Legal right to 10Mbps broadband is 'not enough', thunders KCOM chief

Gerrere, lad, yon man's giz us broadband in t'Hull

The government's plans to make 10Mbps a 'legal right' by 2020 do not nearly go far enough, Bill Halbert, chief exec of telecoms sector firm Kcom has said.

Achieving an ultrafast broadband infrastructure is "one of the most important things we can achieve as a country," Halbert told The Register.

"The Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps – in my view, that is not enough."

Kcom recently sold the majority of its telecoms infrastructure to rival CityFibre for £90m – something Halbert says has put it in a position of having "no net debt."

However, Halbert believes revenue and profits are likely to remain relatively flat for the next couple of years until the company completes its "transformation" to become an IP service provider.

According to its Companies House filing for 2014/15, Kcom recording a dip in revenue of six per cent to £345m, while profit before tax increased 3.2 per cent to £51.5m. However, the business is committed to retaining its role as the dominant broadband provider in Hull and East Yorkshire.

Kcom is due to complete its roll-out of ultrafast broadband to 148,000 premises in Hull and East Yorkshire by 2018. Its Lightstream service offers speeds of up to 1.5Gbps on its fibre to the premises (FTTP) network.

"In Hull we are currently laying high speed fibre – ultrafast fibre network all the way to the premise. Whereas nationally its just being taken to the street cabinet," Halbert said.

In contrast to the UK, Luxembourg is aiming for speeds of 1Gbps by 2020.

Halbert said a national ultrafast broadband strategy was needed. "One way or another we have to get to a position where we have strategically important infrastructure everywhere. That is one of the most important things as an economy."

In its Digital Communications Review, Ofcom stopped short of recommending a formal separation of BT and Openrech. Instead it recommended enhanced structural separation and better access to its ducts and poles from competitors.

"The challenge will be whether those competitors use that opportunities," said Halbert. "The costly aspect of delivering fibre to the home is not the fibre itself, but rather the disruption of having to dig up land and lay the cables."

Kcom is currently undergoing a major rebrand, to better reflect its move toward being an IP service provider. As such it is consolidating its KC consumer broadband brand in Hull, its application company Smart421, and its SME business Eclipse under the single 'Kcom' brand.

Halbert likens the role of the company to that of a systems integrator: "We are creating an IP integrator." He said: "In many ways we are no longer a telco, don’t compete with BT as a telco." The company is working closely with Cisco, as well as AWS and BT.

Some of its big-named customers include Aviva, Virgin Atlantic, Easyjet, and HMRC. ®

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