Julian Clover says getting universal broadband coverage may have to come from more than one provider
There are some stories that just go round and round. In the 1980s and into the early 1990s we had the promise of 100s, maybe even 1000s of channels that would be available to us in our living rooms. The new promise is that of broadband access for all.
Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Report, the first cut of which was released this week ahead of a full report in the summer, holds out the carrot of the availability of a 2 Mbps broadband internet service for the whole of Britain. Readers in continental Europe with their 100 Mbps DOCSIS delivered speeds are no doubt giggling at the prospect. The average speed across the UK is already 2.95 Mbps and we are constantly being told that we need an ever-greater capacity in order to cope with everything we want to send down the virtual pipe.
The assumption is that it is the Highlands of Scotland or the East Anglian Fens where sensible broadband speeds are to be the most problematic. Beyondsl, the UK agent for the Astra2Connect satellite broadband service, says otherwise. It has produced a map of so-called ‘not-spots’ that shows residents of West Berkshire just as likely to be lacking.
Internet via satellite is another story that just won’t go away. Astra2Connect now as a presence in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, the Benelux, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. The total number of homes comes in at between 40,000 and 50,000, making it clear that it needs to be a pan-European solution.
Astra2Connect and similar service’s such as Eutelsat’s Skylogic come at a price that is not likely to get us any closer to Lord Carter’s universal broadband, though as someone who has chosen to live outside the main conurbations you know what you are going to get. While the cities may have a choice of three or four providers, you are sometimes lucky to get one. A monthly £74.99 for a 2 Mbps by satellite may be your only option and as such it may be worth the expense.
The role of mobile broadband should not be overlooked and it is notable that cable operators that include Virgin Media, Portugal’s ZON, and Sweden’s Com Hem are all looking at the mobile route. Virgin picks up considerable broadband business from students, and given that they move around a lot, locking them in with a handy USB stick makes perfect sense.
Lord Carter is looking to the mobile sector to offer a 3G coverage area that replicates the 2G environment, though in rural Cambridgeshire I can still find you mobile not-spots where you are lucky to even receive a call.