The Top Broadband ISP Technology and Internet Policy Changes for 2014-15 - ISPreview UK
The past year has been all about technology and deployment, with the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK scheme dominating via its efforts to push BT’s 80Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) service out to even more areas, but a lot more than that has happened. ISPreview.co.uk highlights some the key Internet technology, policy and anti-piracy developments of 2014 and predicts what might occur in 2015.

The past 12 months may be remembered for many things, yet for us one of the biggest and most consistent news stories has been the rise of alternative high-capacity fibre optic providers. So far we’ve seen a massive ramping up of Gigabit (1000Mbps+) capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTP/H/B) based broadband deployments and investment from altnet ISPs like Hyperoptic (here), Gigaclear (here) and Cityfibre among others.

CityFibre
in particular has also teamed up with Sky Broadband and TalkTalk to make related services available in the city of York and next year two further cities will join their project (here), which if successful would put pressure on BT and Virgin Media’s slower hybrid fibre approach.

Sky also has a number of its own separate FTTP trials (here) and meanwhile BT have even been rolling out more of their native FTTP into rural areas as part of the BDUK programme, although in the grander scheme of things the pure fibre optic (FTTH/P/B) approach is still only involved in a minority of new deployments; accounting for a tiny slice of UK coverage (250,000+ premises).

The progress and investment is clearly there for all to see, but it hasn’t all been good news and there have been casualties. In particular BTOpenreach’s own FTTP-on-Demand (FoD) solution, which held the promise of being able to make their 330Mbps FTTP service available to those within reach of slower FTTC lines, appears to have lost its mass market appeal after BT hiked the price and put it well beyond the reach of most homes and even home workers (here); there have been no new FoD roll-out updates since earlier this year.

Never the less the overall coverage of fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) capable services, which aside from BT’s FTTC/P platform also includes Virgin Media’s cable network and various efforts by alternative fibre optic providers (like those mentioned above), now reaches around the 80% mark and indeed it appears to be well on the way towards delivering on BDUK’s aim for 95% UK coverage by 2017 as planned.

But reaching the next 95% coverage goal could see slower progress as the BDUK scheme enters increasingly rural areas and thus we wouldn’t be surprised if the 2017 date slipped, as some Phase 2 contracts have already shown (here).

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Closing Points

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Speaking of phone services, BT will re-enter the consumer mobile market in Q2 2015 to become a quad-play provider and in relation to that they’re also working on a deal to buy EE (here), which could cause a lot of regulatory headaches. Sky Broadband might well follow, provided they can reach an agreement with one of the other mobile giants (most likely Vodafone). Otherwise little is known about the BT plan, except that it will meld 4G and WiFi connectivity to offer a potentially quite unique service.

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Lest we not forget the on-going “margin squeeze” battle between TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and BT over FTTC pricing that is due to reach a climax sometime this month when Ofcom reports the results. It’s likely that the regulator will push for a slight reduction in wholesale FTTC prices, although if they do then we suspect it won’t make a big difference and if it does then BT may attempt to tie Ofcom up in legal knots. This whole debate will also be complicated by BT’s moved to buy EE, which will change the equations a bit.

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Note: I have deliberately not cross-posted the entire article as it is 3 pages on the ISPreview site. I believe that it is of interest to our members and visitors alike who are watching for what will be coming in the next year or so. I would highly recommend that people read it in full at the ISPreviw site using the link above.