UPDATE UK Government - No Consensus on Deploying FTTP Broadband - ISPreview UK
The Central Government has disappointed those calling for ultrafast pure fibre optic broadband connections (FTTH/P) to be rolled out across the United Kingdom by rebuffing the idea as part of its response to a European Commission consultation on connectivity needs post-2020.

Last October the EC launched a new consultation that began seeking the views of all interested parties on their needs for Internet speed and quality beyond 2020, with a “view to ensure that all Internet users can take advantage of the digital economy and society“.

At present one of Europe’s existing Digital Agenda goals is to ensure that every home in the EU can access a 30Mbps+ capable “superfast” broadband connection (plus 50% subscribed to a 100Mbps+ service) by the year 2020. The UK is likely to meet or get very close to that target, although some countries will almost certainly fall way short.

However the European Commission has also been running a consultation in order to try and identify where to best focus their efforts after 2020 (here) and the United Kingdom has now given its response (here), although it largely mirrors their position from the earlier Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy (DCIS).

UK Government Response to EC Consultation (Extract)

To support this ever increasing demand, infrastructure that is high capacity, reliable, resilient, secure, affordable and fast, will be needed. A key point from DCIS consultation responses, which was repeated in the UK non-paper, was that what matters most is the overall quality experience enjoyed by the user, and not just the speed. Increasingly, once a minimum connectivity floor is reached, users will want to be confident about the reliability of the connection, its resilience, and the other factors which can impact on the user experience, such as the in-home network, or the ISP’s network.

Fibre is an important element of infrastructure, because it underpins not only fixed broadband access but also mobile and wifi networks. As data traffic over mobile networks rises and higher speed service become available mobile operators will increasingly require access to fibre infrastructure to make the best use of the finite spectrum available to them. Some DCIS responses suggested that this necessitates the extension of fibre to the premises (FTTP) to meet future demands. There was however no consensus emerging on this point. Equally many noted that demand, particularly for residential users, could be met by alternative technology solutions.

In future, while there is likely to be an expansion in FTTP deployments, G.Fast will allow ultrafast speeds to be delivered over copper networks. Cable will also continue to have a role to play in delivering ultrafast services and the capability of satellite communications will also grow, which will be particularly important in serving hard-to-reach areas.

The UK government considers that all these technologies will continue to have a role to play for some time in catering for evolving user needs, and that it will be important to continue to adhere to the principle of technology neutrality. This will allow greater flexibility and allow technology options and private investment to better reflect the varying market circumstances in Member States. The regulatory framework needs to encourage private investment in infrastructure and quality services as far as possible in order to meet these needs.
The UK Government’s current position remains that ultrafast broadband of at least 100Mbps (Megabits per second) “should be available to nearly all UK premises” and, given the current state of our economy, they’re more than happy for the private sector to use cheaper and faster to deploy hybrid-fibre solutions (e.g. G.fast and DOCSIS) instead of pure fibre optic connectivity. Mind you “nearly all” is rather vague and could perhaps mean anything upwards of 60-65%, which is roughly what the private sector will probably achieve.

Steve Holford, VP Products at Hyperoptic, told ISPreview.co.uk:

It is nonsensical that the UK Government has stated it believes that there is no consensus on extending Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) services to facilitate and enable the UK’s ever-increasing broadband demands. With the UK’s broadband data consumption doubling year on year, the need for a both faster and more reliable broadband delivery technology is a no-brainer.

The current Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) infrastructure is incredibly limiting in a number of respects; from significantly slower upload speeds, to peak-time slowdowns and distance attenuation. Similarly, once G.fast technology leaves the lab, it is subject to a number of similar issues; the bandwidth is still limited, so the performance isn’t reliable, and there is also the requirement to add more street cabinets to already crowded streets.

The future of broadband is FTTP, as is evidenced by the number of other nations that are investing in their countrywide FTTP programmes. The UK Government should be encouraging and supporting FTTP, so that its citizens can enjoy a broadband service that is future-proofed for generations to come
Meanwhile we’re perhaps more interested in seeing superfast (24Mbps+ or 30Mbps+) fixed line broadband or wireless based connectivity being pushed out to cover 100% of homes and business in the United Kingdom, although filling that last little gap of 2-5% is rather expensive and the debate is on-going about how best to tackle it. Hopefully they can come up with a better solution than Satellite.

UPDATE 4:08pm

Added a comment from Hyperoptic, which is rolling out FTTP/H services in a number of UK cities.