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UK to plough £50m into rural broadband 'hubs'

07 декабря 2010

The U.K. government on Monday unveiled the next phase of its plan to roll out superfast broadband to the whole of the country by 2015, setting aside £50 million for pilot projects that will see whether services can be extended into rural areas via community broadband hubs.

The proposal is for central digital hubs with dedicated high-speed connections to nearby exchanges to be deployed in every community. Communities will then be responsible for extending the network from the hub to individual homes.

"We want the U.K. to have the best broadband system in Europe by 2015," said a statement from culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Citing statistics from market regulator Ofcom, the government noted that currently around 71% of U.K. households have access to broadband services, with connection speeds averaging 5.2 Mbps. The average monthly cost of a consumer fixed-line broadband service is around £13.31.

"A superfast network will be the foundation for a new economic dynamism, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and adding billions to our GDP," said Hunt, highlighting that the government also aims to save billions by shifting more of its services online.

The U.K.'s rural broadband plans were spared from the government's £83 billion worth of spending cuts unveiled in October.

The coalition plans to invest £530 million in extending broadband networks into underserved areas, £300 million of which will be channelled from the licence fee paid to national broadcaster the BBC.

In addition, the government on Monday revealed a further £300 million will be contributed by the BBC's licence fee between 2015 and 2017, bringing the total investment in the U.K.'s broadband infrastructure to £830 million.

The government said it plans to take a multi-technology approach that includes a combination of fixed, wireless and satellite networks to achieve its objective, as well ensure access to BT's ducts and poles. The auction of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum also features in the government's plans.

Meanwhile BT last week also agreed to contribute further funds in the event it secures public money in any of the government's tenders aimed at extending fibre to rural areas.

"It is a great example of public funding and initiative stimulating private sector investment," said Hunt, who claimed that BT's measures could bring high-speed broadband to up to 90% of the population.

However, one industry observer claimed the government's plans failed to provide enough detail.

"Communications Service Providers (CSPs) have not gained much clarity from today's superfast broadband announcement," said Tony Jackson, director of telecoms solutions marketing at CRM and billing specialist Convergys, in a statement.

"Long-held industry concerns around infrastructure ownership and access in fibre roll-out still remain unaddressed," he said.

The government said it plans to provide local authorities, suppliers and "other interested parties" with more details about its approach to extending rural broadband networks in spring 2011.

Источник: Total Telecom

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