Following the broadband money

Lies, damn lies, and broadband statisitics

with 19 comments

UK SFBB penetration to outstrip Japan by 2018. Really?

UK SFBB penetration to outstrip Japan by 2018. Really?

It took a single question to unstitch a carefully woven fabric that pictures the UK as a global leader in high speed broadband.

Three reports have came out in the past couple of weeks that appear to justify the government’s broadband policy. One, on the domestic demand for broadband was from the Communications Chambers for the Broadband Stakeholders’ Group. Another, from SQW, reported on the economic impact of broadband to the department of culture, media and sport (DCMS), which is responsible for the UK’s telecommunications policy and implementation. BT earlier commissioned market researcher Analysys Mason to write a benchmark report comparing the UK’s roll-out to competitor nations.

The reports are well worth reading to understand the assumptions and methodologies that led to the conclusions drawn and pictures painted. Each in its own way puts the rosiest possible gloss on the numbers. SQW found a 20 to 1 ROI in terms of gross value added by 2024. BSG said the average home will need only 19Mbps by 2023, and the top 1% of homes will need only 39Mbps tops.

Analysys Mason partner Matt Yardley told a Westminster eForum audience in London yesterday that the UK coverage of high speed broadband would slightly exceed Japan’s  by 2018 (see graph).

It all looked so responsible as to the use of taxpayers’ money.  Only the cynical might think that the coruscating National Audit Office report on the value for money that taxpayers can expect from the £1.2bn (or is it £1.4bn?) they are giving BT has anything to do with the sudden improvement in our insights into broadband a la UK.

Then a question from Kcom’s financial director Sean Royce dimmed the glow. Referring to the graph (above) that showed the negligible perceived differences between the UK and Japanese  coverage by 2018, he said, “I’m just keen to understand what your observations might be if superfast broadband was 100Mbps rather than (EU-defined 30Mbps).”

To his credit, Yardley didn’t duck it. “The EU policy objective is on take-up,” he said. “This (chart) is based on a 30Mbps definition of superfast. It would be interesting to know if these (data for other countries) were 100Mbps to the users themselves, because we know that there’s a combination of fibre to the home and fibre to the basement using VDSL (to the flat/office), but I don’t have that breakdown. But it’s pretty clear that if we took a definition of 100Mbps, then a gap would still exist.”

According to an Arthur D Little presentation to the FTTH Council Europe, in December 2012, fibre to the home or basement was available to 90% of Japanese homes, and 42.5% were connected via fibre. According to OECD figures for September that year, the average advertised broadband speed in Japan was 95Mbps.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/12/06 at 06:54

19 Responses

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  1. If folk put as much effort into delivering a digital britain as they do into delivering their statistics we might actually get somewhere. As it is all we have is an old boys network using weasel words to cover up a growing digital divide caused by other old boys. Churchill could make statistics say anything he liked, and so can the telcos. We need men of fibre. Not men of weaselwords paid for by a massive marketing budget.


    2013/12/06 at 07:11

    • Pity I can’t give you 5 stars and oodles of ‘likes’ with this WordPress theme, Chris!

      I’d LOVE to see Digital Britain ‘comme il faut’. I’d LOVE to see the TSB deliver ‘innovation’ and ‘support SMEs’. But all we have is ‘weasel words’…

      Or, as the SME Innovation Alliance says “free research lab for the US” and a member of the British Computer Society: the poodle relationship started with the Marshall Plan. Just as Germany…

      2014 will bring new opportunities to use the digital britain we’ve got as best as we can! At least we want to die knowing we’ve done our best, right?

      Sabine Kurjo McNeill

      2013/12/15 at 08:53

  2. Weaselwords indeed as all ANALysys Mason’s statistics are based on % premises passed, not the actual speed available at each premise.

    Using BT’s VDSL/FTTC profile 17a, 95% coverage at 30Mbps means a cabinet approx. every 1900m. In addition the (VDSL) capacity of the cabinets need to support the number of premises/subscribers connected to it.

    This hasn’t happened in the BT & BT/BDUK rollouts I’ve seen!


    2013/12/06 at 10:50

    • AN report says ‘In this report, superfast broadband means fixed connections with downstream bandwidth of at least 30Mbit/s.’ So are based on speed at premises.

      FTTC cabinets are added if first fills up.


      2013/12/07 at 11:57

      • Which gets us nowhere close to the Japanese, and which means we can’t flex the network as easily as countries that are putting in FTTH, like most of of northern and eastern Europe. Note that when subscribers have access to high speed symmetrical services, what they do online changes; they upload a lot more, helping cloud and hosted services lower their input costs and be more competitive. No wonder UK start-ups are headed for the exits.


        2013/12/08 at 20:50

      • Please explain ‘flexing the network’ and how it differs between FTTC and FTTP when it’s the same core network.

        Any examples of UK start-ups heading for the exits?


        2013/12/08 at 22:26

      • The iOS 7 update showed that the core is limited too. The access network is a bottle neck, as is the asymmetry, which encourages throttling and stops me from experimenting with large files and certainly make uploading >1Gb file a chore and a bore. As to exits, read the FT for news about all the little hot-shops from Autonomy down that have sold out. Bu you should worry more about all those who could or would have started something here, but couldn’t be bothered because of the hassle and cost of dealing with BT and other red tape.


