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Ofcom warns government's 2Mbit/s broadband target too low

11 Jan 2013
Fibre broadband strands

The government's 2Mbit/s minimum speed requirement for universal broadband access by 2015 is too low and speeds of around 8-10Mbit/s would now be more suitable, according to a leading Ofcom strategist.

Ofcom group director for strategy, Steve Unger, made the comments during a discussion held by think tank Policy Exchange, attended by V3.

"It [the 2Mbit/s base] was determined by a range of factors about what was deemed necessary at the time to have a basic internet experience and that's how we arrived at 2Mbit/s," he said.

"That's clearly no longer the case, it's more around 8-10Mbit/s now and this will evolve over time, so it's unlikely that would still be sufficient in 2020."

Unger said he now thought 8-10Mbit/s was more suitable as research by Ofcom had shown this was what most consumers required to take advantage of key web services, but that beyond these speeds, demand tailed off.

Ofcom arrived at the 2Mbit/s at the behest of the government when it formulated its broadband strategy, which also set out a minimum top-line speed for 90 percent of the nation at 25Mbit/s.

However, while at present 2Mbit/s remains the government target, this could change in future.

Sources alerted V3 to a parliamentary debate on 8 November in which minister of state for Business and Enterprise, Michael Fallon, said the government would consider upping the minimum speed requirement, in response to a question from Labour MP Barry Gardiner.

"Even where businesses can achieve the government's target of 2Mbit/s, they are finding that that is the download speed, and they are still constrained by the greatly inferior upload speed. Will the government consider reassessing the 2015 target of 2Mbit/s?" Gardiner asked.

To which Fallon responded: "I will certainly do that. This is an issue for businesses in rural areas across the country."

V3 contacted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is overseeing the rollout of broadband across the UK, to ask if there were plans afoot to increase the base level speed.

It said it had no specific plans as it assumes most of the final 10 percent that are hooked online will have over 2Mbit/s speeds anyway. But provisions may be in place in the future to increase this if necessary.

"The government's aim is for all premises in the last 10 percent to have at least 2Mbit/s. Many in the last 10 percent will undoubtedly have faster speeds than this, but the minimum will be 2Mbit/s" a spokesperson said.

"The government hopes to improve broadband speeds further in the context of the £300m which has been earmarked to provide support for broadband in the period 2015-17."

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

View Dan's Google+ profile

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