Access for all

The telco and ISP markets are suffering, there's massive competition and huge margin erosion that goes with that. Making a living in either industry is difficult and both are seeing lots of consilidation. Of course there are now very few ISPs not owned by telcos as the historic trend has been to consider access as a huge cash cow.

Unfortunately that's just not the case any more and access is becoming commodity (if not already). Soon everyone in the UK will have at least 8Mb/s ADSL and as BT and LLU entrants role out ADSL2+ speeds will reach 13 - 18Mb/s, but who cares? With those kinds of speeds (and some QoS guarantees) it's possible to offer genuine triple plays of content, Internet and voice.

Some people believe those speeds aren't high enough, and the UK are way behind Korea/Japan and elsewhere in Asia. Maybe that's true, but they aren't tainted with a legacy infrastructure. Fiber to the home just isn't practical in the UK without massive investment, and telcos just don't have the funds to even think about it. Digging fiber is expensive (somewhere between £200 a meter in rural areas, to about £2,000 per meter in an urban conurbations) someone has to pay for it. The cable companies or even BT could go somewhere towards that by installing DSLAMs in their street cabinets and then short range DSL between the street cab and the customer premises. Unfortunately that would still require huge investment (especially bt BT who'd still have to get fiber to the street cab). VDSL could then be used as the DSL technology for the short-haul, however it's not legal in the UK as it doesn't meet the ANFP (Access Network Frequency Plan) and Ofcom I believe picked ADSL2+ over VDSL as more telcos requested it. This is not suprising as VDSL only supports very short distances to get anywhere near it's maximum speeds of near 54Mb/s.

Of course fiber to the home could be a possibility in "green-field" sites i.e. where premises haven't been built yet and there's no infrastructure, but that would require a lot of preplanning by the building trade and a complete rethink such that telecomms infrastructure is considered just like gas/water/sewage/etc is.

Instead of relying on the local loop, wireless could be a serious contender however currently that's frought with regulatory problems and spectrum is a precious commodity which the government is likely to see as a lucrative revenue stream so again in order to utilise it, infrastructure players are going to need to think carefully about the resources required to roll-out effective solutions that can really be disruptive to the traditional copper network.
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