        2013/12/09 at 02:04

      • But how many start-up businesses are failing or leaving the UK because of broadband? Is that what caused the Autonomy events?

        I doubt if a business says it won’t start up or move to the UK because of BT compared with all the other things like staff, premises, other services, rates, tax, skills, marketing, product, sales etc. Plus there are over 100 telcos with code powers to choose from.


        2013/12/09 at 14:11

      • The non-availability of adequate broadband for business is a hygiene issue, a box tick. If it’s inadequate, entrepreneurs go elsewhere. Ask Mike Kiely and his customers in Shoreditch, some of whom decamped to Dublin, not least because BT wanted each company in the complex to buy a leased line rather than let them aggregate demand on a fibre service.. There may be 100 firms with code powers; Ofcom says that outside London BT has a monopoly on >1Gbps links. Funnily enough, TalkTalk and others say 80% of the customers on FTTC links are BT’s. Do you think that means VULA is working? As you know Ofcom is looking into a TalkTalk complaint that BT is running an illegal margin squeezeon its wholesale fibre services.


        2013/12/09 at 18:12

      • Surely Shoreditch is in the VM business area. Even in Somerset I see green duct going into new build areas linking in to the VM network even through it’s not a VM residential part of the world. Tesco use C&W (as was) and installed duct into a Tesco store.

        Mike says VM are 500m from Perseverance so couldn’t they provide a service? Interesting that he notes the issues of a single supplier.

        Sky and TalkTalk have only recently upped their advertising which should increase their take-up.


        2013/12/10 at 21:02

      • As you suggest, in a duopoly, both parties behave like monopolies. As the UK energy business shows, even six “competitors” isn’t enough to ensure a competitive market.

        Whether Sky and TalkTalk win more customers, it’s all the same to Openreach.


        2013/12/10 at 21:36

  3. Population of Singapore is around 5m – UK is around 63m

    15 pages of tech startups this year in Singapore ( – first result on google using the search phrase ‘singapore tech startup’

    Top10 tech UK startups from Guardian:

    1. Infectious Media – started 2008
    2. Avecto – started 2008
    3. AlertMe – started 2008
    4. Mobile Account Solutions – started 2008
    5. – started 2008
    6. Monitise – started 2008
    7. Sixteen South – started 2008
    8. FreeAgent – started 2006
    9. Equal Experts UK – started 2007
    10. Backbone Connect – started 2008

    Extract from 2012 Global Innovation Policy Index “Furman and Hayes found that the initially lagging countries that had subsequently developed innovation-enhancing policies while investing in infrastructure and human capital—notably Chinese Taipei, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Singapore, and South Korea—dramatically increased their innovative output per capita and, by 1999, had overtaken countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and Italy.”

    Future 50 in UK was designed to move tech startups to listed companies (read more in FT here:

    Last paragraph of article “The Future Fifty was launched in April alongside a new niche market for midsized companies called the High Growth Segment, aimed at entrepreneur-driven businesses. Eight months later, however, the market on the LSE has failed to attract any entrants. ” Is the Ookla ( roundup of recent download speed data – Singapore ranks number 2 for global speeds – UK does not rank in top 10 (24th) – this data is a roundup of the last 30days (rolling)


    2013/12/10 at 09:50

    • The article refers to Japan, not Singapore. However Singapore, which has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires and four out of five Singaporeans live in subsidised, high-rise, public housing apartments is somewhat different to the UK.

      The reference to the Policy Index misses the next part – ‘Many countries—notably Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom—have studied these once-follower countries and have started to implement similar approaches’.The other part of the paragraph explains more:

      ‘The most sophisticated countries have implemented innovation policies that recognize this. Their innovation strategies constitute a coherent approach that seeks to coordinate disparate policies toward scientific research, technology commercialization, ICT investments, education and skills development, tax, trade, intellectual property, government procurement, and regulatory policies in an integrated fashion that drives economic growth by fostering innovation. Moreover, coherent innovation policies work. ‘

      The startup list is specifically about companies growing in the last 5 years, not those started since. Like Raspberry PI?


      2013/12/23 at 08:12

  4. Whether it’s banks, comms or energy – it’s mono-, duo- or ‘few-poly’ – anything but a level playing field in the country of ‘fairness’…

    Sabine Kurjo McNeill

    2013/12/15 at 08:56

    • What needs to be put in place to get a level playing field in each of these areas?


      2013/12/15 at 09:22

      • GREAT question!

        I would say “honest money”. The UK precedent is the ‘Bradbury Pound’ of 1914: interest-free ‘treasury money’ – just as the US Greenbacks.

        On the government level that is.

        On the techno-people level, I’d LOVE to see ‘mutual credit’ via mobile phones.

        Sabine Kurjo McNeill

        2013/12/15 at 10:09

      • First, you need to define a ‘level playing field’. For power is it realistic to have more than one connection of gas, electricity (and the same for water and drains) into each property?


        2013/12/15 at 10:18

      • Are you saying BT is a utility? In that case I look forward to your advocacy of a universal service obligation on BT for broadband. In any case you undermine your own argument. “Power” is to electricity and gas as “Communications” is to voice and data.


        2013/12/15 at 23:21

      • Simply asking Sabine what a level playing field would look like to us in the areas of banks, comms and energy. Particularly power where it is exactly the same gas that comes out of the pipe whoever you buy it from.


        2013/12/16 at 15:23

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