A Digital Britain session at today’s BT ISP Forum at the BT Tower saw a vocal opposition to Broadband Enabling Technology (BET) as a prospective technology to meet the Government promise of a 2Mbps Universal Service Commitment by 2012. Bit of a mouthful that.
Firm pricing is not yet available, but we are potentially looking at an installation cost of £850 for a single line with 1Mbps capability, £1,050 for two lines with up to 2Mbps. Moreover, although the minimum demand per exchange has not yet been firmed up, it is likely to be 15 subscribers.
There was absolutely zero interest in this product from the 60 or so (guess) ISPs in the room. It is seen as too expensive, to the point where it is not dissimilar in price, if you need 15 users in an exchange to sign up, to the installation cost of running fibre into the area.
BT is also looking at Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) trials this year with a view to offering sub 15Mbps connections to long line areas (ie mostly rural).
The mood of the room was that rolling out an old fashioned copper-based technology such as BET was a waste of time, and that we should be looking at fibre-based infrastructure, or in certain areas exploring microwave back haul links. There was also a feeling that BT should be taking the lead with a standardised rural network infrastructure so that they could easily be managed by multiple retail ISPs.
There was also the feeling that whilst the BT response was that “nobody sees it being an economic prospect” to lay fibre into remote areas there should be a mechanism in place for communities to understand the costs of doing so – they might be able to raise cash themselves then to fund the difficult bits.
This is a long and complicated subject but Andy Dent, who led the discussion for BT, went away with a very strong signal from the ISP community that BET didn’t cut it.
As a footnote, the anticipated production availability date for BET is November 2010. Doesn’t give UK plc much time to sign up the millions of customers currently unable to get 2Mbps by 2012 as promised by the (most recent) Government. I’m sure that those across the digtial divide would happily wait a few extra months to get a fibre based rollout planned if it was proposed as an alternative to BET.