Building a British backbone network


Currently only 2% of the UK has access to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) services. This is one of the lowest rates in the OECD, spurring calls for the government to set digital infrastructure targets in order to get more businesses connected with high capacity bandwidth.

Analysts predict the volume of internet traffic to grow exponentially between now and 2020, and many in the industry do not see the UK’s copper-based legacy infrastructure as a capable backbone to support the digital revolution. We need to invest in a British backbone network.

As well as the analysts, Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, agree that “By 2020, the volume of global internet traffic is expected to be 95 times its volume in 2005, in the UK, fixed internet traffic is set to double every two years.” Clearly this volume of traffic cannot cope on copper. Britain needs optical fibre to ensure a gigabit future.

INCA, the Independent Networks Cooperative Association, is urging the government to set digital infrastructure targets. Specifically to have 80% of businesses and homes owning a pure fibre connection by 2026.

To propel the UK towards a gigabit enabled future it’s the alternative networks that are investing. INCA’s 2016 member survey shows that Altnets already pass more than twice as many premises with FTTP as BT.

“Unless the Government takes action, we will be faced in the very near term with a clear divergence between supply and demand in our digital communications,” said Malcolm Corbett, CEO of INCA. “We urgently need to upgrade to pure fibre connections and the government needs to act by setting the vision and framework to encourage investment.”

The UK is at a crossroads right now – how can it best develop a digital infrastructure utilising both regulation and investment from Altnets?

That question is yet to have a solid answer but for now digital professionals can take solace in the fact that it is the Altnets that are paving a way to the future. Colt, for example, is investing heavily and deploying networks which will deliver an optical network backbone delivering 100Gbps and a packet network capable of the same anywhere within its network.

A gigabit future is inevitable – “We need the digital infrastructure that can support this; providing ubiquitous coverage, so no one is left out, and with sufficient capacity to ensure data can flow at the volume, speed and reliability required to meet the demands of modern life,” added Hancock. “It is essential that we keep up. While 10Mbps may be enough for today’s needs, it will not be enough for tomorrow’s.”

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