Feeds

BT chief: People don't need fibre to the home

Ford not Ferrari for you

Boost IT visibility and business value

Digital Britain Summit BT chief executive Ian Livingstone defended his firm's limited plans for faster broadband today, arguing there is not enough demand for fibre to the home to justify its cost.

He was appearing on a panel with his opposite numbers at Virgin Media and O2 at the Digital Britain summit this morning.

"Of course a Ferrari is faster than a Ford," Livingstone said. "But most people are happy with a Ford."

BT has so far committed £1.5bn to roll fibre out as far as streetside cabinets, connecting about 40 per cent of premises by 2012. The upgrade will offer speeds of up to 40Mbit/s per second downstream, short of the more than 100Mbit/s fibre optic lines into homes and businesses could deliver.

Livingstone said there weren't enough applications that needed such speeds. "Ultimately it's about what people will pay for," he said. "The economic case is not great."

The panel were asked to debate whether the government should intervene either through regulation or subsidy to speed rollout of high speed broadband. Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett said that his firm's investment plans, along with those of BT, meant policy should focus on how to bring next generation access to rural areas where the return on investment would be poor.

"Digital Britain is about Digital Britain, not digital cities," he said.

The national cable network, which covers about half of UK premises, mostly in urban areas, is being upgraded to offer downstream speed of up to 50Mbit/s.

Business secretary Peter Mandelson, speaking after the panel, declined to rule out subsidies to ensure a universal fibre deployment. "I am a public investor where it's appropriate and right," he said. "I am not someone who believes... in replacing the private sector when they can do better."

The government has not announced any plans for public investment in next generation broadband infrastructure in rural areas. Mandelson said no decision has been taken, and would be "above my pay grade".

BT chief Livingstone said no matter how the next generation internet access market is delivered, infrastructure owners should be forced to allow rivals to offer services over the top. "What we cannot do in the UK is go back to monopoly," he said. "Imagine that coming from BT."

The Digital Britain summit was organised by the government at the British Library for technology and media executives to debate Lord Carter's wide-ranging report on the digital economy. A interim version was published in Janary, with final recommendations due in June. ®

Bootnote

Hats off to BBC man Nick Higham, who was acting as moderator for the panel. He drew a look that could curdle sheep's milk from Neil Berkett by asking the audience "you can tell he's Australian, can't you?"

Berkett is a Kiwi, and said so, with poorly acted good humour.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.