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Ofcom thinks 2Mbit/s broadband target is too low

Minimum speeds of 8-10Mbit/s would be better
Fri Jan 11 2013, 15:05
Fibre broadband strands

THE UK GOVERNMENT'S 2Mbit/s minimum speed requirement for universal broadband access by 2015 is too low, and speeds of around 8-10Mbit/s would be more suitable, according to an Ofcom strategist.

Ofcom group director for strategy Steve Unger made the comments during a discussion held by talking shop Policy Exchange attended by The INQUIRER.

"[The 2Mbit/s base] was determined by a range of factors about what was deemed necessary at the time to have a basic internet experience and that's how we arrived at 2Mbit/s," he said.

"That's clearly no longer the case, it's more around 8-10Mbit/s now and this will evolve over time, so it's unlikely that would still be sufficient in 2020."

Unger said he thought 8-10Mbit/s was more suitable as research by Ofcom (pdf) had shown this was what most consumers required to take advantage of key web services, but that beyond these speeds, demand tailed off.

Ofcom arrived at the 2Mbit/s minimum at the behest of the government when it formulated its broadband strategy, which also set out a minimum top-line speed for 90 percent of the nation at 25Mbit/s.

However, while at present 2Mbit/s remains the government target, this could change in the future.

Sources alerted THE INQUIRER to a parliamentary debate on 8 November in which minister of state for Business and Enterprise, Michael Fallon, said the government would consider upping the minimum speed requirement, in response to a question from Labour MP Barry Gardiner.

"Even where businesses can achieve the government's target of 2Mbit/s, they are finding that that is the download speed, and they are still constrained by the greatly inferior upload speed. Will the government consider reassessing the 2015 target of 2Mbit/s?" Gardiner asked.

To which Fallon responded, "I will certainly do that. This is an issue for businesses in rural areas across the country."

The INQUIRER contacted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is overseeing the rollout of broadband across the UK, to ask if there are plans afoot to increase the base level speed.

It said it has no specific plans as it assumes most of the final 10 percent that are hooked online will have over 2Mbit/s speeds anyway. But provisions might be in place in the future to increase this if necessary.

"The government's aim is for all premises in the last 10 percent to have at least 2Mbit/s. Many in the last 10 percent will undoubtedly have faster speeds than this, but the minimum will be 2Mbit/s," a spokesperson said.

"The government hopes to improve broadband speeds further in the context of the £300m which has been earmarked to provide support for broadband in the period 2015-17." µ


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