UK internet 'to be fastest in Europe by 2015'

Jeremy Hunt Mr Hunt said Fibre To The Cabinet was a temporary solution to get higher speeds

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The UK will have the fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

He reiterated that he wanted to bring high-speed broadband - which he defined as greater than 24 Megabits per second - to more than 90% of the country.

Mr Hunt outlined the ambition in a speech at Google's Campus building in east London.

His comments followed heavy criticism last month from a Lords committee which said plans were too focused on speed.

The report from the communications committee said Mr Hunt's ambitions were "misguided" and left "a very real risk that some people and businesses are being left behind, that inadequate access to the internet and all its benefits is actually afflicting their daily lives".

On Monday, Mr Hunt defended his focus on higher speeds, which he said would be needed in order for the UK's network to remain competitive with others in Europe.

"We simply will not have a competitive broadband network unless we recognise the massive growth in demand for higher and higher speeds," Mr Hunt said.

"Today's superfast is tomorrow's superslow. Just as the last government was wrong to hang its hat on 2Mbps speeds, we must never fall into the trap of saying any speed is 'enough'."

Fibre To The Home

He said the government had begun looking at the ways it will allocate part of a £300m slice of the television licence fee to provide high-speed broadband to a greater number than the existing target of 90% of the country.

Initially, much of this speed increase will be achieved by a Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) system, in which high-speed fibre cabling is connected to a cabinet near a user's home.

Internet data will then travel the final distance through copper cabling, which is slower. The possible connection speed available via FTTC decreases as it travels further away from the cabinet.

Because of this issue, Mr Hunt said FTTC will only be a temporary measure.

"The reason we are backing Fibre To The Cabinet as a potential medium-term solution is simple: The increase in speeds that it allows - 80 Mbps certainly but in certain cases up to 1 gigabit - will comfortably create Europe's biggest and most profitable high-speed broadband market," he said.

"And in doing so we will create the conditions whereby, if fibre to the home is still the best way to get the very highest speeds, private sector companies will invest to provide it."

Fibre To the Home (FTTH) allows a fibre-speed connection to reach individual homes without the need for slower copper cabling.

By 2016, he said up to two-thirds of the country will be able to access Fibre To The Home (FTTH)

Labour has criticised Mr Hunt's speech, suggesting that it lacked clear detail about how the ambitions were to be met.

"Today was a chance for Jeremy Hunt to articulate a coherent vision of what Britain's broadband infrastructure should look like," shadow culture minister Helen Goodman said.

"He boldly declared that Britain will have the fastest broadband network in Europe but then offered no plan as to how he will make this happen.

"Under this government, millions of people will have to wait at least three more years for a broadband connection than they would have with Labour's plans.

"No amount of fast-talk from Jeremy Hunt will disguise this government's lack of a coherent plan for growth."

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