low latency, QOS, etc. My knowledge of French poetry is now much improved thanks to the showcase, and the video application for teaching any subject across multiple communities and countries was more than enough to spark debates around the screen of the very many (limitless?) purposes to which such a service could be applied.

The healthcare apps seem to be old hat to many, especially the Dutch who seem to have telehealth nailed, and it continues to strike me as desperately sad that I couldn't find a single UK representative who actually had a personal interest in telehealth solutions, or whose job was in that sector. So, no doubt no-one will be reporting back to the NHS and we will continue to believe we have a Health Service that is the envy of the world. The truth is we are now a long way behind other countries, especially our nearest neighbours and also including those we would consider to be under developed or third world.

Wales seemed to be getting a great bit of press from the Dutch who are very pleased that the "Dutch model" has been adopted. (I presume that is Kees and Nuenen!). So, expect the Welsh valleys to become the new northern European tourist destination for anyone accustomed to FTTH at home.....;o)

Being the underdogs doesn't sit well with some nations, and it was fascinating to hear from some of the German vendors about both their product sets (extensive) and ambitions (more so). Ditto the Spanish companies like Key Fibre. Both nations have a certain level of respect that seemed to bring leads to their booths. The British companies also command a deal of respect; however, the British (government and incumbents) approach to FTTH does not lend itself to good PR for the UK. In fact, I got rather bored of the sympathy for Britain, as well as yet further ashamed.

It's pretty bloody simple really. We either start rolling out FTTH this year to every home, or we admit our failure and make concerted efforts to attract foreign investment in the FTTH landgrab. Even those projects and initiatives which are deemed to be exemplar within the UK are pretty goddamned pathetic compared to ...pick a country.....Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Holland, Russia, Ukraine, etc etc etc. Urban or rural, the UK is so far off the game as to be laughable.

And if you still think we are doing just fine with fibre, then I urge you to visit countries like Andorra, or the eastern Bloc, where FTTH infrastructure is now commonplace and what is happening now is the growth of GDP, innovative economic development, and a setting of the course required to compete in a global economy that we seem to have failed to comprehend nor engage in.

Great conference, as ever. Munich next year on Feb 29th/March 1st. It is 7 years since I started attending this conference, and I would hope next year there is, finally, a UK contingent who will report back to their various sectors - housing, planning, NHS, education, public sector, manufacturing, telecoms - about why and how we need to take our fingers out of both our butts and ears and JFDI before it really is too late.

(Oh, and if you think I am being harsh, you should have heard what other nationalities were saying about the UK, BT, the British government etc and FTTH.)


Somerset said...

So why is our government not funding FTTP when others are?

Anonymous said...

Crown liability for BT unfunded Pension scheme perhaps?

Somerset said...

Explain more please with numbers.

What bandwidth do telehealth applications need?

chris said...

Brick Wall

Eventually they will listen, lets hope we live long enough to get some sense back into digitalbritain. I ain't holding my breath, Milan showed us up for what we are, a third world country in the digital slow lane.

Cybersavvy UK said...

@somerset some telehealth apps require the absolute minimum of bandwidth. For instance, there are now devices which can operate either over fixed or mobile that merely report back on heart rate, or sugar level.

However, there are others which require far more than mobile broadband or ADSL can provide, and require a quality of service (not the piece of paper type of QOS) that cannot be guaranteed over anything other than fibre.

With telehealth, we may be talking about life and death type scenarios in some cases where the vital spec of the network is quality as well as the ability to transmit and receive the required amount of data for the app to work properly and consistently.

What was most clear at Milan was that many of those talking about telehealth apps have realised the fact that it is not about hospitals having a fat pipe, but about every single patient also having one. And not just fat, but giving a consistency of service that is 4 9s.

Currently, in the UK, there seem to be few plans to build to the consumer so that is possible. Back in the day ABC was seeking affordable, quality, ubiquity. Over this previous decade we have lowered the bar consistently to suit shareholder rather than consumer interest. Hence the mess we are now in.

If you build purely for the simplest app on the block eg "patient is alive/patient is dead" that would surely be a monumental cock up?! But isn't that how low our ambition currently is? Many of the apps available are remote eg patient in one place, consultant/therapist in another and therefore need a minimum standard of TX/RX to work properly. It's no good saying we are going to compress all images to the max so that neither patient nor consultant can see, hear or communicate clearly enough.

Video compression techniques are improving, particularly as we build for mobile connectivity, but I personally wouldn't want remote surgery conducted over either a mobile connection (unless there was no other option) or a connection that drops every couple of seconds or has any level of latency much beyond the eighth of a second it takes for light to travel round the planet.

Cybersavvy UK said...

@somerset our government isn't funding FTTH because, quite simply, it doesn't get IT. The long term view in this country, so noticeable elsewhere, is missing. There is little understanding of the economics of FTTH, particularly social capital and quality of life improvements, although you'd think even the UK could grasp "a proven GDP increase of 2% with FTTH", if nothing else.

And finally, because we have the mistaken belief in the competitive marketplace delivering, even with the hard evidence of market failure in front of our very eyes.