BT is to offer superfast broadband speeds at up to 300 megabits per second to both its retail customers and rival broadband providers on a wholesale basis from next spring, in a move that will transform speeds across the country.
The British government has been urging the industry to develop faster broadband speeds in its bid to make British businesses more competitive and Communications Minister Ed Vaizey welcomed the news.
But broadband figures reveal the UK still has a long way to go to achieve its goal of being the fastest in Europe by 2015.
BT said it will begin trialing the super-fast technology known as Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) this month.
It is investing £2.5 billion ($3.9 billion) to make fibre broadband available to two thirds of UK premises by the end of 2015, although only around a quarter of these will benefit from FTTP.
The majority of its money is going into Fibre-to-the-Cabinet technology (FTTC), which is slower because it uses copper cabling for the final section between the cabinet and the building. At present, FTTC can hit 110Mbps downstream speeds and will be available in just six locations from the end of October.
More than 5 million premises already have access to the fibre to the cabinet network and the company said in July that over 200,000 had signed up for the product.
"These are significant announcements and good news for the UK," Vaizey said in a statement. "High-speed broadband is essential for economic growth, which is why we want the UK to have the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015.
"Improving the UK's broadband infrastructure will help our high-tech, digital industries grow. It will ensure the UK is an attractive place to start up and base the businesses of tomorrow."
MBNL, a joint venture between Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) and Three, have signed a £100 million, eight year agreement with Virgin Media Business which will see the UK’s first synchronous Ethernet mobile backhaul service. The deal will enable customers of Orange, T-Mobile and Three to benefit from super-fast access to mobile data on the move.
With mobile data traffic expected to increase by more than 30 times over the next decade, mobile operators are under increasing pressure to deal with the surge in mobile data. Under the deal, Virgin Media will build 14 regional aggregation networks to enhance the bandwidth offered by the wireless operators, allowing subscribers to make greater use of video calling, mobile TV and other applications.
Neil Berkett, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said: “People no longer expect to simply make calls from their mobile phone. Being connected all the time to social networks, the internet and their favourite apps is very much a basic expectation which operators need to deliver on. Investing now means they’ll be able to deal with the escalating data demands of today and tomorrow.”
To help it meet the requirements of the contract, Virgin Media has signed a separate deal with packet optical networking solutions firm Transmode for the deployment of Ethernet-based backhaul service delivery networks across the country.
The BBC is conducting a voluntary survey in order to find out just what exactly the nation’s 2G and 3G coverage looks like.
While carriers already provide their own coverage maps, the BBC would like to discover just how accurate the UK’s providers have been and how real-world mobile applications compare to what ‘should’ happen on paper.
Over the course of the next month the BBC will be taking volunteers in order to help boost their data pool. Measurements are made using an app developed by Epitiro that can currently be only downloaded on to Android handsets. Unfortunately there is no iPhone version of this app, as there is too much difficulty collecting accurate much data on iOS with a program that constantly runs in the background.
We’re unsure what kind of effect running an app like this will have on battery life, but there’s an easy way to find out. We definitely encourage as many people to take part in this survey as possible. The app is free and, if you find it kills to much battery life, you can simply delete it from your device whenever you wish. The more information the BBC is able to gather from this survey the more accurate their eventual findings will be.
An accurate coverage map of the UK will not only provide customers will invaluable information when choosing a mobile phone plan but could also spur some much needed competition to expand 3G coverage even further across the nation. After all, Ofcom estimates that in terms of land mass only 76% of the UK has 3G coverage; there’s always room for improvement.
For the official BBC 3G survey app search the Android Market for “uk3g”.
What's your broadband speed like? Find out.
The map is created through overlays over Google Maps, using data from ISPs, and is said to be updated every year.
"We are now developing a clear picture of the UK's fixed broadband infrastructure and how it delivers for consumers," said Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive.
"We hope that this information will stimulate further rollout of broadband infrastructure and better performance for households and businesses," he added.
Users can click on a specific area of the map to show detailed statistics of the area. The scale is from 1-5, with colours marking each range, with green showing the fastest and red the slowest.
The map shows that 68% of homes in the UK have a fixed broadband connection, with an average speed of 7.5Mbps. Brighton and Hove show the highest takeup of broadband at 80%, with Edinburgh showing the fastest average speed of 10.1Mbps.
You can view the map here.